The Dance of Married Life
A few years ago, we added a dance class to our relationship course. After our couples worked hard and learned the emotional and communication tools to grow their partnership, we wanted them to have fun. Fun is important in a relationship, and dancing is fun. Nothing gets women more excited than the prospect of going out dancing. Why? Because it is romantic. It is sensuous. It is musical. It involves dressing up. Most men are less excited about it in the beginning, but they enjoy their wives’ enthusiasm.
Our plan for fun is purposeful. On the fifth night of our course, we meet at a dance studio. We want our couples to know and experience that partnership dancing, particularly the style that we practice (international standard ballroom), incorporates many of the principles they have been learning in our course. Ballroom dancing is intricate and beautiful, and requires physical collaboration and individual competence, along with a high level of communication. We find the parallels between ballroom dancing and the communication skills we teach so remarkable that we include it even for people who would probably never pursue dancing seriously.
Why? The similarity of dancing and marriage is unmistakable and powerful. We all want beautiful and harmonious relationships in which we glide through life artfully, enjoying the moment with our partner. Ballroom dance partners work strenuously to create a beautiful form and passionate feeling. Partners make mechanical adjustments continuously to improve the flow of their dance, much like marital partners need to make behavioral changes to make life flow smoother between them. In addition, dance coaches help dance partners reach their goal of constantly improving their dance, just like we help our couples reach their goal of constantly improving their marriages.
It takes years to dance beautifully, much like the growth of a good marital partnership goes on forever. Your marriage is like a dance, and you are dance partners dancing through life. When you find a situation or step uncomfortable, you respectfully inform your partner about it, and examine the step to see if it could be smoother and more pleasant. That is how dance partners work with each other, and that is essentially what we are teaching in this book. You want to improve your dancing, not criticize your partner, which is why mutual respect is so effective. If you are learning a difficult step, seek out a marriage counselor, just like a professional dancer would seek out a dance coach. Most difficulties in a marriage can be resolved with the tools we teach.