ERP 339: How Relationships Dissolve & What You Can Do About it — An Interview With Susan Scott

By Posted in - Podcast September 27th, 2022 0 Comments

Keeping your emotions at bay to maintain the harmony in your relationship may seem like a better option than engaging in a conversation that might result in an argument. On the other hand, suppressing your feelings can eventually do serious damage to your relationship.

When you spend a lot of time with someone, you may begin to believe that you know everything about them. Starting a conversation may feel terrifying because you anticipate your partner’s response and how the conversation will go, but you may or may not be right.

In this episode, Susan Scott discusses the causes of relationship plateaus, common misconceptions about love, the effects of poor communication or lack thereof, and the characteristics of a fierce conversation. You’d be surprised at how refreshing that would be if you knew how to approach these conversations in a courageous, loving, and skillful way. 

Susan Scott is a bestselling author and leadership development architect who has enabled top executives worldwide to engage in vibrant dialogue with one another, with their employees, and with their customers for two decades. In her latest book, “Fierce Love – Creating a Love that Lasts, One Conversation at a Time,” Susan Scott guides couples through eight must-have conversations to create a fierce love that stands the test of time and grows stronger over the years.

In this Episode

6:19 Gradually and then suddenly: Understanding how lack of communication can ruin a 


16:53 Post-romance stage: Recognizing the causes of a relationship plateau.

23:07 What a fierce conversation looks like.

33:21 Susan’s own description of what she considers to be a safe place for meaningful conversations.

40:00 Myths about love that can destroy you and your relationship.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Be honest with your partner in a way that strengthens rather than weakens your relationship.
  • Never stop being curious about your partner. There is always something to learn about them, so stay focused and curious.
  • Learn to identify your emotions, to explore them a little, and to express them aloud. 
  • Get your partner’s attention in a gentle, loving, and sincere manner.
  • It’s okay to express your emotions, but be mindful of your tone because how you say it matters.
  • Value yourself. Draw boundaries and restrictions. 
  • Tell your partner what you particularly love and appreciate about them.


Fierce Love: Creating a Love that Lasts—One Conversation at a Time (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Susan Scott


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Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Susan, thank you so much for joining us today.

My pleasure, Jessica. I’m really excited about our conversation.

I am too. I love having conversations with people that come from different backgrounds and different industries because I do think the diversity of conversation can just enrich what we’re all talking about here with relationship principles. And given your background in business, how did you get interested in focusing on intimate relationships?

Well, it came from a couple of epiphanies that I had along the way in my work with CEOs. I mean, for years and years and years, I chaired Think Tanks for CEOs from every kind of industry you could imagine. And so, I’d had well over 10,000 hours of conversations with them about the problems they needed to solve, what decisions they needed to make, strategies they needed to design, and opportunities they needed to evaluate. I mean, everything you can imagine. 

I happen to be reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is at a bar with a bunch of his friends in Spain. And one of his friends says, “So, how did you go bankrupt?” And he responds, “Gradually, and then suddenly.” 


I laughed. I laughed. And then, I just had this epiphany that our careers and our companies and our relationships and indeed our very lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time. Because honestly, every time I would have a conversation with these guys and get them all together so that they could advise one another, always, the reason they got into a bad situation had almost always had something to do with if they had failed to have a conversation that had been needed. 

And the next thing that they needed to do was to have that conversation or that meeting or whatever with an employee, with a partner, or with a customer, whatever it might be. It was just conversations that were really running the show. What gets talked about in a company and how it gets talked about, and who gets invited to the conversation absolutely determines what’s going to happen and what’s not going to happen. 

That was really important for me to understand, especially to gradually then suddenly part because it’s easy to ignore how flatline the relationship is, or even that it’s deteriorating until it is too late to alter the trajectory and we arrive at a “suddenly” we really did not want and sometimes did not see coming, or we tell ourselves we didn’t see it coming. There clearly had been signs. 

