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When walls collapse, healing begins

By Mary Billiter



Editor’s note: This article “Originally appeared in the Casper Star-Tribune.”I recently wrote about “Ella,” a fictitious character I had created many years ago for a manuscript. I wrote about her view that men were categorized into two sects: “Lovers” and “Providers.” What I failed to include was the heartache Ella endured when she realized that while she may gravitate toward the “Lovers” of this world that leave, she was in equal measure part of the problem.Ella knew that not all of the “Lovers” of this world leave, many transform into both “Lovers” and “Providers.” The key, she realized too late in life, is recognizing when that transformation takes place.”Seventy percent of your happiness comes from who you marry,” she wrote in her fictional column, “Ask Ella.” The hard-edged columnist concluded the sentence with the painful awareness that her, “Jack made the other 30 percent easy.”{{more}}Ella pushed the “Lover” of her life away when marriage and children didn’t match the ideal she had created of happily ever after. Ella was as much a part of the problem as was her lover, Jack.I continually think of Ella and how she ended up: alone. Her bitterness left her with a jaded heart that allowed no one to enter and change.I’m a lot like Ella. Faced with a broken heart, I retreat. In the fight or flight situations of this world, I flee. And fast. I am quick to shut down and even quicker to seek alternatives that take me as far away from the problem as I can get.In the 24 years I’ve been sober, I’ve heard this radical approach as a “geographic.” A new town, a new job, a new anything will be a salve to the injury. And while it may initially remove some of the sting, it hasn’t begun to address the wound. In my time of recovery, a geographic has never worked because the baggage I’m trying so desperately to leave behind travels with me. I may be able to run away from my “Lover” but I can’t run away from myself.I had forgotten this when I sat down in front of my attorney and resigned myself that the necessary changes needed in myself and in my marriage weren’t possible. My attorney, though, knows me well.”I remember when you and Jim got married,” he said. “You drafted up a new will and told me you’d never sit across from me again because you had found your soul mate.”This was the beginning of the change I didn’t think was possible because I allowed someone to pierce the wall I had carefully constructed around myself.It continued when I reluctantly agreed to attend an intensive three-day marriage seminar. It had been presented to my husband, Jim, and me by our pastor back in March when we began counseling with him. But month after month, reason upon reason we rejected the offer of help. By doing so, we had jointly resigned our marriage to fail. And for me, without realizing it, I was following a scripted ending I had written for one of my characters.Something changed. It’s hard to pinpoint any one tool we were given that identified the destructive dynamics we had employed throughout our marriage that became the catalyst necessary for us to heal. Rather it was the totality of being with other married couples struggling to stay together that became a turning point. We weren’t alone. And I often think the worst enemy to a marriage is the feeling that our troubles are uniquely are own. In that mindset, recovery and reconciliation doesn’t seem attainable.Now we have a network of couples and a tool kit to employ when the pressures of life crowd our reasoning and emotions. I don’t imagine the road ahead of us will be easy. It may be paved with setbacks, bumps and curves that will challenge us. But when I look further down that road, past the debris, I see Jim beside me. I now see what Ella failed to see or was rather scared to see — that she never wanted her lover to leave. Mine has returned and awakened my heart with the realization that by typecasting him into a fictitious category I limit my understanding of who he is, what he means to me and the love story we’re meant to create.Mary Billiter of Alpine is a weekly Star-Tribune columnist. Write to her at 2010 All rights reserved

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