Divorce is so rarely discussed yet it touches all of us—whether you've gone through a divorce or love someone who has. That’s why I’m so grateful that Eryn Eddy bravely went there with me today. This is such an honest conversation about the pain of divorce—and the compounded pain that comes afterward.
She speaks with nuance & humility about the loneliness of a distant marriage, and how discovering the secrets that led to that distance didn’t come out until after she’d shouldered most of the blame. She is upfront about owning her own stuff, even as she *finally* realized it was not her job to own his. Before we dive in, I want to highlight 2 points:
—If someone is telling you: “If you were more godly or if you were more loving, then HE wouldn’t do XYZ (porn, cheat, drink. . .)” that’s called *blame shifting* and it’s toxic.
—If your spouse is narcissistic, couples therapy likely won’t work. And it could end up hurting you. (See the Resources section.)
Here’s what we discuss in this episode:
1. You can be loved well as a child and still bump up against toxicity in your adult relationships
2. How doing all the “right things” didn’t work.
3. How the pursuit of attention outside of marriage is often more subtle than we like to admit
4. Why loneliness or pain in marriage is so hard to talk about
5. How secrecy in marriage can lead to confusion and self-blame
6. How Eryn learned to “date herself” and find validation apart from men
7. Why it’s important to both own our mistakes *and* show compassion to ourselves for what we do when we are in pain
8. How she learned to trust a new therapist after a bad experience
God’s grace and love for me is not contingent on my performance and my doing. —Eryn Eddy
You can only negotiate a healing way forward when both people are taking full responsibility for their own side of the street. —Alison Cook
I wanted to get comfortable with being by myself and with making moral decisions not because it was the “right thing” but because it was good for my soul. Because it was good for me, because I’m worthy and I’m valuable enough to pursue healthy love and have it not be attached to a person. —Eryn Eddy
- Learn more about Eryn here: @ErynEddy & www.eryneddy.com
- Learn more about So Worth Loving here: @soworthloving & www.soworthloving.com
- So Worth Loving, the book by Eryn Eddy
- God Hears Her podcast with Eryn Eddy and Elisa Morgan
- Emotionally Focused Therapy
- Trauma Informed Therapy
- How to test relationships from Chapter 8 of my new book, The Best of You
- Resources if you're in an emotionally destructive relationship
- Enneagram Resources
- Resources for support
- Episode Transcript
- More Episodes
Episode Eleven: The Best of You Podcast 21st July 2022
Guest: Eryn With Dr. Alison Cook
Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone. Welcome back to this last episode in this series on Real People Overcoming Real Problems. This episode meant so much to me. It was so important for me to include this in this series. Because I have so many clients, I have so many friends. I know so many people who are dealing with really painful divorces.
Whether it's the aftermath of a painful divorce—
The decision to get a divorce—
This is a really hard topic and I just love the way today's guest engages this topic with nuance. She doesn't blame anybody. There're elements of her story, you can tell she works very hard to only speak about it from her own perspective. And I really respect her for that. This is a hard topic to talk about, and I really appreciate just the sensitivity and nuance that came out through this conversation.
So before we get there, I want to let you know that next week I'm going to start another round of psychology buzzwords. You guys loved these psychology buzzwords and several of these buzzwords came out in these last few guest interviews.
So I want to hear, from you, are there any words, or phrases, or topics from these guest interviews, the prior series, or just from the world around you that you want me to take a deeper dive into? And there are two ways you can let me know.
First, you can go to this episode's page on my website. It's dralisoncook.com/podcast. Or go to this podcast post on my Instagram page @dralisoncook and leave a comment there with topics you'd like me to do an episode on in this upcoming series.
I'll also be running a poll in my stories. So check my stories on Instagram for that. I'd love to hear from you what phrases, what terms, what topics from psychology you want me to address always from a faith-based perspective. And with that, let's get into today's episode Overcoming the Pain of Divorce.
I was talking with Eryn, who has become a friend of mine, and she mentioned something about having gone through a divorce. And I immediately bounced and I was like, "Eryn, is this something you talk about?"
She said, "Yes."
Because of the very reasons you're saying. And, so, she agreed to come on today and I'm so grateful to have her. Eryn is a social entrepreneur, a creative.
She's the founder of a lifestyle clothing brand called So Worth Loving, a company that has sold to all 50 states, 35 countries, and continues to garner a growing presence. She is an author, a podcast host. She has a book called So Worth Loving, that looks amazing. And she's the co-host of a podcast called God Hears Her. I will link to all of that in the show notes. I have just come to have so much respect for Eryn and I can't wait to learn more about your story today, Eryn, thank you so much for being here.
Eryn: Oh, Dr. Alison, thank you so much for having me. This topic, ugh, is near to my heart. And, so, it's an honor to speak to this space.
Alison: Well, I appreciate your willingness to share this. I'm certain we'll discover as a painful aspect of your story. I always like to start by looking back. By kind of setting the scene, as they say, of what your young woman self was like? Maybe late teens, early twenties. How did she see herself and what was she hoping for out of love and relationships?
Eryn: Oh, such a good question. Oh, so many things. So I am one of three girls and I grew up in the South, but both of my parents are from the North. So Ohio and Indiana and they manufactured furniture. So I grew up in a very entrepreneurial household. But it was like not your typical little girl upbringing in the South. I mean, we had Great Danes, and macaws, and my dad would buy cars and resell them. And then we're manufacturing furniture.
