If Nuns Were Wives: A Handbook on Marriage from the Perspective of a Nun

If Nuns Were Wives: A Handbook on Marriage from the Perspective of a Nun


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If Nuns Were Wives is a handbook for wives on how to thrive in marriage using the perspective of a nun. Formerly aspiring nun, Shani Chen, is now married with two children, but still enjoys learning alongside the nuns. In an unconventional way of delivering relationship advice, Chen takes her reader on a journey into the monastery—transcending dogma and religion—and makes the role of the American wife the new holy temple for relationships.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683505532
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Shani Chen is dedicated to helping women become empowered in their marriages and secure love in their homes. She enjoys seeking personal growth, finding solutions, and learning alongside the nuns. She lives with her husband and two children in Southern California.

Read an Excerpt


The Sky

One of the fondest memories of my life is hanging laundry on the rooftop of my boarding school in Yun Lin, Taiwan. After I was denied entrance into the nunnery, I did not give up on my dream of becoming a nun. Instead, I lived in Taiwan for several more years, teaching in a religious educational community affiliated with my temple. I was hoping to get noticed by the sisters and have a second chance at my dream. For 329 out of 365 days a year, I communed with teachers and students alike in a place that was nicknamed "Edu Park." Nearly every day after work, I would go up to the rooftop of my dormitory to hang my newly washed clothes. It was always so dark and still up there, a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday school life. I always felt so serene walking between the rows and rows of hanging, damp shirts. The warm light of the moon was always visible from up there and it never ceased to put me at ease after a long day. From such a high platform, I could see a lot of things; the tops of other buildings and even the dim flicker of city lights beyond the fields which surrounded our campus. Sometimes, friends or dorm mates would accompany me to the roof just to chat or to relieve the day's happenings. One particular time, a teacher and I were standing against the cement-wall bordering the edge. Together, we happily enjoyed the sounds of insects calling out into the night and gazed at the dark sky laden with shadowy clouds. She told me, "You know? I often look up at the stars and pray for my heart to be just as vast as the sky. I pray that my heart can love without boundaries just like the sky exists without boundaries." I took in her words and watched the stars twinkle. Suddenly there was a sweet silence that permeated the air between us. I was thinking about what she said and how it was such a lovely way to view things. Her words lingered around for a while, then drifted off into the expanse. But that moment changed a lot of things. I never saw the sky the same way again. I loved her prayer and tucked it away deep into my heart that night.

To this day, I still find myself mulling over her words in my mind when I'm going about my marriage from day to day. Whenever possible, I like to go out into the garden late at night, much like that night many years ago, and wait until the peace has settled in like a fog. Then I just look up into the mysterious expanse and imagine that my heart is growing just as wide as the space above. Her voice echoes in my mind. "I pray that my heart can be just as vast as the sky." Then, my own voice chimes in. "I also wish to take on many things in life and not let little things bother me. I hope to take on my husband's burdens whenever possible, both physical and emotional. Please help me absorb the world's troubles."

Whenever I find myself losing patience or feeling anger arising within, I often refer to that one special night where a lady shared a beautiful thought with me. It has made me a better wife.


Hitting a Low

I remember when I first embarked on the journey to Edu Park alone, I was so miserable when I arrived because I was incredibly homesick. At that point, it truly dawned on me that I had left everything behind. I was starting a new chapter utterly alone and the journey was much harder than expected. For the first several weeks, I wallowed in my own pain. I constantly thought about my suffering and reminded myself of everything I missed in America. To make matters worse, it was hot, humid and sticky where I was. It was incredibly uncomfortable just being there. It seemed like nothing was going right.

One evening, I went to attend a lecture and sat in my chair like a lifeless soul. The speaker was talking enthusiastically, but I had no interest. I stared into space and felt myself go numb. Halfway through, a thought suddenly hit me. "Shani, get up! Lift yourself up!" Intrigued, I kept listening. "There are many other lonely souls in the school too and not just you. You're in a boarding school for crying out loud. Everyone is lonely, you are not unique in this." In the depths of my despair, a forceful but understanding voice was trying to open me up to change. It was showing me all the great possibilities I could be a part of if I could just remove myself from my own misery. To an outsider, it probably looked like I was just sitting there, but much was being done inside my mind. My eyes were wide and alert as new ideas were forming. I was undergoing a transformation.

