Recently I wrote about taking dance lessons, and about how that was part of the healing journey of learning to love my body. Learning to dance returned me to the joy of being in my body, it helped me feel graceful and flirty and sexy again.
As I look back on that time in my life, I realize that while learning to dance was indeed essential to healing my body image, it was essential to my marriage as well. Learning to dance changed me and my husband for the better—restoring things we didn’t even know were in need of restoration. Learning to dance brought us closer, strengthened our partnership, and helped us grow.
I remember our first night of classes. If we had gone into a room and the teaching team had said to us: “Couples, will the one who generally makes decisions, chooses the direction, and usually takes charge stand over there with the leads, and will the one who is largely content to follow, stand over there with the follows?” I would have gone to side of the room with the leads and Jeff would have gone to the side of the room with the follows.
But our teachers didn’t say that. They said, “Leads over here, Follows over there” and Jeff and I went to our gender-defined rather than to our temperament-defined roles. And it was one of the best things that ever happened to our relationship.
I had to learn to follow. I had to learn to wait for the next subtle, gentle invitation from my husband. I had to let go of knowing where we were going and what we were doing and what would come next.
Jeff had to learn to lead. He had to take charge of our dance, or else we would be stalled, lost. He had to plan, and he had to communicate clearly what he wanted me to do and where he wanted me to go.
Learning to dance changed everything.
We have been dancing for over 15 years now. And we have learned that the best dancers actually are the ones who have taken the time and put in the effort to learn how to lead and how to follow. It turns out that learning to lead make you a better follow, and learning to follow makes you a better lead.
In addition, the best dancers really see their partner, they dance with that one specific person, and because of that each dance they dance has its own unique beauty. In order to dance beautifully together, Jeff and I—buried as we were at the time in the day-to-day parenting of preschoolers—had to remember how to really see one another—not as roommates, not as parents, but as partners, co-conspirators, co-creators.
Dancing—like travelling—is a rich metaphor for life and for the married life in particular. As I reflect on it now, I understand that everything we learned on the dance floor not only made us better dancers, everything we learned on the dance floor made us better partners in the dance of life.
How glad I am we took a chance and learned to dance!