There was just a lot of movement in my childhood. And by the time I was in my teens, I had just this sky is the limit, starry-eyed, perspective of life. Because my upbringing was full of so much color. There's just a lot going on.
So during that time, I mean, my dad, he's so loving. My dad has always been so loving to me, and I learned, and we can unpack this late, but I learned I trusted him so much because he loved me so much. But I didn't realize that men needed to earn my trust. Because I gave it and experience it so effortlessly with my dad.
So, I mean, I met my former husband when I was 17. So met him at 17. I was just, again, sky is the limit, starry-eyed. Didn't really know about my career where I wanted to go. But I was optimistic that I'd get there because I watched my parents work hard and get there. And, so, my idea of love, I guess to answer your question. I gave it freely because it was given to me freely by my dad, and he really shaped that for me.
Alison: I want to pause there for a second because you're saying something really interesting. We talk a lot about childhood traumas, childhood wounds. Those father wounds, mother wounds that can impact our later relationship.
But you're highlighting a whole another aspect of where you can grow up, and, actually, it's a little bit similar to my story where my dad was super safe, super loving. But there's almost a naiveté about men. There's almost a naiveté about you just take for granted that men are going to be for you. Men are going to support you, am I hearing you right?
Eryn: Yes, that's exactly what I felt
Alison: And it was real. It was real with your dad and that's beautiful. But then there's sort of this lack of a healthy guard or a healthy, like, "I need to be really careful who I trust." Almost as a result of having been so well loved.
Eryn: It's very true. I mean, and it's interesting because I did have a relative growing up that was a female that was very unloving, and very unkind, and hurtful, and borderline abusive. And, so, that love, I actually worked really hard for. While I never had to work hard for my dad's love.
So I learned to trust men easily. But I learned that I'm not valued or that I have to perform for love still. So it was like my wound was from a female figure in my life, and not a male figure in my life.
Alison: Gosh, there's so much there to tease out, but it makes sense. So, on one hand, you experienced this safety parts of you just sort of trusted. But then, on the other hand, you also picked up a message that I have to work to earn love. So this is the stage that we're setting, going in, you meet this guy at 17. You've already told me, so I hope it's okay that I say you're an Enneagram Seven. Is that right?
Alison: So I'm hearing that in your story. This optimism, excitement, enthusiasm, life is good, life is full. You meet this guy at 17 and what happens?
Eryn: Yes, so we dated for four and a half years, and then we get engaged and I'm engaged at just 21.
Eryn: And I didn't really know what it was that I wanted to do for a living. I graduated from an all-girl school. So I meet my former husband in very unconventional way at a clothing store. I mean, if I'm honest, there were so many sweet parts to our story. And I think that it's hard to, especially when you go through a divorce.
What I've learned from observing other people's stories is that, you want to make everything bad to help yourself feel better. But we had so many sweet parts to our story. Because we both were learning, at such a young age; how to love each other?
How to figure out what our careers were?
I mean, we were at those defining moments of our life, that we were navigating together and separate, but together. And when we get married, at 21, we just didn't have a good toolbox. And we did all the Christian right, I do in quotes "Right" things to do.
You save yourself for marriage.
You do premarital counseling. We did a big intensive thing for six weeks, and we do all the right things. He's from a Christian household, I'm from a Christian household, all of this stuff.
Alison: I want to pause there for a second because I think this is really important for people to hear, "All the right things". You keep doing it in quotes and it's right, right?
Alison: You dated four and a half years, it's not even like you rushed in. You went to premarital counseling, both from Christian households, and we see this. There's no template.
I think what happens is sometimes people want to a guarantee that it won't happen to me. And, so, we look to these, "If I do these things this way this won't happen." And, and here you are going, "We loved each other. There were some sweet things. We did a lot to set ourselves up for success, and, obviously, it didn't work out." So I just appreciate that. I appreciate that pausing on that part of your story. So you're in, you do get married at 21, you're young, what happens?
Eryn: So it's interesting because, fast-forward, we get married. Start to see some misalignment or something like we struggle with connection and we both feel that way. And that's what you always hear.
It's like, "Oh, there wasn't a connection." But there was, actually, something so much deeper that really was going on. And it was while we had been together for four and a half years. The understanding of what emotional intimacy is with God, and then with each other was not practiced, and we were really not skilled in that at all.
And, so, we get married, we're married for about five years in. We never had like the first year was rough. I never experienced any of that. But number five was, and that's when we started doing Marriage Intensives. So we started going on Marriage Intensives and it was like I say this, he hears something else. He says this, I hear something else, that starts to pile on.
But I will say that there were instances when we were dating that I ignored. Instances that were red flags that had a deeper issue that maybe I was struggling with and he was struggling with. Because you'll hear me talk about our divorce. He had a lot of stuff that he had to work through, and he's working through, and that he brought in, that I didn't know about.
Eryn: And there was stuff that I brought in that I didn't know about, and we just kept not talking about it and hiding it.
Alison: In hindsight, can you tell me a little bit more, what were some of those, I understand hindsight is 2020. But as you look back, even to when you were dating, what was happening inside of you, that in hindsight you realize, "Oh, I didn't know to pay attention to that." What was that? Can you give an example?
Eryn: I mean, I was very forgiving when I would find out something that was not honoring to our relationship. And I kept saying, "It's okay." And I kept normalizing unhealthy behavior, and I kept trusting that things would change and they wouldn't. And I entered into this denial space.
