True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

Guest Post: "I had horrible thoughts about how 'easy' my life would be if my husband were just to disappear"

A lot of true crime, and especially true crime commentary, is about playing Monday Morning Quarterback. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. We can sit here and pontificate and prognosticate from our thrones or avatars on what Shan’ann thought or felt, and we may think that means something.
But it’s very easy to go through life picking on and preying on the wisdom of the fallen. Some may argue that it’s a futile exercise to begin with: to try to find meaning in a fallen world.I would argue that that is true unless we aim to rebuild ourselves and this world with this knowledge.
We gain nothing when we look at these crimes and criminals and use distancing language and psychologies to separate ourselves from it. We’re all familiar with it. It’s the default setting for 99% of the commentary that is out there:
He’s a narcissist!
He’s a covert somatic narcissist!
He’s a sociopath!
He’s a psychopath!
He’s a monster! He has no feelings whatsoever!
He’s evil!
This speaks volumes not about the Watts case, and not of Watts as a man, but the shallow perceptions of those wallowing in the victim mentality of the case. The mob would have us believe that the monster is Watts. But until the moment he committed these crimes, everybody loved him. What does that say about everybody? What does it reveal to us about society?
At TCRS we don’t want to form tribes of allegiance, or to take anyone’s side. While we try to be sensitive and compassionate to the victims, our real loyalty is to the truth [whatever that may be]. And the truth that connects us to true crime is that all of us, in some shape or form, are living a lie. We’re all Pinocchios wherever we are in our lives, trying to get by without our noses giving us away.

All of us, in some way, are criminals in our lives. Some are simply bigger liars, more made of wood, than others. It’s when we – like them – acknowledge our crimes, our traitorous hearts, our criminal minds, that we redeeem ourselves. It’s when we show contrition and remorse for who we are, what we are and what we’ve done, that we can begin to build ourselves into better people. That’s how we build a better world, from the inside out, not the outside in.
We ought to approach true crime with the same work ethic, discipline and humility. Instead of wagging our fingers casting our judgments, we ought to reflect on our own private connections to these people, not so much how we differ from one another, but what is far more troubling – what we have in common. For example, Shan’ann’s use of Facebook. What does that say about us, and our use [or possible overuse] of Facebook]?
To really get something out of true crime, and there are vast treasures of meaning if we care to look, but to get there we have to get over ourselves and into a place where we can see the crime as it is, and criminals [and their victims] for who they are.
Getting over ourselves starts by doing something no one wants to do. Admit that we make mistakes. Face the abyss in ourselves.
Like this:
I’ve been feeling much more kindly towards Shan’ann recently, too. Although she didn’t do things the way I would, she comes across as sweet, genuine, and very earnest in her Facebook Live videos, (which I have begun watching for some reason. ) A beautiful young woman, in between the ages of my own daughter and my older son, and so full of enthusiasm and life. (Literally, with Niko.)
I’m about 80% through Drilling Through Discovery, and I love a certain quote of Nick’s, something to the effect of “murder is a natural artifact of lying.” That quote took me back to a very dark time in my marriage and family life, wherein all I did was lie. I lied to everybody; I put false names with fake numbers into my phone, blatantly lied about my reasons for traveling to another state, and felt total contempt and disregard for my husband. (I still loved my kids, and they are a huge part of the reason I pulled out of that free fall. )
I never considered murder, not at all, but I had horrible thoughts about how “easy” my life would be if my husband were just to disappear. No custody fight over our young son, no more of him blowing my cover to my family and telling them what was *really* going on, no more of his nasty drunken mouth.
Like Chris, I had almost an entire summer to myself, as my husband moved south to our new home before I did, and our son joined him there on the fourth of July, courtesy of my parents. So, for about five weeks, until the middle of August when I relocated to our new home, I had a lot of freedom, and I liked it. Yes, there was an affair partner, and I’d met him at work. The parallels are just too crazy.
I made other choices. By the grace of God, I did the relocation, and was miserable at first, but then something miraculous happened. I started to build a life there, and rebuild my family. That was the choice I made. Like myself, like Shan’ann, my husband is a good but flawed human being, and a decade plus later, we are still working things out. We have money issues, relationship struggles, and we sometimes forget to be kind to one another. But, it is with a whole new attitude. We thank one another for things, and we are about to embark on our first road trip together since our son was born almost 22 years ago.
Divorce would have been another legitimate choice, but financial problems mainly kept me from pursuing that avenue, and I’m grateful I stayed.
My husband isn’t perfect, but I made other choices. Shan’ann wasn’t perfect, but Chris, too, had other choices. And for the love of everything holy, what in fact did those children ever do to deserve their fate? I’m sorry for Chris that he felt so trapped, but I’m way sorrier for his wife and children that their choices were taken away needlessly.


