Author Shauna Shanks felt wave after wave of discouragement, but she refused to give up on her marriage. She shares what inspired her to give herself completely in obedience to God's word. Shanks remembers the day when she gave her wedding ring back, and recalls with joy the day her husband put it back on her finger again.
About the Guest
Author Shauna Shanks felt wave after wave of discouragement, but she refused to give up on her marriage. She shares what inspired her to give herself completely in obedience to God’s word.
Bob: When a marriage has been devastated by infidelity and rejection / when a spouse walks out, putting that marriage back together again is no easy task. Here’s Shauna Shanks.
Shauna: In Hollywood, they make it look so easy, like, “This is the day, and this is the moment.” But it was a hundred tiny little hard decisions that we made every single day. I can’t even say that there was one day, where I was like, “This is the moment!”
People would ask me, “Is there a step-by-step thing that we can save our marriage or be healed?” Sometimes, I just look at them and say: “You know what? I feel like the person in the New Testament, when Jesus healed his eyes”—right?—like, “’How did He do that?’ ‘I don’t know, but Jesus healed me.’” That’s why I have so much faith in God and the Bible is real—and that it’s true—because I know that I was beyond healing, and yet He healed me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 19th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The Bible says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today to bring your marriage back from wherever it is.
We’ll hear more about that today from Shauna Shanks. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m just wondering, if a woman came to you and Barbara and said, “Here’s my story: My husband just sat me down and told me he is not attracted to me anymore; he doesn’t want to stay married; he wants a divorce and he’s done with the marriage; but he wants to keep living in our home,” what counsel do you think you’d give in that situation?
Dennis: Well, I’d have to know more of the context; but I would say, “Let’s give this marriage every chance we can give to it to keep it alive, and perhaps see it redeemed, and to see him redeemed.”
Dennis: I think there are too many people who give up too soon.
Dennis: We have a culture—unfortunately, within the church—that has fostered, I think, too much of an easy get-out-of-your-covenant “commitment.” The marriage covenant is not viewed with nearly the dignity, and nobility, and sacredness, and the fear of God that it ought to be, Bob; and this really causes it to be revealed when somebody gets into deep waters.
Bob: Well, and you understand how—we see someone in pain or going through pain, ourselves—we want the pain to stop; so we look at the option of divorce and say, “Maybe this will cause the pain to stop.” But oftentimes, people are approaching that choice too quickly/too casually, as you said.
We’ve seen so many couples at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, who were right there at the edge of divorce, thinking, “There’s no hope left for us.” After a couple of days, they say: “There is hope, and we can go home and apply the principles we’ve learned. Our marriage can be different as a result of that.”
I just want to quickly remind our listeners—we have a special offer going on for FamilyLife Today listeners this week. If you sign up to attend an upcoming getaway, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; but we need to hear from you before the week is over. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to take advantage of this special half-price savings that we’re making available this week. Before you give up on your marriage, come spend a weekend with us. Let us see if we can help you find a way back to the oneness that you were pursuing when you got married in the first place.
Again, take advantage of the half-price offer and come spend a weekend with us. Let me just say—this is not just for couples in distress. Most of the couples who come to a getaway are couples who are doing well in their marriage, and they just want to continue to pour a good foundation underneath their relationship. So, wherever you are, spend a weekend away this fall and build into your marriage.
Sign up this week to save 50 percent off the regular registration fee, and then come out and join us at a Weekend to Remember.
Dennis: And I’m glad that Shauna Shanks joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Shauna, welcome back.
Shauna: Thank you.
Dennis: Thanks for telling your story this week. If listeners have missed the beginning part of this story, there are a couple of parts to it that are compelling—just great lessons about living life in the midst of the hard thing. Shauna has written a book called A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage.
Bob already talked about your husband coming to you shortly before your tenth anniversary—you’d had three children. A couple weeks later, he shares with you that, “Yes; there’s another woman…”
Bob: And I’m thinking to myself, at that point, my tendency would be to say: “Well, you know what? You don’t live here anymore. If those are the choices you’re making, you have forfeited your right to have a bedroom back here.” Did you have that thought?
Shauna: I didn’t, actually, because my husband—he had completely checked out of the marriage. He wasn’t skirting around. After he told me that he had an affair, he was like, “You know, I want to go be with this other woman.”
Bob: The affair was continuing.