So that would look specifically like, well, one, I would definitely find all of my affirmation and affection from him, instead of believing that I was worthy of love. I pursued him to tell me that and based off his actions that determined on if I was, and if I had a good day or a bad day, and vice versa,
He did that to me. I mean, he would seek me to find out if he was worthy of love, for affection and attention, and if I didn't, he would go elsewhere and find it another way. And that's ultimately what we did and it just translated different. It could be porn, it could be infidelity, it could be people-pleasing.
It could be addictions to other things, whether it's technology, or addiction to attention. And we went in such separate ways over time. And we were making intentional choices, but we didn't know that we were, but we were. Does that make sense?
Alison: Yes, if you weren't getting the validation that you quote-unquote "Needed" felt like you needed from him, what would you do? So was there a part of you that was like, "Well, I'll just go get it somewhere else." What was that like for you?
Eryn: Yes, I did that. So I threw myself more into work and I was like very career-oriented and wanted to be the best boss, and wanted to be the best CEO. I wanted to just grow our business and our business is very community-driven.
So I wanted to show up in people's lives and serve them, and in some ways it was selfless in some ways it was very selfish. And it was really hard, after all of coming from that, to differentiate what was selfless and what was selfish. Because my motive was escaping to work.
But ultimately along that journey of feeding that attention and the affection I had an emotional affair, and I can openly talk about that. Because, I think, that's just what happens when you don't address the things that are trickling in at an early state. They manifest over time, and in his journey and his story, it manifested very big and everything just imploded towards the end and we can get into that later. But, no, I definitely threw into work, and from work I had an emotional affair within work.
Alison: I appreciate your honesty, Eryn, and I just really commend you because that's so real. And especially when we're young, I mean, now it's hard enough. But, I think, in marriage that we can fool ourselves a little bit. And like you're saying it's subtle, and there can be little parts of us. It's not even all of us, it's like, "I'm not getting what I need, I'll go get what I need."
And there's a little bit of resentment that might just be a sliver that creeps in, that we keep below our conscious awareness. I'm speaking for myself, and if I don't go, "Wait a minute, I have to address that in the context of my relationship while it's small. Because if I keep it below." And I see it all the time, it's like these a million tiny, little, steps away from the real problem, make the problem bigger.
Eryn: Yep, that's exactly it, that what happens.
Alison: It could be a tiny thing. It could be like, "Man, he didn't notice me last night. He didn't give me that validation I needed, I'm going to go get it elsewhere." And it's tiny, but then a ton of those little steps, over time, create a larger divide.
Eryn: Exactly. Well, and you see that in social media. It's like, "Oh, I'll go find it on social media." And it could be so innocent. It's like, "Oh, I'll just post this photo and it's inspiring, and encouraging."
Eryn: And, I think, that's what we. Yes, it's subtle. We don't realize that the pursuit of wanting affection and attention. It doesn't always look like seductive and sexy, and out there, and all these things.
Alison: "I'm going to go get some man to pay attention to me." It's rarely that overt. It's much more insidious.
Eryn: It's true. And I'm grateful for that awareness that I've had to journey through. Because I can now call it out in myself and I have compassion for a woman that I can see is doing it without them realizing they're doing it.
Eryn: And I think, and again, it's so subtle. Mine was so subtle and a lot of people were shocked and blindsided, as I was. Because I was like, "Those were not my intentions." It wasn't this, again, this lustful sexy, "Rrrr, I'm going to go out there." It was just like little slow drips. Little slow drips.
Alison: It's exactly right. We have the first book that I wrote is this parts model where it talks about, and my listeners most of them are familiar with it. This idea that we're complex and we have these different parts of us. And parts of us, these can sneak in below our conscious awareness.
And a lot of times they're coming from pain. There's pain, unaddressed pain. I'm hurting, especially when we're young, we don't know, and there is a part of us that's in pain. And that part of us is wired and designed to find comfort. To find, in the best way we know how at the time, to find care and that's where we get the more we're aware.
It's hard enough to become aware and go, "Oh, man, I'm feeling lonely in my marriage. I'm feeling unseen. What do I do with that? How do I talk about that with my partner, let alone, maybe even with a friend?" That's even hard enough to talk about with a friend, let alone to face it in ourselves, it's scary. So instead we tend to kind of just hide from it, hope it'll go away.
And it's not like you were overtly, like, "I'm feeling lonely, I'm going to go blank." It's all this jumble of emotion. All this jumble of confusion, fear pain, and we survive. We do what we need to do to survive.
Eryn: That's right. I was surrounded by just sound wisdom, too, and I think that's where some of the confusion was for me, even in my own choices. Because I'm like, "My gosh, I had business mentors and I was in a really beautiful community. How did I get to this point?"
Eryn: And there are things that I can look back on and see, there was a lot of secrecy I didn't know was happening within our marriage. And the reason I wasn't getting some of what are healthy needs, I think, that you can have in a marriage. I wasn't receiving that because it was being put elsewhere.
Eryn: And, so, my own stuff, still I own was part of someone's own stuff that they weren't owning. I have so much compassion for addiction, and infidelity, and the abuse that people are on either side of because what you said, "It comes from pain."
And it comes from not wanting to be seen or known, and recognizing that they truly are loved and worthy of love, and that's the root. And that's where my... I did not believe I was worthy of someone's love. And it came from that relationship when I was younger and then manifested, over time, in many moments a loveless marriage.