We don’t allow ourselves to stop and focus. When there is something that doesn’t feel right, whether it’s a behavior or an attitude or words that somebody says, address it right then and there. And so, one of the reasons why I wrote Fierce Love is because I want to let everybody understand how to bring things up in the moment so that it’s not a big, hairy deal. 

It’s not something we’re going to save, save, save and all of a sudden explode all over some poor, unsuspecting partner. We’re just going to stay current. We’re going to stay current so that we know how we’re doing, and I think that that’s something that we forget to do.

It’s almost as if it’s relational hygiene, right? We get up, and we take a shower, we brush our teeth, there’s a cleansing, there’s a real clean, clear aspect of we’re starting a new or we’ve done the work to cleanse. I just think it is so brilliant. And what you’re describing is, from the vantage point that you’ve had, you’ve been able to look at this as an overarching theme that this is, throughout many of the meetings and conversations you’ve had and helping people problem solve some of their dilemmas. And at the root of that, you’re recognizing conversations that didn’t happen, and also who was involved and how it was done. 

It’s so important. I love how you’re also acknowledging that there’s a human tendency to avoid, particularly just as humans in general, and then based on whatever patterning we’ve grown up with that that delay, we think that on some level, it’s a great strategy. But in the long run, like you’re saying, it accumulates. It has this impact that it’s kind of the point of no return almost. 

We can ignore, ignore. And while there might be good intentions, the long game is maybe what you’re really inviting people to look at. And the importance and how critical this is. Like, you’re talking about a business and the impact on how many people’s lives in impacts and the service that they provide. These are not small things we’re talking about.

They’re huge things. You’re absolutely right, Jessica. I love what you said about a sort of self-cleansing ritual. I’m laughing because one guy that I know said he really hoped to find a self-cleaning relationship.

No kidding.

It is going to require a conversation. I think we’re just terrified of conflict. We think we know how it’s going to go. We project. We interpret. One of the things I’ve come to understand is that all conversations are with myself, and sometimes they involve other people. 

What I mean by that is everything that you’re saying to me; I am running through my own filters and interpreting and deciding what it is that you mean. I could be accurate, and I could be so dead wrong. It’s not even funny. And the same thing is happening with you as you listen to me. I mean, you can ask people who witnessed an accident what happened, and you’re going to get lots and lots and lots of different stories. 

I mean, we may think we know what is going to happen if we try to launch a conversation about something that’s difficult. But if we know how to have these conversations in a loving, loving way, courageous but loving and skillful way, then we’ll discover that no one died. It was actually a really good conversation. 

In fact, I love this little tiny, short poem by Hafeez. He said, “It is all just a love contest, and I never lose. Now you have another good reason to spend time with me.” And that’s what I really want for the people who read the book. 

Another idea, Jessica, that just blew me away also came from a writer, a poet. A poet named David White, who is from Yorkshire, England. David was speaking at a conference I was attending. He said, “You know, the young man who’s newly married is often totally perplexed, even a little irritated that this lovely person to whom he has planted his trophy (that’s how they talk in England), and with hopes to spend the rest of a beautiful life insist on appearing before his face on a regular basis, wanting to talk to yet again about the same thing they talked about last weekend.” It always has something to do with the quality of the relationship. And he wonders why. 

Why do we have to have this conversation again? Could we just have one huge conversation about the relationship and then coast for a year or two? And apparently not because here she is again. David said, “Long about age 42.” And he smiled because he was 42 at the time and married. Long about age 42 if he has been paying attention. It dawns on him that this ongoing robust conversation that I have been having with my wife is not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship. 

Free Couple Holding Each Others Hands Stock Photo

“It’s not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship.”


And that I had just left my marriage. It had been a heartbreaking thing to do, a really difficult, difficult thing to do. I still was wrestling with why, why, why. That answered the question. My husband and I had not been able to have the conversations that we needed to have. And here I was so facile regarding conversations in the workplace, but I was avoiding them at home. 

One or both of us would get triggered if we even tried to start to talk about something, and somebody would storm out and say very unkind things, and it just unraveled. We hit a “suddenly.” At least, I did. We had to understand that you definitely can go for counseling. Somebody definitely should hopefully come to you, Jessica, or someone else who’s like you for help with this. 

