When Shawn proposed to Jayneen — just three months after they began dating — they were convinced their marriage would be rock solid. Both were committed Christians with a shared vision to reach the lost.
They exchanged vows nine months later and began their newlywed adventure. Shawn worked retail and served in children’s ministry; Jayneen taught elementary school. Yet four years into their marriage, the couple discovered they suffered from infertility. The news was a fault line in their relationship, the beginning of moving apart.
“Once we found out [we were infertile], it completely changed our relationship,” Shawn says. “We went from trying to get pregnant to not wanting to even be intimate with each other. I felt major guilt, as I knew how much Jayneen wanted children.”
The couple explored fertility treatments. Their first failed attempt was both financially and emotionally draining.
“I will never forget the pain my wife experienced,” Shawn says. “We had stopped at a gas station on the way home, and she broke into tears and melted onto the sidewalk.” Shawn picked her up, and that’s when Jayneen said she couldn’t bear the thought—the grief—of trying again. Instead of leaning on her husband, though, Jayneen pushed him away.
The tension in their home was amplified when Shawn started a business. He discovered he was a poor money manager, which led to bankruptcy and plenty of arguments with Jayneen. Then came the surgeries: gallbladder, appendix, a bad back, a tumor in Jayneen’s jaw—seemingly all in rapid succession and adding to their financial stress.
“I got extremely angry,” Jayneen says. “I was angry with Shawn, but I got very, very angry at God.”
I’ve done everything right, she argued. I’ve served You. She was consumed with the impression that God had turned His back on her. And Jayneen’s disappointment turned to bitterness.
“I shook my fist at God,” she says, “and I started emotionally cheating on my husband through the internet. That led to chat rooms, which led to an actual affair.”
When Shawn first confronted her, Jayneen promised to stop. But it was a lie. The second time Shawn caught her, he told Jayneen to leave. Once out of the house, she embraced her new lifestyle with abandon. More affairs. Drinking. Even experimenting with marijuana.
“She tried anything she could to numb the pain,” says Brittyn, a longtime family friend, “because she was hurting terribly and entered a downward spiral she had no idea how to get out of.”
Shawn says he felt as though someone had shattered a treasured snow globe and left him to clean up the mess. Yet he remained available to Jayneen. On occasions when she would call and ask for help, Shawn obliged.
Estranged at home
Although Shawn was broken at the outset, it took Jayneen more than four years on her own to acknowledge the hopelessness of her lifestyle. Eventually she worked up the courage to ask Shawn if she could return home. He agreed, but there were still major issues between them.
As a temporary solution, they decided that Jayneen would live in one half of the house, Shawn in the other. They were cordial to each other, but the arrangement was more brother and sister than husband and wife. They tried to rekindle their relationship, yet Shawn could see that it wasn’t working. Jayneen could see it, too. They wondered, Was their marriage was without hope?
“We loved each other, but we were not close,” she says. “We didn’t know each other anymore.”
Divorce seemed like the only option. There was just one more thing Shawn and Jayneen wanted to try first.
Jayneen remembered reading about Hope Restored—Focus on the Family’s multi-day counseling program for marriages in crisis. When she suggested they give it a try, Shawn wholeheartedly agreed that Hope Restored had to be a part of the solution.
“I saw that the success rate was about 85%,” he says, “and I wanted that.”
For her part, Jayneen knew deep down that the program wouldn’t work until she let go of her anger. And the initial step of that breakthrough happened just days before Hope Restored, at a Christian women’s event Jayneen had avoided for years. Facedown on the floor, undone, she finally recognized—for the first time in years—what she’d known all along: God still loved her. He’d always loved her.
In February 2017, Shawn and Jayneen arrived at the Focus on the Family Retreat Center in Branson, Missouri, to begin the Hope Restored program. Shawn says their counselors were tender and insightful, respectful and direct. He and Jayneen never once felt intimidated, nor were they made to feel bad about what they said. For the first time in forever, Shawn felt heard.
“I understood why I am the way I am,” he says, “and how to overcome it.”
Shawn also learned why his wife is the way she is, and that it was not his job to overcome this. Instead his role was to understand her and communicate effectively.
They learned from the counselors; they learned from the other couples; and, finally, Shawn and Jayneen learned how to love themselves. They learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and they have the rest of their lives to get it right. Their marriage was not without hope. They came home with tools and strategies and their “relationship treasure maps”—a pair of oversize Post-it Notes that they framed and hung in their living room.
“Our relationship today is night-and-day different from before,” Jayneen says. “We don’t rely on each other to get our peace. We rely on Christ to give us peace.”