Getting Past Being Polite with Sam and Jennifer
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Are you a polite person?
Do you find that sometimes being polite inhibits you from truly expressing yourself and your emotions?
Well, you aren’t alone.
It’s quite common for many of us to cover our true emotions and feelings with politeness.
This was definitely true for Jennifer and Sam, our guests on the podcast this week.
Jennifer and Sam attended our Couples Alive workshop and have since learned how to get past politeness to get deeper in their conversations about their true feelings.
They’ve learned how to loosen the grip on their expression, how to hold strong emotions in a healthy way, and are sharing with us their top tips for growing in relationships.
We absolutely love what they share as the practices they use in their own relationship to remain aligned and think you can take some of these easy practices to use for yourself.
So we hope you enjoy the episode and if you are interested in more relationship tips like Sam and Jennifer share, we’d like to remind you that our new book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples, is available for pre-order until Sunday!
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CrisMarie: Hey. Today we have some special guests, Jennifer Hilton and Sam Mack. They're a couple. They live in Vancouver, British Columbia. We're thrilled to have you both here. It would be great, Jennifer and Sam, if you could give us some background about who you are as individuals, who you are as a couple.
Susan: I mean, we know you through The Haven.
CrisMarie: Yes. We've known you a long time thru The Haven. But we'd love to let our listeners meet you. So, go ahead.
Jennifer: Okay. Thanks. Thanks, CrisMarie and Susan. Happy to be here. A little nervous but happy to be here.
I'm originally from Nova Scotia. I moved to Vancouver BC in 2007, I think, actually to begin my relationship with Sam, after we met at The Haven. I am a life coach. I have a practice here in Vancouver. And I work at The Haven. That's our common meeting place.
Susan: For sure.
CrisMarie: I guess I never put it together that you guys had actually met there. Probably should know that, you've probably told me but it's like, "Oh, of course."
Susan: Oh, okay. Now.
CrisMarie: Those month long programs.
CrisMarie: Yeah. It's where relationships begin.
Susan: I did know that. It just took me a minute to register. Okay.
How about you, Sam?
Sam: Hi, there. I'm Sam. I'm a little bit nervous, as well. I was born in Hong Kong, of Asian descent. I immigrated to Canada at the age of eight and growing up in Vancouver. Being in a mixed relationship is a little bit different although my family tells me I'm more white than I am Asian. I am divorced. I divorced when I was 30. I'm 61 now and a new grandpa. For 19 years after my marriage ended, I remained a single person because I was petrified of a committed relationship.
Susan: You had me at 61, Sam. I had no idea. You look fabulous for 61, I'm just saying.
Our listeners can't see you. There's no threat there, Jennifer, I'm just saying.
Jennifer: I am 40 years younger, so ...
CrisMarie: Okay. You don't look your age either, so there we go.
Jennifer: Yeah. Thank you. I, too, am divorced and have had many, many relationships. I think to the theme of your podcast and conflict, I think my pattern has been to actually leave relationships when the conflict began. I think that's where this relationship with Sam is very different because we decided, I guess, with what we were learning at The Haven to actually bring that stuff into our lives and our relationship. So, it's been a journey, let me tell you.
Susan: Sam, I'm curious, when you said you were terrified, was it around conflict or was it around intimacy? Do you know?
Sam: I think intimacy was a big one. In fact ... This is a funny story. When I was at the lawyer's office, I was served the divorce notice and that, the lawyer read out the document to me and said, "Oh, your wife wants to divorce you because of lack of intimacy." I asked him, I said, "What does that mean?"
CrisMarie: She wasn't talking about sex, I'm going to guess.
Sam: No, no, no. She wasn't. I had to look up, he had to tell me the definition of what that meant.
CrisMarie: Just for our listeners, the way we define intimacy is in, to, me, see. The willingness to reveal oneself, one, to your own self, but also to your partner, and creating that connection, that, I think, so many of us crave, is that knowing, feeling known and knowing of another.
Susan: Sadly, I think, Sam, when they served you those papers, it was probably, yes, you may have been at fault at not wanting to see yourself, but too often, other people ... It could have been that your wife didn't really want to see herself, either. Intimacy is one of those tricky definitions. I may want it, with CrisMarie, but the first place I have to find it is with me. It's kind of a tricky ground.
Sam: It sure is, yeah.
Jennifer: I agree with that 100%.
Susan: How long have you two been together? Did you mention that?
CrisMarie: Well, they said 2007-
Susan: Oh, then I have to do math.
CrisMarie: ... so, I don't know if you started right away.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think it's about 14 years now.
CrisMarie: Oh, okay.
Sam: Yeah, 14 since we've known each other and about, almost 13 that we've been in a relationship.
