I am part of the problem with J.R. Sauder

To celebrate sixteen years of marriage, J.R. joins Tiffany in reflecting on their relationship and the story of building a life together. As you can imagine, fear has played a role every step along the way

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“I remember, so vividly, sitting on the floor in his office by the radiator and just being like, ‘Are we gonna be okay?’ And I knew he didn't know the answer in the short term. I think we always believed in us, long-term, like, we knew we'd figure it out.'” Tiffany

To celebrate sixteen years of marriage, J.R. joins Tiffany in reflecting on their relationship and the story of building a life together. As you can imagine, fear has played a role every step along the way.

In this episode you’ll hear their individual dynamics, how t. how they have learned from each other and what it looks like to have a two career home while keeping family at the center.

I am part of the problem with J.R. Sauder

JR: I was scared of disappointing you, letting you down, and investors, and everything else. So it was just a lot of fear that piled up and questioning myself in a way that I hadn't a lot previously.

Tiffany: I'm your host, Tiffany Sauder, and this is Scared Confident.

So, you're going to hear from my husband in this episode, JR. I asked him if he would come on in part because a key part of my fear interview, and hearing myself in that experience in the first episode, I articulated I'm afraid of what my husband thinks of this process. So having him on gave me a chance to ask him some of the questions that I had, and also to hear some of his perspective on this journey that I'm on, and give you a little insight into our marriage and the growth that we have had over the 16 years that we've been married. Listen in.

As a way for people to maybe get to know us a little bit, well, let's do this first. So, JR, I've been through some things and one of the ways that we've learned to communicate, like, calibrate a little bit, because we're sometimes passing quickly, is this, we're like, how are we doing on a scale of one to ten?

Where do you feel like we're at right now in our marriage? Ten is great and one is pretty shitty. Where do you feel like we are right now?

JR: I feel like we're a solid seven right now. I think we're trending higher than a seven, but I would say seven.

Tiffany: Yeah, I think that's fair. One of the ways that we have found we connect best is by getting out of the day to day.

I think having a baby in the last year, obviously nobody was traveling, made it more difficult because that ingredient was taken out. So yeah, I would agree. I'd probably give it a seven, but I think that's been a helpful tool for us to, sort of, objectively write down, practice on a post-it like, where are you at – and it helps you, sort of, quantitatively figure out if we're seeing the same thing or not.

JR: Yeah, I think your seven and my seven can be different at times. You know, we calibrate each other, like, Oh, Tiffany's more extreme than I am, so it's usually more two or 10. I tend to stick in the middle.

Tiffany: Oh, okay.

Well, that's actually a good segue because I want to do this exercise where they get to know us a little bit, and doing this, like, contrast like, She is blank and I am this, as a way to, kind of, give some quick color to our relationship and who we are. Right.

JR: Tiffany is a celebrator of all things, people, and JR is like, makes you prove it a little bit, slow, slower to celebrate and acknowledge success, which is a struggle for me but you're great at it.

So, yeah, that's a...I'd say you're a natural celebrator.

Tiffany: I was going to say he is steady and I am not. I am more extreme. Be very steady. Thanks. So that would be the one that I see. You see it as a compliment. I think it would be horrifying.

JR: That's why it works. I think that's why it works. You're nice. I am athletic and you are active. And we talk about, this is not a surprise for you when I say that out loud. That's been something that we've enjoyed as we've been married longer, being active together is something we both enjoy. That probably takes us closer to the ten-range where we can do stuff like that on a more consistent basis.

Tiffany: Yeah. I joke when you see me run you weren't like, that's beautiful. Well, it looks like she's having fun. She's probably enjoying herself. He's laughing because she's like, it's so true. I would say he is internal and I am external and I think that's been something we have had to work through.

JR: Yes. Yeah. I was actually, my next one would be that you react quickly and I'm slow to speak and pluses and minuses on both those. Our natural tendencies are you want to get the information out, just blurted out, right? I have to think about it just a little bit before I put words out there for everybody to analyze.

Tiffany: Yeah. So I think it would be good for us to share what we've learned from each other in, I would say, sort of, being married to the extreme on the other side. You used to call me a blurter. I am naturally a blurter. You

JR: still are a blurter, like that's your natural self.

Tiffany: Yeah, I am. I think I've governed a little bit with age. Setting

JR: dependent.

Tiffany: Is that fair? Yes, setting-dependent. Meaning at home, I'm a blurter all times because it's the safe place.

Yeah. Yeah. I've learned from your discernment in not always showing your cards right away and just sort of letting things color themselves for a minute. Instead of taking control, I've learned from watching you in that way, because that's not my natural anything.

