What did Chris Watts HATE about Shan’ann?

What did he hate the most about her? What did she hate most about him? What this question really addresses is not only the family dynamics, or the interpersonal dynamics between the husband and the wife in their marriage, but also just two individuals living under the same roof. What was Chris Watts like to live with? What was Shan’ann like – as a person?

What are the things that generally agitate people in a marriage, after a length of time together? What things would have specifically chafed at these two particular personalities?

To adequately answer these questions we have to know more about who Chris Watts is and was. Fortunately we get to have a little peek into that area thanks to Ashleigh Banfield’s recent interview with Richard Hodges, a former roommate and college classmate of Chris Watts.

Take a look.

On the surface, and bearing in mind Hodges last made contact with Watts in 2005, there’s an impression of a hard working kid who is also very hard on himself. He’s trying hard and working hard to elevate himself into some significance. He’s trying to become someone.

Skip to ten years later and Chris Watts is in Colorado in a picture-perfect house, with a picture-perfect wife and picture-perfect family. One has the impression this is what he always wanted – the picture-perfect side of things. This is significance. He’d spent a good fifteen years building himself up, and for that matter, so had Shan’ann. Both of them came from humble beginnings and both worked their asses off to build what they had by August 2018.

So if they had so much in common, what did Shan’ann do “wrong” in Chris Watts’ eyes?

Let’s examine that through 3 prisms. Firstly, the Scott Peterson case. Secondly, the particular circumstances of the Watts case. And thirdly, through my personal experience with someone involved in MLM.

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A. What did Chris Watts Scott Peterson HATE about Shan’ann Laci?

Like Shan’ann, Laci also saw Scott as a sort of trophy. She hero-worshiped him in public. She idolized him. Scott was part of her idea of a fairy tale. It’s not clear that that was the case so much behind closed doors.

If Scott murdered Laci, then clearly what was happening was the desire to believe in something that wasn’t true overpowering the reality. In other words, Laci was more in love with the idea of being in love, than with the actual person. The same was true with Shan’ann and Chris, wasn’t it?

And this idea is mirrored in the fantastic amount of fairy tale but ultimately fake happy snaps associated with the Watts case.

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B.  The circumstances of the Watts case

Chris was dedicated to what he was doing, so was Shan’ann. Chris was working hard. Shan’ann was working hard. So what was the thing wedging its way between them?

In my opinion it was primarily two things. Shan’ann was suffering from a serious auto-immune disease, and this made her into a particular kind of person with a particular psychology. Although it manifested in some ways positively [wanting to better herself, developing a fighting spirit], she may have overcompensated in the sense of becoming a perfectionist and a control freak. Managing her anxiety about her health ended up becoming managing her world, and everyone in it.

In the oft played clip where she tells Celeste in a singsong voice to say “hi” to the camera, when Celeste doesn’t, Shan’ann barks at her: “Say hi!”. How often was that merciless tone used behind closed doors, when the camera was off? Because it’s a tone that brooks no truck with dissent. It’s my way or the highway.

In Two Face I explore this aspect in a lot more detail, using another example from her social media to reinforce this impression of an always-on pushy, controlling, oppressive person.

There is definitely something more to this, because even her colleague, Nickole Atkinson, describes Shan’ann as OCD. Her scheduling alone describes a very anal attitude to time management, a key trait of the perfectionist, and OCD. Some folks on the Websleuths forum have also picked up on the same thing. Chris Watts may have put up with this throughout their six-year marriage, and all things being equal, he may have taken it on the chin, and on both cheeks. But all things weren’t equal, and they weren’t equal in a very key, and very crucial sense.

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C.  My personal experience with someone involved in MLM

We can’t prove – at this point – that Shan’ann wasn’t making the sort of money she claimed she was making. Until we have access to the forensic files and financial data, we have to resort to some extent to speculation. What we do know is that as recently as 2015 the couple were bankrupt. We also know that their money troubles were still with them in August 2018 – they had a date in court with the local homeowners association which proves this. So even without delving into the debits and credits, we know the Watts finances for reasons unknown were fucked.

What were those reasons? Was it because a third kid was on the way? The finances were already fucked before that happened. Was it because Chris Watts was spending the money, or not bringing the money in? We see that he was in a stable if relatively low paying job, but he was reliable and hard working, and doing double time for Shan’ann in her job.

It’s her job, see, that’s the unknown factor. One way to decipher this aspect is to personalize it. What does it feel like to live with someone who is a multi-level marketing [MLM] type? What are their finances really like?

Below, in italics, I’ve provided a brief anecdote of my experience. This isn’t to indulge you, or myself, but as a way to better understand what Chris Watts may have despised, even hated, about Shan’ann. Before you begin reading, just be aware that this isn’t about transference. Whatever my feelings about MLM or yours, all this is is my experience with a particular person. It may or may not provide insight into this case, and it may shed more light on the unknowns that went on behind closed doors.