Shauna: It only happened a few times, so it was very short-lived; but then—because, I think, of my reaction—and how he just assumed that, when he came to me with this news that I would be like: “Okay; this is, at this point, mutual. Get out,”—but when I didn’t react that way, initially, it got worse before it got better in our home; because at that point, he had to assume the full guilt, because he wouldn’t, at that point, be able to say: “Okay; this is mutual. She kicked me out. Okay; now I have to leave.”
Shauna: I wasn’t giving him that. I said, “You know, you can do this—you can leave—but this is 100 percent you, because I’m willing to fight for this marriage; and it is not mutual.” I even told him, at one point, “I’m not going to sign divorce papers,” because, when you divorce, it’s then mutual. I said: “This is not. You can leave, but you leave knowing that this is completely your decision.”
Because of the way, I think, that I was reacting—where I was trying to show kindness and really trying to show him grace, early on, after he told me about the affair—he knew that he was doing wrong. He said: “I want this marriage to work, but I don’t know how. I’m not attracted to you, and I don’t know how to fake it. I don’t want to be in this marriage, but I know that I should.” It kind of put him in this place, where: “I know that this is wrong. I want to honor God, and I don’t know how.”
Bob: That still had to hurt, though, when your husband’s saying, “Okay; I know I should be doing this out of obligation, but I’m still not attracted to you.” You have to be thinking, “What’s wrong with me here?”—right?
Shauna: Well, yes and no; because I was also kind of, honestly, feeling like, “Do you think I want to be doing this stuff that I’m doing?”—like: “This is work for me, too, pal. Do you think that I want to show you grace?—because I don’t.” It was kind of like, “At least, I can work with that,” because when you start in obedience, kind of, then everything else is God’s problem. If God doesn’t return those feelings to him, how’s he supposed to get them back?
But the first step is obedience, and that’s what I always will go back on. Everything else is God’s problem; ours is obedience. Does that make sense?
Dennis: Yes; it sure does. In fact, you kept pressing him back against the significance of what he was doing. You gave something back to him, in November, to symbolically say something very powerful to him.
Shauna: He was lying on the couch and just acting very nonchalant, you know, just like our marriage wasn’t in crisis. He just wasn’t trying, from my view; so I gave him the ring back—I kind of tossed it at him, because I was frustrated.
I said: “You know what? You’re doing absolutely nothing to make this marriage work. I don’t even know if you are being faithful right now.” I said: “And so this marriage just seems worthless for me to wear this ring, because I don’t know where you are. If and when you are ready to give it back, and make a for-sure commitment to me, then give it back; but until then, I’m going to keep doing what I feel like God’s told me to do. That’s how I’ll know when you’re ready—is if you give me that ring back.”
Dennis: So what was the look on his face?
Shauna: Literally indifference.
Dennis: He just continued being nonchalant.
Shauna: Yes; and you know, I have a story—I wrote about this in the book, because one of the most powerful moments I have—it was a God moment—that I have is watching him lie on the couch one day. It was football season in Ohio, so everybody has the football game on. He’s scrolling through social media, yelling at the TV, and just acting like—like he just crushed me, you know?—like our ten-year marriage was over was no big deal.
As I said, God had instructed me to be patient and kind; and so I wasn’t saying out loud what I wanted to say. I grabbed my journal, and I started journaling. I said: “You know, he just acts blatantly indifferent. That’s worse than anything. He’s showing me no emotion. He’s not putting any effort into this marriage; he is just acting like nothing is amiss.”
It was a few days later that God brought me back to that journal entry. I opened it up and God kind of put my nose in that journal entry—
—He said: “You know what? You also stood at an altar and promised to love Me, and commit your life to Me, and to serve Me and be passionate about Me, and you are upset because your husband is failing to do that for you.” I realized that my whole life of being a Christian had been so lukewarm—I was like Micah, lying on the couch, you know, binge-watching on Netflix®, just kind of going, “La-da-da,” during the day; and I wasn’t passionate for God.
He was giving me these lessons—it was almost like an object lesson—to see in my husband what I hated—just saying, “How can I be mad at him when I’m doing that to God?” because, you know, when we’re Christians, the Bible very much relates that to a marriage with God; so how can I be mad at him that he’s passionless when I’m being passionless?
Dennis: I just want to affirm you for having ears to hear. I can’t imagine what the pain would feel like of having your husband say: “I don’t love you. I’m not attracted to you,” then confess an affair.
That’s pretty amazing—that you could hear the voice of God in the midst of the pain and make a decision to get off the fence and to turn in your lukewarm Christianity for the real thing.
Shauna: It’s not that I’m this special person, like, “I hear God more than you, and I was so amazing that I could do these things.” Honestly, if you read my book, I share some of my biggest failures—that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. So yes, I was very weak—I’d lost my confidence / I’d lost all these things—but it’s in His strength that we are able to do that.
One of my favorite stories of all time is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. You know, this is a woman who survived the Holocaust—really the only one in her family that survived. She saw the horrors of near starvation / her sister being beaten and abused. It was there—in her weakness—that God shined through. [She] and her sister, Betsy—if you read the book—they end up thanking God for fleas, because the fleas that were in their concentration camp bunker kept all the guards away; so they could host Bible studies.
It’s like, you know, I always want to encourage women that, when you’re walking through these deep and dark times, where it looks like God has abandoned you, then pay attention—ask Him, “Show me where You are,” because He will.
Dennis: Yes; right.
Shauna: It’s not that I was able to react this way to my husband because “I’m so special and He gave me some special calling,”—no. It’s when we reach out to God in our weakness, He is strong for us. I’ve seen it so many times, you know. That’s why I like to encourage women: “We are not like the world, where we are hopeless. We’re not hopeless. He gives us hope.” You know, it just increased my faith to know that He was with me in those times and gave me the ability to do that.
Bob: When you tossed your wedding ring in his lap, while he’s lying on the sofa, is that something you thought about doing?
Bob: That was just an impulse of the moment?
Shauna: It was an impulse. My sister-in-law, Shannon—she’s one of the ladies I was talking about who walked that season with me—I ran out the door / literally ran straight to her house. She was in the basement, making Christmas crafts like an elf—[Laughter]—
—she’s very crafty. She’s like, “What are you doing here?”
I said: “I think I just ruined everything! I threw my ring…” and blah-blah-blah. I’m all worried. You know, she very much constantly had to be like: “Shauna, you are not ruining God’s grand plan of whatever. You know, you do not have to be perfect. You are just trying to obey Him; you have not rattled God. He’s God; He’s spinning the planets right now. Whatever work that He’s doing in Micah, you’re not going to ruin that.” Yes; I just went straight to her house, and she kind of made me feel better.
Bob: How long did you live without hope for your marriage?
Shauna: Probably a couple of months I thought, “Okay; this is not looking good.” Like I said—you know, my responses to my husband were out of obedience to God; but He never promised me that my marriage was going to work.
Bob: You’re just trying to love him like the Bible tells you to love him; he’s not responding—this is going on for months.
Shauna: Well, actually, this was November. My husband and I were having a good conversation again—it was one of those rare moments where he was responding to me.
I asked him if he would take me to California, back to San Francisco, for our ten-year wedding anniversary. And of course he’s kind of like, “Why?”
Dennis: You’re kind of sly; aren’t you!
Shauna: I even said, “You know, if we get a divorce, it’s going to cost you half of everything anyway; this is cheaper than that. We can do one last-ditch effort to save our marriage.” [Laughter] To my shock, he got on the laptop and ordered the tickets that night. It was the first kind of hope that I felt like, “Why would he do that?”
Dennis: “The iceberg is thawing.”
Shauna: Well, maybe; because I still wasn’t sure; but I thought, “He doesn’t spend money willy-nilly,” you know what I mean? We hadn’t had a trip like that since we started having kids; so I thought, “Well, that’s something.”
Bob: So, when was that trip scheduled for?—for November?—for your anniversary?
Shauna: November 29th; yes.
Bob: Did either of you even want to go? I mean, you want to go to San Francisco; but like: “You sit up in the front of the plane. I’ll sit in the back of the plane, because I’m not traveling with you”?
Shauna: Well, I was deliriously and gloriously happy; because, you know, my mind always goes to Hollywood—like: “This is it! This is going to be…” I don’t know.
Bob: “We’ll get back to the Golden Gate Bridge and he’ll say, ‘I’ve been such a fool!’”—right?
Shauna: Well, yes; pretty much. [Laughter] I’m like: “He has my ring. He’ll bring it; he’ll re-propose, and maybe the naked man will come back.” I don’t know. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; there won’t be a nude beach underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in November.
Shauna: No; that’s true. [Laughter]
We had not even made it out of the airport; we were on the airplane. Like I said, I’m sitting there, just blissfully happy. We ended up getting into—I don’t know if it was an argument, but he said something really hurtful on the plane. He didn’t mean to hurt me; but he’s just like, “You know, Shauna, we’re doing this, but…” you know, trying not to give me hope.
I just remember looking out the window and tears just started streaming down my face. I’m just telling my face: “Stop it! Don’t you dare let him see you crying,” and faked listening, and I’m crying. I remember that he put his hand and overturned it on my leg. I looked down, and his open hand was there. I’m crying, and I reached over and I grabbed his hand. We’re holding hands, crying, flying out of the airport in Columbus.
That was the beginning of our trip.
Bob: But I’m guessing that there was no magic reconciliation under the golden bridge.
Shauna: No; there wasn’t. I mean—and I kept thinking, “Today’s going to be the day that he re-proposes,” and this and that.
Dennis: Yes; he’s going to give you the ring back.
Shauna: Yes; “He’s going to do it, because we’re here.” We were getting along at that point. He’d promised that he’d completely broken off the affair. He was going back to church, and I saw him reading his Bible and things like that. I’m full of fanatical hope.
When we got back on the airplane to ride home, I had the same tears. I just kept thinking, “I thought that this was going to be the week,” and then it wasn’t.
Dennis: So, when did you know that the veil had come down, and that he was letting you back into his life, and that you did have a chance of a relationship again?
Shauna: Well, there were little nuggets that I do talk about in the book.
Bob: “Bread crumbs” you call them.
Shauna: I call them “bread crumbs”—little things, where God was like: “Keep going. You’re going the right way; you’re doing the right thing.” [Laughter]
But I remember, after we came back from our trip—any mom knows, when you go on a trip without your kids, you have to get them back established in the routine of: “Mom’s home. Cut it out,” kind of thing. I remember my kids were running frantic in the kitchen. I was trying to get dinner on; and we were doing homework, and all the million things that I’m doing. I didn’t have makeup on—I was frazzled—my hair wasn’t nice; I have applesauce on my legs from the kids.
Here comes Micah, into the kitchen, with my ring. I saw it in his hand, and I thought: “No! Don’t you dare give it to me like this!” I wanted it to be perfect; I wanted it to be— you know, “You had opportunities to give it to me at the Golden Gate Bridge, where it would have been so like a fairytale.”
He said, “But I wanted to give it to you in the mess, because this is what our daily life looks like; and I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to that,”—like anybody can love each other on vacation, you know, when you don’t have all the things to deal with / all the responsibilities of home. He’s like: “I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to you; I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to the kids; I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to all the imperfections.” That was kind of his re-proposal. I wish that I could say that I appreciated it, but I was pouting.
He was like, “You know, if you don’t want this ring, I can take it back.”
Dennis: Did he begin to invest in the marriage at that point?
Shauna: He had agreed to go to marriage counseling with Shannon and John, and I do talk about them in the book. It was just very much instrumental in our healing.
Bob: You were learning how to effectively communicate with one another—
Shauna: Sure; yes.
Bob: —how to resolve conflict the right way. I mean, these are skills that don’t come naturally to us. Unless somebody helps us know how to do this, we can just be hurting one another, over and again, for years in a marriage relationship.
Shauna: Yes; absolutely.
Bob: So this was a period of months that you were going through counseling; and in your mind, was your marriage back together at this point?
Shauna: In Hollywood, they make it look so easy—like: “This is the day, and this is the moment,” but it was a hundred tiny little hard decisions that we made every single day.
I can’t even say that there was one day that I was like, “This is the moment!” But, you know, as we began seeking God, separately, for ourselves—and this is what Shannon, our counselor, had said, “I believe that if both of you start seeking God, then your marriage will fall into alignment by default.” When I could see him returning back to God—God is the one who changed his heart; because he even said: “I don’t know how to love you,” and “You know, I don’t know how to heal myself. I’m broken.”
That’s why I said that this confidence—if I speak with confidence or if it sounds, you know, however—it’s because I have this confidence in God that—you know, people would ask me, “Is there a step-by-step thing that we can save our marriage or be healed?” Sometimes, I just look at them and I say: “You know what? I feel like the person in the New Testament when Jesus healed his eyes,”—right?—like, “‘How did He do that?’ ‘I don’t know, but Jesus healed me.’” That’s why I have so much faith in God and that the Bible is real—and that it’s true—because I know that I was beyond healing, and yet He healed me.
Dennis: You’ve been very honest in your book, and on air, around your own messes, but also Micah’s mess.
What’s he think about that?
Shauna: I started journaling in the whole process. Once our marriage was recovered, I told him—I said: “You know, I have all these journals; but this is looking like a manuscript. This looks like Chapter 1,” “…Chapter 2...”
He started reading it; and he said: “You know, babe, you’re really a good writer. You should look into getting that published.” I said: “Okay; but you know what the book is about; right? It’s about you, and it’s about our struggles; and we don’t look too good in it.”
It was just, you know, this miraculous thing—that God softened his heart so that, he not only allowed me to seek out getting this published, he paid for me to go to this conference and have a meeting with a publisher. He has been so supportive of this; and you know, we—we have to live in our town. It’s not like everything is online and “Oh, well.” You know, like every—when the news came out, there it was. Sometimes, I would submit articles as part of book promotions that you have to do when a book launches.
The people that I would submit them to would change the title so it would say, “My Husband Had an Affair”; and then there’s our mugs right there on the internet.
Dennis: Oh, wow.
Shauna: It was just—that is another thing that I know that, if God tasks you to do something, that He equips you to do it; because we were okay. You know, I have so much respect for my husband; because he said, “You know, I don’t like what I did; but if God can use it in any way,”—like, “He’s healed us, and it’s the least we can do to offer that back for Him.”
Dennis: You’ve forgiven him.
Shauna: Yes; of course!
Dennis: When did you forgive him?
Shauna: I don’t know that there’s a date and time; but I know that, as God healed my heart, I was able to forgive him. There is a chapter in the book where I talk about—I was reading the story of Joseph in the Bible and how he could forgive his brothers—right?—because they sold him into slavery. But you know, at the end of that chapter, it says, you know, “What you meant to destroy me, God turned it around and used it for my good.” I know that God healed me and that He’s used this story for good, countless times over.
Dennis: Well, I think it’s appropriate to read the last verse from Chapter 4 of Ephesians—Paul said, “Be kind to one another.” You have mentioned the word, “kind,” repeatedly. You sought to be kind to someone who had pierced your heart / disappointed you dramatically, but you were kind. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,”—you let him stay in the house; that’s amazing; but it doesn’t stop there—“forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Last time I checked, God completely forgave me in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and He calls us to live the same way. That’s not hard; it’s impossible—can only be done by the One, who defeated death, living in and through you to love another imperfect person.
Shauna, thank you for giving us a glimpse of God’s greatness by letting us into the interior of your heart.
Shauna: Thank you so much for having me. This has been wonderful.
Bob: Well, and we have a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to Shauna’s website. If folks would like more information about your blog / they want to subscribe to your blog, they can do that; or read past posts—go to FamilyLifeToday.com, look for the link to Shauna’s website; order a copy of her book, A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage.
And it may be that there’s somebody you know who would benefit from hearing Shauna’s story. You can send them a link to these programs. They can listen online or download the programs for free. Share this with somebody so that they can hear Shauna’s story and maybe get some hope from what she shared with us this week.
And speaking of hope, it’s one of the things that we focus on at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
A lot of couples, who come to the getaway, come to the getaway and hope is lacking—it’s in short supply. It may be that they’re going through a tough season, or it may be that there hasn’t been much hope for a while. But in two-and-a-half days, at a getaway, we’ve seen couples, who came in hopeless, leave the getaway with a renewed sense of hope and a fresh commitment to their marriage.
We have more than three dozen of these getaways happening in cities all across the country this fall. Right now, if you’ll sign up for one of the upcoming getaways, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Take advantage of the best offer we make, all year long, and attend the getaway at half off the regular registration. Sign up today at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions or if you’d like to register by phone: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Be sure you get registered before the weekend is over.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how you can change your marriage by changing how you think about your marriage. I’m not talking about some Jedi mind trick or positive thinking—I’m talking about renewing your mind / having a biblical sense about marriage. Sheila Gregoire’s going to join us tomorrow to talk about that. I hope you can be back with us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. He got some help today from Mark Ramey. 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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