Societal cues reveal couples are suffering a ‘communications crisis’; Revered expert Susan Scott is available for interviews and editorials revealing why couples will either thrive, flat-line or outright fail … and how relationships succeed—or cease—one conversation at a time
Throngs of studies reveal the extent to which Americans are shockingly dissatisfied with their relationships and, in a dreadful number of cases, are completely disengaged—abstaining entirely from intimate relations, monogamy, marriage and other “healthy relationship” benchmarks. Sure, the pandemic put the kibosh on romance for many, but the problem is far more deep-seated and insidious. “In short, Americans are in the throes of a communications crisis,” warns Susan Scott, bestselling author of “Fierce Love”—a book that explores conversations that are central to fostering relationship success.
“People don’t often recognize that the conversation is the relationship,” urges Scott. “What gets talked about in a relationship, and how it gets talked about, determines whether a relationship will thrive, flat-line or fail. We often long for deep connection in our relationships, but we don’t know how to communicate well and sometimes withhold what we’re really thinking and feeling. This can lead to fighting, resentment or, worse, complacency where you are just going through the motions … more like roommates than two people in love. Enduring love happens one conversation at a time. Unfortunately, far too many are not innately equipped with the intuition, knowledge and skills to adeptly steer dialogues that way … and modern society reflects those shortcomings.”
With this understanding, I connected with Scott for some insight on the types of conversations she feels will help couples connect at a deep level. Here are her top eight:
1: Do I Want This Relationship? We can’t answer this question unless we can say yes to a different question: Is my life working for me? It’s too easy to blame a partner on one’s unhappiness when the problem may be that I’m not fulfilled, when I’m off track with my hopes and dreams.
Conversation 2: Clarifying Conditions – Yours, Mine, Ours. The idea that love should be unconditional is a seriously bad idea that misleads and derails those who believe it. We teach people how to treat us and we get what we tolerate. There should be conditions.
Conversation 3: How Are We Really? During the COVID-19 pandemic, reality changed for all of us, everywhere, in a heartbeat. Everyone made changes because we had to make them. People change too and forget to tell one another. The problems that surfaced for couples during the enforced togetherness during the pandemic had been present before the pandemic. They just hadn’t acknowledged them and/or didn’t know how to talk about them. This conversation ensures that we surface issues and stay current with our partners.
Conversation 4: Getting Past “Honey, I’m Home”. We ask many questions in the first blush of love, but once committed, we meet up at the end of the day, having tackled our to-do list and encountered challenges along the way, and those things are mentioned only in passing, if at all. Nothing new. No deep connection. When someone receives us with open- hearted, non- judging, intensely interested listening, and 7 provocative questions, we feel seen and heard and our love deepens.
Conversation 5: Let Me Count the Ways. “Thanks, babe,” doesn’t cut it. Nor does “I appreciate you.” Those are vague. Even “I love you” isn’t guaranteed to truly mean something to your partner, especially if you say it all the time as a matter of course, such as a shouted, “Love you!” as you head out the door. What’s more meaningful is an affirmation that is specific. If you see your partner do something really well, something for which you are grateful, something that touches you, speak up. Let this be your default setting, rather than negativity.
Conversation 6: It’s Not You, It’s Me. In What’s Up, Doc? Barbra Streisand’s character says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” while batting her eyelashes, and Ryan O’Neal’s character responds in a deadpan voice, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” And it is. Relationships don’t survive unless we are willing to tolerate imperfections in our partners and recognize that we have a few of our own, which we too often fail to acknowledge and apologize for. Let’s learn how to apologize and how NOT to apologize.
Conversation 7: It’s Not Me, It’s You. If a problem exists, it exists whether we talk about it or not, so we might as well talk about it. The trouble is, most people cringe if someone asks, “Would you like some feedback?” Our thought is, No, I definitely would not like some feedback! And this is because we think of feedback as criticism, a whole lotta bad news in one sentence. If you and your partner don’t talk about things that disturb you, one or both of you may eventually blow up. The goal of giving and receiving feedback is ensuring that you and your partner won’t arrive at any negative “suddenlys.”
Conversation 8: I Love You But I Don’t Love Our Life Together. This is the conversation needed when you know that something MUST change. You’ve given your all and have done your best to be a loving and lovable human being. You may believe that there is no way to reach your partner and are beginning to think of your life as before and after. I would ask you to remember that you loved this person at one time, enough to commit to him or her, so before you decide to leave, let’s give it one last shot.
“The importance of these kinds of conversations cannot be overstated,” Scott notes. “Love doesn’t make itself. We make it, or fail to make it, with each discussion. We unmake it as well. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a relationship, any single conversation can.”
As for Scott’s book Fierce Love, this is the final in her “Fierce books” trilogy that included “Fierce Conversations,” which sold over 800,000 copies, and “Fierce Leadership,” which hit the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Best Sellers Lists. “My new book is for people who care for each other but don’t know how to love each other … or aren’t very good at it,” she says. “It’s also for couples who want to ensure an already healthy relationship remains that way. Indeed, lasting love happens by having intentional, honest and compelling conversations with our partners—the kind that embrace transparency and foster a true connection that will not only withstand the test of time, but actually help feelings grow stronger over the years.”