Want to jumpstart your tired romance? Why don't you try ballroom dancing?
When you take your partner in your arms and move to the music, you may rediscover some of the chemistry that brought you together in the beginning.
And, if you choose to try this approach to entertainment and exercise for couples, you'll also be expressing a metaphor for relationship health and pleasure.
What the heck is he talking about, you ask?
Well, I'll explain later, after I talk about dancing. Then you'll get it, I'm sure.
Dancing is one of two activities a man and a woman can do together that involves coordinated physical motion. You know what the other is, I think.
Anyway, to do it right, you have to cooperate, be sensitive to each other and communicate, nonverbally. You can talk if you want to, but you don't have to. You're listening to the music, feeling it, allowing it to guide you.
At the same time, it takes some discipline.
First, you have to learn the steps and practice them. This takes a little concentration, some dedication and focused effort, at least in the beginning.
Ballroom dancing is a sport. It can be as athletic as you want it to be, or it can be gentle, calm and romantic. In either case, you have to master the basics to get the full enjoyment.
Once you've begun to learn (and the beginning is truly the hard part,) it becomes practically effortless. The combination of music, motion and an attractive partner in your arms can transport you to the portals of ecstasy.
In the ballroom, the man and the woman both have a role to play. The man leads, the woman follows. It's clear, specific and immutable. That's just the way it's done. The man decides where to go and how to get there. He does it in a way that is gentle and sensitive, but firm and decisive. Elegance is a goal but, in the beginning, rhythm, fluidity and fun are enough.
The woman must read the man's body, moving with harmony, graceful acquiescence and sympathetic attention.
A woman dances better when the man has a strong lead, but not too strong. This frees her to express her natural femininity and to flow with the music and the dance itself. A woman can dance with her eyes closed if she trusts the man's lead.
Some women have told me that they feel "free" when they are in the total, trusting control of a man who has the moves, a man they trust.
There is a sense in which feminity, in order to be fully expressed, requires relaxation; the sort of tranquility that only comes when trust is total, so that control can be abandoned and effortless bliss can take over. This seems to be the fun part of dancing for women. Of course, I've never done it and I suspect, few men have.
Well, maybe a few male dance instructors have experienced being well led and know how to relax and follow.
Argentine tango, in its infancy, was danced almost entirely by men in Buenos Aires, including the follower role. In fact, in Argentine tango they still refer to the roles as leader and follower rather than man and woman, even though a woman is almost always the follower these days.
In the old days, there just weren't enough women to go around as was true in most pioneering situations. So the men danced with each other. Then they'd go out into the alley and fight.
Generally, men never learn how to follow all that well. This despite the obvious fact that many never learn how to lead, either. I guess it's a pride thing. Women, however, often learn how to lead and can do it pretty well. In many dancing situations there aren't enough men to go around so some women fill the role. I think most of them would rather be dancing in the arms of a good male leader, though.
In life, as in dancing, some women know how to lead. Just like men though, some do it better and like it more than others. And, of course, there are many men who allow themselves to be led, some gracefully, some not so. I think, however, that men feel better about themselves when they are leading.
The thing about leading, though, is that it's not so easy and definitely not as relaxing as following. You have to know where you're going and be prepared to decide what you'll do when you get there. You have to keep your eyes open, not closed, and watch out for danger (accidents happen), keep the rhythm and continually maintain the trust of the follower.
This is done by being sensitive to her feelings. Is she having a good time? Is she content with the direction, the rhythm, the steps? One can only lead well if the follower is willing. You want to be decisive, but not pushy. People don't like to be jerked around. And they have to believe in your integrity and competence. It's a subtle art.
Once it's mastered, though, you're in a position to greatly please a woman. And that has its rewards, as we all know.
Ballroom dancing is a metaphor for loving, sensual harmony. The roles are traditional and a bit old-fashioned. But both men and women enjoy the traditional roles in dancing. The music, motion and physical closeness don't hurt either.
Couples need to have things they can do and enjoy together. The whole business is quite romantic. If you could use some more of that in your life, give it a try.
Hugh R. Leavell has been a marriage and family therapist in Palm Beach County for 18 years. He offers free seminars on couples communication and conflict management. Call him at (561) 471-0067 or visit his Web site www.oneminutetherapist.com.