Susan: Oh, cool, all right then. How do you think you're doing with intimacy at this point? On a scale of one to 10, each of you?
Jennifer: I think it varies on the day, let me tell you that. I would say, overall, I mean, for me, it's a seven, on average.
Susan: Okay, Sam. What about you? Do you want to give a number or is this already going to create conflict?
Sam: Without giving a number, I can break down, I think, in our 12, I'm going to say, 12 to 13 years of being together, I'd say that I can break it into three segments of four years each. Every four years, I think we've made some strides towards to have better sharings, especially during times of conflict.
CrisMarie: That's great. Okay.
Susan: You're still not giving a number. What's the latest four years?
Sam: I would agree with Jennifer. I think it varies. Certain topics are hotter than others and maybe the number isn't quite as high. Other topics are reoccurring, that we are a little bit more practiced on, that we've worked over and over again, perhaps, we seem to have reached a slightly higher number.
Susan: This would be helpful, if you're willing, to talk about what topics are because this is ... I mean, every couple has topics that they're more cautious about and ones that they rehash. If you can be more specific as to what are your stumbling blocks, or the harder topics, for you? What are the kind of reoccurring ones that you do go through and hash out?
Jennifer: We're looking at each other, kind of smiling. But I would say the one that sort of stands out to me, in the past ... and it has been getting better over time but ... has been money.
That's a big one. In terms of our value systems and really learning. I mean, I think overall, our relationship has been about learning about our differences and how to tolerate.
Susan: Yes. I love that. I totally feel warm when you say money. That's a big one for us, too.
CrisMarie: Oh, my.
Susan: We have very different styles and values around it that ... Yeah. We've had to spend a lot of time talking about it.
Jennifer: A lot of time, a lot of really, really digging into the deeper value that we each have about it and understanding that it's different for both of us. That's been a big one.
Sam: I think sex is the other one.
Jennifer: Yes. Sex is another one. The two top ones, isn't it?
Susan: I think those are pretty ... It's good that you're spending some time talking about these different-
CrisMarie: I mean, so often, people don't talk about them because that has been ... I mean, maybe because of fear, because of uncertainty, because this is going to break us apart. And yet those-
Susan: Or we think we should know why ... I don't know. I think people got to despair, like, "Oh, my gosh. We don't have enough sex," or, "I don't like the sex." But they don't actually ... So, they complain about it to somebody else versus bringing that conversation in with their partner.
Susan: In a productive way.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's been about discovering that, again, from a value place, what we each value, in regards to sex. But also recognizing that that doesn't have to define our relationship. Just like money doesn't have to.
Jennifer: I think what's been meaningful to me in our relationship is, actually, having a way to communicate even in conflict or after we have conflicts, and coming back to someplace of connection again. To me, it's this in and out dance. Like I'm in and then I'm out. And then I'm in and then I'm out. Of course, when I'm in conflict, if we're having an argument, I pretty much want to be out. So, I've had to learn to actually find ways to stay in. That's been confusing for me, honestly.
It's been a bit of a learning journey to actually see that I can hold the conflict. A lot of that has to do with my past and not having good experiences around arguments and conflict and family dynamics and background from when I was young. I think that that's been a big, big process in us discovering more about each other.
CrisMarie: You know, Jennifer, you bring up a good point, which I think people tend to miss. You want to leave because that's your pattern. What it sounds like ... Tell me where I'm wrong ... what you're learning to do is tolerate that tension, that desire to run, and hang in-
CrisMarie: ... or recover with Sam. Tell me if that fits.
Jennifer: Yes, absolutely. The staying in piece is sometimes elusive to me. Where I'll think I'm in and all of a sudden, I realize, "Wait a minute. No, I'm really defended right now or I've disassociated in some way or I've physically left the room."
CrisMarie: "Oh, look. I'm in a different room. I didn't even know that was happening."
Susan: I mean, I love that you're saying that, Jennifer, because I do think this is probably similar to-
CrisMarie: To me.
Susan: ... what CrisMarie talks about, in terms of really having to really learn how to breathe and stay present for quite a big ... Become more embodied because most of the time, often, when you get into conflict, you flip into your more rational brain or you check out altogether-
Susan: ... or you go back in the past.
CrisMarie: You're running an old pattern in your nervous system. Most of us aren't even aware that that's what been triggered. It's a predictable cycle that keeps repeating, which I imagine you know, like with the running. Until you start to become aware of it and at least watch yourself do it and then get closer and closer to the event, you can change it.
Susan: I joke with CrisMarie because I think sometimes she ... It sounds like with you ... would just sort of pop out, flight, and go away. And me? I just thought I was there but I was actually in another time zone altogether. I was in some historical event, thinking, projecting out onto anyone around me, something that was very historical. I hadn't even realized, "Wait a minut