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Nichol Kessinger vs Shan’ann Watts – Who Was the more Attractive?

To understand the Watts case, and to further understand why, we have to understand the Emotional Narrative surrounding this case. Not our emotions – theirs. Although this is an important conversation, it’s also important to have this conversation in an intelligent and reasonable way.

Whether we admit it or not, everyone interested in the Watts case is extremely interested in Nichol Kessinger. If there are those who hate Chris Watts, there seem to be legions more who despise the mistress, many putting all the blame on her for what happened.

On CrimeRocket, the stats speak for themselves. Stories or analysis featuring Kessinger are far more popular than the other stories, and those simply featuring footage or photos of Chris’ mistress are the most popular of all. Why? People want to see what she looks like. People want to get to know her, and try to understand what Watts saw in her.

Many have looked scornfully at the footage, comparing Shan’ann favorably to Kessinger, or Kessinger unfavorably to Shan’ann. In this episode, we want to provide some intelligent analysis to a debate that I believe is important, but it’s important we conduct it intelligently, which is to say, using objective facts, using logic, using intuition and sensitivity – in sum True Crime Rocket Science.

Now please understand this. We still do need to be mindful that Shan’ann is no longer with us. And we do want to be mindful that no matter what the problems were in her marriage, no one deserves to be murdered for whatever reason. That’s not what we’re talking about here. So when we’re having this conversation, we’re not even thinking about that. We’re thinking about the relationship dynamics when Shan’ann was still alive, going back several years into their marriage. What made Chris Watts fall out of love? What attracted Watts to Kessinger, and Kessinger to him? And who, ultimately was the more attractive partner?

In the video posted recently about motive, we looked at the short, thin-slicing answer to this question. And then we looked at the longer version. We’re going to do the same here, but in a lot less detail on both counts. Let’s start with the longer, more general version of why couples break up and marriages don’t last, examine the stressors on the Watts family and then move on to Kessinger versus Shan’ann.

1. American Couples – Blumstein and Schwartz

Money, work and sex. This the trifecta that couples need to get right in order to have a longer marriage. In the Watts case, speaking in general terms, both seemed to have screwed up their money situation, and neither had stellar careers. If they had, the money situation wouldn’t have been as bad as it was. They’d gone bankrupt in 2015, but somehow they hadn’t learned the lesson from that catastrophe.

There are seven references to bankruptcy in the discovery documents. Most of them come from Nichol Kessinger.


In the CBI Report the word bankruptcy comes up twice.


At 5:45 Chris Watts quotes Blumstein and Schwartz:

“When a relationship breaks up, it’s normally the more attractive one that leaves…”

Watts then shrugs, saying he’s not sure whether that’s true. What do you think?

This also raises another prickly question – between Shan’ann and Watts, who was the more attractive part of the couple?

The three ”sexiest” areas when it comes to couples: money, work and sex.


Source: New York Times

the couples who are happiest are those most equal in power, in the freedom to initiate sex, in decision-making…

”Husbands and wives who do not believe that marriage should be forever are less willing to pool (their money).” ”Married couples who disagree about the wife’s right to work have less stable relationships.” ”When heterosexual women are attractive, they have more varied sex lives.” ”For all types of couples, possessiveness escalates when one partner fears the other might have a meaningful affair.” ”A fixation on beauty makes it difficult to create a stable relationship.”


Source: New York Times

Women, lesbian or straight, do not like to dominate, to be the more powerful partner, to feel superior; they want a balance, they want equality.


Source: New York Times

(So important is a balance of power to lesbians that they are the group whose members are most likely to have split up, to resent being put in a more powerful role. Indeed, they are the group that has sex least often, since a common lament among them was dislike for being the one to ”always initiate sex.”) Men, homosexual or straight, want to preserve their power and dominance; they care about the partner’s looks; they are still less ”relationship-centered” than women.

Philip Blumstein and Dr. Pepper Schwartz were sociologists at the University of Washington in the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. Blumstein and Schwartz had begun studying sexual behavior in 1972. Eleven years later the researchers collaborated on a book simply titled American Couples.



On October 23rd, the New York Timespublished the following review of the book.


