Aids/Falling in Love#2

I will call her Joy.  She came to therapy to resolve some issues with her elderly mother – an attractive, stylish woman, in her mid-thirties, and happily married.

You know, when you start talking, you never know where the conversation will take you.

She met her husband, Jim, at a wedding.  It was the most romantic courtship, and since both of them were in their early thirties, they decided not to wait too long, so only eight months later they had a beautiful wedding.

She became a partner in his furniture store, and because of her business savvy – she was instrumental in making the business thrive. “We work so hard, that we forget to make love”, she quipped with a smile.

There was another session where she mentioned that they make love only “doggy style”, and whenever she asks to change position he refuses. “You have to compromise in a marriage, and if this my only compromise, then I’m fine with it”.

One day she came upset and confused. A disgruntled employee screamed at her that she “cannot see what’s in front of her”, and that her husband made a pass at him.

“My husband loves me so much! He tells me that he loves me every day, and I cannot believe that he would do anything like that!”. I gently prodded, and it turned out that before their wedding Jim confessed that he had a couple of insignificant homosexual relationships, but it happened many years ago, when he was confused.  He was positive that he loved her, and could not fathom life without her.

Jim was charming, handsome, funny and sensitive, and Joy was head over heels in love. She did not want to question him anymore, and started talking about her wedding dress.

This session took place in the height of the Aids epidemic.

You know how you sometimes feel something in your gut? I started probing and surprisingly we realized together that the last time they had sex was six months ago.  He was drunk, and she initiated. We realized that almost all their employees were attractive gay men. We realized that Jim had a habit of going to have drinks with the guys while she was at the store going through paperwork.

It was not easy to tell Joy to go home and ask more questions. It was even more difficult to tell her to go and get tested. The most difficult part, though, was to confront her denied suspicions, and have her insist on Jim’s being tested as well.

When all was said and done, he admitted to going to bath houses for sex with men “very infrequently”,  and while sobbing, he told her that if she would leave him he would die, because he cannot imagine life without her. They were both tested. She was negative.

He was positive.

They stayed together four more years. The business continued to thrive. She hired female employees. Every day he would hug her and tell her how much he loved her. Every day she hugged him and told him that he is the man of her dreams. He would frequently tell friends that the happiest day in his life was their wedding day. He would buy her cloths, cook for her and watch her eat. Sometimes he would spoon feed her.

It started with headaches and dizziness and went downhill afterwards. A year after his diagnosis he became very ill. She nursed him for three years, she stopped therapy at that point, telling me that I had saved her life.

She came three years later, looking haggard and depleted. “Jim died a week ago” she said softly. “We were hugging in bed and he died in my arms. And despite the agony and pain, I would still do it all over again”


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in AFFAIR, Aids, Homosexuality, Illness, Impulse Control, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Sex, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Aids/Falling in Love#2

  1. “sigh”..You know it a sad thing that often we find love in the wrong places..they were clearly “meant” to be with each other, companionship, friendship, and in love with each other; but not meant to “be” with each other, marriage, children. I could very well see myself in a situation like this with a close friend (the friendship,etc) and not regretting any choices I made also; but I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like if he had met a male version of Joy, they married, a shared the same experiences would it ended the same way.

    Life is so short and the choices we make can have such a great impact on not only ourselves but each individual you come in contact with regardless of your intent. A simple hello, can save lives while a few choice words can take one. I try my best, when I’m out trying to save the world, to keep those thoughts in mind during my interactions with people.

    great post and quite thought provoking

  2. Barbara Cooper says:

    Love comes in all shapes and sizes. If you’re like me and believe in reincarnation, then I would say those two had been together before and will be again. I think a Karmic debt has been paid with this lifetime, and perhaps in the next incarnation they will be more compatible with their sexuality. Or not. Love is love and to me, that is all that is important here. Sex is the icing on the cake. You can have fabulous sex with a partner and that is all some relationships are based on. Those relationships are the ones that don’t last when the lust has diminished. When there is love and the lust diminishes, you still have love. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

  3. Margot says:

    She was the love of his life but he lied to her for most of their time together. She was the love of his life but he jeopardized her health and risked giving her a life-ending illness. I think that he may have been the love of her life, but she being the love of his life … I don’t know … unless lying and risking your partner’s life is a sign of love.

  4. Martha Carr says:

    Remarkable really that she was able to keep loving him despite being lied to and having her life put at risk like that. They must have had a powerful bond. From the outside the question appears to be: is it love or is it masochism? Life poses us with complex challenges sometimes that don’t always result in conventional outcomes, but they make sense to the individuals involved. Sounds like they really loved one another.

    • rachel bar says:

      You can love and make mistakes, you can love and easily succumb to your sexual preferences. This was a complex relationship where he was obviously gay, and had problems avoiding sex, and yet she was the person who made him happiest.

