Monday, 13 July 2020

I Interviews

Interview: Carol Erb

Description: Enveloped_6x9_cover.jpgQ&A with Dr. Carol Erb, author of Enveloped

1) Talk about that moment when you realized your husband was committing adultery. What were your first thoughts?

 My first thought was I no longer knew the man I married followed by the shocking truth that my husband no longer loved me.  I had difficulty facing the truth that he had decided to get out of the marriage and would bring this pain and suffering to me and our sons.  I had the classic signs of shock and denial.  I was convinced that with the right kind of help he would come to his senses and realize he was making a big mistake.  Having been a child of divorce, I knew what this would do to us and to our family. I thought I could reason with him and help him understand that the consequences of his choices were going to be too painful, and together, we could turn this around.

2) What steps did you take to try to salvage your marriage?

 My first cry for help was heard by family and friends, but they had little influence on my husband.  Next, I went to our pastor for help, but he said he did not do marriage counseling.  Then I went to a Christian counselor, who was highly recommended to me, but she gave me no advice about what action to take to begin recovering from my husband’s affair, work through my grief, or emotionally heal from the trauma – let alone if there was anything I could do to stop it. After our initial session, she didn’t offer us any kind of plan to work on the marriage. I realized it was going to be up to me to and I had no idea what to do.  I was completely on my own.  Essentially, I came to the gut-wrenching reality that, try as I might, I was powerless over my husband’s choices.

3) What was the most difficult thing to deal with during the divorce?

 Grieving all the losses was the most difficult. There is the personal loss of a spouse, the marriage, watching the children suffer, financial loss, and loss of relationships of family members and friends, as they were also hurt and negatively impacted. Lastly, there was an unforeseen loss I encountered within some Christian circles, as divorce disqualified me from certain areas of service.  Divorce is a firestorm and the ripple effect goes on for years.

4) Why did you decide to share your personal story in book form?

When I work with clients in individual or couple sessions, they have repeatedly told me that what made our work together so meaningful was when I shared parts of my story. They knew that I understood their gut-wrenching pain. I have worked with hundreds of clients, but my goal is to reach many others outside the privacy of a counseling room.  When a woman (or man) is in pain due to a crumbling marriage, a loss, or betrayal, they are faced with confusion and struggle.  When they reach out to family, friends, their pastor and the Christian community at large, they are often met with advice that sometimes causes more pain than it alleviates.  They feel trapped, alone and afraid…much the same way I once did. While Enveloped is a heart-wrenching story, it is also filled with promise and a hope for the future that can only come when you’re completely surrendered to the love God has for you.  Enveloped was written to show the possibilities of what a woman can accomplish when she allows God to enfold her in His loving arms.  My book is not so much about me as it is the story behind it.  The hero is God. 

5) How did your relationship with God change during and after your divorce?

When I realized I was facing a divorce, I knew that this time was going to be a severe trial of my faith.  In studying the Bible, speaking to women's groups about God's faithfulness, and teaching women in Bible studies, I believed God was permitting me to be tested at a deep level and my response would be crucial. I chose to completely surrender my circumstances to Him and to really trust Him.  I had given God my life to do whatever He wished fifteen years earlier, and despite navigating the challenges of divorce, I knew that His plan for me would not be thwarted. My relationship deepened greatly as I was totally dependent upon Him regarding every aspect of my life. I talked to Him about everything- just as a wife would with her husband. During that time I derived all my security, significance and love from the Lord.

6)  What do you think churches get wrong when dealing with people who are going through divorce? What can they do to improve?

 Most church members and pastors do not want to confront the sinning spouse the moment they hear about the infidelity and, in doing so, they lose all influence over them.  Typically, the spouse that has been traumatized by adultery is given the impression that her husband’s infidelity is partially her fault, implying she should have been more loving and wasn’t trying hard enough. They are then told to obey the scripture, pray, have faith and things will change.  Other hurtful advice is if you are too hard on the sinning spouse you risk scaring them off and causing them to eventually leave the marriage (ironically they are already gone), therefore you need to stop nagging and forgive and forget.

 Pastors can improve in this area by educating and teaching their church members that divorce is a painful reality inside the church today. The church leadership needs to either have a program in place to help couples who want to save their marriage and avoid a divorce, or have referral sources available when a traumatized spouse calls for help.  Church leadership needs to come to grips that the traumatized spouse cannot manipulate or persuade their sinning spouse to love her (or him) without the sinning spouse becoming genuinely broken.  The sinning spouse must be willing to change and do the work it takes to regain 100 % of their spouse’s trust and respect. Therefore, if the sinning spouse has no interest in salvaging the marriage, then the traumatized spouse needs a plan and support in place to get through the grief process of the separation and possible divorce which involves 3 parts:  the emotional-side; business-side and rebuilding life without their spouse.

7) What is your understanding of scripture as it pertains to divorce?

All divorces in one way or another are caused by sin, but not all divorces are sinful.  Jesus made it plain that one ground in which a believer might divorce is due to unrepentant sexual sin.  Another ground is when a spouse leaves the marriage, abandoning their spouse and breaking the bond of marriage by divorce.

Description: Headshot Hi-Res Color.jpg8) Now that you are coaching people going through difficulties in marriage, what specifics things do you see as the most problematic things to overcome?

The most difficult issues facing marriages are infidelity, pornography addiction, and independent behaviors. When a marriage is plagued with any of these behaviors, it requires a specific, deliberately executed plan to build a brand new marriage.  The couple has to be willing to admit mistakes, learn to communicate with openness and honesty, and gain skills to resolve conflict. They purposefully need to take action to rebuild trust, look at past pain and recognize how it transfers into the marriage, grant and accept forgiveness, and learn each other’s emotional needs. Then, they can begin the work of meeting those needs in order to bring back romantic love.

9) Why do you believe so many Christian marriages are failing?

The root problem for the failure of Christian marriages is selfishness.  Couples enter into marriage from a lifestyle of independence to the stark realization they are no longer independent, but now they must consider their interests with their spouse’s interests simultaneously.  If a couple does take into consideration each other’s needs and do not make this shift, they are headed toward marital disaster. 

Additionally, many couples are inadequately prepared for marriage as one or the other has misinformed their potential spouse to avoid conflict.  They have not been completely open and honest regarding their personal history, preferences, habits, failures and future dreams.  If new information comes out later, it can be upsetting and potentially very damaging to the marriage.

10) Are there 3 practical things that couples can do to improve their marriages today?

1. Put the marriage first over children and career. Begin by having a daily devotional where you begin to reconnect as a couple emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Next, implement a weekly playful date to keep the romance alive.

2. Learn the steps for healthy communication for resolving conflict so you are able to reach an agreement where both are mutually satisfied with the outcome.

3. Lay a foundation of total honesty in order to nurture compatibility and love in the marriage. Reward honesty and do not punish with anger when your spouse reveals their thoughts and feelings.

11) Do you believe society as a whole still believes marriage is a covenant? Why or why not?

I think the American society today has lost the understanding of marriage as a covenant and is more inclined to view marriage as a contract.   A contract marriage is “until you do something that I don’t agree with. “ A covenant marriage is “until death us do part.”  Most states have no fault divorce, and often couples start their marriage with a pre-nuptial agreement, which leans more to a conditional contract marriage rather than a covenant marriage, which is an unconditional solemn binding agreement made before God.

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