Afterwards, while still sitting in my chair, I suddenly felt a miraculous urge to get active and to make a positive change. I was filled with a renewed spirit. I wanted to seek out all the other lonely souls around me and to actually do something for them. Instead of wallowing in my own self-pity, I wanted to alleviate the pain of those around me. Was it a messenger waking me up? Or a stronger side of my conscience taking over? Whatever it was, it turned a giant force of sorrow into a greater force of passion. That night, I couldn't sleep because I was bubbling over with ideas on what I could do the next day.

Later, I found that this type of mysterious intervention would continue to occur in my life. I learned to recognize those moments because they seemed almost supernatural. Whenever I hit rock bottom from an argument with my husband or felt in my heart that "I could never forgive him this time," the sudden inspiration for change would always come sooner or later. I would feel a distinct strength rise from within and urge me to turn things around no matter how bad they had been.

Through those times, I have learned that each moment holds so much power. A person can be reborn in any given moment, even in those moments that seem devoid of all hope. Inspiration often comes when least expected. So don't be discouraged if you've hit a low. Sometimes, it is necessary to experience that state in order for something greater to manifest. Sometimes, it is precisely in that moment when you surrender that the inspiration comes. Pain is often the greatest catalyst for beauty. Just stay where you are and allow yourself to be receptive to anything. Be patient with yourself. When you are at your lowest, you are open to the greatest change.



When I was intensely pursuing my path as a nun, the universe suddenly introduced James, my current husband, into my life and I was thrust into the deepest struggle of my life. I loved him but also felt that I had to continue my spiritual walk, which didn't involve him. It was a very painful experience to let go of the bond I felt with him. Even after I moved to a different country, I was not successful in letting him go and still maintained contact with him all the while. Years later, when I finally came to the realization that becoming a nun wasn't meant for me in this life, I went back home to America and started my life again from there.

Eventually, I married James and felt an overwhelming appreciation towards him. I appreciated the fact that he allowed me enough freedom to pursue my dream even when it didn't involve him. He was loving enough to let me go because he wanted me to be happy. It demonstrated volumes about his character. If he had been forceful and required me to stay with him no matter what, we probably wouldn't be together today. But his sacrifice of letting me go in order to follow my heart made me fall harder in love with him in the end.

People who are mature in love understand the importance of allowing others the space to find their happiness under any circumstance. They genuinely care about the wellbeing of that person and want them to have everything their heart desires. James didn't get upset and bitter over the fact that I left his side. He didn't sever all ties and tell me he never wanted to see me again because I had other ambitions. Instead, he told me that he would keep patiently waiting and that if it was meant to be, nothing could stop us from being together. His approach to the entire situation impressed me and I felt a greater respect for him through it all. He showed me what true love is all about; releasing the one you love out of selflessness and putting their needs above your own. He proved that his heart was in the right place, and by doing so, led me directly back to him.



Several times, I lived in the temple for a short while and learned alongside the nuns. They had very beautiful ways of seeing the world and I always felt inspired by their different outlooks. Even the most mundane tasks took on new meaning when the nuns were involved. Take the simple act of sweeping for example. A nun told me that when they sweep, they imagine they are sweeping away the negativity of their minds: impatience, irritability, greed, anger and the like. Cleaning the floor becomes a process of inner purification. With each speck of dirt they remove, they imagine the mind and heart being cleansed at the same time. In this way, sweeping becomes an active form of meditation. With outwardly actions, they are shaping their internal landscapes.

I liked the idea of this very much. I took the idea home with me and started implementing this concept whenever I did my chores. I imagined my house to be the inside of my mind and happily cleared away all the impurities. I put this teaching to use when I wiped the windows, scrubbed the toilets, and mopped the floors. Every dirty surface suddenly became an opportunity for my advancement.

How is this applicable to your relationship? Well, when you purify your soul, you are less likely to be filled with impatience, anger and hatred. If, on a daily basis, you work on removing the "dirtiness" of your mind, you will only emerge more beautiful and pure. This is the perfect platform to build the rest of your relationship on. As a calmer, lighter and happier person, you will engage in more peaceful conduct with your loved one. There will be less room in your heart for unpleasantness and peace will grow in your home like a well-nurtured flower.