JR: Silence is powerful and that it comes more naturally to me, but somebody will fill the space

Tiffany: eventually. Well, you're super comfortable with awkward.

JR: Sometimes even prefer it. Yeah. Yeah. Which is

Tiffany: awful that you, I mean, I'm not saying awful, but it's,

JR: it's awkward that I love that. I like it. That's what you're saying.

Tiffany: It's so awkward.

So my fear is, in having this conversation, was a couple of things. One is that his natural design is to be very private and more guarded. You'll hear him articulate that as well. So I didn't know how he'd show up in this conversation, if he would show you guys, the listeners, what I see when he opens up with me or if he would be private. I think we both learned a lot from one another.

Me and understanding sometimes it is best to keep your mouth shut. I think he's seen that there's a lot of growth and power and also vulnerability. It was really neat to see him exercise some of that vulnerability that he's learning in this conversation together.

But as we sort of, you know, our 25-year-old selves got married and we're picturing what it's going to look like to be married. What about our lives today with a two-career home and four kids and the 16 cars that are constantly driving by the front of our house? What about it is what you pictured? And what's it like to be married to somebody like me and the chaos, the speed at which that sort of means our house and lives have to function.

JR: It's a pace that takes some getting used to, like anything, getting thrown into a new job or new role. You just feel like it's all moving so fast and definitely have felt that way through our marriage. In our case, you get to a point where you start to feel comfortable with the pace.

And then a new kid gets thrown in the mix and, you know, we're back to not sleeping, and how does that work? It's always worse for you through that process, just especially on the physical side versus what I have to go through. But what I've learned is I actually never know what to expect when I'm pulling into the driveway at home and that's okay.

Growing up, I felt like I always knew what to expect. When I got home, it was pretty well known what everybody's schedule was, and there was comfort in the plan. And now at our house, the plan changes. The plan changes a lot. And for me, that's something I had to learn to love about you, but consistency, while an attribute of mine, and it comes more naturally, that's not you. I can either be mad about it or say, who knows what's gonna happen today, and that's great.

Tiffany: How do you feel like fear, either individually, and like in us, individually, has, sort of, shown up in our marriage and held us back from being totally to the place we could have been by now, if we would have been as whole as we wanted to be? In the whole 16 years, how do you feel like fear has, sort of, shown up in you?

JR: Yeah, I would say, yeah, there's been different levels of fear in our relationship and in our marriage. A few that stand out for me, the one time I was petrified was back in 2008. It was November. You were pregnant with Aubrey, the market, the economy was down and it seemed to be getting worse day by day.

We just started this company that was vesting, and you came in and you're just like, what are we doing? What are you doing? And it just made me reflect. I think it was because I had to tell you, like, no we're skipping paychecks again. And you know, it was probably the third time we had done that out of four.

Right. It was, there were a few in a row. You were like, you're, you're supposed to be smart. You know, you're not even bringing home money. And I'm like, okay, I have a wife who's seven months pregnant. A business that's not making enough money for me to bring home a paycheck. I'm trying to make a decision about, should we have in-home care?

I'm like, what are we going to have in our fridge for groceries, is maybe a better question. And, and I was really scared. I was like, ah, I don't have an answer. I don't. I think I'm doing the right thing for the long run, but I don't know. So I was scared of disappointing you, letting you down, and investors, and everything else, so that it was just a lot of fear that piled up and questioning myself in a way that I hadn't a lot previously.

So that one, in terms of us when we were married, I think that was a time of real fear for me.

Tiffany: I remember so vividly sitting on the floor in his office by, like, the radiator thing and just being like, are we gonna, like, are we gonna be okay? And like I knew he didn't know the answer in the short term. And I also, I think we always believed in us long-term. Like, we kinda knew we'd figure it out.

But there were some really, really scary days where like he was, he had money in the market, a lot of money, like not just ours, he had investors money in the market. And like every night I would ask him like, what happened today? It was, like, wild because there was this scoreboard every single day when he came home about whether or not the light was green or the light was red, like, did they make money or did they lose money that day?

I think that, you know, if we would go through that experience today, we probably, like, we were very much together in that experience, but I don't think either one of us had the language or the courage to be able to say, like, really what was in the depths of our fears in that moment. And like listening back to his words, I have so much love and compassion for our 29-year-old selves. You know, like, and it's so hard and there's so much unknown and like you believe in yourself, but also in the, like, what's around you, there's just not a lot of evidence that you're making the right decisions. And like, it was, it was a lot. And like legitimately, you know, he, he more manages and wears his emotions internally or it gets quiet and, you know, thinks strategically about the future. I'm a bit more near-term in my thinking. Like, I probably cried three times a week, like not in like I'm mad-angry, but just like, man, I am scared. I'm really scared. And, you know, layered on, even just the experience of being pregnant for the first time.