Harriet – let’s call her Harriet – lived in a big, beautiful double-story house in a posh suburb. She was a young, single mom. Pretty. Blonde. Blue-eyed. The house wasn’t hers. It belonged to her wealthy parents. Harriet was involved in AMWAY and Herbalife. Sometimes packages would arrive, and if Harriet wasn’t around, I’d sign for them. It was invariably AMWAY shit, sent by courier. I often heard her telling people  AMWAY’s “not a pyramid scheme”.

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I also often heard her rationalising about how great MLM was because once you’ve done the initial work you don’t need to do anything any more, other people work for you. She didn’t seem to recognize that that’s what everyone else was planning on too. If people allow themselves to be recruited [for a fee], and all the recruits rely on the fact that other recruits will do their work for them, who actually works? Who actually makes money? The only real money comes from the way the cumulative memberships and profits from product sales are distributed from those at the bottom to those at the top of the pyramid.

Although Harriet called the AMWAY MLM “her business” or “the business” over the course of five years she very seldom worked. I don’t know how much money she made from AMWAY but I do know she never had any money, and that her parents were always giving her money, and buying her things.  Often this money was given to her as part of an agreement or incentive to do something. She’d take the money but they never got her to execute on her end of the bargain. At one point when I was there they even bought her a brand new car as a gesture of faith. She took the car but later fell out of the arrangement they made.

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Occasionally, when her parents grew desperate and threatened her, there were spurts of activity. She’d have a few meetings at home or she’d travel off to AMWAY’s motivational workshops. Each time she’d arrive back from these workshops inspired, pumped up and ready to get to work. Harriet was someone who often overstated things, often exaggerated.

Harriet had friends but they were weird. While she saw herself as upper class, none of her friends were. One long-term boyfriend was about 15 years younger than her, whom she asked me to keep secret from her parents. The next was about 15 years older, who worked in a junk yard. Many of her female friends were over-the-hill housewives, almost all overweight, uneducated and ragged in some way. Since I’d known Harriet through a prior circle of mutual friends, now it was clear that virtually all those solid middle class friendships had fallen away. Had she pushed the MLM stuff onto them until they shut the door? I know she tried several times to recruit me but instead of buying into it or rejecting it, I simply said “I’ll think about it” even though I’d made up my mind.

What started annoying me over time was how hard I was working and her constant and very apparent laziness. And her inclination to complain about small things. I wasn’t the only one aggravated by this. Her parents, who often loaned her money, increasingly demanded that she find a real job. All told, in the five years I lived there she worked less than a total of six months in real jobs, and for the rest, told people she had her own MLM business. 

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Harriet’s finances weren’t my concern as a lodger, but what got extremely irritating was because she didn’t work, she had to find something to do. Since she was home all day, she soon began to worry and complain endlessly about whether I was dirtying her furniture by sitting on them, or dirtying the carpets by walking on them. She was pedantic about cleanliness. Her kitchen and lounge had those gadgets that puffs out toilet spray every few seconds. The carpets were repeatedly dry-cleaned, the house repeatedly painted. Everything was constantly being washed and cleaned.

Sometimes she’d arrive home with bags of shit-smelling compost, which would make the entire house smell of guano. Landscape designers would arrive every so often to deal with her garden.  The pets in the house began to gravitate towards me, because I paid attention to them.

In the end I placed sheets and towels over the furniture and carpets I used upstairs so that my filthiness wouldn’t disturb her. And so on and so forth. Harriet’s MLM didn’t bother me, but it didn’t endear her to me either. I simply thought of her as extremely high maintenance, a self-centered alien species that had lost her mind. I put up with her OCD, no matter how unreasonable it was, because while I lived there, I had to. So I did with minimum fuss.

I wasn’t married to her and I was never her boyfriend, but the OCD was a symptom of a larger malaise. Had I been involved with her, the MLM would have been the first to go.

All that is a very long way of saying something very simple. Someone with OCD is tolerable when they’re holding up the fort, and when there’s a fort that you also have a stake in. But it’s intolerable when they aren’t holding up the fort and you are, or when they’re ruining your stake in your own home.

There definitely is a certain point, an inflection point, when that happens. Everybody knows in a domestic situation that moment when they decide, irrevocably, they’re done. Some people tell those they share their living spaces about their change of heart, but that only makes everything worse. You’re wiser if you don’t, but then, for as long as you continue living there, you feel like you’re pulling on the short end of the straw.

I know I reached that point with Harriet and her junkyard boyfriend. A few months before I left, I felt I’d had enough of their bullshit. Obviously I didn’t tell her this, I simply started preparing myself and my affairs to move out. I spent less and less time at home and tried to manage things so that I never encountered either of them, even in passing. I was just trying to avoid communicating and thus confronting. So I was living with the enemy but eager not to be. I didn’t let on that I was pissed off about anything.

