June 24, 2014
“ Guys. How do you get your girl back when you are separated?”
“ Go to therapy!” I blurted out. Everyone in the class laughed. Many of them know what I do for a living.
“That’s probably a good idea. But in ballroom dancing, how do you get your girl back?”
The teacher turned to face the entire line of men. He shrugged his shoulders, cocked his head, begging for someone to answer. Silence. And then he just raised his left arm into dance position, elbow bent, arm in an L.
“And what does the girl do when she sees you raise your arm, inviting her back into a closed position with you?”
Swiveling on his heels, he turned and faced the line of girls. As if on cue, we all put our left arm straight out at shoulder height and stepped forward.
“Yes. You have to expose your left side and step forward so he can reach around you and pull you in to position. If you keep your arm down at your side, he can’t get you back in position. Good. Try again. Girls, don’t reject the invitation.”
I love it when life dance imitates life. Vulnerability. There’s just no way around it. Usually someone has to go first. In ballroom dancing, it’s the guy. He has to lead, to say, “Come here.” Or “Go this way, please,” or “Let’s start this step again.” In real life, statistics say it is more often the feminine energy in a relationship that says, “Come back. I miss you. Let’s try again.” Women are often the barometers in relationships. They are taking the temperature of things. Is it too cool? Hot enough? Are we close enough? Too close?
Although it matters a lot when you are dancing, I don’t really think it matters who goes first in real life. In fact, I think it’s best when that responsibility is shared. No one wants to always go first, to always be the one who says “I’m sorry” first or who reaches out every time the distance is too far. It’s hard to make oneself repeatedly vulnerable. Yet, it is important to the relationship for distance to be noticed. For hurts to not be ignored. For too busy schedules to be reined in and priority given to what’s most important. Both people need to be responsible for staying connected and for making time for the other. Both have to be willing to offer an invitation and both have to be open to accepting invitations. John Gottman, in his book The Relationship Cure, calls these invitations “bids for connection”. Are you going to make a bid? Accept a bid? This is the currency of healthy relationships.
Class is almost over. We are practicing the cha-cha tonight. I forgot to bring my hands in to the center of our posture so my husband could find them without having to look. It’s not the first time I have forgotten to do this. He stepped back. Sighed. “Sorry,” I said, and wrinkled up my nose, hoping I looked cute and he would laugh. He didn’t laugh. But he did raise his left arm into an L. I stretched mine out at shoulder height, stepped forward, slipped my right hand into his left, and after he reached around me and pulled me into position, we started again.
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