Episode 8: Elisabeth Klein on Hard Marriage

home you Mar 23, 2021
Elisabeth Klein on hard marriage

Elisabeth Klein knows hard marriage.  She share about being in a hard marriage, staying for years as she tried to make it work, and finally choosing to seperate. After her divorce she found that she had a unique ministry to women facing similar relationship challenges. She shares about how she serves women and how Jesus sustained her through it all.

Click to find her Marriage Assessment.  For details on the Marriage Challenge, feel free to email Elisabeth at [email protected].

Connect with Elisabeth at her website, Facebook, or Instagram.

Elisabeth's favorite gadget is...her blender! (I'm not sure the exact model Elisabeth has, but this is the one I have and I love it!)

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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 8

Jennifer Uren
Elisabeth Klein is our guest today and she was in a very difficult Christian marriage for almost 19 years. After a 15 month church led reconciliation attempt. She was supported by her church leadership to legally separate and three months later, she was served divorce papers. This left her as a single mom to two teenagers for four years. But then God brought a sweet kind man into her life and they married five years ago. Together, they have five kids between the ages of 19 and 30, two of whom are now married, so they have two grandsons with another on the way. Elisabeth has been following Jesus since she was 15. And has been serving women for over 20 years through church ministry, writing, speaking, and now coaching. And she works primarily with women currently in difficult marriages, those separated and those divorced by helping them go deeper in their relationship with Jesus and in their own personal wholeness. So welcome, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Klein
Oh, thank you so much for having me, Jenn.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, my pleasure. Well, that intro covered a lot of the basics. Yes, but let's get to know you just a little bit more. So where did you grow up? Where are you now? Just sort of kind of how did you even get to the point of asking Jesus in your heart?

Elisabeth Klein
Oh, okay. Well, I've always been an Illinois girl. I'm, you know, Midwest girl at heart. And you know, only, of course, Everyone's story of meeting Jesus is probably only by God's grace. But this is it's, it's, I feel silly telling this story, because I was asked by a girlfriend to go to a place called the Christian Youth Center in Joliet, Illinois. And at the time, it was kind of known as, like a place for you know, like, Jesus freaks is what, you know, they were kind of the little buzz in our little high school and, and but honestly, this is so sad. I just thought, well, it's a different place other than my high school to like, see cute boys. So I literally like meant, you know, went there on the path to meet a boy. And instead, I literally met Jesus that first night. So I've been just trying, you know, my best to follow Him and, and love him since I was 15, which I'm 50. So that's a nice, long time to be walking with the Lord.

Jennifer Uren
That is a nice long time, and thanks for bringing up our ages.

Elisabeth Klein
Sorry, that's true.

Jennifer Uren
I will be I'm April. But in the bio, we talked about the fact that you write and I remember you and I were acquainted in college, you know, a few years ago. And from way back then I remember that you had always wanted to be a writer. So how has that manifested itself for you since since you started dreaming of it?

Elisabeth Klein
Oh, well, I remember the first I wrote a poem for the first time on my grandma's typewriter when I was 11. And it had nothing to do with my life, which they say, you know, write what you know. And it was about seagulls or something ridiculous, but you know, but I just felt like I was hooked. There was just something about it, of it being an outlet. And I went on to, you know, be on yearbook in high school, then the newspaper in college. And it wasn't until after I had, I think, probably my, my daughter, so I have two that I started writing poems again, I started trying to find places online. Now keep in mind, so that would have been about 24 years ago, very early in the internet world of like, trying to find online places to write. But I just kept writing kept compiling. And then it was after my son was born, that I realized I had kind of an entire manuscript. And that's a whole other story of how I went and you know, found a publisher for that. But um, so I've been writing for, well, technically, since I was 11, but professionally for 24, 25 years.

Jennifer Uren
That's really neat. It's fun to see those threads pulled through life. It all comes. Well. Another thing that we've touched on in the bio was your journey of marriage and separation. Your staying married, staying married, being separated and right. And then life after divorce. So can you kind of, you know, tell us a little bit more about that journey. Like, did you just wake up one day and realize this is not right, or did you sort of watch it happening and then go wait, I should have done something then kind of what was what was the journey there that brought you to that?

