For Better or Worse
About the Guest
Shauna ShanksShauna Shanks is a wife, mother and entrepreneur. She started Smallfolk, a health food café, out of her passion for health and fitness. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, with a focus on world missions. Shauna and her husband, Micah, who is a police officer, have been married for more than 13 years, and they live with their three boys on an Ohio farm.
In 2003 Shauna Shanks’ boyfriend, Micah, proposed. As the years passed, resentment and restlessness began to set in. Shanks tells of the shock she felt when Micah asked for a divorce 10 years into the marriage.
For Better or Worse
Bob: Shauna Shanks remembers being stunned when, in a disagreement / an argument with her husband, he said things she never expected to hear from him.
Shauna: He begins to tell me that he is not attracted to me—that he hasn’t been attracted to me for a really long time—that he doesn’t love me and that he wanted a divorce. It really caught me off guard. I even said to him, “But, Micah, our ten-year anniversary is coming up next month.” He said: “I know. I’ve wasted ten years of my life with you, and I don’t want to waste another ten years.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 17th.Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When a marriage gets to that point—when those kinds of words are said—is there still any hope left? We’ll find out today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was talking to a friend of mine just recently about the for-better-or-worse vows that we take when we get married. I think, when we say that, we have an imagination of how bad “worse” could be; but there are some folks who have experienced “worse” at a deeper level than they ever imagined.
Dennis: That’s right. I think there’s a reason those vows are made. There are going to be rough periods/stretches—sometimes more than one season—in a marriage relationship and an occasional surprise that rocks that promise to its core.
We have a new friend here on FamilyLife Today—Shauna Shanks—who comes all the way from Chillicothe, Ohio. Shauna, you’ve written a book called A Fierce Love, subtitled: A Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage.
I love how your relationship started out, where your husband Micah proposed to you; because you couldn’t ask for a more romantic setting. [Laughter]
Dennis: Take us to that place and tell us what happened.
Shauna: We lived in California at the time. He took me to the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge, because I loved going to San Francisco. I knew that he was going to propose—we kind of talked about it—but I wasn’t sure he’d bought a ring and that sort of thing. He’d planned out this whole romantic day. We went to the Palace of Fine Arts. We ate seafood on the pier. Right at sunset is when he took me to the bottom of the bridge. He climbs up on this big rock and reaches for my hand for me to climb up there. I climb up there. He gets on one knee, and I know what’s happening. I’ve waited for two long years for this moment, because it was actually a long-distance relationship; so we were visiting.
It was just the most spectacular moment.
I heard this shuffling sound out of the corner of my ear. I didn’t know if Micah heard it or not, but he stopped what he was doing. We were just standing there, awkwardly, at this point, thinking, “What is that noise?” What I didn’t realize is that the beach that we were on is actually a nude beach. [Laughter] When I turn around like this—the sound kept getting louder, and louder, and louder—it was a naked man running over to us.
We just freeze—my husband freezes; he’s holding my hand, and I freeze—a bit awkward. [Laugher] The naked man—he runs all the way up to the rock that we’re standing on, taps the rock, turns around, and his bottom bounces all the way back to wherever he had come from. [Laughter] My now husband said, “Will you marry me?” So that is, um—
Bob: That’s a memorable proposal!
Shauna: Yes; so my kids know the story about the naked man. [Laughter] He’s like an endearing character in our past.
Dennis: You never knew who the guy was?
Shauna: Oh, no!
Bob: You said it was a long-distance relationship. How did you and Micah meet in the first place?
Shauna: We actually are from the same hometown, but we went to separate colleges.
We became friends about four months before we both moved. Our friendship—courtship/dating; whatever you want to call it—happened within like three to four months. He moved to Sacramento, California; and I moved to Dallas, Texas. I think we were just—I’d like to say that, “Oh, we were young and in love,”—maybe—but we were also just very stubborn. We had started it; we just wanted to see it through, I think. This is before—this is going to make me sound really old—but this is before FaceTime and all of that. We were emailing, back and forth—that was how our—
Bob: That is old—it was emailing. [Laughter]
Bob: Now listen—I have a box of letters from my wife from back in our courtship days—that’s how old we are. Emails—you’re kind of on the newer side of things here.