But the best therapy is being truthful with their partner, really being truthful. It’s amazing how much fresh air enters a relationship when people tell the truth. It’s just that they don’t know how to tell the truth in a way that nurtures the relationship instead of harming it. 

Free Couple Smiling at Each Other Stock Photo

“It’s amazing how much fresh air enters a relationship when people tell the truth. It’s just that they don’t know how to tell the truth in a way that nurtures the relationship instead of harming it.”

Wow! Well, I’m just very touched that you’re willing to share that this has significant personal meaning for you and that you’ve lived this.

Well, you know what, Jessica, whenever somebody tells me, “I would love to give you some advice about relationships because my partner and I have never ever fought about anything. Our life has been absolutely perfect.” And I swear to you, my desire is just back slowly out of the room because I think you’re lying, or one or both of you have compromised to the point where you’re kind of dead on arrival. I mean, this is not an allied relationship. This is a flat wind relationship. And if you’re cool with that, then great, but that’s not what I want for myself.

Exactly. So well said. The real regarded research that happens out of the Gottman Institute, Dr. John Gottman.

Yeah. Well, he’s in my neck of the woods, you know. Yes, he is. Right. Yeah.

One of the things that have come out of that research is that every couple has about seven to eight irreconcilable differences, and these are not differences that like we go to court and try to reconcile. These are the introvert, the extrovert, the spender, and the saver. 

I love what you’re saying that there are many people that, early on, recognize where the safe zone is. They have certain limits and boundaries that they live within, and we don’t rock the boat. And you’re saying there’s so much more life beyond that comfort zone and the dynamic and what can get created in the intimacy when we do show up, and we are in this greater terrain, and what gets built when we work together and really speak with a loving honesty and the air that gets brought into the relationship that continues to expand.

That’s absolutely right. When I think about my relationships, and that, you know, I have the scars to prove that I’ve been in relationships, but I also have the joy, the wonderful things that come with relationships, and children and grandchildren and everything. But when I think about all of this, I realize, early in a relationship, like if you’re dating, let’s say, you’re asking each other a lot of questions. You’re really curious, and you’re listening to every subatomic particle that you have.

You are wanting to determine, “Is this a good match for me?” So, you’re listening, you’re curious, you’re hanging on each other’s words. You’re in that stage called limerence, where the beloved can do no wrong. And then, if a commitment is made, then we fall into the routine, and we plateau. The routine is, you know, we go to work, we come home. Somebody cooks dinner, and we clean up. Somebody walks the dog. If we have kids, let’s talk about the kids. We talk about the kids, we talk about some of this stuff that happened at work, and not much more. 

Free Two Men Sitting on the Grass and Being Affectionate Stock Photo

“We think we know all about our partners, and yet we don’t. There’s so much more to uncover about another human being, no matter how long we have been with them or how well we think we know them and vice versa.”

We think we know all about our partners, and yet we don’t. There’s so much more to uncover about another human being, no matter how long we have been with them or how well we think we know them and vice versa. And so, that interest, you know, we teach corporate clients all over the world of every kind of side, we teach them a coaching model. And the coaching model is one that I know you would appreciate very much as a coach yourself. 

It gets way past the surface-level stuff and asks a series of questions that help you, even the person who you’re asking, the person who’s answering the questions. It gives them insights that there’s no way they would have had if you were not asking these questions and really asking, and really listening, and not waiting to give your advice, you know, just asking and listening, pitching your tent on questions only for a really long time.

Precisely. I am resonating with what you’re describing. I think my husband’s a great teacher in this that I am much more verbal, and I’m a little bit quicker in my pace, and he is a little bit more in his body and slower. And sometimes, if I’m firing away at questions, I’m not really listening. And so, there’s this embodied listening of really tuning into him, and I pause, and I feel, and a question sometimes doesn’t come right away. 

