Posted by: Dennie | August 25, 2013

The Art of Communication

I attended a wedding last weekend. The official who married the couple mentioned the need for communication in their relationship.

The brief reference was hugely disproportionate to what I believe is the foundation of a relationship.

Inadequate and ineffective communication often leads to the demise of a relationship.

I know. It was the major cause of the failure of my first marriage.

Growing up, my parents frequently told my sister and me that communication was the most important factor in a marriage.  They would talk at night while my mother prepared dinner,  and usually shoo us out of the area. If we were within earshot, we could hear the conversation revolving around their day at work and their encounters with co-workers.

That was the extent of my understanding about communication.

When I married the first time, I imitated what I had learned growing up. My husband and I talked about our jobs. Like my parents, we both worked for the same company and discussing work was a natural topic.

After we had children and I became a stay at home mom, the kids became the topic of conversation.

But right from the beginning of our marriage, I recall being unable to express my opinion, my feelings and my needs.

There were times when I was angry, but was afraid to express it, fearing reprisal. Other times, if I did attempt to voice my feelings, I was met with resistance,  received very little validation and/or was told I “shouldn’t feel that way.”

I didn’t understand that I was allowed to have and express feelings of anger, discontent, frustration, unhappiness, or any other variety of emotions. I didn’t know that not only was it okay to have and express those feelings, it was also okay if the other person did not agree with them. The other person being my first husband, a co-worker, a parent, sibling or friend.

So I learned to keep any negative feelings to myself.

This was not a behavior that developed during the marriage, but something that began during childhood, intensifying as I grew older.

I had never been taught effective communication.

I was certainly  told of its’ importance.  But I never received any guidance as to how to communicate.

I didn’t have a clue.

In my mid-thirties, I joined Toastmasters, looking to improve my communication skills. But Toastmasters didn’t help me with what I needed most to understand.

My feelings.

A few years later,  lonely and lost and desperate, I stumbled across a newspaper article on a marriage help program.  Retrouvaille, French for “rediscovery,” is a program for couples in troubled marriages. It is based on communication and provides the tools necessary for a healthy marriage.

It took some time, but I convinced my husband to attend the weekend away. It was the first experience I had with gut level communication, and it was frightening. But I left that weekend with renewed hope that we would be able to save our marriage.

We didn’t. Marriage, as my parents also intoned, involves hard work. Lots of it. And while we tried for a few months to use the tools we were given at Retrouvaille, we eventually fell back into our old habits and our marriage ultimately failed.

It was when I began to get sober and met my second husband that I came to realize the degree of deficiency with which I was able to communicate.

It was totally substandard.

It has taken me years to understand my feelings and get over my fear of revealing them to anyone. My current husband and I have done a tremendous amount of work in this area, and I can honestly and gratefully say that it has paid enormous benefits.

I’ve come to know that until I understand myself, I cannot make myself understood to anyone else.

It’s an art and skill that requires patience, practice and perseverance.

But it’s worth the effort.


  1. I feel such a kinship with you. I was not allowed to show anything but happiness so I’ve kept the darkness/sadness to myself. Now that I want to share and release those memories/feelings/wounds, I am met with resistence in my real life. So I’ve begun blogging so that I can freely share my feelings/experiences in order to perhaps allow others to feel they are not alone ~ and to know that I am not alone. It requires courage to feel feelings. I am so proud of you ~ so blessed to have connected with you.

    • I feel the same way about you…amazing how this stuff brings us together….

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