Posts Tagged: relationship conflict

If Relationships are a Dance, Here are 5 Essential Moves to Know

My husband took some friends and me dancing for my 40th birthday a while back. Any 80’s Material Girl will tell you that a party begins with the Pre-Party in the bathroom. Loud music, hot irons, nail polish, and 10 already-tried-on fashion fails littering the floor. Everything must be. Just. Right. Once I picked the dress, I called for backup from the baby sitter and my pre-teen daughters. Does this go together? Is this dress too tight? I swear it fit last year. Is it ok to wear these orthotics? No? Ok. Do I look, you know, old? Are panty hose in or out? I never know! What about my eye makeup? I’m going for smoky, does it look smoky? Or does it look like my crows feet are just choking? Hey, watch me do the Roger Rabbit- look! I still got it! Groan. Mom, go- you’re gonna be late! That night, we danced till my knees hurt, and then we danced some more.

Relationships are like that dance. We anticipate, we prepare, we get advice and then we dance. We pick our partner with hopes of reeling and laughing and closeness and love, and for a while, the dance is great. But as time goes on, and life’s demand’s increase, the dance gets harder. The steps become more complicated. More skill is required to maneuver the required steps.  We end up stepping all over each other’s toes with territorial ego and unchecked insecurities. We spin to the music, afraid our partner won’t actually catch us. We discover that other dance partners look better, stronger, safer. We compete and blame, and act a tough game. The dance floor becomes a boxing ring while each of us throw jabs and then hustle back to our corners. If the dance becomes too much of a struggle, we may leave the dance floor all together. Some of us think, “maybe I was never meant for dancing in the first place,” or “if I were a better dancer, my partner would love me,” or “If he were a better dancer, this would work.”

When we were children, our families were our first dance partners and our home was the dance floor. They showed us a certain way to dance, and that way became familiar to us. It may not have been loving, enjoyable, skilled or functional, but it was what we knew. Because we have imperfect families with imperfect parents, the dance got messy. Some of us even swore as youth, “I’ll never be like them when I grow up!”

As adults, however, we unwittingly attract the same kind of dance partners to our adult dance floor. They may not look the same or act the same, but they dance the same. They feel the same. We put ourselves in the same position we were always in, and we repeat the same messy dance that our parents taught us. Sometimes we turn into the very person we swore we never would. Sometimes we marry the type of person who most hurt us as children.

If you have been deeply wounded by the dance, I get it.  Maybe your childhood family system set you up for what looked like a mosh pit, not a dance floor. Maybe your family of origin looked like a middle school dance in the gym where the boys lined one side and the girls lined the other, and the “bad kids” were making out in the back. Maybe in your family, there was something wrong and weak about wanting closeness, so you had to get it in ways that seemed taboo. Or maybe your childhood family system was touch and go, hot and cold, unpredictable and chaotic. Families with addictions and mental illness can feel intensely bi-polar where love and war exist in the same breath. Whatever type of dance floor you learned your first steps, you can re-learn what you need to know for healthy, loving relationships today.

Start Dancing Well by answering these questions

  1. Recognize Your Dance Patterns: How did your family handle conflict, affection and communication? What negative habits have you brought from your family of origin to your current relationship? Do you avoid conflict or do you rush in with arguments? Are you afraid of intimacy or do you smother your partner? Recognize what you are doing to attract the wrong partner or to push good partners away.

  2. Recognize Your Partner’s Dance Patterns: If you have a partner, what family dance patterns did he/she learn growing up? What was his/her role in conflict? Rescuer, scapegoat, rebel, victim, abuser? How is your partner reacting to you in the dance?

  3. Own Your Broken Moves: You may have the moves like Jagger, but if the dance is broken, so are your moves. Look closely at your own contribution to the conflict in your relationship. Be careful and humble to own your broken part of the dance. Are you pushy, enabling, avoidant, passive, or checked out? Identify your part and seek real change

  4. Learn New Moves: You have the power to change yourself and start a new dance. You have the power to change the dynamics in your relationship for the better, even if you are the only one working on it. You are a learner and a doer, so give some attention to replacing ineffective dance moves with ones that really swing!

  5. Ask Your Partner to Dance Again: Once you have done the first four steps by making yourself emotionally healthy, it is time to offer a hand to your partner. Invite him/her to experience the safety, intimacy and joy of dancing with a healthy partner. Even though it’s hard to start again, take the first step by offering forgiveness, grace and friendship. You got this. Maybe you find that the dance is over, and you find yourself dancing alone with no partner in sight. Don’t worry, there are many others doing the same thing. It’s called Line Dancing, and it’s very fun!

You are a treasure and a delight, and you were made to dance. As far as it’s up to you, be the best dancer you can be. Be proud of the hard work you’ve accomplished to change negative patterns. Congratulate yourself on what you’ve accomplished so far in your emotional and spiritual growth. And Dance.

What Resilient People Do to Cope with Relationship Shock

“I know this is hard for you to hear. It’s hard for me to say. But it’s time for me to make this decision. I want out…”


“I’m just not in love with you anymore…”


“There’s someone else…”


“I’m sorry to tell you this, but he’s gone. He died this morning…”

Words like this coming from someone close to you are devastating. One moment, you’re life is predictable, and the next you are reeling through time and space without direction or an end in sight. Last week we talked about the Relationship Shock Wave that comes out of no where and turns your world upside down. 

A Relationship Shock Wave like secret financial debt, secret affairs, secret sexual abuse, or unexpected death can put you in a child-ego state of powerlessness. You may feel as powerless, small and confused as a child. But the truth of the matter, is that you are an Adult. You are strong, and smart and capable. This Relationship Shock Wave may put you into your child-ego state of helplessness, but you don’t have to stay there. Here is a helpful comparison.

Child Ego State

  • Compulsive and reactive – “Have to” language 
  • Your fate is controlled by others
  • You’re only as important as the bigger people say  
  •  You know insufficiency, lack, and emotional poverty    
  • You don’t know enough to affect real change  
  • You don’t have enough to change my circumstances   
  • You’re not big enough for people to listen to me or take me seriously.

You may have a “flooding” experience when a Relationship Shock Wave occurs. The shock reminds your body and unconscious of something you’ve been through before like a trauma, abuse, abandonment, upheaval. The body feelings and trauma feelings come back in a wave and overwhelm you. The Relationship Shock puts you in a younger, powerless ego state and you feel helpless. This is normal to feel this way at first, but don’t let the flooding  stage debilitate you.

The truth of the matter is you are not that little person any more. You are a big person now, with big person power. You have choices today that you didn’t have back then. You have experience and capabilities and resources that you didn’t have back then. You are stronger now. 

Let the Truth of the matter pull you back to reality- the reality of your adult ego.

Adult Ego State

  • You accept Personal Choice and Responsibility  
  • You use “Want to” language instead of “have to” language
  • You destiny is up to you  
  • You’re as important as YOU say you are
  • You believe in abundance, sufficiency, and emotional health  
  • You know enough of what you need to know, and you will know what you need to know, when you need to know it  
  • You have enough of what you need for now, and you’ll have enough when you need it next
  • You’re big (smart, pretty, resourceful, skilled) enough for the task that’s required of you right now.

Everyone gets stuck in feelings from the past, and there is nothing like a Relationship Shock Wave to trigger flooding. However, resilient people, like yourself, work hard to enter back into their strong adult ego state. You’ve done hard things before, and you can do hard things again.

The Truth of the Matter is that this time around, you know you’re not alone. 

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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