The nuns taught me to practice non-violence and to be genuine which actually worked out very well for me because my husband is a tough guy; he doesn't respond well to harshness. He'll beat me at being tough every time. Through the years, I've found something that softens him up and dissolves his aggression faster than anything else. Crying. He hates to see me cry and always backs down when I do. He responds to the softer approach that I was taught and actually wants to protect me when I show my vulnerability. I never meant to cry on purpose in front of him, but doing so allowed me to find a better way of communicating with him.

I also found crying to be effective in other areas of my life and not just my marriage. For example, one semester when I was teaching at Edu Park, I was to teach the most difficult class on campus. It was a sixth-grade class full of boys. Supposedly, the students were ruthless and cruel to any teacher brave enough to step foot into their classroom. No one could handle them up to that point. And as an ambitious newcomer, I volunteered myself for the undesirable position.

I went in to teach this particular class not knowing what to expect and found that the rumors were not an exaggeration. Papers were flying everywhere when I walked into the classroom and students were running around, doing whatever they pleased. It was chaos. It was difficult to get anyone's attention no matter what I tried. At one point, someone stood up and cussed at me from across the room. I was in disbelief. After several weeks of failing miserably to conduct any type of class whatsoever, I felt so dejected. Without knowing what else to do, I sat down in my chair one day in front of the students and just started crying. Yes, I started crying. I just let it all out. The amazing thing is, that finally got their attention. They had never seen a teacher cry in front of them before.

When I was able to speak, I told them how much I missed my family and friends in America. I told them how hard it was for me to make the transition from the U.S. to Taiwan and how even the weather was something I couldn't get used to. Lastly, I revealed how their behavior was causing a lot of stress to me on top of everything I had to deal with. I let myself become completely vulnerable and transparent to them. I just laid out all my difficulties as if they were my companions and asked for their help in easing my troubles by behaving better. Miraculously, everyone was dead silent and listening with complete attention.

That was the turning point of my relationship with them. Their hearts somehow softened from my sharing and the following week, they were complete little angels, waiting for me to come in and teach them. When I revealed the softness in me, they took down their walls. They responded to my gentleness with more gentleness. When I shared my struggles, it struck a chord in them because they were most likely suffering as well. Exposing our true selves can be so affective in communicating with others without causing any damage. It breaks down all the walls and connects people at a heart level. Practice being completely real and uninhibited. It will bring out the most effective and compassionate response from others.


Negative Support

We often hear people talking about the importance of giving positive support to our loved ones; building them up and encouraging them on their endeavors. But rarely, do we hear about giving negative support which is just as important. The notion was first introduced to me by my uncle who belonged to the same religious group as me. Sitting on the couch, he told me, "People sometimes need negative support, which means being able to stay with them as they experience low moods; staying with them even when they act ugly and undesirable. Negative support means remaining steady and calm even when the person is breaking down due to their pain. To be able to act as a crutch to them as they go through such hard times is an extraordinary gift."

I can think of several times in my life where I've needed negative support. During those times, I was always in a lot of pain, confusion and frustration. One time, I was home for winter break from being in Edu Park for half a year. My parents expected me to come back from my first semester as an angel, washed clean of the world's ugliness. To their knowledge, being submerged in such a sacred environment would change me for the better. But when I came home, I was quite the opposite. I acted terribly and was quick to anger at them. I was unstable and irritable. Confused, my mom secretly spoke to the head monk of the school and asked about my weird behavior. He told her that my behavior was actually normal and common for the students in the school. During the school year, everyone underwent a lot of hardships from being away from home. Everyone struggled and held things inside for many months. So going home to a place of comfort and familiarity naturally allowed all of those negative feelings to be expelled.

What he said was very true. I held in a lot of negative emotions during the school year because I had to support my students who were also struggling. When I finally came back home, all of my pent-up negativity was hurled at my family. I needed their negative support as I broke down. As I reflect on the people who have shown me this type of support, I am beyond thankful to them. I couldn't handle my pain in any other way and feel so grateful for their willingness to accept me in my terrible state.

It's not easy to be the bearer of negative support in marriage. You have to be completely overcome by love for this person. You need to be skillful enough to remove yourself from how things appear and just be there to catch the other person when they fall. You must delve deeper into the scenario and remember that this situation is not personal. The person in front of you is ailing in some way and needs help. If you can do this, you will have achieved something extremely difficult.

This extraordinary act of love will be recognized and cherished from the recipient's heart. For myself, I have never forgotten the people that demonstrated this selfless act to me. Because of them, I know how critical it is to receive negative support and how rare it is to find people willing to supply it.