And then, when I really get curious and stay focused and interested, some questions will emerge from a genuine place. It’s not just intellectual. It’s this more fully, and I asked questions that I wouldn’t have normally asked. And hearing things that I wouldn’t have. And what emerges in me and the understanding and the empathy is so much more rich than had I just gone about my normal kind of route.

Yes, and I know that you are really in tune with the emotions within a relationship and how important they are. And so, the coaching conversation asks four different times as a follow on to questions. Given what you’ve just described to me, what do you feel? 


And then if a person says frustrated, don’t just drop it there, say more about that, and just let them talk. Because, you know, if we don’t tap into emotions, if we don’t make ourselves and help other people become clear about, “I’ve got some heat about this. I do.” Then, it’s like putting somebody in a really cool hot rod with no gasoline. They’re going nowhere very slowly.

We need to name our emotions and explore them a little bit and talk about them out loud. It’s very, very helpful. That’s what gives the lit match something to ignite. Emotions are really important. That’s one of the things that we haven’t been taught to say. We’re taught to say things like, how does that make you feel? Which is, I think, excuse my French, a bullshit question because nobody makes me feel a certain way. It’s better to say, what do you feel, and then just say more about that.

What you’re describing is so beautiful and such a special gift that we either give ourselves through a conversation with a support person or even just with a journal in some form or fashion that so often we’re moving through our life in this repetitive way. And if we’re stopping to ask the question, at minimum four times, the layers that we’re going to access are so much deeper than the surface and moving on with that, is that right?

Absolutely right, Jessica. You and I were talking a little bit before you hit record. I was sharing with you that I just returned from my third visit to Kenya, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world. But one of the things that happen over there that just touches me every time I witness it is when two Maasai are out with their cattle, or their goats, whatever they have, and they’re out there, and they come across one another on a path, the first one to speak will say “Sawubona” which means I see you. And the response is “Sikhona,” which means I am here. And it’s as if until you see me, I do not exist. 

I think one of the greatest gifts we can give a partner, anybody in our lives who matters to us, is the purity of our attention so that they know that I see you. I see you, and I want to know more, say more. Tell me more. Hold your comments. Just ask. People can tell if somebody is really asking or not really asking. If you’re not really asking, I’m not going to really answer, right? I might do some kind of superficial response and call it good, and we’ll move on and pretend that something useful happened when it didn’t.

Precisely, and I love that you’re inviting what this looks like in authentic relating, especially when one person is holding space and seeing the other that that deep listening and what gets evoked from that space that keeps deepening. 

One thing that I would add is when that process is at play, sometimes those first layers like frustration or storytelling of how they’ve been offended or like all the grievances or projections. And when we ask still and what does that mean for you? Or tell me more about what’s happening? What are you feeling like? Then the deeper layers emerge, and the vulnerability starts to show.

Well, yes. One of the questions that we asked during the coaching model is, at one point in the conversation, before we move forward, begin to move to what life will be like for you and your company when this is resolved. Before we go there, we say, “Okay. What do you see has been your contribution to this issue?” 

Sometimes a person will go, “What do you mean?” I’ll say, “You know what I mean?” Where are your fingerprints? Your DNA got to be in here somewhere. I mean, first up. And they do, and then sometimes they’re going, “Oh, man, I know I shouldn’t have done that, or I should have done this, or whatever. Yeah, I see my part.” which makes it a lot easier for them to go forward and talk with other people because then they can say, “I blew it here. I see this. I’m sorry about that. I’m going to fix that.” Talk about fresh air entering the room, you know. So that’s one of the questions as a part of a coaching conversation is, where’s your DNA?

Yes! Likely those moves or the DNA or that fingerprint—I love that framing. And one can see and hold accountability. There’s more ownership. It probably is an indicator of why it is so meaningful, or maybe then the fear, right? You were talking earlier about how we’re not even maybe aware of how afraid we are, but when we are challenged that you’re talking about courage, and I’m also a big fan of Hendrix. And I mean, actually Gay and Katy Hendricks and the Hendricks too. And they talk about having a sweaty 10-minute conversation. I love that because it’s so real. 