Elisabeth Klein
Yeah, well, I know every woman's marriage story is, you know, totally their own and totally different. Mine, I, I grew up with some baggage of being a child of divorce, I never ever wanted that for myself moving forward or for my, you know, my future children. So the interesting thing was is the person that I chose to date for about four years, who ended up being my first husband, we argued, almost all the time, we broke up three times, there was a broken engagement in there, we had people tell us, you're not like the best fit, you know, like, you're both good people and all that. But together, it's it's not a good mix, we probably had two or three people, three people tell us that. And I was stubborn, I was selfish, I was immature. And honestly, there was a part of me that I really thought at 22. If I don't marry this guy, there's going to be no one else who will love me, who will marry me. So we both I think, just push through. And we had a good year, our first year was good. And I actually thought, okay, maybe it was just because we weren't married. And now that we're married, things are fine. But pretty quickly, the arguing started to pick up again around year one. And then the thing that really, right away was concerning for me was realizing that alcohol was becoming an issue, which was something that floored me, we were a couple of good Christian kids. We went to church. Like two times a week, we were involved in church. And it never I didn't know what to do with that. I didn't have a box for that. I didn't know who to ask for help. And so I just kind of watched that unfold for 15, 16, 17 years before I finally got help on that specific issue.

Jennifer Uren
Wow. Yeah. Wow. So that that's a whole nother conversation It is about is. Yeah, that that's so so you saw this. You saw this coming along? Yeah. Well, you've always had heart for women. And before you divorce, I know you were speaking at mom's groups. And and you spoke on a lot of relationship topics. I think you wrote on a lot of them, but that included marriage. So yeah. How did your ministry focus? How did that all shift when you separated? And and after the divorce?

Elisabeth Klein
Right? So I spent probably, so I started writing, speaking doing the MOPS thing, probably around, I want to say the year 2000. And yes, I would talk on all the mommy issues that go to the MOPS groups, and I would touch really teeny tiny briefly on marriage, you can't really go to a MOPS group and like, never talk about marriage, right. And so, but I would, you know, I was hitting a lot of the other topics. I had a column on a Christian website for about 10 years for moms. And I would dance around what was really the biggest issue in my life, I would talk about everything else, except that my marriage was harder than the average hard, and I didn't know what to do about it. So then comes the separation and divorce. And I had written an article for this website where I was had had my column for 10 years. And I had noticed that I'd been being asked a few several questions, things like, how did you stay married so long? Meaning like when it was that hard. People who didn't share my faith asked me, why did you stay married so long, which is a very interesting to have that kind of different perspective. And then people who did share my faith were asking, why aren't you staying married no matter what. And so I wrote like a three part article for that website, bless their hearts for letting me run something pretty controversial, I guess. And women, I did not know what to expect. I had a couple different sets of comments. There were people who just bashed me Why do you hate men, you don't love Jesus now, you better never remarry, just dadada, you know, just tearing me apart. But then there were these women who were saying, This is my story and I've never heard anyone write about it, and it broke my heart. But it also kind of just ignited this passion in me because I thought I had thought for so long that I was kind of I mean, I know people are in hard marriages. I know that there are women who have alcohol and you know, abuse issues in their marriages. But the Christian aspect equating that with those I had never really run across. And I just thought, Okay, I'm going to be their voice and I didn't I had no plan. It's not like I thought for the next 10 years. I'm going to focus on this right but it just happened. I just started speaking very specifically to women in difficult marriages, Christian and to Christian women walking through separation divorce, and I mean, everything just shifted the book, Unraveling about sort of not about my divorce journey, but about walking through it. That's when that came out. And that's what I've been focused focusing on the past eight to 10 years.

Jennifer Uren
Wow. Well, and kudos to you for being brave enough to publish that. Because I think that's, that is, in our world, especially our world of social media, I think it's really hard to say, this is where I'm struggling, you know, it's we're expected to have it all put together and, you know, present that and so to be able to say, this is hard, and it's not working is a really hard thing to say. So well done. Now, because you - that had to bolster you a little bit too to go I'm not alone.

Elisabeth Klein
Oh, yeah. I mean, it was interesting, because I was getting slammed. And I also at the same time knew that this was going to completely affect my local ministry in my church ministry, I had to step down from some things, I was asked to step down from a couple things. And yet at the same time, there were these women that I'm like, Okay, well, that's all good and fine, that you're mad at me and that you're telling me to stop? Yeah, they need me. So I like head to the ground. This is what I'm gonna work on.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. So I would imagine that, that that was an extra step to do and be part of through all of this, but did that in some way, give some purpose and some meaning to what you were going through and make it, I'll say easier - I hate that word. But that's no easier to to keep going.

Elisabeth Klein
Right? Oh, for sure. There was a moment. I mean, I hate to say this during my first marriage, there were many, I don't even know how many times I would have found someone would have found me literally lying on my bathroom floor crying and begging Jesus to help us, save us, fix us, even take me home. I just I couldn't see a way out. And there was one specific time that I just felt the spirit basically say, just impress upon my heart. This isn't for nothing. I'm not bringing you through this pain, just for the pain. Like, hang on. Yeah. And so when I did get to the other side, I mean, I just felt like, Okay, this is my beauty from ashes. This is my redemption redemption like I am. I'm just seeing it left and right. So it absolutely it telling my story helped me heal, connecting with other women who are going through it helped me heal. And then, you know, just this sense of only God could use that. To connect me with women I never would have met and walk them through something that is, you know, I, I wish I didn't have an audience. I wish I almost didn't have a job. But they're out there so that I'm able to be this, I don't know, a resonating voice.

Jennifer Uren
Well, and you're bringing hope for their future at that they're not just, you know, damaged or left there or not done.

Elisabeth Klein
Yeah, right. Exactly. Yeah, that that sense of like, I'm benched now, or the scarlet letter D or whatever, you know, is that kind of a thing that to be able to tell them? Oh, no, there's an abundant life for you that, you know, that's gonna keep on going no matter what your relationship status is, so

Jennifer Uren
So what is it like, in some ways, now you're straddling these two worlds, you're in a good marriage, you're looking forward with that, but you're still ministering out of this, you know, this brokenness that was part of you know, your story. And I would imagine there are days that that's got to be hard. But how does that work for you guys? For Yeah, you and your husband? And yeah, what is that like?

Elisabeth Klein
Well, it's interesting. So when I started all of this work, I was coming out of my, you know, separation at the beginning of my divorce, and then I had a few years of just single momming it so it was just me. And one of the things I prayed at the beginning, was that no matter how long this kind of went on, I didn't, I had no expectation whatsoever, that it would end up turning into, you know, an eight to 10 plus year season of doing this work. But one of the things that I asked God for was that I would always remember the pain in a way that I could empathize in the moment but that I would not be weighed down by it still, like somehow remembering it but forgetting it all at the same time.

Jennifer Uren
It could shape you but not define you.

Elisabeth Klein
Right so I will be on a coaching call. I was just on one this morning with a woman in a really difficult marriage. And I'm able to I even before each call even like God bring me like in the moment memories that I'll be able to, like connect with or remember something that I tried or whatever and he has been so faithful in all these years of all these women I've worked with that other than a handful of times when there's something like, over the top heavy, I'm able to when I get off the phone, or when I finish a webcast, I'm able to walk away. And I'm not carrying it, which is amazing to me, because I tend to carry other people's stuff. So it's amazing that I can do the work, and be almost as if it just happened to me, you know, a half hour ago, and then walk away. And then as far as my husband, he's just, he's been such a support. And it's interesting, because he wanted to come see me speak when we were engaged. And so, you know, I brought him to the single moms group. Which I felt like I was feeding him to the wolves. I mean, he just sat in the back. And, you know, he kind of watched me, and then there was a q&a afterwards. And they started asking about dating. And I said, Well, my fiance's here. And who would want to hear from him? I mean, it was a room of about 200 women, and, you know, vulnerable, hurting, you know, women. And he's looking at me, like, what are you doing, but he very bravely came up, and, you know, they're just peppering him, you know, and us with questions. But his, his response, he was, one of the things that's that drew me to him was, I did not date a lot at all before I ended up with him. And but my very small experience with a few other guys was like wife bashing, not owning their own stuff. And on our first date, he owned it, he like listed it, he was not unkind about his ex wife. And that was what he brought to that arena with this, you know, these women of just this vulnerability. And so he and I, you know, we never set out to, like, have this ministry together. But he's, we're just already so lined up that he just wants to help. He just wants to be this open book. He's like, if anyone can, you know, benefit from what we went through, I'll do it, even if it's kind of, you know, weird or uncomfortable. And so that's been such a gift that he's never said, like, he'll do q&a, you know, webcasts with me, sometimes he just just a week ago, he came with me and got up in front and spoke to another, you know, single moms group. And he's never once said to me, please don't talk about that, or can you reel it back on this? He is always I trust your judgment, whatever you feel you need to share. So just having a partner I mean, that's never in a million years would I have expected that right.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, yeah. Yeah, he's, he's a keeper. Yes. Oh, well, some of the moms listening may be in the midst of a difficult marriage. And they may be wondering just how to move forward. So what would you tell someone just to encourage her?

Elisabeth Klein
Okay, well, one of the things that, that I think is really important is that we have to sort of define difficult marriage. Because there's regular marriage, that takes work and everyone's marriage takes work. Yeah. And then if so if there's sort of this continuum, so there's a regular marriage that is maybe going through a bumpy season, or my goodness COVID. I mean, if that's not stress on every relationship. Yeah. Or you're just having your own outside stressor, or there's a family thing or whatever. Or it could just be boredom, you're in a rut, you know, that kind of a thing. But then they're sort of on the other end of the continuum. And that tends to be the woman who there are, there's abuse going on, addiction, mental illness, adultery, manipulation, lies, things being hidden. I mean, there could be so much going on there. So what I found in the say 15 to 17 years before I got the help that I really needed, where I felt someone actually understood me and believed me. Up to that point, there was a lot of, sort of list giving, wife rules, submit more, kind of, you know, hold your tongue more, serve more, have sex more, cook more, just like fall in line, like, do what you can to be a better wife, which I was, I was list girl, like, tell me what to do. I'll do it. Right. Um, but when you're in a difficult, difficult marriage, like harder than hard, there's a different list. I mean, some of the things I was told to do aren't even, not only aren't going to help, they could be damaging in an abusive, dynamic. So defining where you are on the continuum is really important. Also, I would say, searching out for help from someone who understands, it can be really, really, it's already hard to go to someone, a pastor, a counselor, and say, you know, this is my marriage, that kind of a thing. And so it's hard to know, sort of until you get in there and try it. And, you know, splay yourself out there of how they're going to respond. There are amazing Christian counselors out there in the world, there are great pastors in the world. But if you put yourself out there, and you're sort of maybe like, patted on the head and sent back with a list of pretty basic things to do, I would just recommend that you not lose heart, and you not let that be the last time that you ask for help. Because that can totally shut someone down. I don't know how many times I asked for help. And then was given that list and just recoiled. And so I would just say, persevere, keep asking until you genuinely feel heard and understood and believed. Mm hmm. And then I would also just say, you know, you need to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can. And as honest with God as you possibly can. There is something that I realized that I did, of course, hindsight is 2020. But one of the things that I realized was, I was keeping the perfect little Christian family image going. I was afraid of what it would look like if everything became exposed. I was the women's ministry director at my church, I just assumed I'd be blowing everything up, you know, everything that I loved, I loved everything about my life, except my marriage, which may sound really weird. But I loved being a homemaker. I loved working in church, I loved my children, and all of that. But I was afraid that if I stepped out that everything would just implode. Now, here's the thing it did. But you can survive that. And I think we tend to forget that. If we're not telling ourselves the truth, I mean, change really cannot come until you are brutally honest with your reality, if you just kind of keep trying to like, you know, wrap it up in a nice little bow, things are just gonna stay the same or get worse if addiction, mental illness or abuse. They don't just stay the same. They tend to, you know, right, right, get worse. So keep asking for help.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, and with that facade of keeping that appearance, you're also not really letting anybody see enough where they go, Hey, I'm noticing something. Do you know, you just you're not even giving opportunity for someone to come along at your stage. And encourage your help or intervene in any way either, I suppose would be the other part of that.

Elisabeth Klein
Oh, absolutely. I would sort of give bits and pieces. I would say one thing to someone, but I mean, I don't even remember. I can't recall the first time that I sat down and told someone the entire story. But just I would get these I would say a little something and see her reaction of you know, a friend being like, like, that's not what a marriage is separate that kind of thing. Yeah. And then it would be like, Oh, that's not good. Okay. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Which kind of shock is it? Is it shock I can't believe you just said that. Or is it shock Oh, my goodness. Let me, you know... Yeah. Well, well, I and I imagine I mean, this leads into this at any stage of a difficult marriage, you know, whether you're in it, whether you're leaving it, it can feel pretty lonely. So, you know, you've talked about asking for help, but what kind of support team would you encourage, you know, women to build I'm thinking, you know, a lawyer, a financial advisor are sort of obvious, but who else should should kind of be part of that support system that they're putting in place to help them through this hard transition?

