Synchrony Through Balance and Understanding
Fairly quickly into our second lesson, we experienced an unspoken breakthrough—a transition from awkward clumsiness, frustration, and stepping on one another’s toes, to a more graceful, fluid dance that left us feeling connected and refreshed on a deeper level, long after we left class that day.
There is no doubt that there were other contributing factors to this “breakthrough,” which I will explore later on. However, when we took the time to mindfully explore both roles, we strengthened both our understanding of and respect for our partner’s world and experiences. In short, we each felt heard and respected, which strengthened our connection.
I think we can probably all agree that it feels good to have someone take the time to listen and to seek to understand you—to pursue the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual knowledge of what it is like to be in your shoes. And to not only seek to understand you, but to also take this knowledge of who you really are into account when making decisions.
This type of balanced relationship is what we were striving for on the dance floor, and what we seek out on a daily basis in our relationship.
While my husband and I were committed to the idea of an egalitarian and balanced marriage from the beginning, our definition has certainly evolved. For a while, my understanding of an equal marriage meant that everything needed to be perfectly “fair” and that we needed to consult one another for every single decision.
We would now say that a balanced, egalitarian relationship is one that strives first to understand your partner, and then to act with your partner’s best interest in mind.
This kind of balance and consideration for one another allows you each to feel heard and respected, deepening the synchrony and connection between the two of you.
Leading with Your Partner’s Best Interests in Mind
I am not inherently opposed to my husband taking the “lead” at times. In actuality, I rather enjoy it when my partner takes the lead, whether we are dancing or when he pays the bills or makes dinner without consulting with me first.
It is wonderful to take breaks from decision making and to follow my husband with confidence that he will lead me well.
This works because I feel heard and respected by him. It works because we take the time throughout our weeks to know one another’s inner worlds, or “Love Maps” as Drs. Julie and John Gottman call it.
My husband knows that I need a few minutes alone to wind down after work. He knows that I care about my health and nutrition, but that surprised me with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will make me smile.
He knows that when I feel out of sorts, it always helps me feel better to go for a run and to jump into a cold body of water. And he definitely knows how much I love to be spun and swung around on the dance floor.
On the other hand, he is not opposed to me taking the lead, nor does he feel that his masculinity is threatened when I take on a leadership role in our relationship. This works, again, because I lead with his best interests in mind, operating out of the values we have established as a couple and as individuals.
We both make mistakes, and we do not always lead or follow perfectly. However, we are both committed to having a balanced relationship, and we strive to understand, love, and respect one another better and better every day.
We recognize that this commitment to cultivating a healthy relationship takes practice and what better way to practice than by dancing?
This article was originally published on The Gottman Relationship Blog.
By Hannah Eaton