Shauna: We did letters some, but it was mostly for nostalgia; you know.
Dennis: So you guys started out your marriage, obviously, in an unusual way. If I would have come to you, as you started your first year of marriage, would you have said:
“This is looking like this is going to be a dream relationship for the rest of our lives. We’re going to have some children, and start a home, and live there in Chillicothe, Ohio; and all is going to be well”?
Shauna: I would say, “No; not at all,” because I really was kind of oblivious, I guess, to what being a wife looked like—which sounds silly—because I grew up in a Christian home / I was in a Bible college. When I moved in with my husband, I said, “Well, it’s going to be easy to love someone like Jesus does”; you know? We weren’t used to even being in the same city, let alone the same home. Right away, I think—for me, at least—it developed into a selfish love—like, “He’s not doing what I think he should be doing for me,”—that kind of thing.
Again, I think it is funny; because I was at a Bible college; right? I think that just the circle that I was in, it was: “Marriage is the easy part; and then your ministry or whatever you’re doing is where you focus your resources on, but marriage should just come natural.”
Bob: I think there’s a lot of naivety.
Bob: We experienced it when we got married—the idea that, “Because we both love Jesus and we love each other, what can go wrong?”
Bob: Then you do move in and you do find: “Oh, you don’t think about everything exactly the way I think about everything. You don’t choose to do things exactly the way I would choose to do them,” and we’re thrown off by that.
Bob: It’s not working the way we thought it was going to work. Unless we learn how to make some adjustments during those years, we wind up in isolation rather than together as a husband and wife.
Bob: Did you experience the sense of isolation in the early years of your marriage?
Shauna: I think the isolation but, also, we got pregnant fairly early on. We moved home to Ohio, because we couldn’t afford to live in California anymore. We road-tripped home, which is a stress. Then he had issues getting work right away—so that’s a stress.
This fairytale that I imagined quickly was like: “Okay; now you have bills. Now you have a baby, and you’re not even getting along that well.” It just kind of fizzled out, really early on.
When I say “fizzled,”I mean just the fairytale was shattered; because we were still doing life together. We were, I think, doing the best we could with how we were equipped at that time.
Dennis: No other relationship on the planet is less prepared for—in terms of the significance of the relationship compared to the amount of time and training—than marriage. In other words, young couples like you—what you’re describing—that’s how Barbara and I started too. We were naïve, Bob.
Dennis: I think if you know somebody, who’s getting married, the very best wedding gift you can give them is the Weekend to Remember®. If they can’t go before they get married, certainly within the first few months of their marriage. If you can get them started on a right trajectory—that will make all the difference in the world.
Bob: And let me just quickly remind our listeners here about the special offer we’re making this week for anyone who’d like to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. You sign up this week and you will save 50 percent off the registration fee.
It’s our half-price offer that we’re making, and it is good this week only. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; find out when a getaway is happening in a city near where you live, and mark out that weekend. Get away together to work on your marriage. Again, you’ll save 50 percent if you sign up this week. You can sign up, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get more information or to sign up over the phone.
Dennis: I guess, Shauna, I want to ask you: “If I would have asked you about the trajectory of your relationship—were you moving in different directions?—were you moving, generally, in the same direction?—did you experience oneness, early, in your relationship?—or did you have that isolation factor from the very start and just completely began to drift apart over the next ten years?”
Shauna: You know, what I think it was—is resentment. I think that I had an idea where I was going to go in my life, and he had this idea. Then, there was so much compromise; and then his job fell through.
Then we had all these things happen. I just think that we resented each other, early on.
Bob: You found yourself, at one point in your marriage, kind of attracted to somebody else; didn’t you?
Shauna: Yes; this was years later, but yes.
Bob: What was that circumstance?—and what was it that caused you to be looking outside your marriage?
Shauna: Well, I was working in a hospital. Every day I would just pass this guy in the hall. And honestly, it wasn’t—I mean, I never talked to the guy or anything like that—but I just had this, because I was older—this was probably almost ten years into our marriage—but I would just have this crush, like I felt in high school towards people. It kind of came out of nowhere. I thought, “Oh my; he’s really cute!” Then my friend knew that I thought he was cute—she would kind of make a scene like, “Oh, there he is!” We were acting like high school idiots in the hall. [Laughter]
Dennis: But you never acted on it.