The exit, when it happened, wasn’t pretty. There were no dead bodies, and no one was strangled, but there was some anger, shouting and unhappiness. I won’t go into the details but it wasn’t pleasant.

I suspect that like Harriet, Shan’ann wasn’t actually pulling in 80K a year. Either the money wasn’t coming in, or it wasn’t coming in consistently. What happened to her mandatory Live videos in August? And if she was still bringing in the money, why didn’t they have any money? Why were they an ongoing foreclosure risk?

If it was Shan’ann’s fault that they were losing their home because she wasn’t holding up her end of the deal, because of the MLM hocus pocus bull crap, then Shan’ann’s OCD and cheery Facebook mindfuckery had to have become harder and harder to live with. Then, with the announcement in May of a third child on the way, Chris Watts had a serious sense of humor failure.

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Two Face is available right now on Amazon.com

What impact did THRIVE have on Shan’ann’s marriage?

I’m not gonna lie. My first impression, as I started writing and researching Two Facewas shock. Then horror.

The shock side is sometimes difficult to explain. When one realizes what Shan’ann was doing all day, every day, and what that involved, and what that must have been like, and the picture it portrayed – versus the reality – it was shocking. Here’s one example.

The above video was posted on May 3rd. Shan’ann was either pregnant at this point, or about to become pregnant. She’s hyping selling product bars to her friends, and filming them while doing it. She’s apparently “having fun” while doing this; Shan’ann seems almost giddy with excitement.

Of course, although it’s mean to appear spontaneous, a genuine “moment”, it’s all contrivance. It’s all a little theater packaged into one of hundreds, and eventually thousands of sales pitches contaminating social media at the behest of Thrive.

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Coming back to Shan’ann’s video shot inside her Colorado home, her buds, one of them Nickole Atkinson, are a lot less excited than Shan’ann is, and it shows. In the video, and just recently, Nickole emphasizes that she didn’t like being filmed [especially by someone else] Live. But Shan’ann’s pushy and does it anyway.

I’m not certain why Nickole’s comment here is:

“This is one of the many reasons why I love her!”

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Through this one video in May we also get a sense of Shan’ann herself, not only how she organizes her kitchen but how she “organizes” her friends. That pantry is very neat and ordered, isn’t it? Everything’s in its place. There are also a bunch of labelled jars and containers – this labelled stuff goes in there, and that stuff goes into that jar with that label. This is Shan’ann’s effort to control her world. She exerts total control over her world, and perhaps her sickness causes her to overdo the controls over her environment.

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Putting labels on food is one thing, promoting a product is one thing, but what does it feel like when you do that to people? When you apply that rigorous, anal, limiting perfectionism to people, how do they react? When you incessantly turn real life moments into mechanical selling, what does it feel like?

Well, we don’t have to guess, we catch of a glimpse of it right here, in this video.

There’s a moment when Shan’ann flips the screen back on herself, and she suddenly [just for a flicker of time] appears worn out, miserable, a harrowed expression on her face. This is what she’s going through. This is what it feels like to be her, to be Shan’ann.

Then, the next moment, she’s all smiles again. Bear in mind, this is right around the time she became pregnant for a third time.

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And for others in Shan’ann’s circle? What was it like to be around her?

At about 30 seconds left in the clip,  just as the pantry door shuts behind her, Shan’ann turns her phone onto Nickole at the table. It’s difficult to make out, but Nickole lifts her pen and swings it in the air as if to say I told you not to film me! And that’s when Shan’ann flips the video back on herself.

She cracks a joke in direct reference to Nickole and Nickole’s gesture:

Okay, so…[chuckles]…they love me, they promise they love me…

What she’s actually acknowledging is that her companions aren’t loving this, and aren’t enjoying this. She even says just before signing off:

Everyone doesn’t like going Live, but I make them go Live cos…[shrugs, smiles]…you know…

Nickole, perhaps assuming that the Live video is now off, that it’s ended, sits back with both arms behind her head and complains emphatically:

Cos you make us go out of our comfort zone EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s amazing.

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And you love it…?

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[Sarcastic] I love it. Every time.

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If Shan’ann was getting under the skin of her pals, and let’s face it, Nickole was [and still is] drinking the Thrive Kool-Aid, and it was irritating the crap out of her, imagine what it was like to live with?

Look at what Shan’ann’s doing in bed at 23:00 at night. The image is from May 1st, two days before her chocolate promo video with Nickole and co. Did she have the munchies because she was feeling the effect of being pregnant?

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Like so many others, I took to trawling through Facebook to get a handle on the dynamics between Shan’ann and the kids, and Chris Watts, but since Shan’ann’s Facebook runs out in August, I eventually went back to Nickole Utoft Atkinson to get a better sense of continuity, and context.

