Albert Ellis and Debbie Joffe Ellis Reflect on What Makes Their Relationship Work

Dr. Daniel Eckstein is about to publish a book on Relationship Rescue.  Last year, he asked Albert Ellis and Debbie Joffe Ellis to talk about their relationship and what made it work.  Below is an excerpt from Dr. Eckstein's book.  This is what Al and Debbie said about their relationship on March 14, 2006:

Albert Ellis on Debbie

My relationship with my wife and partner, Debbie Joffe, has been the best one of several major relationships that I have had for a number of reasons:

  1. Debbie has intrinsic good character and kindheartedness to all living creatures, especially me.
  2. She is unusually loving toward me and puts my health and interests first and foremost.
  3. She keeps in mind and makes my appointments for healthcare, makes sure that I keep them, and accompanies me to my appointments.
  4. She aids me in dealing with very difficult people in my life, including hostile people at the Albert Ellis Institute, and helps me refuse to make myself upset about them.
  5. She warns me and corrects me when I go too far in my strong language to difficult people and when I excoriate them in press interviews.
  6. She nicely and graciously puts up with the impossible demands that I put on her.
  7. When important things do not work out right away, she keeps them in mind for the future.
  8. She independently and ingeniously gets good ideas for both of us to work at and plans them out with me.
  9. She encourages me to do sensible things to help myself but takes care not to plague and push me too hard about them.
  10. Debbie also has an unusual, devoted, and helpful character, which very few people have.  It makes her quite a strange, beautiful person.  We both respect and love each other and expect to keep doing so forever.

~Albert Ellis~

Debbie Joffe Ellis on Al

It is very hard for me to find words that adequately describe the strength and solidity of the relationship between Al and I – it seems strange that finding apt expression for something so natural and real is difficult to do.

I suppose I have an aversion to limiting greatness, and for a force as powerful as our love – words may be inadequate. Well – I’ll do the best I can for now …….

As Al said, we have tremendous love and respect for one another.  Our values and beliefs are, with very few exceptions, the same.  Both of us care more about helping others and contributing to others than in material gain.

We both enjoy the funny side of things, and I love Al’s humor.  I enjoy his cheerfulness – Al essentially has a very happy nature, and I also greatly enjoy his brilliance, his warmth, his compassion and his care towards me and for others.

We truly listen to one another – and if we differ or disagree about anything , which happens only rarely , neither of us is interested in putting the other one down. Neither of us wants to be right in order to make the other one wrong. We really think about how we contributed to the situation, and each of us wholeheartedly works on him/herself and takes responsibility for however we may have contributed to the disagreement.

We don’t damn or abuse the other one. Even when we don’t like something they said or did.  If any effort is required to ease difficulties – each of us wholeheartedly and unquestionably makes that effort.

There is a natural rapport and connection between us, a strong attraction that has not lessened over time, and for me – if anything – gets stronger.

We both are passionate by nature, with strong willpower, and the ability to commit-to and persist-with anything we put our minds and hearts to.

We enjoy each other.  Just being together in the same room – Al doing his work, I doing mine – there is pleasure in just being together.  Talking, working, reading, touching, relaxing – or none of the above - we simply love being together.

I love looking at Al – enjoying his handsomeness, his beautiful hands and the elegant  way they express, his absorption in his writing, the dreamy way he gazes upwards at times whilst he is thinking of the next sentence to write, or the way he holds his pen in his mouth whilst he uses his hands to busily turn pages or reach for notes, and he way he smiles at me.

I love his sweetness, his outrageousness, his daring, his brutal honesty.  I would say that I absolutely love the majority of Al’s qualities and characteristics.

His determination inspires me.  Even when he is not feeling too well, he pushes himself to do his work to which he is greatly dedicated.  At the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, held at Aneheim, California in December, 2005, very few people knew that he was suffering from agonizing back pain.  He gave 8 major presentations, and 2 presentations which  were spontaneously arranged, presenting brilliantly and receiving heartfelt standing ovations. He never complained about his suffering.