I love that too. That’s very real. That’s awesome. The thing about fear that we don’t even acknowledge to ourselves is we tell ourselves things like, “Well, I know I need to talk with my partner about this, but the timing isn’t right. I need to wait for the right timing when he/she is in the right mood, and the sun, moon, and stars are in the right position, the right music is in the background, that whole thing. And we wait, and we wait, and that doesn’t really happen. 

But the thing is, when you have a partner who is really, really, really, really uncomfortable having these conversations and says, “I don’t want to talk about it. I am not going to talk about it.” Then one of the things people have learned to say is, “What we are not talking about could be killing us.” because you have to get somebody’s attention. 

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“These things we are not talking about could be killing us.”

You want to do it in a soft way. You want to do it in a loving way and truthful way. These things we are not talking about could be killing us. Really, it’s important that we talk about them. “I care about you so much. I care about us. I care about myself. I care about our family. I care about our dog. I care about this whole scenario, and it’s too precious to skip over some really important conversations that have our names on them.” I know you know that, and I know you’re worried that this will wreck the weekend. It won’t. It will not. It’ll just provide clarity for both of us and a better understanding. 

There are eight conversations in the Fierce Love in the book. And each chapter about those conversations starts with a true story illustrating how this particular conversation might be useful. And then how to have the conversation with very easy sort of guidelines. People will use their own words. Not that I’ve provided words to use if you’re not sure but use your own words. But the thing is, a fierce conversation always accomplishes four things.

It interrogates reality, which is really important because no plan, including the plan for a marriage or a relationship, no plan survives its collision with reality. And reality has an irritating habit of changing, which can complicate our fantasies about how things are going to go. So, we need to interrogate reality. What is our reality? Yours, mine, ours. 

Provoke learning. Right? For both of us. So, it’s never about, “Well, I’m going to tell you the truth about so and so, and you’re going to buy it.” It’s not that at all. Here’s what it looks like from where I sit. What’s going on from where you sit? And then, it’s going to allow us to tackle and resolve our toughest challenges. 

And finally, and very importantly, it is going to enrich the relationship. Because if it does the first three, but it harms the relationship, it is not a fierce conversation, and it will not be successful. There’s nothing to celebrate there. There’s nothing to feel good about. So it’s very important that we keep that in mind. I want to enrich our relationship, not attack it, not tear it down. I want to enrich it. I’m hoping you do too. So, let’s talk about x.

I’m really grateful that you’re pointing this out because to even confront a conversation with a beloved, it’s holding a mirror to the long game. And while this might feel easier to just avoid, there’s real merit to doing this. And so much so that the costs of not doing it are great. 

In what you’re describing in these four ways to have the conversation, perhaps give some container and some orientation or guiding light that allows for creating more safety and more kindness. Because you’ve talked a little bit, you’ve said a few times about having love be a part of these dialogues. And so often, maybe we aren’t intending on that or aren’t super conscientious of that? 

Yeah, and sometimes it’s hard to get in touch with the love. 

True! Very true. 

We can be so upset, angry, sad, scared, whatever, that it’s hard for us to get in touch with the fact that I love this person, or at least I did love this person. I mean, love doesn’t make itself. We make it, but we fail to make it, or we unmake it one conversation at a time. 

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“Love doesn’t make itself. We make it, but we fail to make it, or we unmake it one conversation at a time.”

And so, you know, even if I’m really upset, it’s okay to say to someone, “I’m really angry right now.” But the tone of voice matters a great deal. I’m not screaming. I’m not yelling. I’m not hurling accusations. I’m not frothing at the mouth. I’m just saying I’m really angry. I’m really hurt. What you just said or what you just did was extremely hurtful to me. Can we talk about that? What’s going on with you? What’s happening?

I totally agree with you. I can just say for myself using these four indicators or intentions can help me gauge if I’m actually available because there might be times when I’m so upset. I want to be right, or I want to feel validated, and I’m not. 

Walk away. Walk away.

But it’s not like if I really run it through my intelligence system, like am I willing to confront reality? Mine, yours, ours. Am I really in the interest of learning? Am I really in a position to want to work with you and overcome? That is a very different goal than, “I’m upset, and I want you to hear it and, like, validate it.” Right? Yeah. So, I think that that does do a lot to cultivate that kindness and that safety. Would you agree?

I would agree completely. I have a slightly different take on the issue of safety than a lot of people do.

Yeah, tell me.

They’ll say, “I need a safe place to have this conversation.” My thought is, and I’ll share this with people. I think you are your safe place. Or not. I mean, if you’re waiting for someone else to make it “safe” for you, you could be postponing a conversation that really needs to take place. You just have to decide I’m a safe place. I’m a safe place for this other person. I’m a safe place for myself. I have a way to have this particular conversation that I am excited about that I think will go really well.

Free Man in Pink Suit Kissing Woman in Brown Coat Stock Photo

“You are your safe place. Or not. If you’re waiting for someone else to make it “safe” for you, you could be postponing a conversation that really needs to take place.”

And if I might add, I can set limits and boundaries if I feel attacked or name called, or like something or somebody coming towards me that I don’t feel safe in the environment that I have some choice and I can walk away.

Or I can say something like, “Let’s hit the pause button. I need you to find a different way to talk with me.” You know, just that. Because the thing is, we get what we tolerate. 

Yes. Yes. 

And we teach people how to treat us. 


Free A Family Buying Groceries in a Supermarket Stock Photo

“We get what we tolerate, and we teach people how to treat us.”

So, if I’m tolerating something that doesn’t feel good over and over and over again, then I have trained my partner that he or she can get away with that, so I have to learn to say, “Hey, wait. Stop. I don’t like what just happened. I don’t like it. What’s happening with you?” 

And put it back to them. “What’s happening with you?” Instead of going to rah-rah, you know. What’s going on with you? This sort of comes into the heart where we make up stories about other people, and we behave as if our stories are true. Most of the time, they’re not. 

And so, it’s very important to learn to say, “Hey, this just happened. You just did this. You just said that. Can you tell me what’s going on?” Rather than launching into “How could you do that?” You know, I mean, “Can you tell me what’s going on?” Because now it’s their opportunity to say maybe, “I’m sorry, I’m just upset. I’m angry. I need to cool down, and or you’re right.” or they blow up, blow up, blow up, whatever. And then you can always say, “Okay, let’s stop and let’s reschedule because we’re going to have the conversation. It’s very, very important, and clearly, now is not the right time for you.” 

Absolutely. And you know, the way that you’re even delivering this here right now, it sounds as if you are still connected. You are my love. Like, we’re in this. You’re my person. We have the goal of working together and having these tough conversations rather than, “Oh, you just had a tone, or you just stepped on my toe. Now I have to defend myself and be a little bit armored up.” 

It’s very different if we can catch it sooner to be able to hold some light. Meaning, identify it. Name it. And if the person can respond, really check in there. I will say I remember this stopped me in my tracks. This was years ago. My husband was like, “I’m not.” What did he say? “I’m not enjoying the way you’re talking to me?” And I was like, “Oh, no.” 

But that was good feedback.

It was great feedback because, well, I can get excited. I can get a little pointed. And then, if it’s heated, right, that is not at all my intention. That really brought me to a place of, like, “Oh, okay.” And so, it was helpful for me to hear that.

You just made me think. I had a very similar experience, Jessica, where I used to think if I’m too strong for some people, that’s their problem. And it took a while before I recognized that I was the constant in everything. That no, I was my problem, you know. And people would say. What you’re saying is absolutely right on. Your delivery can sometimes leave a bit to be desired. I just was in denial about that for a long time until I recognized, you know what, they’re absolutely right. 

There’s a charge in my voice because I’m so passionate about things, and it can come across as this. I don’t know what, something scary. But I don’t mean it at all. You have to be aware. And that doesn’t mean that we soften our voices and soften ourselves to the point where we’re like this big old marshmallow. But we do need to understand that our tone of voice and the volume and the velocity, to your point, does affect people differently.

This is really helpful. I have a lot of men that are high in their field that I coach individually. And sometimes, it seems as though it’s like I have to state the obvious. Like, I love you, and I’m thinking about you, and I see you. But sometimes there’s the tendency to go towards problem-solving, or just like without doing the work around like I see you and I care. I want to help. That doesn’t get stated. So, I think what you’re describing is not molding ourselves into something else but to be able to acknowledge there is passion, that there is regard for the relationship. And sometimes, I’ll just say for myself. I can get a little overzealous. And this isn’t stated. It’s there. It’s kind of just assumed. But for someone who’s listening, I might not feel so reassured if I’m really direct or really strong. 

And you know, the goal of our approach to coaching, which is in Fierce Love as a way, is that if somebody has a problem to solve, or whatever it is, how about if my goal is not to give them advice? What if my goal is to help them come up with at least the next most powerful step they need to take because it’s that self-generated insight? If I ask questions where they suddenly go, “Oh, boy. Okay. I know what I need to do.” I mean, that’s gold for me. 

The same thing with our partners. I mean, all the jokes about how men want to solve the problem. And the woman says, “I just want you to listen to me.” Back and forth and back and forth. But it really goes both ways. Just listen and ask me questions that will help me clarify for myself. What is going on? What is at the core of this, and what do I need to do about it? So, yeah.

Incredibly powerful. 

Can I tell you one true story?

I would love to hear a story. 

Okay. Before the book gets into the eight conversations that are so helpful, it busts five myths about love that I believe mislead and derail us. I shared with you earlier that I have a tree house on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington State, my happy place. A couple visited me there years ago, and we were sitting out on the deck of the tree house, having a glass of wine and some nibbles. 

I hadn’t seen them in a couple of years. And so, they were telling me what’s going on in their lives and their careers and their kids. I just felt like something was missing. I said, “Okay, what aren’t you sharing with me?” It got really quiet. And the husband sort of, I almost watched him become smaller beside her. 


She eventually said, “Well, he had an affair. It was heartbreaking. It was terrible. We almost didn’t make it. But he ended the affair, and we made it, and we’re good.” And then Jessica, she said, “We believe in unconditional love.” She looked at him, and she said, “Darling, there is absolutely nothing you could ever do that would cause me to leave you.” 

I shocked all three of us by jumping out of my chair and saying, “Take that back. Take that back. You have just given your husband permission to have a dozen affairs if he wants to.” And I turned to him, and I said, “I’m not suggesting that is your plan at all.” You right now have carte blanche. I mean, “You can do anything you want to.”

I said, “Don’t you value yourself more than that?” Don’t you realize that each person in a relationship has conditions that are very important for them to want to stay in this relationship to be extremely happy in this relationship? Not just okay, but extremely happy. There are certain conditions that need to be in place. 

One of the conversations in Fierce Love helps people sort of getting to the bottom of what are my conditions. But I mean, it’s not the little stuff. It’s not like, “I really wish you pick your socks up off the floor.” It’s not that kind of stuff. It’s the big stuff that, if that is missing, I will feel it. It won’t be good. 

Free Woman in Yellow Sweater Holding Black Smartphone Stock Photo

“I think we buy-in to these myths about romantic love that do not serve us. That causes some people to end up operating from the back bedroom of their lives when they’re missing the fact that there is a living room and a highway out front.”

And so, for both partners to do that and to say, “Here are my conditions.” and to be really clear about that. So, I think we buy into these myths about romantic love that do not serve us, and that causes some people to end up operating from the back bedroom of their lives when they’re missing the fact that there is a living room and a highway out front. They’re missing it altogether because they had compromised and accommodated and compromised and accommodated and accommodated and accommodated to the point where they don’t even remember who they were when they were young, and all of the possibilities seem so vast.

Right. So not only you said earlier that their relationship could be flatlined. You’re also saying as an individual that we can be flatlined when we compromise and give over. How I often kind of understood what’s at play sometimes is the essence of love, and the love emotion is unlimited. And relationally, the relationship that we co-create together is not just love. That’s a lot of other things. They hope that that relationship and the way that we can both feel healthy, and we can feel that it’s a win for us, and for this to work, there are a lot of conditions. There are a lot of things to be mindful of.