A little more about Philip Blumstein:

[Blumstein was a] social psychologist skilled at analyzing everyday encounters, friendships, and business relationships, Philip was hired as a sociology professor at the University of Washington in 1969 and became renowned for his research in human sexuality and relationships. He had a reputation for fastidious methodology and a talent for interpreting data.

A little more about Dr. Pepper Schwartz via Wikipedia:

Dr. Pepper Schwartz is an American sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is the author or co-author of numerous books, magazines, website columns, and a television personality on the subject of sexuality. Schwartz is notable for her work in the 1970s and early 1980s that culminated in the book, with Philip Blumstein, American Couples: Money-Work-Sex which surveyed lesbian couples, gay male couples and heterosexual couples. Schwartz also… writes the column The Naked Truth.

“When a relationship breaks up, it’s normally the more attractive one that leaves…”

Is that what happened in the Chris Watts case? Was Chris Watts becoming “the more attractive one”…?



2. Nichol Kessinger versus Shan’ann Watts

“So damn sexy…”


Who, ultimately was the more attractive partner?


  1. richard

    Ive seen it in a few relationships that end up breaking up. one of the couple changes themselves (like physical exercise, complete change of diet or a completely different hobby in a subject they have never been interested in previously) and over time starts to want something other than what they get from the current relationship.
    in the Watts case, lets examine the start of their relationship to the end of it.
    At the start of their relationship, Shanann physically weak, run down and not confident. Chris would appear to be the stronger of the two at the time but by the end of the relationship, Shanann had grown stronger in mind (and body before the pregnancy).
    Chris overtime must have got more mentally demoralised (Shanann saying do this and do that – Chris could not even hang a picture without Shanann’s input). He did get more physically fit though.
    do you see the shift ? compare what they were like at the start compared to the end of the relationship.

  2. Ralph Oscar

    Facial structure is only *part* of a person’s attractiveness. For example, Bruce Springsteen married a supermodel first, then cheated on her with and divorced her in order to marry his backup singer, who was by comparison *very* unattractive. But Springsteen and his backup singer had much more in common than he did with his beautiful supermodel wife. Similarly, when Chris met Shan’Ann, he was kind of dumpy and she was *breathtaking*. The attraction was obvious.

    Over time, though, their priorities shifted. It appears Shan’Ann had been addicted to MLM scams since long before she met Chris, but it’s very likely he did not recognize this as an addiction. When they married, she was still holding down paying jobs and bringing in income; she could easily hide her losses from her MLM addiction by keeping control of the checking account. Since she was involved with no fewer than *seven* MLM scams, she was obviously adept at hiding the fact of her losses, even from herself.

    Now as to attractiveness, it’s not a matter of who poses better for a still picture. Shan’Ann looked utterly *plastic* – she was never photographed without a couple pounds of makeup caked on unless she was doing a makeup-application demo video. And her photos were always *posed* – body turned just so, feet like this, etc. She looked like a cardboard cutout. And, most tellingly, she was *always* showing off one of those nasty “Thrive” patches to promote her MLM – that was her priority. Not her family, not her husband – her MLM. That came first.

    Shan’Ann was weak and sickly, just like her daughters. While this apparently appealed initially to Chris, who could take on the role of knight in shining armor, it no doubt palled, especially when he started getting fit, running, all the things Shan’Ann was too sickly to join him in.

    Meanwhile, Nichol was healthy, strong, athletic. She *loved* the outdoors and going on adventures, and she’d wear no makeup at all for an entire weekend! She was so secure in her own skin that she was just who she was – she wasn’t putting on a façade of caked-on makeup, posing awkwardly for pictures with a plastic smile, using others as accessories. She was simply natural. And Chris discovered that he loved doing the things she enjoyed – they went camping, she taught him how to start a campfire, they went sandboarding. Nichol was a breath of fresh air (literally) for Chris, whose family apparently never left the house.

