Love is a Dance

Dr Sue Johnson is a renowned therapist and specialist in attachment theory. For more articles, visit:

There are only so many dances in a love relationship. The happier we are, the more fluid and varied the dance with our partner is. We feel safe together so we improvise and play.

But do you notice that, when we fight, the dance is always the same? It is narrow – small – not many moves. We feel like we have no options. The negative pattern takes over the relationship.

Luckily, we all get stuck in the same places, so we can chart how lovers miss each other. We know that once you learn to SEE the moves, the dance, the pattern, and see how it plays out, you can chart a way out. The best way is to recognize the vulnerable emotions that shape each person’s steps. Here is familiar stuck place.

Him: Lets make love.

Her: Well, I haven’t been feeling that close – connected.

Him: (Rejected) So now, I guess, we have to talk about feelings ad nauseam. (Long silence) …

Her: Well – we can have sex if you want, if you are going to be all huffy about it.  

Him: No – I am not interested in going through the motions.

Her: (Rejected) Oh, so now I offered and you are turning me down –out of spite.  We are so out of sync here.

Him: We are always out of sync. Why can’t you just respond when I reach for you?

Now both stare at the ceiling in frozen silence. Both feel unseen and dismissed.

Mutual hurt and triggers protective responses, but protection becomes a prison.

If you can change the lens and see the dance, not get totally caught up in your own vulnerability or anger, you can acknowledge your mutual vulnerability and change the music.

Him: Wait a minute. This is that thing where we both feel rejected – we miss each other. I feel kind of rejected here and like I failed.  Do you feel rejected too? 

Now a whole new conversation opens up. New safer moves are suddenly possible. Both partners help each other with their softer feelings and everything feels safer. Simple. But difficult if you are not used to looking at the dance – the pattern between you.

You have to step back and see the dance or you are both married to ‘The Rejecter’ and that is a world of pain.

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