Excerpted from "If Nuns Were Wives"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Shani Chen.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kristine Carlson,
Chapter 1 The Sky,
Chapter 2 Hitting a Low,
Chapter 3 Space,
Chapter 4 Sweeping,
Chapter 5 Tears,
Chapter 6 Negative Support,
Chapter 7 Flaws,
Chapter 8 Fight,
Chapter 9 Shaved Head,
Chapter 10 Criticism,
Chapter 11 Just Say It,
Chapter 12 Just Say It (Cont.),
Chapter 13 Generosity,
Chapter 14 Generosity (Cont.),
Chapter 15 Sensitivities,
Chapter 16 Good Practitioner,
Chapter 17 Words,
Chapter 18 Bugs,
Chapter 19 The Treasure,
Chapter 20 Agreements,
Chapter 21 Exchanging Suffering,
Chapter 22 Insecurity,
Chapter 23 The Ruptured Appendix,
Chapter 24 Puffy Eyes,
Chapter 25 Pants,
Chapter 26 The Coin,
Chapter 27 The Ultimatum,
Chapter 28 Heaven,
Chapter 29 Unwanted Tasks,
Chapter 30 True Compassion,
Chapter 31 The Neighbor,
Chapter 32 Criminal,
Chapter 33 Dirty Socks,
Chapter 34 Charging Batteries,
Chapter 35 Surprises,
Chapter 36 Cuteness,
Chapter 37 Two Words,
Chapter 38 Grumpiness,
Chapter 39 Daily Discipline,
Chapter 40 The White Plate,
Chapter 41 Sex,
Chapter 42 The Least Harmful Method,
Chapter 43 The Mirror,
Chapter 44 Smile,
Chapter 45 Bangs,
Chapter 46 What Matters,
Chapter 47 Nothing Personal,
Chapter 48 OMAK,
Chapter 49 OMAK (Cont.),
Chapter 50 My Nose,
Chapter 51 Pleasing Others,
Chapter 52 The Moment,
Chapter 53 Improvements,
Chapter 54 Be a Good Influence,
Chapter 55 Being Open,
Chapter 56 Unconditional Love,
Chapter 57 Seeing Beyond Our Own Pain,
Chapter 58 Faithful,
Chapter 59 The Bed,
Chapter 60 Teammate,
Chapter 61 After Work,
Chapter 62 The Video,
Chapter 63 The Unspoken Word,
Chapter 64 Everything We Need,
Chapter 65 Sacrifice,
Chapter 66 The Cushion,
Chapter 67 The Break,
Chapter 68 Connections,
Chapter 69 "I Agree",
Chapter 70 New Hobbies,
Chapter 71 Diary,
Chapter 72 The Boss,
Chapter 73 Equilibrium,
Chapter 74 Until You've Been There ...,
Chapter 75 Appreciation,
Chapter 76 Compliments,
Chapter 77 Differences,
Chapter 78 The Never-Ending Book,
Chapter 79 Excuses,
Chapter 80 The Chest,
Chapter 81 The Game,
Chapter 82 Efficiency,
Chapter 83 The Net,
Chapter 84 Self-Love,
Chapter 85 Femininity,
Chapter 86 Manners,
Chapter 87 His Efforts,
Chapter 88 Sunblock,
Chapter 89 Brooms and Mops,
Chapter 90 St. Rita,
Chapter 91 Another Angle,
Chapter 92 The Doormat,
Chapter 93 The Lined Wastebasket,
Chapter 94 In-Laws,
Chapter 95 The Gifts in the Mess,
Chapter 96 Starting First,
Chapter 97 Reaching Out,
Chapter 98 Healthy Mind,
Chapter 99 His Love,
Chapter 100 The Closed Garage,
Chapter 101 Fragile Sprout,
Chapter 102 Some Days Suck,
Chapter 103 Together,
Chapter 104 Snowy Mountains,
Chapter 105 Nature's Healing,
Chapter 106 Transparent,
Chapter 107 French Class,
Chapter 108 The Vision,
Chapter 109 Inspiration,
Chapter 110 The Diamond,
Chapter 111 Prayer Angels,
Chapter 112 Beauty,
Chapter 113 Wine,
Chapter 114 The One Rule,
Chapter 115 The Temple,
About the Author,

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