    And Nichol was financially independent! Financially *stable*! Chris, beaten down and *drowning* in debt due to Shan’Ann’s overbearing manner, financial irresponsibility and refusal to live in reality (“Fake it ’til you make it!” or die trying), saw Nichol as a luminous goddess – *here* was the kind of woman he’d never even dared believe existed. Chris was inexperienced with women before hooking up with Shan’Ann; he’d simply never been around a strong and sensible woman like Nichol. Oh, Shan’Ann presented herself as “successful” and strong, but she was weak (as addicts always are) and was deluded with magical thinking enough that she believed that, if she simply curated a successful-enough-looking exterior, the life that matched it would magically appear around her. And when it didn’t, when the credit cards maxed out, when there wasn’t enough money to pay the mortgage, she simply hid her head in the sand. I don’t believe for a moment that Shan’Ann was sending the HOA fees to the “wrong address” – anyone who received those checks would know it was fraud to cash them, and they could easily be tracked down. No, Shan’Ann decided that the HOA fees could slide. And then that the mortgage payments could slide. All because she wanted to be a “boss babe” and stay home alone making her dumb videos and “doing her business” in that too-big, too-expensive house doing nothing of any value while being envied by all, while sending their children to the most expensive daycare in town. Shan’Ann was a phony and a parasite, and by comparison to Nichol, Chris was finally able to appreciate the *magnitude* of the trouble Shan’Ann had gotten them all into. While Shan’Ann and the kids were off in NC, it’s very likely that mail arrived that Chris wouldn’t have been allowed to see if Shan’Ann had been there to intercept it, and he finally learned what real financial trouble they were in. All while he’d been working like a dog and spending nothing.

    • Shannon

      Good one Ralph.

    • Gabby

      You need a good, hard, punch in the face.

      • Fred


      • Claudia Sims

        I think people who resort to violence in the face of disagreement are a danger to others.

    • Claudia Sims

      I think you are correct on the money-issues. She made nothing except smoke and mirrors. I think Chris believed the HOA fees were a mistake but I think she was ’embezzling’ from her family. HOA fees, who wouldn’t notice those checks weren’t being cashed (if they had been sent to the wrong address), the money from Chris’s 401 to get the house caught up, all of that likely went to buying products herself to maintain her standing’ in the absence of actual sales. She controlled the bank accounts because she likely was hiding from him, she wasn’t making money, she was spending the house payments to float her MLM business

  3. Sideaffected924

    I think all 3 of them-SW, CW and NK ,are about the same, is what we’d expect, since people tend to date people about as good-looking as them. It’s the one with more power in the relationship who leaves first, meaning whoever is least invested. Looks are just one example of bringing power into a relationship but with them it feels like splitting hairs.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “It’s the one with more power in the relationship who leaves first”

      I don’t think Shan’Ann realized when or how much the balance of power in her marriage shifted.

      • Claudia Sims

        It is interesting how shan’ann’s tone changed when she realized he was leaving. And what were her concerns? Money. She knew if he left she would have 3 kids to raise in an apartment and she would have to get a real, albeit, low-paying job and likely end up on public assistance. She had no skills. No education. Very spotty employment history. No more ‘boss babe’ and complete collapse of her façade. There wasn’t going to be any big divorce settlement, there was nothing to split but debt.

        He had an education and skills (remember he had mechanic training, she made him take a different job at the oil company at 20k less than his mechanic job at longmount). I think her first divorce was a shock to her, that anyone would leave her. I think she got pregnant as quickly as possible to yoke him to her. She saddled him with two kids, mounds of debt and pushed him into a job he didn’t want from one he did all so that she could trap him and make her the bright spot in his life.

  4. Ira

    I feel like SW at her best, was prettier than NK. Just my opinion. However, her baggage and personality made her very unattractive. Another man would have left SW sooner in the relationship because it really was a no win situation and things weren’t going to get better. NK’s personality and non baggage made her more desirable, if not prettier.

  5. Billy

    Neither NK or SW had appealing personalities but NK would have been 10 times the domineering monster SW was if CW ever married her.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Easy to say, Billy. Where’s the evidence?

      • Billy

        No evidence Ralph. You got me. It’s just a feeling I have based on her interviews and what appeared to be an already controlling attitude towards CW only after a few weeks in.