Alison: So how would you have known, with that wound that you carried into marriage to say, "Man, I'm feeling lonely. I'm feeling unseen by you, what's up."
How would you have known and had the courage to do that, if you didn't know deep inside that you were worth that. And, so, tell me a little bit about what happened? It sounds like it came to a head and some more information came out, that maybe helped you understand why you were feeling so unloved and so lonely.
Eryn: I definitely gained more closure. Once I became aware of my emotional affair and I say aware because I think sometimes, depending on the severity of it. Because I've seen severe emotional affairs where you're like, "Whoa, how do you not know? That's really the crossing boundaries." And, for me, I had boundaries and, yet, it was this affection that was developing in me. Because I so badly wanted to be and that it seems like it was a safe place.
There was no, and I say this because for anybody that's listening, they may think that an emotional affair is something that's like, you're doing some crazy things through text messaging or something, and that's not the case. Like it can be that this person just feels, "I feel, actually, just safer to be around and I want to be with them at work."
Alison: At work even, in proper settings.
Eryn: That's right, in proper settings.
Alison: It's not like sneaking away for coffee, necessarily.
Eryn: That's right, we have those boundaries.
Alison: It might just be that you love seeing them in the hallway.
Eryn: Exactly, we have those boundaries. We don't meet without more than one person present. I mean, we had those types of things-
Alison: Yes, you did all the right things.
Eryn: Again, quote-unquote, "All the right things." And that's why you're like, "Why am I blindsided by all these right things that's doing?"
Eryn: And, so, I say that to say like once I confessed it and brought it to light, I was still so confused. It affects your identity and how you see yourself, and how someone sees you, I explain it, it feels like a rip tide. It feels like you're being pulled somewhere, you keep trying to swim as you're not getting to where you're going, and you're confused on where you're swimming. In those moments where you bring up that type of stuff, and we sought intensive therapy for about six months.
Alison: So you went to your husband and told him?
Eryn: I did, yes. I went to him at, probably, day two of my awareness. I went to him and confessed it and I told him, and I was met with his own grief, and his own maybe denial that he was processing and going through. And our fights got pretty bad, as they should, because there was so much under the surface that wasn't addressed.
Alison: So what I'm sensing from what you're saying is there was stuff he wasn't bringing to the table, at that point?
Eryn: That's right. At that point-
Alison: That's painful.
Eryn: I think in marriage, and in relationships, in serious relationships, we can say to ourselves, "It's just a season". But a season can turn into a lifestyle, and we had been saying, "It's just a season." Because we are both entrepreneurs. And, so, we're both pursuing our own endeavors and a lot of things we're growing away from each other, not together.
And I kept saying, "It's just a season. Once this happens, then he'll love me."
Or, "Once this happens, then we'll connect."
Or, "Once this happens." And it's, again, that performance mentality that I had just been striving and performing to receive from him and receive from anybody, honestly. Whether it's I want to be the best boss, and I want all my employees to like me, and I hated firing my first employee, and just all that I wanted to be. Ultimately, I just wanted to be loved and seen, and I was pursuing everybody else outside there.
But during the intensive therapy that we went through, then that's when I learned there had been things that had been going on in the marriage for a very long time. That were things that he was very scared to share and hid since he was very young. And that gave me, as much as it was hurtful to receive, it gave me so much closure and understanding that is why things have been happening.
Eryn: Certain circumstances were taking place in our marriage, that I was like, "Oh, that makes so much more sense." Now, I'll say I'm able to look at it with compassion now, but I've been on the journey of healing. I know then I didn't handle it well. I mean, I was angry. I was vengeful and I wanted to claim "My power back".
Eryn: I responded with not compassion in any form because I was so on this pursuit to be loved by him. That I felt betrayed by him, that I couldn't handle his own stuff because I wasn't handling my own stuff, ultimately.
Alison: Well, and also, though, Eryn, you were being hard on yourself and feeling shame about your own pursuit of affection elsewhere. And then all of a sudden the veil is lifted and you're like, "Oh, there's a good reason I wasn't feeling loved, connected to this whole other thing. I've been living with someone and only knowing this much of them."
And that's really painful and, of course, you're going to replay the tape and go, "Well, no wonder." And, again, you're doing a really good job of threading the needle. These things are so nuanced. You're trying so hard not to put all the blame on him, you're trying to own your part, also, it's messy, it's nuanced.
Yes, of course, do we want to make sure we're always going, "What's my part in this?" Of course. And, also, especially in these relationships, there's usually a reason. And, again, we still have what we do when we're trying to survive. It is our responsibility, but there's, also, like it's survival mode for a reason, because we've been hurt.
Eryn: And fight, flight, or freeze, I mean, goodness-
Alison: It's real.
Eryn: I just I flew. I froze, I fought a little, and then I flew that's exactly. And you're right, you want to own your part at the same time the journey has been for me. I want to own my part, I want to extend compassion and forgiveness, but I also want to not own his part because I can't.
Alison: That's right.
Eryn: And it's not my responsibility to, and I owned it for years that I didn't even know I was owning it. And I think that's what came, that was freeing and gave me so much closure.
Alison: And naming.
Eryn: I was like, "I am owning something." Yes, and naming.
Alison: Naming his part. It's not only that you're not going to own it anymore, but you're going to name it, "That's his."
"Oh, that is not mine. "Yes, good for you. So if I'm hearing you correctly through that intensive therapy, you keep using the word closure. It sounds like you, actually, instead of the therapy bringing you together. The therapy gave you what you needed to realize, "Oh, this relationship is broken."
Alison: And is broken the right word? I don't know that you would use that?
Eryn: Yes, I remember, actually, the day, and we had done like one-on-one or intensive therapy together as a couple for a while, for six months. And then we did a three-day emotional focus therapy. We did that, it was like a three day, and there were just more things that I was recognizing.
Eryn: But when I say that there were more things I was recognizing, it wasn't because he was sharing, it was actually that because he wasn't sharing. So everything that we were doing was not still revealing. It was just compiling more on top of my responsibility in this relationship. And, so, then months later, my breaking point, I remember the day was my breaking point where I was like, "I can't do your work. I am doing my work, I have a lot of shame in it, I recognize that, but I cannot do your work too. And you need to go off and do your work, and contact me when you do."
And it was tough love and it was hard, and some people would handle it differently than I did. But that was where I was at, I was at my breaking point. And when I did that, I felt this level of relief where I finally spoke for myself and felt confident in it. And at the same time recognized that there's so much damage that I, actually, don't think that this is reconcilable. I think I can reconcile that this is not reconcilable, but I don't believe that this relationship is
Alison: So, wow, this is so powerful, I love that moment. But what I'm hearing you, again, and I think this is important for listeners to understand, especially in the process of therapy. Again, you're with a therapist that he still wasn't owning it. You were starting to see stuff but the finger was still pointed at you to be the one, and something inside of you finally was like, "I'm done."
Now, I'm curious if, and I don't necessarily want you to talk specifically about the therapist, but did you find that the process of therapy supported you? And the reason I ask is, oftentimes, people can go to a therapist and if one person isn't owning their responsibility, it won't work.
Alison: And if a therapist doesn't understand those dynamics, they can try to create a negotiation where two people haven't each gotten to the root. You can only negotiate a healing way forward, when both people are taking full responsibility for their own side of the street.
Eryn: Yes, that's right.
Alison: And if a therapist doesn't realize that it can actually get, kind of, wonky. So, I'm curious, did you feel supported in that or were you kind of on your own?
Eryn: I felt very on my own.
Eryn: I felt that my moral failure, my mishap, my choice in our relationship was the focus, and it was more reason for him to hide and he didn't feel safe to share still. And, so, all of the therapy that we spent was on my choices.
Alison: I am so sorry. I just want to pause, I hear that so often and it's really harmful and I'm really sorry. That you were the scapegoat, in a way?
Eryn: I was, and I remember when we went to one more therapy, when some things came up after I had that breaking point.
Eryn: I think we may have had gone like maybe one or two more times. And I just remember hearing the therapist, instead of sitting with me in the pain of my awareness that I had been overcompensating and owning his part for about 12 years.
Eryn: Instead of being met with empathy towards how much that had to have felt lonely. There was so much compassion towards the reason he's been hiding in it was in his childhood. I just remember thinking, "Oh, that's so hurtful."
I just remember thinking like, "This therapist, who I'd been sitting with that never dug deep, and then it was all focused on my failure, my mishap, my own immoral choices. And when he brings his delight there's so much compassion."
Eryn: And it was just a moment that I was just like, "What? I just wish somebody would see the pain." Instead I was still expected to carry mine and his.
Alison: That is just heartbreaking and I hear it over and over.
"Tell me what the loneliness was like?"
"Tell me what your pain was like?"
And again, this is what's so tricky about marriage, is both people come in with wounds, with pain. Nobody is trying to take that away from him, but both people have to be fully aware. You could be using that word aware. "I knew my own, I was aware. But we needed to figure out how my pain and what I had done, came together with his pain and his blind spots and what he was doing."
Alison: Instead of, "If I could just have done it better, he wouldn't have had to had this extra layer of hurt." Well, no, that's not the way it works.
Eryn: Oh, and I will be honest, I mean, I had heard that many times. Throughout us trying to mend and seek healing and help was that, "If I was more meek and mild. A godly woman would do these things." I had to feel these things spoken over me. Well, "If she wouldn't be working so much then he wouldn't be pursuing X, Y, and Z."
There were so many statements during that and it's so fragile and I don't think people, like, you can't take back words. And, I think, that's why I love words so much because, I think, they have so much power.
Eryn: And I was met with a lot of words that had so much power, that I allowed to control me after the divorce. And a lot of the words were lies.
They were lies about who I was. What people think I am. What the version of a godly woman in someone's eyes thinks is. Well, I'm not that so I must be this. Just all of these different words were spoken that I carried after.
Alison: How did you begin to heal afterward?
Eryn: Oh, I didn't, plot twist.
Alison: So just to fill in the blanks, it sounds like you finally hit a breaking point. Where you're like, "I'm no longer willing to carry more than what is mine to carry." Which meant the marriage was essentially over. My guess is, tell me if this is accurate, were you blamed for that then? Were you blamed for walking away?
Alison: By both your husband and the broader faith community?
Alison: You left.
Eryn: Oh, yes. So when I pursued the divorce, I was met with a lot of people's judgment and opinions of what they thought I should have done differently, and it was very lonely. I mean, I lost a lot of my community. I also pushed away a lot of my community because I would hear gossip and then I would shut people off. I'm like, "They're not my friend." I'm a Wing Eight, so I know Eight, loyalty is really important to us, and I did it to a whole other level that I don't believe is a healthy level.
