by Barry and Joyce Vissell
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do not meet somewhere along the way.
They’re in each other’s hearts from the beginning."
between Barry and me seemed to begin before we met at
age eighteen. It had been one of the main themes of my
childhood play and fantasy: to reunite with my beloved.
By the time we met, it felt like we had been in love our
I remember as a child being sent to my room when I
was crying or upset. Perhaps my parents were trying to
understand my feelings, but in my young mind and heart I
felt alone. I remember so clearly how, during one of
those times, I heard an inner voice speak to me. I had
never had this experience before and listened carefully
to the message. It told me that when I was grown, I
would meet a man who would understand my feelings, that
I would recognize him as a tall, dark-haired doctor who
would become my best friend. From early childhood, I
trusted this message which came to me over and over
again whenever I felt that no one understood me.
Barry and I found each other in a clumsy, youthful
way. Our young hearts were hardly ready for the power of
our connection, but our first kiss revealed a love that
seemed to have existed for an eternity. Barry, my tall,
skinny, awkward eighteen-year-old boyfriend, really
seemed to be my beloved for all time past and all time
to come. We had found each other and yet couldn’t
fully comprehend the blessing. I feel so much gratitude
to have found Barry so early in life and to still be
living with him.
I remember, when I met Barry during my first year in
college, the surge of energy that shot through me when
he told me he was a pre-medical student. We eyed each
other with mixed feelings. Neither one of us felt
particularly attracted to the other’s appearance, yet
we could not deny an energy that flowed between us.
Two days after we first met, we had our first date to
see a movie. We hurried back to my college dorm to meet
the curfew time. Mrs. Peabody, the elderly
dorm mother, was waiting by the glass door.
"You have two minutes to get inside," she
snapped at me and continued to peer through the glass.
Oblivious of Mrs. Peabody’s stern observation, we
kissed for the first time. In that moment, a door to
another world flew open and it was as if we recognized
one another. Standing in a daze, I heard Mrs. Peabody
open the door. She pulled me inside and shut the door on
Barry. That kiss changed my life forever.
Many religions hold sacred the belief that lovers
have known each other before coming into this world, and
will know each other again — that our loving has a
purpose far beyond the limitations of our own
Over the years, the following image has often come to
me, so vivid I believe it must be a memory: I can
remember being in a circle of many souls. Barry and I
are apart from each other. There is a great love and
union among all of these souls. We are under the
guidance of a great light and spiritual energy, and are
preparing to come to earth. Each one is being given an
assignment or gift to give while on earth. Each is
called upon and asked to spread the light and love of
God in various ways. Barry and I are called up
simultaneously and asked to work together to help bring
more light into human relationships. We feel deep love
for each other and for our Creator. Our purpose on earth
is blessed by the light, and we are given one
instruction: Love one another completely and let that
love overflow to others in healing and guidance. There
are other souls given the same assignment. We know that
all the help we need will come from our contact with the
Barry and I feel this light is present in all heart
connections. We understand the highest work we can do is
to love one another completely, but there are times when
our egos cringe at having to be together. Each of us has
had moments when we have wanted to give up on our
relationship and just be alone. We also have lessons to
learn and personalities which sometimes clash and cause
each other pain. We have had to do much work on our
relationship and have much more to do. Sometimes we both
wish our relationship could be a little easier. As with
many people, our minds seek an easy relationship. Our
hearts, which hold the vision of our purpose together,
seek to be with someone who will help us on our
spiritual journey, no matter how difficult.
The lesson for us then, was this: when looking for
your spiritual partner, for the relationship that has
already been blessed in "heaven," keep your
heart open. Your partner may not appear to be what your
mind thinks it wants. You may be in for a big surprise!
If you are listening in your heart, you will recognize
your partner. If you listen to your head about what you
want, you may miss this special person altogether.
After our first kiss, Barry and I set out to get to
know each other. We figured out a way to avoid the
scrutiny of Mrs. Peabody. We met in the cafeteria and I
came back to my room through the basement. We realized
we were breaking the rules, but there was just too much
to talk about. Barry told me all the most embarrassing,
shameful and confusing times of his life, all in our
second conversation! There was a comfort in talking to
one another that neither of us had ever experienced. A
pressure was released as we shared everything that had
happened in the eighteen years we had been on earth.