Dennis: Never invited a relationship.
Bob: Weren’t really entertaining that—it was more of a fantasy for you than anything else.
Shauna: Well, it was more of like I was surprised he even was coming up. You know what I mean? It was just like this attraction that just kind of happened.
Dennis: I think a lot of people have things like that that they never act on, but it’s lurking in the back of the mind. Did you ever talk to your husband about it?—ever tell him that that was something you were feeling and you felt kind of weird and strange about it?
Shauna: No; it was something that I kind of harbored inside so that, when I’d get mad at my husband, I’m like: “You know what? I could do better than this.”
Shauna: Honestly, you know.
Dennis: It’s interesting that’s where you went with it. Where I were actually—If I had the opportunity to encourage you, at that point, I would have said, “You know, a fantasy like that—or an attraction that’s just a flicker—can completely be quenched if you bring it out into the light.”
Dennis: A lot of married people are afraid of how their spouse would respond if they told them they were attracted to another person or had that thought. In fact, I’ve shared with men this thought that I tell Barbara—and I have told her over our 45 years of marriage—when that thought has crossed my mind. Only when it’s persisted with some kind of frequency that I’d say to her:
“You know, I got to tell you—this is ridiculous—but I just want you to know what’s going on in my mind.” At the point I tell her about that, it’s gone.
Shauna: Yes; you know, after we had a collapse in our marriage—or my husband was asking me for a divorce—this guy that I had a crush on kind of came out of nowhere. He was at one of my son’s games and asked me for my phone number. I just thought: “What are the odds? I mean, I never talked to him the whole time I worked at the hospital. Now, my husband’s asked me for a divorce; now, all of a sudden, here he comes.”
By then, I had an accountability partner in my Aunt Jan—she said: “You know, you are in a very fragile state in your marriage. The enemy may bring people to you to tempt you.” I literally laughed in her face—I was like, “I’m not even thinking that.” Then, the next day, this guy came—asking my phone number. As soon as I got in my car, I texted her, “What you said is exactly right!” As soon as I got that out in the open and say, “I entertained this for a second. He asked my for my phone number.” Then, it was in the light and it dissipated—it loses its power.
Dennis: Yes; the power goes out.
Dennis: You know, I’m glad you shared the story—the rest of the story on that; because there are listeners, who have had the initial attraction. The true chemistry of the relationship has not had a chance to be catalytic; but when you do breathe some life into and put some hope in another person, it can happen in a heartbeat.
Bob: Shauna, you said you came to a point where you husband was asking for a divorce. Did you know, leading up to that time, when the issues came out in the open—did you know there was anything going on? Were your marital senses tingling at all?
Shauna: No, not at all; because, probably the first ten years in our marriage, I was volunteering at our church as a kids’ coordinator for the creative ministry—but I wasn’t in a place in my life where I was, I would say, on fire for God or really giving Him much time or attention. I was not in His Word daily. I was a very—what the church would call “lukewarm” Christian.
But right before he told me that he wanted a divorce, I had just gotten back from a conference; and I was seeking God.
I was just really excited about what God was doing—I was kind of in this personal revival. When I came home from the conference, that’s when my husband broke me the news; and it completely took me off guard.
Bob: You had gone out for a run / you were just out jogging, and you came home. Your husband said, “I need to talk to you.”
Shauna: Yes, I had just gotten back from the conference. I was running; and I came home and I said, “Hey, I’m going to hop in the shower real quick.” He said, “Well, I need to talk to you.” I said: “Oh, okay. Let’s sit down; have our conversation.” He said: “You know what? No; go ahead and get your shower first.” I thought, “No; let’s not do that, because now I’m going to want to know what it is.”
Shauna: So we sit down. He begins to tell me that he is not attracted to me—that he hasn’t been attracted to me for a really long time—that he doesn’t love me, and that he wanted a divorce. At first, I thought he was kidding; because my husband’s always been kind, even if we didn’t have a really spectacular relationship. This really came out of nowhere.