What happens, I wanted to know, when there’s a real crisis – like a murder.  What impact does Thrive have on a crisis, or a crisis on Thrive? What impact does someone close to you, dying, a real loss, having on a Thrive seller? What impact does a funeral have? Is there a blip on the radar? What happens to the sell sell selling when there’s a personal crisis, or a crisis of conscience? Is there a time out?

I was shocked, then horrified by how quickly Nickole went right back to breathlessly plugging Thrive after Shan’ann’s murder. Going Live. Punting this products, that event. Smiling for the camera. Her friend had just been murdered, kids too, but Nickole was back in the saddle, back at it, smilin’ and Thrivein’ like a champion.

The screengrab below is Sunday, August 19. The bodies of Bella and Celeste were recovered on Thursday, August 16, just three days earlier. Their blood wasn’t even cold but Nickole’s mind is already on 3 steps, not on the 3 murder victims.

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Then the vigil happens, and Nickole’s social media briefly acknowledges that…but with the funeral still to go, there’s still time to go right back to plugging products…

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And then the funeral takes place on September 1st. Once again there’s a flicker of consciousness…

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But then the very next day it’s back to Thrive. Thriving while burying your friend and her three dead children. Thriving while dying. Thriving despite standing over four freshly dug graves.

You want to reach into Facebook and grab these people, and shake them. And tell them three/four people – human beings – are fucking dead!

Wake up!

You, in your life, wake the fuck up!

This, what you’re doing, isn’t how you’re supposed to be working or living!

If this doesn’t wake people out of the nonsense of their lives, what will?

My initial impression of Nickole was that she was fickle and shallow, or just a zombie passing through her own life. Not living, just existing. But the more I got to know her, the more I saw there was a real human being there, she was just being drowned out by Thrive.

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I was especially touched by her short interview on ABC. The tears and the grief were there, and they were real. For me it was a rare moment of authenticity in a sickening spiel of wall to wall fakeness and fakery.

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It was also a moment to remember that people aren’t two dimensional. It may seem as if we have just two faces, an on and an off switch, but often it’s a lot more complicated than that. We do things even though we don’t want to. We put on a brave face not because we want to but because we feel we have to. We don’t have a choice. Behind the scenes, the conflict is there and the conflict is real. It tears us apart from the inside out.

The last message Nickole posted on August 12, in the final hours of Shan’ann’s life, was about a book she was reading. As a full-time writer I’m partial to people who read. Just as writing requires depth of character, so does reading. And so, how ironic that within hours of Shan’ann’s catastrophic end, Nickole’s reading a book that exhorts its readers to:

…stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be…

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Although this is what the doctor ordered, are these women and these people going about reinventing themselves the right way? Gaining confidence, going LIVE, making celebrities of themselves, not to become someone, but to sell something. Not to make something of themselves, but to make money?

On August 14, the day after her murder and disappearance, Nickole changed her Facebook profile picture to a picture of herself and Shan’ann. On August 23rd she updated this image to one of herself with her hand on Shan’ann’s pregnant stomach. But by September 3rd, two days after the funeral, Shan’ann was out of the picture again.

Does this make Nickole a bad person? If we think that, we miss the point. What’s really at work here are two things: social media, and Thrive. Both are like viruses, two snakes worming their way into the human heart and the human psyche, destroying who we are and turning us into mechanical, mindless slaves. We are groomed and manipulated by companies not to live, not to feel, but to make money. We’re led to believe that we can only live if we have money. We’re transformed into greedy monkeys.

The Thrive fantasy is that we can only live [only thrive] if we have Thrive. We can only be healthy, wealthy and happy if we have Thrive in our lives. Put a patch on it and suddenly our diets are balanced, our wallets are filled, our weight drops and all is well with the world.

But if Thrive is so self-evidently good, why this endless machine-gun promotion? Why does it overwhelm identities, taking over who they are on social media, just as its taken hold of them in other ways? And like a virus, they turn on our hosts, their friends and family, trying to infect them too.

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In fact, this what’s on Nickole’s wall right now.

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So the question is, did Thrive have an impact on Shan’ann’s marriage? It appears to have an impact on every aspect of those it infects – not just marriages, but livelihoods and lives.

In two future blog posts, I’ll address firstly my personal experience of MLM and secondly we’ll explore people’s personal experience with Thrive…what are people saying about Thrive in particular, how do the products work and how has it helped/or harmed these people? Meanwhile, please feel free to share your experiences, concerns and perhaps endorsement/s of Thrive/MLM.

“I’m one-dollar an hour, Willy! I tried seven states and couldn’t raise it. A buck an hour! Do you gather my meaning? I’m not bringing home any prizes anymore and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!” ― Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman