At the meeting last night a lady shared about how little communication there is with her husband. She said that since he got sober, he didn't talk. She said that talking about their children, their finances, and his sobriety were off limits.
Probably the saddest part that she related was that in going out for dinner at a restaurant, they would sit in silence with the only words spoken being those of the server. They've been married 42 years.
Sadly, I've watched people in restaurants where there was no communication. They sit and eat their meal without even glancing at each other. Or worse, they exchange a look of boredom or anger.
I know that scenario well. During the early days of my wife's sobriety, there wasn't much to say. We were both so angry that communication had a hard edge to it, if there was much to say at all.
My way of communicating with the alcoholic was a pattern that lingered on past its usefulness. Before I learned how to take care of myself, I would either keep quiet, or agree to something just to avoid conflict. And sometimes I would actually try to pick a fight when the resentment boiled over.
What I've since come to understand is that communication depends not so much by what I say but how I say it. The tone of my voice and my facial expression can either open up or slam the door. It's easy to communicate anger without taking responsibility for it. What's hard is to say how I feel with courtesy.
It's helpful that I have a program in which I've learned better ways to communicate what I need. I've learned to not force communication with someone but to listen and appreciate silence. The question of "when will she open up?" has been replaced with "Why do I so desperately need her to?" My happiness isn't based on another so I've learned that not every silence means lack of love or unhappiness.
In order to have communication, I have to allow those that I love to take their time. Maybe all I need to do is reach out my hand or say a simple "I love you." And sometimes I can just be still.