He had a traumatic childhood, growing up, so he’s never been overly touchy feely—that’s we just never were super affectionate / overly affectionate toward each other, so that part wasn’t an alarm for me. I didn’t know that it was because he wasn’t attracted to me—I just thought that it was in his DNA. It really caught me off guard—I even said to him, “But, Micah, our ten year anniversary is coming up next month.” He said: “I know. I’ve wasted ten years of my life with you, and I don’t want to waste another ten years.”
Dennis: Oh, wow!
Shauna: As he is telling me this, my sweet husband disappeared. I don’t know how else to describe it—he just became really cold and just very, “Okay; these are the facts, and this is what’s happening, and I’m leaving you.” He didn’t say, “Sorry.” It was at that point that I just started sobbing and really just started spiraling out of control, because I had no idea.
Dennis: So as he was uttering these words, it had to almost be like an out-of-body experience for you, as a woman, to be hearing your husband say such damaging things to you, as a wife.
Dennis: What did it feel like?
Shauna: Well exactly as you said—an out-of-body experience. It was like my brain was refusing to believe it, because we were both in church. We were both okay. Here’s the thing—as a wife, I was completely devastated to hear my husband tell me that he doesn’t love me / that he’s not attracted to me; but as a mom, I didn’t have the luxury of just completely falling apart.
We had three kids together; so automatically, after he left the room, my mind starts spiraling into: “What about the kids? This is going to devastate them. What about what school district are we going to be in if he leaves—if we have to move? How am I going to pay for this house? Wait! I don’t want to live in this big, dumb house by myself.” So I’m thinking about bills; I’m thinking about kids—I’m thinking about how this is going to affect them.
That same night—it was really, really late or early morning—and I realized that my mind has been thinking/worrying about all of this logistical stuff all night long. I climbed into my son’s bottom bunk—he’s still little at the time, and he still got up during the night. I climbed in that bunk, and I just begged God—I said: “Please give me something to focus on, because I have to be calm so I can sleep; because I have to get up with these kids and be some kind of coherent and be a good mom to them tomorrow. I can’t just fall apart.” I said in my desperation, “Please just give me one thing I can focus on so that I can be calm and go to sleep.” He met me that night and He answered me.
Dennis: What did you focus on?
Shauna: What I heard Him speak to me was, “Hope and endure.” The interesting thing about that is that—as I had shared, I wasn’t the Christian before who was really focusing on God or being the model Christian; but yet, in my moment of devastation, He didn’t hold that against me. He wasn’t like, “Oh you haven’t been talking to Me; so I’m not going to answer you.” He came and He said, “Hope and endure.”
That night, I was thinking about that phrase; and it took my mind to 1 Corinthians 13, which is the love chapter—
—that’s the one that they say at every wedding; right?—“Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn’t envy. It doesn’t boast. It’s not rude. It’s not self-seeking. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.” The last two things it says is it always hopes and it always endures.
For the next couple of weeks, I thought: “You know what? I asked the God of the universe for help. I said, ‘Please give me something to focus on,’ and He spoke, ‘Hope and endure.’” I just thought, “If He, the God, who spins the planets, is going to answer me at the bottom bunk of my son’s bed, while I’m devastated, I’d better listen”; so I would pull out the Scriptures of 1 Corinthians 13.
In my book, I eventually call it “the love filter”; because I just thought: “You know what? This must be my move. My next move is not to worry about the house, or the payments, or the kids’ schools. My next move must be: ‘Be patient; be kind; don’t be jealous; don’t be rude.’” It really became like a way of life for me to just, every single day, not to worry about all the outside factors; but worry about what I can do.
If I can do nothing else the next day, I focus all my attention: “I can be kind today.”
Bob: Shauna, it’s hard to live out 1Corintians 13 if you’re living with somebody who’s grumpy. But if your husband has just come and said, “I’m not attracted to you, and I don’t want to live with you anymore,”—now, all of a sudden, it’s kind of like: “Hey, you have just disqualified yourself from the benefits of 1 Corinthians 13 with those statements. [Laughter] I mean, I shouldn’t have to live this out if that’s how you’re going to treat me.”
Dennis: Well that’s how the flesh responds.