It's a really out of control experience, and so that layered into the economic uncertainty. JR, he was a three-sport athlete and had all this expectation of his sort of like, you know, perpetual success and celebration as a human. That was a lot for him. So we grew up a lot in those years.

I think it took me too long to be able to say to you, I am not okay. I've always been very strong and capable and independent and all of those things. I know that that's part of what you love about me, and it's not that you ever implied that if I needed to have real emotions, that it was game over. But you aren't outwardly emotional, more now than you were early in our marriage, and you weren't external, and so like you didn't externalize a lot. I didn't know it necessarily, but I had a fear of saying the words to you, I'm not okay, because that meant, it was sort of a vulnerability that you weren't presenting to me, so I didn't feel like I could say that. I think that that created certainly a barrier in like intimacy for us, like emotional intimacy. I started getting really good at just pushing away what I needed instead of being able to be honest about it. I think that that for a period of time slowed down our ability to be able to really grow together. And I had fear that if I stepped into that vulnerability that you would not love that part of me and that, you know, it would destroy the whole thing.

Because the strong capable, you know, I've got my crap together, there's a thousand people moving around, I'm like a human tornado, I get that, was what was most familiar in our relationship.

JR: I think mine is probably somewhat similar in that I was fearful of verbalizing my expectations of us, I think.


I mean, probably up until two or three years ago, really. This perception of what I thought we needed to do, or we needed it to be, and what that expectation was, without ever really communicating it to you? I was fearful because, you know, I'm the independent one as well, or I can be very independent and strong, and, Oh, Tiffany's got a million things going on. The kids ask for her all the time, you know, help with something at church or with your brothers or whatever, like there was, there seemed to always be something that was a priority. I don't know if I just couldn't say like, Hey, I need a time out. Like, I need to talk to you for an hour. Like we need to go on a date and just not have anybody else around for an hour and a half and just talk and level set with where I am.

Cause you, you will just go, go, go. That's, again, back to you having energy around being people like you can, you can do that. Sometimes I just need to like, look you in the eye and say like, no, here's, you know, here's where I am. That was, you know, that was a scary place for me to say, like, no, I need whatever it was at that point in time.

Because then I feel like a taker and that's, like, that's a hard thing for me to say. Like, Oh, I'm this incomplete person or I'm this, you know, weakness. I struggle with saying like, Oh, I'm weak. But back to your point on intimacy, like that emotional intimacy couldn't happen because I wasn't allowing it to happen, and being truthful and being weak and vulnerable with you to just say like, Tiffany, you need to stop. Like, here's my perception of what's happening. Here's my expectation. Like this was what I really needed. Like, it doesn't need to be right this second, but...

Tiffany: Yeah, I think that we went to counseling a few years ago and learned this tool of heart talk that I think was really revolutionary for....

Very rational, independent, firstborn, competitive, like, you know, quantitative people like we are to realize like mostly what we were doing was shuttling information back and forth. We weren't stopping. I think for me, I realized like I'm not even allowing myself to feel my own feelings. Like I was functioning so quickly to the tasks of everything around us.

I didn't even allow myself to listen to my own heart. Having the tools to be able to step into those conversations to be like, okay, we're going to have a talk about feelings and that's where we're going to go right now. Let's talk about a good time to do that so that we're both in a space to be able to do it.

It was such a simple tool, but I think really helpful. We don't use exactly the same language and construct now that we've sort of practiced it for awhile, but for awhile we did. It was like we were grown people. Like practically reading from a sheet of paper. Like these are the words I'm supposed to say as I talk about practice talking about my emotions.

JR: Which you love following directions. It was very easy for you.

Tiffany: I was like, I got a better way. But that was like uncomfortable, right?

JR: Totally uncomfortable.

Tiffany: But it was so productive for us. I don't know. I guess as people are listening, it was like we had to go back to almost being children again in our understanding of how to talk about emotions. At least I felt that way. I don't want to project for you.

JR: Absolutely. We had to go back to the beginning and learn to walk.

Tiffany: In this next section, you're going to hear JR and I talk about just really how we've learned to navigate and grow together in choosing a – I don't want to say crazy life – but a really action packed life. It's understanding the realities of a two-career home is that you don't sit in the same role and responsibility every single week of that year. We have to flex in where I'm doing things that he would normally do, and he would flex where, you know, things I wouldn't normally do. You have to do that with like ease and grace or it doesn't work. So just listen a little bit about our conversation and how we've worked to try to be more together than apart as we both explore our dreams and also build a family together.

