Whether or not you can or like to dance, dancing together is a perfect metaphor for the many interactions that occur in a relationship.
Ask yourself the following questions about your relationship: Do you do the dance of relationship to enjoy and connect with your partner or just to look good in front of other people? If you’ve ever seen the Australian comedy “Strictly Ballroom,” you can clearly see the difference between the dancers with an authentic connection and those who are trying to impress the crowds with flashy smiles, choreographed moves and peacock-feathered outfits.
Are you dancing WITH your partner or just dancing nearby, hardly ever looking at him or her? Are you critical or embarrassed of your partner’s moves? Are you more concerned with your own clumsiness than with having a good time together? When one of you makes a mistake, do you move on light-heartedly, or do you crucify your partner with an angry look?
The question at the heart of this metaphor is “How can two autonomous people desiring love and intimacy sustain their passion without becoming controlling, needy, bored, or reactive?”
The “dance” in the relationship remains most sustainable when the partners do not dance in lockstep nor in their own separate worlds.
Some dancers are lost without a partner who leads or follows as expected. They are incapable of being alone and independent, and as a result, try to control the other through heavy-handedness or critical looks. Similar “symptoms” develop in a relationship. Rather than simply adapting when their partner tries something new or independent, partners afraid of autonomy tend to react with anger, humiliation, or embarrassment.
On the other hand, partners who are focused primarily on themselves and remain excessively separate may never make a true connection at all.
When we dance together we embrace a paradox—we connect with our partner while honoring each person’s individuality and letting mild miss-steps slide. It’s the same in relationships, not just romantic ones. We have to embrace the paradox of responding considerately to our partner while honoring the music within ourselves.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD