The Relationship Dance
Sometimes relationships can start out like a book or movie with intrigue, romance, lust, and novelty. The thing about books and movies is they always have a beginning, middle, and end. The story is expected to have some dramatic transition that affects the outcome in some way. The characters then resolve the issue and go on living normally, if not happily. However, when you’re in a committed relationship, you experience many transitions and there is no end. You have a continuous string of moments together. I like to think of the moments as dances. Sometimes the dance is the waltz, where you glide along smoothly, moving close together, smiling. Sometimes the dance is the tango – full of passion, ups and downs, pushes and pulls. Sometimes the dance is the cha-cha and you take steps forward and backward. The interesting thing about viewing moments in a relationship like dances is that for the dance to work, each person must anticipate their partner’s moves. The pair have practiced it so many times that they know how the other person will respond. The partners influence each other so that when one missteps, the other is affected. When one leads, the other follows. Successful dance partners keep practicing with the goal of togetherness in mind and the emotion behind the dance conveys this goal. Similarly, satisfied couples respond in ways that keep them moving together because they have a fondness for each other.
It is easier and makes more sense to maintain togetherness, even during arguments, when you have fondness and admiration for your partner. You remember that even though you aren’t getting along in the moment, you still want to be with the person and will turn toward him or her instead of away. Having this basic foundation is key to building a lasting relationship. In therapy, I address this with my clients by first assessing where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Then, I invite couples to participate in activities that help them build fondness and respect for one another. Turning toward and having fondness and admiration are key themes of Gottman Method Couples Therapy, a research-based model.
By viewing your relationship in terms of a dance that takes practice, you are opening yourself up to emotional growth, new possibilities, and new-found joys with your partner that have been waiting to be expressed. Although you may be out of sync on some days, the music keeps playing, creating new opportunities to try again.
Ilianna Luna is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Owner and Director of Happy Home Therapeutic Services, a private practice center in Plantation, FL. Ilianna enjoys helping people see their lives in new ways with new possibilities.