JR: We talk about, like, who's taking priority. It's a part-time job when your spouse is in a career that requires a lot of them. Like the partner has a part-time job because they want to bounce ideas off of you or we, at least we did, we want to bounce ideas off each other. Like, Hey, I need you to review this.

Like, what do you think?

Tiffany: One of the things that we struggled with early in our marriage, well, I mean, early, I don't know, and later, just not now, is I'm really independent. You were traveling a lot. And so the good news about me being independent is I could run things when you were gone and it wasn't this like, you know, where I'm nagging you to come home because everything's falling apart and I hate being alone. Like it was like, that's fine, go do your thing. Right. But the hard part was that you, I think, at times felt like an accessory to the family. We had the conversations about how we were like, I just don't feel like you need me for anything. We struggled to have that conversation in a way that ever resolved it until we figured out how to resolve it.

Yeah, it

JR: was when you're gone a lot and the kids are home and they're in bed or you're spending very little time with them consistently. You do feel like just this helicopter parent, right, that's coming in, especially you who has things under control at most times. Like it might not look like control, but it's under control.

For me, it was, what role am I supposed to play exactly. Like, you know, the discipline's a little bit different. So yeah, that was that's hard. That was hard to work through. What

Tiffany: started to happen, like the racket of you coming home, not having the language to say, Hey, look, we need to have a conversation about how I fit, or I feel like an accessory to the family.

You would come in hot sometimes and I'd be like, Hey, we've been rolling for seven days without you. I need 24 hours to get you up to speed on what's been happening because it feels out of left field for all of us, because you have different data points because the wide angle lens wasn't there. Also what would happen is, I think, you would have these reactions, not be totally transparent with me because you were like, I haven't, I don't know. I don't want to make her mad in the 12 hours I'm here. Right. And so you would hold back and then it would come out in weird ways and that would make me back up a little bit because I'm like, I don't understand this.

JR: Yeah. I think we were just passing each other. Right. It was sharing information back and forth where there were a lot of tasks to get done and not enough time to have a debrief or we didn't make, we didn't make the time to really have a true debrief and level set on where we were. I just think it's something that you learn and grow through from a two-career home that, you know, it can work.

You just, you have to, have to communicate.

Tiffany: I wish we thought more about marriage and communication as training. Like you'll willingly sign up for sales for, I will, like, sign up for sales training. I'll sign up for, you know, sign up for presentation, how to grave group presentations, leadership and influence, how to build a culture.

Like these are workshops you freely sign up for – we all do – as we prepare our careers for the next stage. We don't think, unfortunately, about our marriages in the same way. If at five and seven years of marriage, we would have said, Hey, look, it's evident,this is what our house is going to look like. We're going to be a two-career home. How do we train well for what's only going to be an accelerated existence. Like how do we train well for that? How do we have better communication? How do we get to the heart of matters more quickly? How do we get more honest with ourselves about our truth? How do we have the courage to speak the truth to one another?

And in a way that's emotionally intelligent, but it's also super honest and that took us a long time to get to that place. It's what

JR: we spend our time and resources on at work, right? Or what we demand of leadership within an organization is you strive for transparency. You want vulnerability. You want clear objectives. You want clear goals and you spend a lot of money to figure those things out.

And then in your marriage or in our marriage, especially early on, we were both paddling really hard and running really fast but without a clear idea where we were running to or what the direction was. I would say we wanted a great marriage. That was the goal, but the route to get there, we never really talked about that early on.

Tiffany: No, we didn't. Even, when I would say we were in one of the lowest points in our marriage, one of the things we were still both equally pissed off about is that we expect excellence in every area of our life and yet we couldn't figure out how to do that in our marriage. It was like, I can't. I think when it's both ways, we both felt like a fraud.

Like they've lauded you as an achiever since you fell out of your crib. I don't know. You know what I mean? Like you've been an achiever your whole life and think you knew we were failing at this. I think for the same way, it was like people were aware of my professional achievements, but just like, but there's ways I'm really failing personally that nobody can see, but it's also a big part of the story that isn't being told.

I think that's part of the catalyst that got us to a place where we were like, we have to solve differently, or at least give it a shot, right? Because our choices were getting divorced or living in an average existence. I don't know which would have sucked more. Maybe I'm trivializing it because I know the end of the story.

And we worked through some really hard things to be here, but I think that mutual anger activated us in a way that was productive. Yeah.

