**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand.**
I was madly, deeply, and truly in love with the man who would become the father of my now 26-year-old daughter. And so we got married, two months shy of my 22nd birthday.
At the time, we were both young, bright-eyed, and clueless about relationship-ing.
We got along fabulously, for the most part — until we didn’t.
He stopped talking whenever we hit a rough patch. But not me. My default conflict style was belligerent and downright nasty.
My voice would punch like Tyson in his prime as he grew silent. I jabbed him with my words as he clung to the corner of the ring, trying not to engage. But I was relentless, throwing blows until he conceded.
For years, I blamed him for the breakdown in our communication, and I convinced myself that his silence was the cause of our dissolution.
Deep down, I knew that wasn’t true.
We wrote our ending at the beginning. With the words we said and the ones we didn’t.
His silence. My megaphone. The shouting and the stonewalling. The talking around, instead of through our issues. My parents. His parents. We became what we saw, and we lived what we learned.
Thankfully, we divorced before our daughter was old enough to witness the harm we imposed upon each other. But she did not go unscathed, I’m afraid.
The path to self-awareness is raggedy, and the edges are frayed and moth-eaten. Other people hold the threadbare fibers together as we mend, heal, and restore ourselves to health. But all too often, those other people become the casualties of the pursuit of happiness.
My daughter got charred in the fray of my becoming.
And now, she nurses the wounds that her naive mother inadvertently inflicted.
The good news is, my journey gave her a head start, and she has had an eyewitness account of my evolution. And I am proud to say that my daughter’s communication game is TIGHT.
My girl can express the complexity of her thoughts and give language to her feelings in ways that I couldn’t even conceive at her age.
When we improve ourselves, we improve everyone willing in our orbit.
Learning to use my words as tools instead of weapons is gifting the next generation. My daughter does not have to struggle the same as me.
And this is why we do the work for ourselves and others.
When we know better, we do better.
Communication is an essential skill that most of us never learn.
I learned how to talk by watching the people around me talk at one another. So I grew up thinking that conversation and communication are the same things (which they are not).
After my marriage ended, I realized that I was an adult-size human, perceptively handicapped and struggling to have meaningful relationships. I also learned that when you can’t express yourself or listen to others, intimacy is impossible.
But once I understood what I doing and why I doing it, I was able to figure out how to do better.
Improving my communication and conflict resolution skills has helped me create and maintain healthy relationships. I now experience the kind of intimacy and fulfillment that I once thought was out of reach.
Originally published at https://medium.com.