    • Rachel

      I agree with Ira’s opinion that SW was the prettier of the two, at her best. She had beautiful complexion and interesting, beautiful eyes. NK is just blah, looks unhealthy, despite being very into clean-eating, exercise, yada yada. Old photos of NK demonstrate that she had lost a lot of weight (she was never huge, by today’s generous standards, but she was definitely heavy, pudgy). NK, again despite all the working out, doesn’t appear very toned, no muscle definition in her legs, especially.

      I also very much agree with Billy’s opinion that NK would have (ultimately) been “10 times the domineering monster”. One might discern that she hadn’t had great prospects prior to hooking up with Watts. Photos of her old boyfriend show a low-status dweeb, unkempt, unattractive. What happened to him, why’d that relationship end? NK confided in what’s her name, ‘the friend’ (and didn’t it seem like NK only had maybe ONE girlfriend? On that note, seems she wasn’t a very good friend, either…y’all know the type). NK hit the big 3-0 with nary a decent prospect. The fact she was quickly interested in CW should be evidence enough that GOOD men weren’t exactly lining up for her. Why not, if she’s all that? She certainly wasn’t/isn’t ugly, it’s got to be something else. I suspect she’s high-maintenance, IRL, and drama-rama.

      • nickvdl

        If Shan’ann was more attractive, why do you think Watts was head over heels, madly in love with a woman you believe was far less attractive with an even worse personality?

        • Ira

          Well, thats the thing. I don’t think NK had the worse personality/level of baggage. Certainly not on the surface level. She was carefree and fun and liked doing things Chris had never tried. That was attractive to him. Beauty really is only skin deep. There are tons of attractive women and men, who beyond looks are incredibly flawed and problematic. In the end, an unattractive interior will cause many to say it’s simply not worth it. SW’s looks did not outweigh her inner turmoil.

        • Rachel

          Fair question/point ^^.

          One thing I keep recalling about CW was a moment during interrogation, they were telling him they knew about Nikki and he was pleading that she be left out of it all…he said something “I think she really liked me”. It seemed to hold so much meaning, that simple sentence. It was also the way he said it. I think it meant a great deal. CW hadn’t felt really-liked for a long time. Recall that video SW shared, the family was at a recital, Christmas? I believe Bella was going to be singing with a group of children. SW’s behavior toward CW. Painful to witness a man just sit through that. She said something like ‘We don’t want to see you, Chris’ or something equally full of contempt. He simply looked down and took it. My husband would be on his feet walking away from me if I treated him like that.

          Despite my opinions re: SW’s physical appearance (I find her much prettier physically and I must add that NK’s fake chest looked terrible, SW was naturally voluptuous) which really just comes down to taste, probably, as the two weren’t so vastly disparate looks-wise, not like Charlize Theron v. Amy Schumer, not a big ‘duh’.

          I think CW was destined to be the dude who takes orders from a woman. He’d always wind up with one who’d take charge. I have to agree with others who’ve written positively about NK’s interests/hobbies. She liked to get out and do/go/experience. That is a very attractive quality.

          I thought this comment from Ralph Oscar to be excellent, very true:
          “I don’t think Shan’Ann realized when or how much the balance of power in her marriage shifted.”

          Sorry I’m all over the place in my comments.

          • Billy

            “…Painful to witness a man just sit through that…”

            I believe the “I snapped” scenario although I readily admit flaws in that conclusion too.

            I believe we all have a monster deep inside us. Every time SW criticized CW (he could do no right in her eyes), or made petty demands on him for the sake of being domineering, or she had unnecessary and disruptive run-ins with CW’s parents, or spent more and more of his money on useless crap and yet another MLM scam (with no end in sight), or made fun of him on FB or other social media, and on and on day after day, month after month, year after year, the little monster in CW grew bigger and more fierce until one day the monster had enough. And the monster only knows one way.

  6. Shannon

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholden.

  7. Claudia Sims

    I don’t think he snapped so much as just ran out of rope to hold onto. She destroyed his life in the ways very much how she had significantly disrupted her own long before Chris came along. He allowed it, his mother set that behavioral pattern in him. She was a get it all quick and easy person. None of the real jobs she geld ever worked out well for her including getting a college degree. I think Chris was just another guy she could use. I doubt she ever really loved him. She couldn’t even let him keep a job he loved.

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