"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave."
Peggy Barnett Vaughan passed away peacefully at home on Nov. 8, 2012, surrounded by her family, husband James, son Andy, daughter Vicki, son-in-law Dan and granddaughters Ali, Brooke and Lauren. She was 76.
Peggy was an only child, born to Charlie and Louise Barnett in Amory, MS on Feb. 11, 1936. She graduated from Amory High School in 1954 and married James, her childhood sweetheart, one year later. Like many women of her generation, she worked fulltime to put James through college and a Ph.D. program. Taking classes at night, she was able to earn 2 years of college credit during the first 6 years of marriage. After staying at home as a fulltime Mother until Andy and Vicki were teenagers, she returned to college and earned a B.A. in Psychology from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH.
In 1973, Peggy’s world was turned upside down when James told her about the extramarital affairs he had been having. They spent 2 years of intense communication, working through the emotional turmoil that resulted and re-establishing trust in their relationship. Unable to find professional help that they considered helpful, in 1980 she and James coauthored their first book, Beyond Affairs, a first-person, non-fiction account of how they worked through the turmoil to build a stronger marriage.
Peggy was an unlikely candidate to become an expert on helping people recover from extramarital affairs, but following their appearance on Donahue and virtually all the major talk shows in 1980, she started BAN (Beyond Affairs Network), a support group to help people recover from an affair. She began with a monthly newsletter, then moved to the internet to eventually establish BAN chapters in 38 states and 15 countries. She continued to learn from her thousands of email and phone interactions with people around the world.
In a positive review of Peggy’s 1989 book, The Monogamy Myth. which emerged from her work with BAN, a journalist wrote:
Among her unique contributions to the field, two stand out: first, the importance of ongoing honest communication in personal recovery and rebuilding trust in the marriage, and second, the role of society in allowing and even supporting affairs. Of course everyone knows that honesty is important, but Peggy knew it at a deep level from her own experience in getting beyond James' affairs. With regard to the second, she was among the first to understand and write clearly about the role of society in extramarital affairs. In her own words, "While this is an intensely personal problem, it is also a societal problem. Any effort to help people deal with this issue on a personal basis requires that we also address the societal factors, especially replacing the general secrecy and hypocrisy about this issue with responsible honesty."
Peggy was a voracious learner, an avid reader and a prolific writer. She coauthored 2 more books with James, Making Love Stay and The Life-Planning Workbook, and wrote 5 more books on her own, Help for Therapists and their Clients in Dealing with Affairs, To Have and To Hold, Dear Peggy (a collection or her answers to letters), Musings on Life and finally, More Musings on Life. She continued to reach millions more with her message of hope through multiple TV and radio interviews and her contributions to printed media right up until her last year.
The rare neuroendocrine cancer she had, for which there is no known cure, finally robbed her of her life, but it never dampened her spirit. She continued to maintain her website and read a book a week until the last month of her life. She loved life to the end and faced death without any anger or bitterness. She donated her body to medical research and requested that we not have a memorial service.
Throughout her busy career, Peggy’s top priority remained her family. Family first was not just a motto—it was her life. She wanted to attend every soccer game and every performance—a formidable task when dealing with 3 very active granddaughters.
Peggy's last work on her website was to convert it into a totally free site with all her writing available free, the only exceptions being her last 2 books for which the publishers still retain the rights. When the publishers take these off the market, they will also be available free on her legacy site.
Comments from colleagues and clients
"Peggy Vaughan was the "grandmother " of the extra-marital affair field and her wise and caring support has helped thousands of people."
"Peggy's professional contributions were enormous, and will be positively felt forever. In my 30 plus years as a therapist I can tell you that what she added to our field is matchless. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her, we talked occasionally and corresponded frequently, which left me feeling as though I knew her."
"Peggy was an amazing woman, always demanding truth, fierce in her quests. I am grateful for the chance to have known her."
"For much time now, Peggy has been my champion (I know that she is the champion for many people…but that didn't stop here from giving so thoughtlessly to me). In fact, my book in infidelity is dedicated to her, I was so excited about how surprised and (hopefully) honored she would be. Now I will dedicate it in her memory."
"Peggy was a force for good and I always loved her energy, her support, her common sense, and her well defined sense of justice too!! All of us will miss her for what she was always contributing to the field, but I will miss most of all her personal encouragement and support for me. She would take the time to listen to my presentations after they were done and then email me with positive comments and suggestions for the next engagement. And now, even at the end, she continues to support those of us out there on the front lines, by offering her wisdom freely thru her posted materials. What a lady!"