Everything was met with love and acceptance. We felt so
much at home.
Then came the evening Barry told me he was Jewish. It
was such a shock! I had assumed he was Protestant like
me, going to Hartwick College, a small Protestant
school. He had assumed that my last name, Wollenberg,
was Jewish. This revelation saddened us and brought us
to the realization that we could never marry. We would
have to "just be friends." Before, our hearts
were opening in love with each other. Now, with the news
of our different religions, our minds began to take over
to protect ourselves from the seemingly inevitable loss.
We each felt we could never marry outside our religion.
At that time, in 1964, it seemed an insurmountable
obstacle. Our hearts even then, felt they had found the
perfect spiritual partner. Our minds, however, were
already rejecting each other because of our different
religions. Still, our lips kept finding their way
together and thus helped to bring us back to the
awareness of our spiritual union and purpose together.
The first four years of our relationship were a
bittersweet mixture of love and confusion. Between the
many attempts to free ourselves from each other, there
was, nevertheless, a deepening of love and respect —
and the powerful physical passion of our youth. Attempts
to rid ourselves of each other were as useless as trying
to change our own reflections in the mirror. So we kept
returning to the embrace of lovers.
Realizing how difficult it would be to separate from
one another, our scheming minds next planned strategies
to change the other to fit our own picture of the
perfect partner. However, we were (and are) both much
too stubborn, and any effort to change the other was met
with resistance and even hostility. Finally, there was
one thing left to do. We gave up our minds’ idea of
how the other should change. Fortunately for us, our
hearts won over our minds. Barry and I accepted each
other, differences and all, and were married December
21, 1968. We feel our wedding was simply a reenactment
of the union in my heavenly memories. Though we were in
the early stages of spiritual awakening, we each felt a
strong presence of light blessing us. The tears in our
eyes during the ceremony seemed to wash away the veil
that hid the deep memory of our prior union and
We are now devoted to remembering our connection and
serving others through that love. We have a distance to
go and the dedication to go there. Each time someone is
helped by our words or by our work, it helps us more
strongly to remember our purpose. Each time our
relationship becomes bogged down yet we break through to
renewed love, we realize we are giving a gift to others.
Our love for one another and for the
"assignment" we have been given is the top
priority in our lives. We believe in the beauty of all
relationships and in the great light that brings two
If, in your heart, there is a desire to have a
spiritual partner, then you are feeling what is already
in your destiny, what is already in a plan bigger than
anything your mind can conceive. You may find this
person when you are young, or you may find him or her
later in life when perhaps you have had several other
relationships. Whenever you find this person, treasure
him or her with all your heart. This soul mirror has
been given to you to help you fulfill your purpose on
earth. Loving this one through both the easy and the
difficult times will bring you fulfillment and love at
the deepest level of your being.
you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream,
my sun, and I am your reflection."
2002. All Rights Reserved. Excerpted
from "Light in the Mirror: A New Way to Understand
Relationships" by Joyce Vissell, RN, MS and Barry
Joyce and Barry Vissell
have been a couple since 1964. A nurse and medical
doctor/psychiatrist, their main interest since 1972 has
been counseling and teaching. As a result of the
interest in their books, they travel internationally,
conducting talks and workshops on relationship,
parenting and personal growth. They are the
founders and directors of the Shared Heart Foundation, a
nonprofit organization dedicated to relationship and
family life as a spiritual path. Joyce and Barry
Vissell write a monthly column, "New Dimensions of Relationship,"
for newspapers and magazines worldwide. It covers
many timely topics about relationship and spirituality
that have not been addressed in thier books. They
live with their three children, Rami, Mira, and
John Nuriel, four golden retrievers, four cats, and one horse
at their home and center on a hilltop near Santa Cruz, California,
where they counsel individuals and couples and offer
classes, workshops, and training programs.
The Shared Heart
P.O. Bo 2140,
Aptos, California 95001
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