About twenty years ago, when we were newly-weds, Harriet Lerner’s books, The Dance of Intimacy and The Dance of Anger were recommended to us.
Essentially–it’s been a while since I read them–the books view relationships as a dance. The longer you are in a relationship, the more it becomes automatic and conditioned. A: says/does; B responds in anger or pique. Which gives A what s/he was looking for if s/he is passive-aggressive.
B is having a bad day. Says/does what is guaranteed to push A’s buttons. A obligingly reacts as expected.
A dance. It gets nowhere. Spinning round and round the dance floor in circles.
The good news is that it takes two to tango. Two to continue in an unsatisfying, unproductive dance.
And either one can just change the steps.
* * *
Since Roy took early retirement last year to run our family business, we’ve been together a lot. Not in the same house, but in the same property. (We had presciently bought a property with a self-contained ensuite granny apartment in the garden, which is now my study.)
And so working on our relationship is becoming more important.
I am slowing down in various ways; one positive way is that I have begun to interrogate the way I act and react rather than responding instinctively. Begun to slow down, and ask myself why I am feeling the way I am.
I am realizing that I do not need to react in the way I always used to–instinctively, from the gut. That I can step back, take counsel with the Lord, and determine what the best thing to say and do is. That I can change the steps of the dance.
It’s an amazing realization for me–that at any time we can change habitual ways of reacting that might have become so engrained that we think of them as our personality or character.
That in Christ, we are free to change at any time of our lives.