JR: I think verbalizing and saying out loud and hearing the other person say that you didn't want to fail and I didn't want to fail, but then saying, We are failing. What do you do when you're failing? You go get help. You go. Whether it's in school, you go to a tutor and you know, at some point you have to have the humility to say, this is not working and I am part of the problem. Yeah. That's hard. That was really hard for me.

Tiffany: So tell me more about this idea of being sort of a bystander to me telling my version of our lives and representing your perspective to some degree on the podcast. Tell me more about that. There's a

JR: couple of things. One is I felt like it could turn into a roast at times, or a joke of something that is happening in our life or in our marriage or within our family that I may value.

And hold, want to hold in. And it may not have been a big deal for you and you share it. So there's some fear around that, about what becomes public versus what we deal with in-house. I'm naturally more "keep it in house" than you are. There was some fear around that, if something could just be said in a flippant manner that I felt was serious.

Tiffany: That's super honest of you because that's true. There are things that I will sometimes flow over fast because I don't absorb it in the same way that you do. And there are those things that are really meaningful to you, and it takes us a while to realize, like, Oh, that was a really big deal to you and I just, kind of, jumped over it like a lily pad. Like it wasn't a big deal to me. So how do we make sure? Cause it's important that this effort is, that it's edifying even to our relationship. I never want to get it towards like, that it even accidentally, like, degrade you in some way or make fun, you know what I'm saying? Like, not that that's what I do with my words, but I don't want it to become that.

JR: Like.

Right. And I feel like you can poke fun of me, at me, at times. And that's, I'm good with that.

Tiffany: How do we make sure that that doesn't happen? I mean, it may

JR: sometimes. Yeah, it may. Where I got to is it may and I have to be okay with that because I know enough now to know that it wasn't intentional if it did happen, and we can talk about it

if it did happen.

Tiffany: Will you say it to me?

JR: I know, at this point, that I can say it and it's okay if you come back and be like, no, here's why I talked about it and you know, we'll get to a place of mutual understanding. We may not agree, but we'll at least mutually understand what was going through your mind.

I might realize it wasn't quite as flippant as I thought it was or perceived it to be when you said it, and maybe you can understand like, why that was a big deal for me, or a bigger deal than what you thought. But there's risks in life, generally. So this one, I felt like overall, all things considered, wasn't a monumental

Tiffany: risk. Yeah, I totally hear you and I think that's fair. I think it's helpful for me too, to not feel like if I do mess that up, that it's punitive, that that doesn't make this whole effort bad and polluted, and it doesn't make me wrong for having done that. It's just a place for us to keep learning together.


JR: I think that's growth from what would have happened when we were 30 versus where we are now, because it probably would have been back then.

Tiffany: One of my values, personally, is this idea of, to the extent that we can share experiences, the collective gets wiser and we learn more from the hardest, most painful things in life than we do from the mountain tops that are easy to celebrate. The, like, bloodier I'm willing to get with the whole thing of, like, this is what it was like for me, it redeems what I had to go through and gives it meaning and purpose.

And it helps me understand it because I'm an externalizer and it's a way for me to work it out. In many ways, as I think about legacy as a person, the idea of my stories in my life, helping others in the way that I learn so much. Everything I read is biographies and other people's stories.

I love to watch the movies, so to speak, of other people's lives. I learn so much from that. Maybe in a subconscious way, it's like my contribution of my own movie, my own life, so that others who care to watch it can learn. I feel like a fraud when I only share the parts that people are going to naturally know about, which is the stuff that newspapers are willing to print and awards people hand you.

I'm like, well, other people will tell the story of the good things. My job is to tell the story of the part that hurt, of where the scars came from, of the ugly part, of the times I cried, of the vulnerable part. That's the part I feel like I have to give language to otherwise only half the story.

Gets told.

I hope in this episode you've heard, that just because your marriage is a thing, that doesn't mean that it has to be what it is forever. It wasn't until JR and I got to a place where we could both individually understand our fears and our expectations of our relationship, and give practice language to both of those things, because it's not like it comes out crisply the first time.

It's only then, after we did that work, that we really were able to create the marriage that we both wanted. Now, I don't know that this is inspiring, but that took years and we're really both proud of that. But I also recognize, like, sometimes your marriage is hard and it doesn't always feel worth it. I just know that we've both really been blessed by having the courage to do the work, having the courage, to say the words, having the courage to step into the super uncomfortable, to fight for excellence in this space of our life as well.

I love you, babe.

So what else is on your mind? Text me (317) 350-8921. (317) 350-8921. And be sure to follow along on your favorite podcast app. Thanks for listening today.

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