Dennis: I think you just have given all of us, regardless of our circumstances, a great way to look at something hard/something tuff—to just go to the God of the universe, very simply, humbly and pray, “Would You show me what to focus on?”
Shauna: And that’s the amazing thing—is that when you do that, He answers us.
I think that I was able to—as you said: “He’s disqualified himself,” “He doesn’t deserve that,” or whatever—but what I found in my journey is that, when God tasks you to do something, He also provides you the way to do it—He empowers you to do it.
The Word of God that I had known since childhood was coming alive to me—like, “Oh, I can do this.” Okay; it sounds hard, right?—but also, we should know how to be kind—but it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. What I found, in the end, was that I think God was just really giving me busy work: “You just work on your list. You be kind. You work on this, and I will work in your husband’s heart. Let me do that. Let Me do the hard lifting / let Me do the heavy lifting. You just do your list.”
Now, looking back, I just see that it was a mercy that God gave me to keep me sane / to keep me comforted—like: “What my husband’s doing is none of my business. What my business is—being obedient to God.” I asked Him for help—He took me to
1 Corinthians 13: “This is my checklist.”
When I’m around my husband—because he stayed in the house; he didn’t move out—
—I had so many opportunities to work on this list; because, when he was around, I didn’t want to be kind—you know, I did want to be rude. It’s like what your mother says, growing up, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Normally, in a situation like that, I would have thought that, if he had said, “I want a divorce,” I would have said: “Okay; there’s the door. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.”
But God intervened and He said: “You follow this list. Don’t worry about anything else,” because the bottom line is—and this might sound harsh—but this is how God dealt with me in those days was—eventually, someday, I have to stand before God and give an account for what I had done—not for what he’s done. If God asked me to be kind today, then I’d better be kind today and be obedient to Him.
What I’ve found is—there is safety in obedience. It wasn’t even this grace that I was giving my husband, because he deserved it. At that point, it was just me offering obedience to the Lord and saying: “Regardless of what he’s doing, God, You’ve asked me to do this. This is about me and You—no one else.”
Dennis: I think, again, of your model—what a beautiful model of how, again, all of us are to face hard circumstances instead of becoming bitter, getting angry, lashing out, using words to hurt them back.
There’s more to this story—including the drama that set this up / what brought him to that point—we will talk about that—but to that listener, who’s heard Shauna’s story today, I don’t know what God is up to in your life; but 1 Corinthians 13 is in your Bible. I’d encourage you to go to that chapter, right now, and to pray a similar prayer:
“God, would You show me where to put my hope / my purpose—what I’m going to be about right now?”
I think use Shauna’s words—what she just reminded us—she’s not responsible for his response.
Dennis: She is only responsible for her response.
Bob: Yes; there’s a reason you titled the book A Fierce Love; because that’s the kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13 describes—not a mushy romantic love—but a strong love / a bold love—the kind of love that it was going to take if your marriage was going to survive. We’ve got copies of Shauna Shanks’ book, A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage. You’ll find it at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order it from us, online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can reach us by phone at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Let me also, again, encourage our listeners—if your marriage is in a tough spot—or for that matter, if your marriage is doing fine but you just want to make sure that you’re building into your marriage / you’re building a strong healthy foundation under your marriage so it can weather the kinds of storms that have been described today—
—plan to go to one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this fall.
If you are a regular FamilyLife Today listener, you’ve heard us talk about these getaways for a long time. A lot of you have never carved out the weekend and gotten away for this. Well, we want to incentivize you a little bit, so we have cut the price in half this week. If you will sign up to attend this week, you can save 50 percent off the registration fee. All the details are available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. There’s information about dates and locations online; or just call and tell us where you live, and we’ll find a getaway near you. Again, make plans to do something this fall that will build into your marriage—attend one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
If you live in the Portland area, I’m going to be coming to that getaway. Looking forward to being in the Pacific Northwest and hope you’ll plan to come out in November for the getaway. I’d love to meet you.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk with our guest, Shauna Shanks, about what you do in a marriage when there’s been the level of betrayal and rejection that Shauna experienced. She’ll be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. We got some special help form Mark Ramey as well. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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