And it’s very easy to say I don’t want this relationship and think that it’s all because of this other person. When really, it’s because your life isn’t working for you. You have made decisions and choices along the way that have left you not feeling terrific about your life. You are not loved. Not only are you not loving your life, you’re not loving yourself in your life. This is about you, and you’ve got to clean that up before you can even begin to answer the question, do I want this relationship with someone else? That’s in Fierce Love 2.

I’m smirking because I really feel that it might sound confrontational to some listening, and there’s so much wisdom that you’re bringing and the fire and the passion that this is necessary. We do need a wake-up call that if we’re asleep at the wheel or we’re trying to accommodate, there are huge consequences to losing ourselves to being flatlined individually and being flatlined in a relationship. And so, there’s this wake-up that you’re really inviting and calling people into that. Yes, these courageous conversations/honest conversations are hard, but they are what breathe life into us individually and into our relationships.

There are two things that I want to build on. One is that sometimes one of the most wonderful conversations I can have with someone is to let them know specifically what it is that I really love and appreciate about them. So, we’re used to saying, “Love you, honey.” “Love you, too.” as somebody comes in or out of the door, or whatever. That’s fine, but that doesn’t really land in the same way.

In fact, one of my daughters did this with her husband. She said to him, “I watched you helping the girls with your homework, and the way you were with them was so patient and so kind and so powerful. I don’t know how in the world you learned how to be such a wonderful dad, but you are, and I love that about you.” I mean, he levitated right off the bat. 

Right. Right. 

Because that’s better than “Nice job.” “Thanks.” 

It’s specific. Yes. 

Yes. It’s specific. I think sometimes, understandably, people can think, “Well, a fierce conversation must be the kind of “Well, you tell me what you think of me.” And the horse I rode in on, it’s not at all. It’s simply a conversation in which we come out from behind ourselves into our conversations with one another. And tell the truth. Tell the truth. I mean, we’re real. We’re being real with one another. And people say, “Well, I’m real, but you know what, we’re not. Really, a lot.” 

I catch myself sometimes too. Okay, what I just said is not exactly what is going on with me, you know. So, these things are important. And there was another point, but I forgot what it was, so never mind.

Okay. Okay. I was going to ask you if there’s a second one. Well, Susan, there’s such richness and wealth here. I know you have your book, Fierce Love. I’ll make sure to have the link on today’s show notes. Is there anything that you want to encourage people to connect with or invite them to learn more about what you’re offering?

You bet. I mean, they could certainly go to And that is the website that’s focused on relationships, personal relationships. And then, if they wanted to know about the company, if they type in “fierce conversations,” it will come up. 

I love the work that we do because I really do believe what I shared with you right from the beginning, Jessica, is that our lives are succeeding or flatlining or failing one conversation at a time, but nobody taught us how to have these great conversations. It’s not that complicated at all. With just a few ideas, it’s like, wow, that changes everything. 

I was just doing a session on giving feedback with a very large company in the IT area. And they said, “Oh, my God, you completely shifted my perspective. That changes everything. I’m ready now to give feedback.” And not feeling like it’s going to be a difficult or scary or unpleasant conversation. And feedback can include, “You are awesome.” Yeah. “Yeah, keep doing more of what you’re doing. You are awesome.”

How exciting to be bringing people to what’s authentic and honest and helping them have the courage and know how to have these conversations constructively. I’m so excited. And I’m so grateful that you’ve shared with us here today. And is there anything else you want to say about what people could find on or Fierce Conversations? Is there anything you want to say about what people might find on either one of those websites? 

Well, they’ll find so much. So, so, so much. Our newest course is on resilience, which is a big deal. It’s all about our mental health and stress levels and everything. Believe me. Stress comes up because we aren’t having the conversations that we need to have. I mean, they’re linked. I could go on for days. We have to stop. And thank you so much, Jessica, for inviting me to spend this time with you. It’s been a pleasure. 


Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching