If Relationships Were a Dance. Oh, perhaps they are....
“I don't want to hide. I want to slow dance with you again. I want to dance with you forever.”
― Sarah Black, Border Roads
Why is it we get on well with some people and not with others? How come some relationships are fulfilling and others not. How come some people we feel really connected and others we feel out of step with? Perhaps it is the way we dance with them?
How we learn to dance with each other developed really early on in life, within our earliest interactions. The way we move, keep rhythm and pace and intuitively understand the steps and sequences required with some people and feel out of step with others started with our very first relationship with mum. When we are really tiny, mum is our universe and we are at the centre of it. The simple mirroring between infant and mother is the very beginning of the dance. I smile, you smile – we compliment each other. I feel good, safe and secure, you feel good, happy and in love. These early interactions, where we have those early sensations of being connected then expands out to dad and other members of the family and family friends. Each of these interactions teaches us the right moves, expressions, motions. We might adapt to each individual in our universe so that we can get that sense of connectedness, of being seen, of knowing we exist. We learn pretty early on what brings pleasure to those around us and also what brings displeasure. As small children, we will really want to do all we can to encourage a smile, a hug, laughter, praise, and do all we can to avoid a scowl, disinterest, displeasure, or punishment. And so we learn to dance the best way we think we can. As we grow, the people with whom we need to dance expands eventually out into the wider circles such as pre-school, infant, school, etc etc. In these relationships we learn when we are OK and when we are Not OK. The child, in relationship is aware when they have got it wrong but may not be aware of others ‘ complex emotions or that the displeasure is not always to do with them. What they will be aware of is what it feels like to be in a dance with the people around them, how they make connection with another, how it feels for them to be there and how it feels for them when it ends. This will be their dance.
All dances are made up of a sequence of steps or movements, exercised purposefully even if, in the case of a well learned dance, unconsciously. In order for a person to dance their dance though, they tend to need a partner to dance along with them. People tend to naturally find a partner who will dance in a similar fashion to them, match their steps, even if this dance is a series of mis-steps. It’s the same with friends. Again, using dance – if your friends all go formal dances and you prefer an 80’s disco then you may find that you don’t quite feel you fit in or they don’t ‘get you’, but if you all enjoy a bit of boot scootin’ as well as disco then you will probably all get on just fine. How we learn to dance does depend on the family environment we have come from. With parents that are good enough we may feel pretty confident in ourselves – a relative OK-ness, and manage life with normal insecurities and neuroses. However, in an environment where the parents didn’t get it right for us then we learn a different dance. A dance that may be based on power, or hurt, or pain. Connection might be made by feeling hurt or even hurting another for example. And so we will find dance partners who repeat that for us and who we can repeat their dance with.
So, the idea of the dance is it’s learned in early childhood and it’s here we ‘do’ relationships – how we interact. As we only know our own dance it’s important we find others who will dance in a similar fashion to us and we may modify our dance but essentially we will find others who do a version of the Waltz and struggle with someone who wishes to do a Polka. What our dance partners say and do to us is imporant and impacts how we feel and if we don’t believe we don’t dance well we may fear looking for new dance partners. Equally we may intentionally step on a partners toes if we feel we are not getting our expected or desired response. We need to choose our dance partners well, be willing to adjust our stye if necessary and also to know when they are not the right partners for us. We must also have faith that there are always people who are willing to dance with us. (even if it is the Funky Chicken!)