But I definitely was met with a lot of criticism and people believed that it could have worked, and that I was calling it quits too soon. And the reason they felt that was because they hadn't seen the internal struggle inside our household.
They saw an external of what they wanted, and they saw what made them feel good. But I quickly became the friend that you don't hang out with because if you do you'll also want a divorce. There was a lot of that, that was projected on me during that time. So that was one of the reasons why I lost a lot of my community.
Alison: Mm-hmm. Oh, that's the pain, the compounded trauma. There's already the trauma, I'm going to call it trauma, of what you went through, the pain.
Then the trauma of being scapegoated and then, already it's so painful to lose a marriage. But then to be blamed and to lose your community on top of that is just... And, unfortunately, I know that so many who are listening know exactly what you're talking about. Know exactly what you're talking about, unfortunately. So, I think, it sounds like that Wing Eight also, kind of, saved you because it was like, "I got to save myself here."
Alison: So tell me a little bit about the healing process. You said initially you didn't, what do you mean by that?
Eryn: Oh, I pursued the dating world very quickly. I pursued other people to tell me, again, that I was worthy of love and I dated many men. I mean, I'm painting myself in such a way, but, honestly, I did.
I mean, I dated my former husband when I was 17. So all of a sudden I'm getting attention and affection where I can respond freely to and I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to say, "No, I'm not interested."
Eryn: I was really did not know how to communicate that, and nor did I really want to, I've kind of liked the attention. I had just been rejected for so long that now somebody that's seems shiny, I felt like, "Oh, yeah, give me attention."
And, so, I dated. I went into a few relationships and then with the dissolve of those, I remember there was a breakup and I write it in my book. I write about it in my book it's in the first chapter. Where it was, probably, the first serious relationship that I went into, and I was just shocked when we broke up.
And, so, when he broke up with me, all my baggage from everything came flying forward because I hadn't unpacked it. I hadn't unpacked. And, so, when we broke up I was devastated. And I remember thinking, "I don't want to date anyone else. I want to date him and I can't.
So what am I going to do? Well, I'm going to date myself." And I don't like myself, that's where I'd been going into all these relationships. And, so, two years after the divorce and I find myself here, I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to learn how to like me. I'll learn how to date me. Be by myself, cook dinner and enjoy it by myself."
Because for so long, we had been married for nine and a half years. So the bed was cold and I didn't want to sleep in the center. I wanted to sleep on the side, that's my side and he's there. Even if we went through the divorce, I still wanted a presence of somebody there. And I was just filling the lack of my husband with other men. And I was filling the bed spot with a serious boyfriend and, ultimately, none of that was healthy or right for me.
Eryn: And, so, I wanted to get comfortable with being by myself and making moral decisions. Not because it was the right thing, but because it was good for my soul. Because it was good for me because I'm worthy and I'm valuable of a healthy love. And I'm valuable enough to pursue health and it not be attached to a person, and choosing me for the first time and really seeing that choosing me and claiming, quote-unquote "My power" is really just enjoying who I am.
And, so I went on that journey and I chose not to date for a while, for over a year, a year and a half. And I went very extreme, it seems like that's the pattern for me. Because, I think, that, probably, we can connect that to childhood wounds or childhood joys, I'm not sure.
But I dyed my hair back to my natural color. I didn't wear makeup, I didn't paint my nails, I went kind of extreme. I was like, "I just want to trust myself that when I decide to take care of myself, it's because I'm taking care of myself and not because I want affirmation from anybody else." And, so, that's kind of the direction that I went in. That's when healing started taking shape,
Alison: That is so powerful. I love what you said when you said, "I started doing this not because it was the 'Right thing.'" Again, that superficial kind of, "Let's hit all the marks."
"I started doing it because of my own soul. Because I wanted to start valuing this woman that God had made me to be." And that's really what it's about, at the core. That's just so powerful and I love the way you externalize.
There's this and it's very Enneagram Seven. It's like, "Okay, now I'm going to be single, it's going to look this way." But it's real, it had roots all the way down. "We're going to show it, we're going to create, it's very creative."
Eryn: That's right. And I go to a five in health and growth, so I wanted to learn all that. So, actually, I got a trauma therapist and the trauma therapist specialized in spouses of sexual addiction. And there was a specialty trauma therapist and I was so grateful because I could put terms to things and gain more closure that I didn't realize I also needed. And understand even, "Why did I respond the way that I did to my trauma?" That was so outside of my moral compass and just who I am. When I threw myself into dating and just was kind of like [Audio Warbled 00:41:15] Alison: But you mean after the divorce?
Eryn: After the divorce. After the divorce, when I did all that, I was like, "I need terminology." So I need to understand why did I do this so I can start forgiving him, my former husband. Forgiving the guys, I dated because there was that too. But I mainly my former husband and then forgiving myself for things that I chose that I wasn't forgiving myself for.
Alison: I love that you did end up with a trauma therapist. Who understood what we do when we're so hurt, these survival strategies and I love that you've landed at a place of understanding. God it's such, again, a nuanced thing to talk about. There is self-forgiveness, but there is also, "I was hurt." Both things can be true.
"I was hurting. I was in so much pain. Yes, are there other strategies maybe I would've preferred to have used?" But you were in pain, so both things can be true and I love that you found your way to that nuanced place. "I am so worth loving." That's your thing, I get it.
Alison: Hard earned.
Eryn: Yes. I love that, what you just said, it both can exist.
Eryn: Both can exist.
Alison: What would you say, Eryn, to that younger you, maybe that 17-year-old who maybe saw some signs? How do you go back to her now?
Eryn: Well, in therapy, I had to grieve my innocence that I felt like was taken advantage of. And I had to grieve the loss of a lot of it with my effortlessly giving trust. I had to grieve all of that. And, so, I think, what I would tell my 17-year-old self, again, is that God's grace and love for me is not contingent on my performance and my doing.
Eryn: I think just letting her sit in that, and would she be able to understand what grace really means? I actually don't know if she would have because I feel like I was met with so much grace and love when I made many choices, that I had carried so much shame with. That I felt like that was when I first learned grace.
But I just would want her to know that she's so worthy of love and to be pursued by a God that loves her. That no earthly man or audience of people can give her, and that she's just really talented. And I would want her to know that, that she's really talented and the things that the world might try to rob, or maybe even contaminate to really protect.
Alison: Mm, Amen. I love that. I love that because I can hear that's coming from a place deep inside where you know now that is not something you'll give away.
Eryn: Mm-hmm, oh, yes. And it took mistakes to get there. And it also took a really good therapist. Because like we said before I had a bad one and I was actually scared to go to one again.
Alison: One of the questions I tend to ask people is when you turned for help, what was it? Both the good and the bad and I just want to magnify that again for people.
This has come up again and again in these interviews that I've been doing with real people real problems. Everything you're saying about learning to protect yourself applies to the experts that you go to too.
Whether it's a pastor, a therapist, we go in blindly thinking this person is an expert they're going to help me and they can really cause harm. And it grieves me to say that, I mean, it brings tears to my eyes because I love this profession, and I am a therapist and we can do harm. And I think the good ones know that. The good ones have that humility to say, "Man, I just don't want to do harm here."
But I am so curious that, yes, you had a very terrible experience where you were blamed and shamed. And then it sounds like you were able to give yourself permission, I would imagine, through a process of learning to trust a good therapist. Was that a process?
Eryn: Yes, it was a process. So when I went into therapy, I was just like, "This is not going to work if I'm not honest with my fear of it. And if I don't express it to my therapist, we're not going to get anywhere." And I, honestly, think that I take that everywhere. I take that with my relationship with God. If I'm not honest with how I feel and think towards Him, it's not going to go anywhere.
I take that in my relationships with my friendships. I want to be honest and loving, but I also want to show my curiosity, and my questions, and my fears, and I bring them out. And a good therapist is humble to receive them and want to walk you through them, and help you process and learn your voice in that journey. And that's what my trauma therapist taught me.
Alison: That's great. So you tested her a little bit? Well, I don't know if it was a her, but you tested her a little bit? Which is wise and I really want people to hear that I have a book coming out in September, and there's a whole section on— How to Test People and I felt so guilty.
A part of me felt so guilty writing that because I'm like, "That sounds up." But I'm like those of us who have that naive, that innocence taken away you actually have to learn. It's a skill we need in this world, and it includes your therapist. So I love that.
You tested her. You asked the hard questions. You weren't going to just sign yourself over to her to be heard again.
Alison: Well, in my trauma, I would give trust easily everywhere. So, for me, I was like, "Oh, this therapist, bless their heart." Like "They're going to have to some work cut out for them, I might be a fun client because of that."
Alison: I love it. "I'm going in with all that I have and they're going to have to earn their way through." And what a safe place? That's so wise. That's a safe place to practice that because if they can't do it well, bye.
Eryn: Yes, exactly, right.
Alison: "I'll wait for the next one." But good for you and that's how we learn. And I think people need to hear that we learn, we don't want to become hard. But boy we do want to develop very adept skills. Very adept skills to know how to protect ourselves. We want to be in charge of who we let in.
We're the gatekeepers of our lives of our souls, of our hearts, so I love that, Eryn. So tell me, what would you say to the women who are listening, who have struggled with any of these things? Any of these things you've talked about? What would you want them to know?
Eryn: I would actually, probably, task them with something and that's getting to their journal. I'm a huge journaler, I've journaled since I was 12, I have that journal. So some people don't like to journal, I have so many. And if you don't like to journal, oh, you should start right now.
After this podcast grab just your journal, a safe place, and write out. Maybe where are some areas that you're recognizing that you are pursuing to give you affection, and love, and attention. And then look at that list with compassion and tell yourself that you're worthy of love, and none of these things can give it to you because you are already loved. You're already valuable that you don't need to perform, or do, or be seen to be known.
I would encourage the woman to be really honest with herself on where she's pursuing it, because, I think, we do it more than we realize. And I think that social media makes it very easy for us to get a quick fix of attention, and love, and acceptance, and this hit of endorphins.
Alison: Yep, so many places our kids can give it to us. We can look to it in an unhealthy ways from family members, there are so many ways.
Eryn: Our to-do list.
Alison: Our to-do list, that's a big one for me.
Eryn: Same. And I would encourage a woman listening make a list of where you feel like you might be doing that. And then remind yourself that you're worthy of love. And it's okay if you don't do those things, you're still going to be loved and just sit in that.
Alison: I love that. And sit in the discomfort, even, because initially that's like, "What?" Parts of you are like, "Uh-uh?"
Eryn: You're like, "No way."
