Exposure Therapy definition:
"An important step in managing anxiety involves facing feared situations, places or objects. It is normal to want to avoid the things you fear. However, avoidance prevents you from learning that the things you fear are not as dangerous as you think.
This method of behavior therapy has its detractors, of course, but it is a valid course of treatment. And it's the course Jerry Douglas chooses to follow with Elly Benson in Past Interference. However, due to the fact they are scheduled to be married in a few days, he opts for an immediate immersion rather than a gradual exposure. This makes the process more difficult for Elly to undergo and Jerry to implement, but it also provides quicker results, or failures.
Something I want readers to keep in mind about this story is that despite Elly's fears, she wants Jerry to succeed, and she is a willing participant. She has the control. If at any point she said "no," Jerry would postpone their wedding to give her more time. Neither want to cancel the wedding, of course, but it is a possible outcome if Jerry can't convince Elly he is nothing like her first husband, Arthur, even if he submits her to those activities that terrified her so much in her first marriage. For Jerry, Elly comes first, last and always. And despite his frustration over her timing in admitting her concerns, he never dismisses her worries as frivolous, which is precisely what Elly is privately hoping he'll do.
Elly isn't crazy, she's scared, but her fears can't be assuaged with a cup of hot tea and a cuddle.
The point is despite Jerry's protestations of love and affection, Elly is suffering from misgivings that no number of words can allay, only actions. So, by pushing himself out of his own comfort zone, Jerry opts to prove Elly's fears are unfounded in the most direct way possible.
Past Interference is a story of emancipation from fear, but the journey is not without pain.
What she needed was the opposite of what she wanted.
Valentine's Day in Corbin's Bend. As Elly Benson readies herself for her second wedding, the doubts and misgivings of any new bride-to-be are exacerbated by the abuse she suffered during her first marriage.
Though she's lived with Jerry Douglas for four months now, and been subject to his discipline more than once, Elly's first husband had been kind and careful with her, too, until the day she vowed to love, honor and obey him. The lessons she's learned from the past make her doubt she can ever find happiness in the future.
Elly has made more than a few mistakes, one of which results in her throat being injured when she experiences another run in with her ex-husband. Not permitted to talk for three days, the tension between her and Jerry increases after she's confessed she wants the word 'obey' removed from her wedding vows. Once the doctor clears her to talk, Elly realizes she and Jerry need to address their issues, even if it means postponing their wedding.
Elly regarded Jerry with a frown. “I’m wondering why you’re so insistent I give the oath in church when you don’t think it will make any difference in our relationship.”
“I didn’t say it wouldn’t make any difference, I merely said that since you’re already obeying me, it should make very little difference to you.”
“So, why don’t we simply drop the word? It could save us a lot of time and grief.”
“You want to know why I think eliminating ‘obey’ from your vows would be a mistake?”
“Because it’s not the word itself that’s causing your hesitancy, Elly. It’s your trust. I could agree and let you change your vows to ease your mind, but that would merely be placing a bandage on the problem, rather than rooting out its cause.”
“You sound like you think I need dentistry.”
He placed a hand on her knee. “Marriage is a big step, and your first one was a disaster. I want to assure you that you won’t be making a similar mistake with me, but I can only do that if you’re willing to meet me halfway. That’s not to say we won’t argue on occasion, or get mad at each other, but we’ll work out our problems, just as we’ll resolve this one. Together.”
“You grew angry with me when I first mentioned my uncertainty.”
“I was hurt by your lack of trust, since I believed I’d done everything possible to reassure you. I thought you understood that you had nothing to fear from me. But it seems my efforts to be patient and gentle may have caused more harm than good. I should have been firmer, more decisive, so you wouldn’t continue to have so many doubts. I was too — soft.”
With her heart pounding, and her palms sweating, Elly set down her tea and tucked her legs beneath her. “No, you weren’t.”
He smiled. “Yes, I was. You confessed something to me Monday. You told me what you most feared, and I responded with words borne out of hurt pride rather than prove then and there that your fears were unfounded.”
With her fingers gripping the couch cushions, Elly’s chest tightened making it difficult for her to breathe. “I don’t want you to prove anything to me.”
“Maybe not.” His warm hand moved up to cup her face. “But I think you need me to do it all the same.”
Past Interference is available as one of the six stories in Corbin's Bend Valentine's Day Collection: Love in the Rockies and can be purchased at any of the following locations.