Dance Practice

Posted on December 7, 2020


Last week I attended a Zoom meeting for a friend’s ministry.  For an icebreaker, my friend asked us what was one good thing that happened for us as a result of the pandemic.  This was not intended to minimize the impact of the pandemic, but to notice where we still experience blessings in our lives in the midst of trial.  My answer to the question was that I started dancing with my wife every day.

My wife has talked for at least a decade about wanting to take dance lessons together.  At the start of last year, we finally started taking those lessons.  Though we achieved a certain basic proficiency at the dances we learned, we never got very good.  The main reason for that is that we never practiced at home.  Our dance instructor often had to teach us again the same thing she taught us the week before. 

Back in March when we first went into lockdown, I cleared out the dining room (we certainly weren’t going to use it for entertaining) and that became our dance floor at home.  Now when we learn a new step pattern, we practice it and get proficient at it by the next lesson.  There might be some things about how we dance the pattern that our instructor wants to correct, but she doesn’t have to teach us the same thing again from scratch.  Dancing With the Stars hasn’t called yet, but we feel pretty good with it. 

I was thinking about this as a metaphor for therapy. 

As I have written before (and as I always tell clients in our first session), my job is to work my way out of a job with each client.  When you can do for yourselves what I do for you in session, you don’t need me anymore.  That is as it should be. 

All couples have a dance that they do together.  Usually when they come into therapy, that dance is a pain cycle in which they are each trying to cope with their own distress while triggering their partner’s pain.  Couples don’t get broken so much as get stuck in a cycle in which they keep hurting each other.  Metaphorically speaking, they keep stepping on each other’s feet when they try to dance together.  After a while, it starts to feel like your partner is doing it on purpose just to hurt you.  The truth generally is that your mate is coping with their own pain.   

If we only have the one hour of therapy per week in which we are working on your dance, the process may be slow going.  If the couple is working on how they dance together (practicing their steps) all week long, the therapist can become the coach that helps with the fine tuning (rather than covering the same step patterns every week).  The couple develops a certain proficiency faster and finds themselves feeling more hopeful which further enhances their relationship satisfaction. 

Life is busy, but maybe we can clear out some space to practice how we dance together. 

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