Alison: And be honest about that too, I love that. I don't believe that I rationally might but sitting with that because that's where the Holy Spirit, that's where God starts to come in and go, "Yes, I get it. I get that you don't get that, that's okay." And oddly enough, that's where it starts.
Alison: That's beautiful.
Eryn: Oh, so good.
Alison: That's beautiful. Eryn, tell us a little bit about where people can find you and this book that you wrote, that sounds amazing. Where can people find you?
Eryn: Yes, you can find my book it's on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it's So Worth Loving.
And you can find me at soworthloving.com.
You can find me on Instagram, on Eryn Eddy E-R-Y-N. You can find me @soworthloving.
And you can hear more of me talking with my deep raspy voice over at God Hears Her. It's my voice, I wanted to tell in the beginning, it is on a whole another whole octave because I've talked a lot this last week.
Alison: You sound great.
Eryn: Someone called me Demi Moore the other day. But you can find me over at God Hears Her where I'm a co-host to a podcast. Where we talk about the messiness of life and where God fits and all of that.
Alison: I love that. I'm going to go check it out and I'll link to all of that in the show notes. And as I ask, as we're closing out here, I ask all my guests, the name of this podcast is The Best of You. What or who is bringing out the best of you right now?
Eryn: Hmm, oh, man I would say my community. I would say we do a lot of fun, like go on the lake, and grill out, and really take intentional time to spend together, and that's so redemptive right now for me. Because, as I said in the beginning, I lost my community.
Eryn: And when you lose something and then you gain something, you have such a deeper appreciation for it, that you want to love the heck out of it. In a way that you didn't realize that you weren't maybe, or that it wasn't the same type of community that you desire, or that you realize that healthy community, this is what it looks like. So you're more appreciative to it.
So I would say my community and I'm in a beautiful, serious relationship with a man that has so much grace and compassion, and just always just so much fun. We just have so much fun together, and adventure, and life, and he's got three daughters that are amazing. So they bring out the best of me too. I'm learning this new space of like this mentor in their life, and they're six, 12, and 14.
Alison: Great it is.
Eryn: They paint my nails and we have a blast. And, so, I would say my community, and my boyfriend, and his three daughters.
Alison: I love that, that's beautiful. What needs and desires are you working to protect?
Eryn: Mm, man, you wish you could just arrive to think like living out, "I'm so worthy and valuable." But you just don't. And, so, I feel like I'm learning to continue to, especially, in this entrepreneurial space, I'm in constant check with how much am I giving? Am I giving too much?
Eryn: What boundaries do I need to have in place? I mean, I am in a constant battle with that. So I feel like I'm continuing to learn how to vocalize what my needs are and identify them, and create boundaries that keep them safe.
Alison: It's a daily practice, and I think that's the reality. We catch ourselves quicker. We're more able to notice when we're going off course, but it is, I love what you're saying, it is absolutely a daily practice of staying anchored, checking in with ourselves. I love the journaling that you suggested, checking in with God.
I think, in my mind, that's what it means when we're supposed to abide in Christ. It's not that we don't do anything, but sit around, which is kind of what I learned. Like abiding in Christ meant just reading our Bible all day and not taking responsibility for my own life.
Alison: I think it's more what we're talking about. Which is abiding in Christ is that it is a daily practice of staying true to ourselves. Staying true to the person He made us to be. Honoring our own heart, mind, soul, and body in partnership with God. And we have to constantly come back to that. I love what you're saying, I think there's wisdom in that.
Eryn: There is, like you said, it's not spending so much time in the Word. A certain amount of time in the day to learn that. I know that, I am completely off-balance and also making choices out of... Like, when I talked about my needs.
I need to make sure I protect the, and I have boundaries, and it's absolutely centering myself in how God sees me, honestly, minute-by-minute, daily conversations. Breath prayers, I call them breath, prayers. I just breathe in a prayer of, "Lord, just help me with this." In the little things and big things, and I noticed that when I do it in the little things, I mean, He wants those little things from me.
Eryn: He wants me to pray these little things because they compile to the bigger thing. And we talked about earlier, like, there is slow drips to a big issue.
Eryn: And I see that in the same way, in my relationship with the Lord. Where it's like, these slow choices, these small choices I make with Him that actually build up to this big relationship with Him. That keeps me steady, and stable, and able to make decisions off of my needs and my boundaries.
Alison: So good, I love that. Thank you so much, Eryn, for all that you shared today. There's so much wisdom and goodness, and just honesty in this conversation. I'm so grateful for you. I'm so grateful for, I always want to say to people, I'm not grateful for what you went through that's a bummer, it stinks.
I wish that we didn't have to, but I'm so grateful for what you've set free as a result in yourself, and what you're putting forth into the world as a result of your own healing process. So thank you for sharing a little bit of that with us today.
Eryn: Thank you so much for having me.
Alison: We look forward to seeing you next week, right back here on The Best of You.
[00:56:32] < Music >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show.
You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com. Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now, so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.
[00:57:10] < Outro >
I would love to hear you explore how to have healthy relationships between a mom and her adult daughters/sons
I would love this topic as well! Especially when I ended up empty nesting at the same time as getting a divorce from an emotionally abusive narcissist. I long to have healthy relationships with my daughters and son.
I to would love to here your thoughts on having a healthy relationship with my adult children. Specifically my daughter who lives with me after my divorce in a 32 year verbal abusive marriage.