  5. Cameron Ashby says:

    My Two Cents…
    We don’t have the maps and models for such dirt common human experiences. Our expert status, as Martha highlights so well with “love or masochism” (or sadomasochism for that matter) simply requests us to remove ourselves from our often cherished “expert” status, to let go of familiar conceptualizations, and be with this unique stranger, in an equally strange struggle for life that is here in the room with us, and who may be forcefully pressing us to a new thought. Ambrose Bierce put it rather well while paraphrasing King Solomon, “There’s nothing new under the sun, only many old things we know nothing about.” For me, this is an important aspect of analytic-therapeutic reality that has been for decades undergoing an extremely difficult and painful process of birth. Sometimes I wonder if it will be aborted, or perhaps merely require another hundred years.
    With love,

    • rachel bar says:

      And for me, Cam, it is not an aspect of the therapeutic process, but much more so a story about life, and the realization that love has many faces, shapes and processes, and one “love” is not better than the other. I like your quote!

  6. Cameron Ashby says:

    Another penny…

    Perhaps it’s merely one of my quirks, and I seem to have many, yet I make a soft distinction between “life” and the “therapeutic process.”

    For me, I consider life an enormous, largely unchartable “therapeutic process,” an unending quest for self-coherence whether one is nine or ninety-years-of-age. The so-called “clinical” appears to be a highly refined and clearly focused dimension stemming from the totality and deeply shared humanity we experience as utterly diverse living beings. Each irrevocably flows into the other.

    I recall falling from my armchair with laughter when I came across a statement by the esteemed Argentinian analyst Etchegoyen to wit, “I can be a much better analyst than a husband.” So true and highlighting his cogitations on the dialectic of interpenetrating tides.

    I’ll always agree with you that Love and Eros have many faces, shapes, forms and realities, most of which are waiting to be experienced with profound intimacy, that is, once the labels drop to the floor like uncomfortable and unneeded attire. And yes, it appears none is more privileged than another, yet that remains a radical, and in some communities even heretical view.

    Upon walking to the door after a very long supervision with Joyce McDougall, and in her inimitable theatrical way, with a mirthful Parisian accent, she craned over to whisper, “You know they never say anything is perverted to the good!” She’s 93 now, and her apparently final book is called, “The many faces of Eros,” and is chock full of many journeys concerning love, desire and our evolving needs for self-coherence.

    “…and despite the agony and pain, I would still do it all over again.” Yes… and yes, she says, embracing the journey and her life.


  7. Oren Raz says:

    What a beautiful, touching story Rachel; as usual, judgment was out of the window while humanity, compassion and non-judgmental LIFE experience was told. and you are telling the story in such an observant/kind way that one cannot escape actually seeing this relationship in a much broader space.
    Thank you for writing!

  8. Maria Shufeldt says:

    I love this beautifully told love story. It has the shadows and strange twists, tragedies and joys in the path that we humans call home . It is about her devotion and her belief about love — and his, actually, for me. It’s not uncommon to live a lie; I think we all do it in certain ways. Some are more heinous than others. It is not uncommon to watch someone you love die, and we can either be there or not. Because of course, even if you are physically present, there are ways of not truly *being* present. I am imagining that the other part of the story (and maybe her conversations with you) were about walking through those shadows in the valley of death with him. I am not intending to sound romantic — that process can be physically gruesome and emotionally wrenching. I feel she was incredibly brave and a beautiful soul to do it. I hope it gave her peace. I *know* you were a worthy companion for that journey. I love that you called her Joy. Love to you, Rachel.
    — Maria

  9. Cameron Ashby says:

    For clarity, McDougall was mirthfully referring to the wide spread practice within our mental health communities, where there appears to be a pejorative use of terms like “perversion, sadomasochism, fetishism” and so forth; basically that of affixing pathological labels while tending to evade the intimate totality of the person. I believe this is at least one of the significant points you’re making.

    It appears that consensual BDSM practices (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism), if properly grasped as McDougall, Kernberg and Stoller have shown, are as important and healing as many therapeutic practices. These practices assist in working through the unconscious sexual taboos of childhood, and much, much more. Indeed, the parallels between the two processes (therapy and BDSM) are surprisingly quite robust, even if such a view makes for some discomfort. My friendships and work with people in the straight, gay and transgender groups, the “leather community,” Dominants and submissives (of both genders) concur with these authors’ findings. It further revealed important facets and dynamics intrinsically relevant to general love relations, along with the type of personal growth as you’ve highlighted boldly and beautifully in the above vignette.

    As Harry Stack Sullivan emphasized, “We are all much more simply human than otherwise.”


  10. Annie says:

    I liked this post very much. Love has no gender, no age, no “preference”. Not to me, at least.

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