  1. Sylvester

    You should acknowledge yourself, because something shifted in you where you were not only able to forgive the other but you forgave yourself. The second part is much harder. And often we hold on to the not forgiving ourselves so that we can purposely stay stuck and never grow. Guilt is a racket. We often think our narrative is the correct narrative but if we put ourselves in the shoes of a person who is being aggressive with us or saying something to us we don’t like, we would agree that we were being a jerk. Yours is an inspiring story because we’re all jerks. But you made a decision to be bigger than your position,(your narrative) and were not only generous with your husband, but generous with yourself. Thank you.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Do you suppose, Sly, that Shan’Ann felt guilt and shame over her past 6 MLM ventures having, well, not turned out anywhere near as well as she hoped? And that because of this (mounting) level of guilt and shame (in the wake of the bankruptcy), she became obsessed with making *this* one, “Thrive”, work the way all the others were supposed to? That it had gotten to put-up-or-shut-up, make-it-or-break-everything, and “this is my last chance”?

      • Sylvester

        It’s possible Ralph that she would have come to the conclusion that any MLM endeavor is a lot of work and you get nowhere. You are only as good as your last month. People come and go. Her videos certainly tapered off. To have to spend your Saturday talking about how great everything is while your husband has his back to you playing with your children has got to sink in at some point. I thought she only had Thrive/LeVel. I thought she was just hostessing her friend’s MLM parties and helping them sell but maybe she was in to 6 others. there would be guilt over all of the people you brought in, convincing them the pyramid could work for them. The pressing urgency on her fatal journey up to her front door was saving her marriage – but she didn’t have the full picture. Had she known he was cheating as far back as March and had fallen in love in June with someone else she would have dealt with it but he wasn’t straight with her. I’m wondering who in his life he was straight and authentic with?

      • Ralph Oscar

        Sly, Shan’Ann was involved in Amway, Thirty One, Origami Owl, Younique, Lularoe, ItWorks!, and Thrive.

  2. Sara Smile

    @nickdvl I respectfully disagree. Responsibility means the power to inform one another. Coverts Somatic Narcissist are predators and therefore the knowledge of = is protection from. It’s paramount for women to educate themselves about Personality Disorders/Narcissism in general, as it holds great value in order to not fall victim to. Coverts create “Trauma-Bond” and wreak havoc (emotional) destruction on those around them. The narcissist depends on others ignorance. Because narcissists don’t suffer from narcissism, the people they harm do. They have no empathy, which enables them to be incrediably cruel, if it suits. This behavior is opposed to the dignity and respect of another person. Passive on-lookers perpetuate the problem. For example: Cindy Watts behavior was a huge flashing red flag prior to Chris Watts behavior.
    All narcissism is malignant. Life always spirals out of control with these personality disordered individuals — there is a pattern. While Covert Somatic Narcissist have varying flavors, they universally exhibit the same fundamental (peculiar) traits and women need to learn to recognize these red flags! Please don’t discount the value in the self education of these Personality Disorders. “Shame is the currency in the narcissistic relationship. It is the transfer of shame that allows narcissists to abuse their victims.” When things don’t add up, that’s your cue, to quietly & carefully plan your exit. Ladies, educate yourselves to detect it in others so you aren’t fooled and more importantly so you aren’t harmed like Shan’ann! That’s what’s important here IMO. Take care all!

    • nickvdl

      Well I hope I’m developing my narcissism as I try to regain my fitness. And narcissism is a vital part of a writer’s arsenal if he wants to get up each day and conjure words out of the ether. So what you regard as toxic and poisonous, and it can be, I regard as normal and vital, and very common in our society.
      I’m not sure how new you are here Sara, but you should know I’m allergic to labels, and I’m particularly allergic to the narcissism label. Those who are regulars here know that. If you continue to agitate about it, you’ll no longer be welcome here.

    • Sideaffected

      You kinda forgot to warn the men

      • CBH


      • Sara Smile

        @Sideaffected @CBH Agreed, you are both correct. The warning goes both ways. CW mother is a perfect example.

    • CBH

      Some of the most vicious, malevolent narcissists are women. Men, beware!

      • Clean Queen

        CBH, I am a woman and I 100% back this statement!

        • CBH

          You’re an intelligent and good woman.👍🏼⭐️

    • Cotton Star

      Who are you calling a narcissist? You have the wrong person fingered in the relationship.

  3. CBH

    Superb guest post: Insightful, illuminating, and poignant. Very relevant to the backstory of the Watts case.

  4. Sara Smile

    I’m new. People claim to be interested in truth, yet they reject real, factual truths.
    >>>Well, your comment : “All narcissism is malignant.” is fundamentally false. There is such a thing as healthy narcissism.
    The remainder of your comment has been redacted and henceforth you’re banned from participating on this site under this profile, “Geoff”, “Guest” or any other fake profile.

  5. Karen

    That’s probably the most honest post I’ve read in a long time. It’s very difficult to be honest with and about yourself without saying…but. kudos to the writer.

  6. K

    Thanks for a poignant guest post. I especially appreciate the final paragraph. I agree, I do feel sorry that CW felt trapped, but he did have other choices, ones that he didn’t want to make. It can be a real struggle to realize that there are choices that can be made. Sometimes I make choices that I would prefer not to, but in m older age, I have learned to make choices because they are the right thing for me to do. As I get older, it is easier to let go of the feelings of duty and obligation, and do things because I want to do them.
    And yes, I feel more sorry for SW and those innocent children, who never have choices.

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