There are many kinds of dancing, but perhaps the most fascinating of all is the dance of relationship. Especially when a couple has been together for a long time or a friendship is long standing, a “dance” pattern can emerge and keep things from growing in a new direction.
If the nature of the dance is pursue and distance, one partner will, to the frustration of the other, withdraw and seem to keep out of emotional closeness. Humor is one way of distancing and keeping things from being taken seriously. The harder the pursuer tries to draw the distancer in, the more the distancer avoids. When a distancer has had a pattern of emotional suffocation somewhere in the past, more intimacy may seem like a threat. The pursuer may have had an experience of abandonment, which fuels the desire to merge.
Some dances are about abuse and victimization. One partner may accept bad treatment from another because of low self esteem and a deep fear of “rocking the boat” (which is already on the verge of capsizing). The abuser makes up in his or her mind that the person on the end of the abuse somehow deserves bad treatment and thereby rationalizes their behavior and further entrenches the pattern.
A dance of finding value in self only when “saving” another person perpetuates a pattern of fostering dependence in a partner so that the other can feel “strong.” This pattern is similar to the co-dependence and addiction dance.
Seeing a pattern that is causing pain and dysfunction in a relationship is the first step in deciding to change the dance. It only takes one partner to change the dance, but it takes both partners to decide to explore better ways of relating to one another. Couple’s therapy can be helpful in this process.