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The Dance of Desires, Wishes and Dreams – Who is Supposed to Lead?

The parallel between marriage and ballroom dancing has been drawn many times. So, I probably can’t add much. Except for the fact that I may declare here and now that whatever “they” have said is probably true—how you are on the dance floor is how you are in life.


Husband and I took about six months of ballroom dancing – learning the foxtrot, the waltz, swing, nightclub 2 step. (Tango was out given how much we struggled with the simple foxtrot.)


During that six months, Husband was vindicated in more ways than he could count. But, then again, so was I.

For one, I am terrible at following (which basically tracks with the rest of the time). He knew he married an independent woman. But, independence is not rewarded on the dance floor. Following is rewarded.

In most ballroom dancing, men are in charge. Women are to be led. And, as our teacher said, if he stops, you stop. You don’t do anything until he tells you to, all with his hand and sometimes the placement of his hips – which, by the way, I’m not supposed to watch. I’m just supposed to somehow “feel it.”

My real job was to follow his hand, keep the frame (the space between us), and maintain “tone” in my outstretched arm. (So much for all that Pilates. Five minutes of that and my arm was screaming at me.)

Most of the time, it turned out Husband wasn’t interested in leading me anywhere (which also basically tracks with the rest of the time). He’d rather I just follow without him having to do anything. Or, just do whatever I want to do. But, this does not work on the dance floor. He must command.

(Additional trouble included the fact it took us four lessons before I realized the hand I was supposed to be following was the one on my back – not the one at the end of my screaming outstretched arm. And, while following his supposedly ever-present hand on my shoulder blade was hard enough, Husband’s hand kept falling down to my waist, which meant now my torso was attempting to chase said hand around the dance floor. We looked like two ostriches attempting to mate.)

This lead-follow technique is an interesting concept around daily life. If you are a late bloomer bride – married for the first time over age 40 – you have led your own life for a long time. You would have never gotten in the dance otherwise. But, now married, learning when to lead and when to follow can be confusing. For instance, when you want something in your life – and it’s something you wished for, for a very, very long time, who is supposed to take the lead on the wish fulfillment?

I was recently told by someone that I “oversold” the fact I wanted a dog. And, this meant I wouldn’t get it. In an attempt to answer Husband’s question – “what do you want for Christmas?” — apparently the fact I was honest – and honest often – meant I was being too something. Maybe I was trying to lead when I should have been following?


Yet, all the advice I’ve received about discussing your desires include

1.       You are to be honest at all times,

2.       Drop the manipulation,

3.       Don’t expect your spouse to be a mind reader, and

4.       Men don’t do subtle. You must be direct.


In other words, lead them. But, maybe there is a “just lead them enough” clause that I missed in the marriage contract? Or, are there some dances you’ll never get to dance with your spouse no matter what? So, it doesn’t matter who leads or follows? Just sign me “wanting to learn, but so confused.”




























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