"I said to Peggy several months before she died that after she "passed away" the world would simply be a smaller place. She said to me "Im not passing, Tammy, I'm dying." And at that moment I knew that not only would the world be a smaller place after her death, it would be less bright, a little colder and not quite as exciting. Peggy's honesty and integrity changed all of our lives, whether we knew her personally or read her work, or even lived on the same planet with her generous and loving spirit. Peggy, thank you. You will be missed."
"Peggy was a bright star in the firmament. She helped so many couples."
"Peggy's work on affairs was pioneering and her theoretical perspective was original and influenced my work and so many of us. She probably never knew all the ripple effects."
"Our dearest friend and marriage champion, Peggy Vaughan, lost her four year battle with cancer, but the happy news is that Peggy was able to die as she wished, at home surrounded by her family and her husband, James AND that she had the time to leave an incredible legacy—her lifetime of work in the infidelity and marriage field. She spent many long hours to transform the website so that this vast collection of articles and information can remain available long into the future – a beacon of hope and help to those struggling with infidelity and a rich resource for researchers and anyone working with couples."
"As my office floor was being drained after the Sandy flood, the first thing that caught my eye was Peggy's research study, with a lovely inscription. I had to dispose of every wet book, because the flood water contained sewage. Apparently I teared up and sighed. One of the workers came over and asked, "you ok doc?" I told him what a remarkable person Peggy was, and the many contributions she has made. Then he gave me a pat on the back and said "sounds like a helluva lady." I agree. I will never forget her kiindness, warmth and brilliance."
"I, and thousands of others, will be eternally grateful for Peggy Vaughan and her bold, honest, and pioneering work in helping the world recover from affairs. Her work will live on, and generations to come will be better because of the work she began. We love you Peggy!"
"I was very, very fond of Peggy and had the deepest respect for her contribution to the world. She has helped countless couples struggling with infidelity issues and the professionals who work with them. Peggy will be missed, but her legacy will undoubtedly live on."
"Peggy was one of my first clients as an agent when I began Sebastian Agency, thirty years ago. I knew the moment I met her she was a force to be reckoned with: Independent, strong-minded, extremely well informed about anything she spoke of, fair, energetic, kind, and thoughtful. She was on a mission to get her books out to the public in as large a way as possible so she could help others with their struggles surrounding affairs. Who could resist her? Not me.
"Peggy was a wholehearted, compassionate public servant. Her work and her contribution to couples’ well-being have been unique in my experience, and very significant and meaningful to so many people. It is just like Peggy to arrange to make all her work available free of charge. Just the last in a lifetime of generous gestures."
"Among the many authors I've had the opportunity to know and work with, Peggy stands out as one of the most insightful, kind, generous, responsible, thoughtful, and loving. Her books, and her devotion to helping so many others with relationship issues have made a huge difference in many people's lives. I feel privileged to have known and worked with her, and through my company, facilitated her and your message of hope, forgiveness, and resilience to become established and live on in your wonderful books."
"Peggy was loved by so many people. She touched the lives of so many many people with kindness, understanding and love. I am forever grateful for all she has done. I sit here in tears trying to figure out words that can begin to express my love and gratitude for the meaning she added to my life. She turned pain into healing. She saved my life and the lives of so many others. She taught me how to love again and that healing is possible."
"I'll miss you forever Peggy. Your heart, thoughts and care keep you alive in many of us, and for that, I know you still live on. I'm sure you would not call it a legacy due to your humilty, but to me, you are the kind of person that has reached far many more than 90% of us ever do."
"Peggy's generosity of sharing her story and making her life's work helping others of us who were dealing with a spouse's affair made her a remarkable woman. She touched my life and make a tremendous difference to me, enabling me to hang on at a time when I had sunked to deep despair. The world is a better place for having had Peggy in it."
"I was inspired so much by the impact you and your wife had on me after learning of my husband's affair, that I am in the process of becoming a therapist. I have one year left to complete my master's degree and I will be carrying on healing in the tradition of honesty in therapy that you and Peggy suggest in your books."
"Nine years ago I found Peggy and she was my lifesaver. She brought me back from the brink of despair and I cannot tell you how much she helped me to stay in my marriage."
"I don't know whether it is appropriate to respond as I imagine that you might receive thousands of emails like mine. But it is necessary for me to say how much I will miss Peggy, someone I never met, and yet hold so dear for the support and guidance she provided through her website and publications to thousands and thousands of people like me. Thank you Peggy."
"This makes my heart ache. It’s no surprise that she would want her body to be used for study. She was such a clear thinker. Peggy and I never met, but we corresponded by email and, once, we talked on the phone. She helped me so much. I owe her my sanity."