Elisabeth Klein
Right? I would say, a Christian counselor or coach for sure. Because there it's, you know, that phrase of you don't know what you don't know. Whether you're in a Christian marriage, that's difficult, and you choose to stay, which many women do for honorable reasons. Even in that category, you can stay terribly for the rest of your life, or you can learn to stay well. Or then there's the woman who does have biblical grounds or her husband has left her and she's in this place of whether she wanted to or not she's separated horse. So regardless of which path you're gonna want someone who's going to be able to walk alongside you, helping profession so I would say for sure a counselor, because there's also that other piece of it if you have children, which obviously when you know yours is a moms podcast. Yeah. That's a whole other level. have pain level of something to navigate. And you will want help with that. So I would also say, if possible, having a good friend that you genuinely can trust. Who won't, doesn't have to necessarily necessarily have been through it. But you'll have to be able to tell the friend like, please don't husband or ex husband bash, like, don't keep me going. Don't keep me spinning in this, like, call me to a higher place with this pray for me. And I would also say some kind of, you know, it takes a village, having a couple, which you have to be really careful with this, but a couple of men who you trust that could be there for your children, not necessarily for you. It could be there for your children, whether you're in a difficult marriage or divorcing, there's something about knowing that say, the youth pastor might know enough of your story that he knows to reach out to your kids and check in maybe a little more than he would the average kid. Right? So kind of creating a team. Yeah, because there's something about both the marriage and a divorce, that when you're already lonely, you can tend to isolate even more in your pain. So you will have to choose to reach out even when you don't want to.

Jennifer Uren
Well, that is that's all so helpful. And you know, I'm sure that's gonna encourage someone who's listening today.

Elisabeth Klein
I hope so.

Jennifer Uren
So a lighthearted fun question that I ask everybody is, what is your favorite gadget?

Elisabeth Klein
Okay, I you know, it was funny, because you told me what yours were. And I didn't know what either of them were that will tell you were how I am. When it comes to gadgets, this probably doesn't even count this is just going to show how non techno I am. But I actually said my blender because I make two or three like kale banana berry smoothies a day. Really what she's asking for, but I'll go

Jennifer Uren
And the funny thing is, is so far as of this conversation, every answer has been food related. So yes, yes.

Elisabeth Klein
So that's the closest I get to a food related gadget.

Jennifer Uren
You're right there. So that's great. That's fun. All right. So how can people connect with you? Where where can they find you?

Elisabeth Klein
Well, the best way would be my website, which is Elisabethklein.com. And that's elisabethklein.com. That's probably just the quickest way to get ahold of me. I'm also on Facebook, Instagram, that kind of a thing.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, great. And I know you have a couple of resources that you want to share with our moms and one is a marriage assessment to help women gauge the state of their marriage. And the other is a 14 day challenge to help women change the one thing they can control, which is their own perspective and responses. So do you want to mention anything else about those?

Elisabeth Klein
Sure, I would just say with the the marriage assessment, first of all, it's confidential. I'm the only one who sees it. And it just can be for those women who are kind of because I'll be honest, there were a handful of years where I just thought, Okay, this is it's hard, but like, this is my cross to bear or this is what I chose, I didn't realize it was more hard than I actually should have been trying to carry. So the assessment can be just sort of an eye opener of where you really are in your relationship. So it will either make you feel like, okay, it's not that bad. That's great. Or, okay, there's something I need to do about this. So I would say that the assessment would be more for the woman who maybe thinks there's some things wrong, but she's not sure. Okay. And then the challenge would be really for if, the challenge could be for any woman, whether you're kind of stuck in a rut, or you know that things aren't good, but you've tried everything. There's so many good Christian marriage books, but again, that can fall along the lines of with the assumption that your marriage is okay, and just need some tweaks. So this would be more for it, because it really comes down to we cannot change our husbands. And sometimes we cannot change our circumstances. But we can always, always, always change how we are thinking about them, which in turn changes how we speak to ourselves to our husbands, how we respond, how we react, and even if your husband is unwilling to go to counseling to acknowledge that there are any issues, when you when even one partner sort of starts dancing differently. It changes everything. No, I'm not saying automatic healing, but it for sure will start to bring a steadiness to your heart and how you feel about your marriage. If you start sort of assessing and acknowledging your reality, and making some shifts in how you're thinking about your marriage.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, that's, that's my husband was a psych major. And I remember him talking about this with family systems. And so we're trying to explain this to our children. You can't change your brother, but you, you can control you.

Elisabeth Klein
Exactly.

Jennifer Uren
Elisabeth thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. And I will put links to all of this in the show notes. And, but thank you again for being here.

Elisabeth Klein
Thanks so much for having me, Jenn.

 

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