While definitely not a television fanatic, I can’t help occasionally getting caught up in the drama of who is going to win the various singing and dancing contests. Do you root for the clear champion, or do you pull for the underdog?
What most interests me, however, is not the actual performance, but the behind-the-scenes activity. The partners engage in inevitable squabbling as they learn to read each other’s cues, memorizing the rigorous dance steps. Or, the hours of memorizing song lines and rhythms as they work with an accompanying band or orchestra, perfecting each performance.
Of course I relate most things to my work as an Emotional Dance Instructor. “Emotional dancing,” as I label it, involves every bit of preparation and focus as ballroom dancing. Learning to read your mate, talk their language and pick up on emotional cues, is every bit as challenging as the work of the stars.
“I just can’t talk ‘chick,’” Douglas said sarcastically, looking over at his forlorn wife, Amy. “I don’t get her and I’m not sure she gets me. I’m never going to learn this language, and if I don’t she’ll always be mad at me.”
“It’s not that tough,” Amy said with obvious exasperation. “Tune into me. Pay as much attention to me as you do your beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. You know each of their names, the plays and everyone in your football fantasy league.”
This stopped Douglas in his tracks. What could he possibly say to that criticism?
“Where your treasures are, there will your heart be also,” Scripture says, referring to the fact that we all have emotional energy we make choices about. What are your treasures? Where is your heart? Where does your marriage or primary relationship rank when it comes to emotional energy?
Consider again the backstage of the “Dancing With the Stars” set. Consider the rigorous work they put into learning each move, anticipating their partner’s steps and movements.
“Do it again,” the Instructor barks. “No, try it this way. Move a little slower here. Move your arms higher there. We have to be really connected with each other. Anticipate one another’s moves.”
Seemingly endless instruction and practice leading up to The Performance creates excellence. What if we put this kind of energy into dancing with our mate? Could we learn to smoothly connect with him / her? I think so.
What needs to occur for us to be stars on our own emotional dance floor? What will it take to have our mate look at us and see us as a Star? (You’d like that, wouldn’t you?)
First, be honest with yourself about your priorities. Have you really decided to be a Star to your mate? Have you made the decision to be the best emotional dancer you can be? It all begins with a decision. Becoming a Star doesn’t just happen. There are hours and hours of preparation behind the scenes leading up to the actual performance.
Second, learn all you can about Emotional Dancing. Emotional dancing — the art of truly connecting to your mate — won’t occur by osmosis. You will need to read books, listen to audio recordings and most likely be under the direction of an Emotional Dance Instructor (counselor). It is not “practice makes perfect,” but perfect practice makes perfect. Developing excellence as an emotional dancer means dedication to perfection.
Third, learn together. While we all need our individual instruction, emotional dancing involves learning as much as you can about both your own emotional moves and those of your mate. Emotional dancing involves learning “where, why and how” you step on your mate’s toes. It involves talking these things over, understanding fully that your process needs change. It involves learning what brings a big smile to your mate’s face.
Fourth, practice, practice, practice. Again, not just practice, but perfect practice. Offer feedback to each other about what you appreciate and want to be replicated, and what is hurtful that you want to be eliminated from your relationship. Have specific, measurable goals. Acknowledge to each other where you are in this growth process.
Finally, celebrate growth and positive change. You won’t learn emotional dancing in one lesson. You must stick with it, celebrating every positive movement toward your desired goals. Champion each other, offering praise liberally. Stick with it through the moments of discouragement, leading to the times of real connection.
I’d like to hear from you. Are you ready to focus on emotional dancing with your Star? Change doesn’t come naturally but can come with focused attention.
Please read more about these issues in my book, “When Pleasing Others is Hurting You” and explore more about my Marriage Intensives and Wildfire Marriage Interventions at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.