His courage is remarkable. At the time of writing this, there is a brutal situation at the Institute that bears Al’s name, with much bad behavior against Al and me. This has been going on since late 2004. To watch how consistently Al practices his philosophy, to see how he endures the situation with dignity and acceptance, whilst still spending hours of his precious time making effort to fight the injustice, is a great privilege.

Another area in which Al’s outstanding courage is seen is that of the physical ailments which he copes with stoically and bravely. Nearly 3 years ago he had his large intestine surgically removed due to massive infection there, and now has an ileostomy bag. He is a brittle diabetic, he has painful arthritis, hearing difficulties – but never does he waste time on self-pity or complaint.

Al is a person of such deep humanity, integrity and authenticity. My mind, heart and spirit feel fulfilled when I am with him.

Time does not bring complacency – my fulfillment grows deeper and I feel fortunate each day of my life to be with him.

Some people may wonder about our age difference – me in my 40’s, Al his early 90’s.  To me Al is not, has never been, an age. I don’t think of him as an older man, or of me as a younger woman. To me he is the vital magnificent man I love. That’s it.

Others wonder what it is like to be with someone so famous.  Whilst I of course acknowledge his fame, and am in awe of the massive contribution he has made and continues to make to countless people, I don’t think to myself - “I am with a famous person”. Fame doesn’t mean much to me – it’s fleeting – can come and go – so what.
It is not his fame that excites me – it’s the character of the man, and his uplifting and ongoing contributions.  But even without these contributions – I’d love him just as much.

I love his humility, his lack of ego, and his way of doing the thing that represents his truth, rather than doing that which will make him more popular.

When people attack Al and/or his views, usually defensively because they don’t like the truths Al reveals, Al tolerates their view, but will not change himself just to appease them. Al is THE most honest person I know.

Al is misunderstood by some who wrongly judge his colorful (at times) language and humor, his daring and audacity.  Al graciously tolerates these people too.

There are days, at this present time of dispute with the Albert Ellis Institute, where the circumstances are very brutal and difficult. Real concerns abound. And yet we still regularly feel fortunate.

We still have life and the will to keep fighting for justice, and in addition to that, we feel fortunate to be together. Even during the really dark days. We feel grateful grateful grateful for one another.

So – hopefully in these words I have revealed some of the aspects that contribute to our unusually strong closeness – 

~Debbie Joffe Ellis~



All Out! An Autobiograpy
This candid autobiography, the last work by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis, is a tour de force of stimulating ideas, colorful descriptions of memorable people and events, and straightforward, no-nonsense talk. Ellis, the creator of one of the most successful forms of psychotherapy-Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)-recounts the memorable episodes of his life; discusses how he coped with emotional problems at different stages of life; describes his love life; and subjects his own self-description to a ruthlessly honest critique. Click here to buy the book.

Shameless Happiness
A concise booklet that outlines the ABCs of unhealthy negative emotions and self-defeating behavior. Shows how to dispute your irrational beliefs. Great for beginners and experienced REBTers alike. Download the book.

Albert Ellis Tribute Book Series Launched
The series will include books of readings for professionals, psychology self-help, psychotherapy theory and practice, the application of philosophy to clinical practice, professional guides for working with special populations, and classroom and college texts. Learn more about the Tribute Series

Albert Ellis Documentary
A documentary about the life and opinions of psychotherapy's most important and influential voice. Watch a preview.

New eBook Released
How to Conquer Your Frustrations by Dr. William J. Knaus. Download the free eBook.

Free e-Book: Rational Emotive Education
Dr. William J. Knaus directly, forthrightly, and with no nonsense about it, shows almost any interested teacher how he or she may use REE in the course of regular classroom lessons and other activities. Download the free e-Book.

REBT Moves Forward
The outcome of two conferences points to an exciting future for REBT. More.

International REE Committee Formed
The formation of an international committee to advance Rational Emotive Education is a major step towards the introduction of REBT to school students around the world. More.

Search This Site