Joe and I have been taking dance lessons for a year and a half. We performed at the Star of the Night Showcase again last Saturday. Watching the video of our Rumba and Cha Cha, it wasn’t difficult to conclude that we had made tremendous progress. We were much more confident and at ease with each other. Our connections with the audience also deepened. Over the course of the last 18 months, we have got to know the instructors, made friends with the fellow students and even become acquainted with some of their friends who’ve frequented the dance show.

Making a marriage work in many ways resembles learning to dance with your partner. In the beginning, couples have to figure out roles and responsibilities. In dance, it’s clear – man leads and woman follows. In a relationship, often times both are determined to drive. I frequently disapproved of the way Joe led – his moves were too sudden and signals unclear. Getting tired of my criticisms, Joe demanded that I just follow. We ended up stepping on each other and staring daggers at each other.

Then we practiced, practiced and practiced some more and slowly but surely got better. There were days when I wanted to dance but Joe was too tired, and other times when he started sweating like crazy only after twenty minutes of practice. Sometimes a complicated move could take us weeks to get it right. I often commented it was effortless for me to do that move with our instructor and therefore Joe’s steps must have been flawed. Interestingly, Joe said the same thing.

After about 9 months and a couple of Star of the Night performances, we reached a plateau and there was a desire to quit. More than once I wondered how much better I could be with a more sophisticated dance partner. I felt limited. Earlier this year, Joe hurt his leg right before the Star of the Night showcase. So I had to perform with our instructor Peggy. Surprisingly, Peggy and I also had to work hard to get the routine to flow gracefully and flawlessly. Judging from the video, I wasn’t that much better. Granted, the turns were smoother, but the hip and arm movements were all mine. For the first time, I realized that leading looked far easier than it actually was.

For some reason we didn’t quit. Maybe it was our loyalty to Peggy, or maybe we actually liked dancing with each other a little. Dancing together creates another way for the two of us to connect. As we dance, our eyes meet (I often see sparkles dancing in Joe’s eyes when our gaze converges), our bodies are closer and we can feel each other breathing. Dancing has made us more confident as a couple. Most importantly it requires us to work together as a team. We need to pay attention to each other and communicate both verbally and non-verbally. I no longer demand that Joe replicate everything that Peggy does. Instead I try to modify my moves so that we can look good together. We’ve learned not to expect perfection, but to enjoy each other and appreciate the improvement we’ve made as a team.

Real couples get stuck, want to quit or refuse to change because it’s never our fault. I think dancing has taught us to find ways jointly to get unstuck, to be flexible, to have fun and celebrate small successes along the way. On top of that, a successful and rewarding marriage takes lots of hard work. So don’t quit before you find out how good you can be together.

“Holding, touching and moving to the music is the most romantic skill any couple can add to their lives.”
- Arthur Murray

Image credit: Chris Reid