When I was in college, I took a couple of dance classes so I could learn some of the basics of the more popular types of dance—and to improve my chances of meeting girls. As it turned out, dance proved to be quite difficult for me; I often found myself stepping on my partner’s toes, worrying about if my hands and feet were placed right and embarrassed by my excessively sweaty palms. Needless to say, I did not meet my future wife in dance class!
Relationships are like a dance
What I did learn though is that relationships are like a dance. In a dance, there is the initial greeting and introduction, positions are taken on the dance floor with hands and feet in specific positions and then the music starts. Similarly, in a relationship, two people from completely different backgrounds come together and eventually form a pair. They get to know one another and over time begin to understand where each person stands in relation to the other. And then the music of the relationship starts.
Emotions are the music in the dance
Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT, teaches that emotion is the music in the dance of adult intimacy. She explains that all people have a small number of basic universal emotions that we experience throughout life, regardless of culture or background. Anger, fear, surprise, joy, shame, hurt, and sadness are emotions we all experience. We often experience these emotions most fiercely with those we are closest to, particularly in a relationship. As the “music” in the dance, these emotions direct how we respond to each other.
In the relational dance of adult intimacy, we often stumble over each other, step on toes, and push and pull each other in contrary directions. In a real dance, this can be amusing or embarrassing—in the dance of real relationships however, these actions can be hurtful and damaging. Because all of us desire safe and close connections with those we love most, when the dance starts to go awry, we often fear the worst. This can cause a fight/flight reaction in us, bringing out deeply felt emotions. The emotions might show up as anger in one partner, who then exhibits the “fight” response. This in turn may cause the other partner to “flee” for safety and cause him or her to put up a wall of defense in the process. In these types of situations, emotions run high and things can quickly escalate out of control. In desperation, the angry partner pursues the other with even more effort, which in turn causes the other to further withdraw. The dance quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
Change the Music = Change the Dance in your Relationship
In order to change the dance, couples need to learn how to change the music — the emotions that are driving them to respond in negative ways. As couples recognize their vicious cycles, and learn how to address their deeply felt emotional needs in safe, connecting ways, they can stop the cycle and begin a new dance; one that brings closeness, strength, fun, and hope. Let us help you change the music in your relationship so that your dance can be a smoother and healthier one for you and your partner.
One thought on “Learning to Dance in your Marriage”
I have been looking for great articles about marriage and yours just struck me. I hope I can share your thoughts to my family and friends. Thanks!