Marriage is a Dance

There is a country music song that says “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go” and this is very true — especially in marriage. Marriage really is a dance that is perfected over time. This is a great analogy that nearly everyone can relate to. We’ve all been to wedding receptions or other places where we see people dancing. Now, in Wisconsin at a wedding you will witness such glorious things as the Chicken Dance, Bunny Hop and polkas! But that isn’t the type of dancing I’m talking about.

What you need to watch is when the slow tempo songs are played and the couples get together. Look at the difference in how the older couples dance compared to the youngsters. The more mature couples dance beautifully as they glide around the floor in near to perfect rhythm with one another. They turn together in wonderful synchronicity and flow through the dance. You can tell they’ve been at this a while. These couples know the steps, they have it down.

Then look at the “newbies.” Unless they’ve taken ballroom dance lessons, you’ll see an entirely different picture. They throw their arms around each other and waddle back and forth like penguins. If they do try to really dance and actually follow steps, you’ll often observe an awkward display. She barking directions at him while they fight for the lead; he’s stepping on her feet and they are tripping over each other. Hopefully, they are laughing as they try to stay upright and not fall on the floor! They can’t come close to the way the older couples light up that dance floor.

Realize that this is the same in marriage. If you’ve been in it for 10 years or less, while that can seem like a long time, you are still young at this dance. It really takes a while to learn all the steps of marriage; to get in sync with your spouse; to be able to flow together like those couples who have been doing it for 20, 30, 40 plus years. Trust me, when those great dancers started out all those years ago, they weren’t cutting a rug like Fred and Ginger the way they can now. (If you aren’t a geezer, you probably don’t even know who Fred and Ginger even are!)

It is truly those who hang in and keep at it, even when the steps are tough, even when they trip and fall and stumble, that learn to dance so beautifully together. They perfect their dance and know just when the dips and turns come. They know how to move together in harmony. It works the same way in marriage.

Even late in life, when the inevitable effects of aging set in, when illness, surgeries, even dementia and such become a part of the routine… the dance continues. Couples still know the steps. He clears the table, she washes the dishes. He takes out the trash, she puts the new bag in. She starts the load in the washer, he puts it in the dryer. In these twilight years of life, couples have the dance of marriage worked out and can still move and flow together. But it took many years to reach that level of perfection; years of stumbling, grumbling, slips, trips, and falls.

Being good at anything takes time and it takes even more time when there are two of you. Keep practicing and working at the marriage dance with your spouse. And the next time you are at a wedding, draw some inspiration from those couples who are so effortlessly gliding across the floor. Grab your partner, hang on tight and don’t give up. As the song says:

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go!

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25 Responses to “Marriage is a Dance”

  1. Neil J. Murawski says:

    Mark, what a great analogy. My wife, Debbie of almost 29 years filed for divorce in Oct of 2007. Despite everything that I tried and suggested to her she was bound and determined to carry through with this course of action. There was no infidelity or substance abuse on either side. I have know Debbie for over 35 years. We have two wonderful young men for sons. Debbie came from a family of divorce. Her dad was divorced twice, her older sister is divorced, her younger brother was divorced twice. The word divorce was never in my families lexicon, I have two younger brothers and they are happily married for over 20 years. I was always proud of our marriage. Yes we did have our share of problems, but I was still proud after each year. I say that is a great analogy because my parents were married for over 56 years before my dad passed away, in Sept. 2007, one month before debbie filed, and they were great dancers ! Not only on the floor but in life.

    One son decided that he wanted to live with Debbie, the other son tried to live with her, now he is living with me. I am now a divorce facilitator at the Divorce Recovery Workshop through Ward Church in Northville Michigan. The one thing that I have learned is that divorce is the most selfish thing one person can do to another person.

    I appreciate your insights. I would marry her again, she is the mother of our children. She just could not see that we were just getting the dance steps perfected.

  2. Angie Barker says:

    Once again you are right on target. My husband had to go overseas twice – each time for 13 months. Had this situation occurred early on in our marriage, we probably wouldn’t have made it. I know that I wouldn’t have been nearly as supportive always worrying about how it was affecting me and our family instead of what he was going through. Because we had been married 12 years, we were able to see the big picture and concentrate more on the other person. After each deployment we were able to have a second honeymoon phase per se. It also helped us to realize how much we do love each other and caused us to be even closer than when we were actually in the honeymoon phase. I can truly say I feel closer to and love my husband more now than ever. We also have more respect for each other and don’t take our marriage for granted.

    PS
    We have watched your marriage videos and enjoyed them. I wish we would have seen them before we got married and in the early stages of our marriage….They would have helped us youngin’s immensely!

    Thanks for all that you do!

  3. Lydia Allison says:

    This is so true! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I have shared this with so many. After 24 years of marriage… I can relate!!!!
    Thanks.

  4. Ellen Ebert says:

    My husband and I took a Love and Respect class, and have also watched Tale of Two Brains, and loved it. Both say the woman wants love and the man wants respect. This is how I found out that I am really stuck with a woman’s brain after all. I asked my husband to please define what he considered signs of respect are. I wanted him to tell me his personal definition so that I could see if I was doing respectful things to/for him. I wanted to know if I was missing out on giving him the respect he values. He couldn’t answer me. So is repect a feeling or and action? I’m nice to him, I encourage him, I sit and look at him when he wants to talk to me, I help him when he asks for help, I keep the house and do laundry? Is there more? Do you have a ‘general’ man’s definition of respect that might help me out? Thank You for you help, Ellen

    • Suzette Drake says:

      Ellen, I am a woman who tries very hard to respect her man and while I don’t always succeed I am certain that I have learned (over the last 24 years) that respect is mostly about honoring his wishes, listening to what he says, giving him “say” and backing him up when he makes a stand. It’s also about what you DON’T do. Let me give you a couple examples.
      My hubby has always liked to have all his “stuff” in an area around his recliner in the front room. I’m talking about remotes, snacks, newspaper clippings, rubber bands, bits and pieces of all manner of boy things and Lord only knows what else. The clutter drove me nuts so I would try to corral it anyway I could by organizing it and putting it in jars and baskets and whatever else. I would make little suggestions about a shelving unit or something and the poor man would just ask me if I could just give him this space, his little corner and leave it alone? I mean, seriously — I could do whatever I wanted with the entire rest of the house — could he just have this small space that I could leave unmolested? It took me MANY years to understand that leaving that space alone demonstraed respect.
      I don’t know if you have children, but backing him up when he lays down a rule or disciplines a child is a BIG one. If Dad says “X” then “X” is what Mom should say too and if you disagree, talk with him about it in private. And if you’re going to question him about a decision, do it gently in a manner that says, “Help me understand why…” as opposed to something that will put him on the defensive, like, “Why did you do that?”
      The last example I would like to make was the hardest for me to “get” over the years. This is about two things actually and since I don’t know about your personality I don’t know if it applies to you, but I am a busy body, sometimes know-it-all who has a suggestion for everyting. Problem is, give a guy unsolicted suggetions and he thinks you are criticizing him. If I walked out to the garage and saw my husband working on some project I might just suggest, “Hey, I can get you a clamp for that if you want,” because it looked like he had his hands full. This might be perceived as disrespectful because to him it says, “She thinks I don’t know what I’m doing,” or, “Who asked you? What? You don’t think I can do anything right?”
      Lastly, but maybe most important is, PRAISE him (sincerely) for all you can. Thank him for every little thing. He carries a laundry basket up the stairs (even if you asked him to do it) and you say thank-you. Praise is respect, but it has to be sincere. He brings home his paycheck (or stub, if it’s direct deposit) and you say “I appreciate how hard you work for our family”.

      • Jodi says:

        Suzette, Why is this so hard for me to do. My husband and I have been married 11 years and have a 13mos old son. Ever since he was born we argue constantly. I have family saying I need to be on medication, I am not depressed I am mostly upset because I get angry at my husband or if my son is in a crabby mood and all he wants to do is whine I get upset but that usually goes away. But my anger towards my husband doesnt always go way. Please give me ideas to help this situation.

  5. Sue says:

    We’ve been married almost 40 years and he’s stopped dancing with me. He’s only been born-again for a little over a year….I can’t wait to be in step once again! PLEASE PRAY with me that GOD will teach us to glide!
    Everyone reading the above article….”PAY ATTENTION”….GOD IS GOOD.

    • Corinna Stonage says:

      I is not to late, find the DVD “iMarriage” by Andy Stanley. This will bring light to your marriage. It showed my husband and I that we are on the right path and helped us to understand more about a marriage. There were couples there that were married 30-40 years as well at the seminar.

      • Sue says:

        Thanks Corrina….just got Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage in the mail today and can’t wait to watch it with hubby soon…hopefully tonight and I will search for that DVD you mentioned…..imarriage.

  6. Corinna Stonage says:

    While my husband and I are married for the second time, the words spoken are so true. Unfortunately our first marriage did not work out. Everything that is said is a shared effect of a couple. We have been attending Marriage seminars at our church and as of this point we find that we are doing things right this time around. God is very much a big part of our life and right now I am going through an unexpected surgery and it is so wonderful to see how he has picked up the extra responsibilities that I am unable to do. It is very hard for me because I am so use to doing more but I have come to realized that is what a marriage is, shared responsibilities. Our last seminar iMarriage by Andy Stanley explained the giving aspect of a marriage.

  7. Sandie Lakner says:

    ‘The dance’ is such an important part of the marriage relationship. My husband and I were married in Ely, MN in July of 1960. We were young and our steps were erratic and we pulled apart and then fell back into each others arms many times. Today we are more a part of each other than ever before and our love is more precious than we could have ever imagined it would be. Last year I had emergency 5 way bipass surgery.
    This bought us even closer. God is good and he teaches us the steps gently……if we listen. Thank you for the words of ‘the dance’.

  8. Alise Smith says:

    My husband and I have been married for 17 years, and our anniversary was two days ago, we never celebrate it, in fact after Christmas comes and new years, we never remember until after a day or two has gone by..and I was reminded that it was our anniversary by my husband saying that we forgot it again, gave a peck and said one day we’ll celebrate. I do think that we could both do with some marriage tapes on Love and respect as we have gone through some very rough times, not infidelities but just difficult life stuff that I believe has us both lacking in those areas. Any DVD suggestions are welcomed and my husband agrees.

  9. Dotty Wilinski says:

    Hi Mark, I really liked the analogy you used. My spouse and I have been dancing for over 27 years and are even now in negotiations to restructure our dance steps. I have every confidence we will continue dancing for the rest of our lives. I also agree with one of your commenters that “…divorce is the most selfish thing one person can do to another.” I really wish people would seek out other alternatives before they go that route. Our young people are counting on us to show them the way. Let’s not let them down!

  10. Susan & Mel says:

    We will be celebrating 40 years of marriage in May. We have been taking dance lessons since ’97 when our two sons left the nest and now we teach it. Before then, we were like two butterflies in one cocoon; wrestling to learn how to be one, learning to be patient with each other, dealing with enormous health issues, constantly seeking God for guidance. When we started our dance lessons we finally began to understand how to lead and follow. A marriage cannot have 2 leaders! It was difficult for me to let him lead! Just like Mark said, “Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow, don’t worry about what you don’t know, life’s a dance and you learn as you go!” Dancing helped us burst out of our cocoon! We now enjoy the freedom of being one but still enjoy being the individuals God designed us to be. I love being who we have become. Thank you Mark, we try tell EVERYONE we know about your wonderful and very amusing ministry.

  11. Tracy says:

    We LOVE your article using dancing as a metaphor to marriage! We have used your video series to lead struggling couples to embrace their differences. We are ballroom dance teachers, Christians, married 20 years and growing. We have a program called ‘The Dance of Marriage’ where we use lessons to slide in the simple truths that make a marriage ‘flow’. Would love to connect with you in person at some point, which would be a thrill for us!

  12. Jennifer says:

    Does the dance get gradually sloppier before it starts getting better? Signed a discouraged wife.

  13. Deb says:

    Love the analogy, but I am afraid that even with 33 years of marriage we have become more accustomed to the line dance. We go through the steps in line with the expectations of others around us and without even making eye contact with the person we most want to dance with. And if we step out of line, we seem more concerned with whether others saw it. My husband and I have become very good at living independent lives together and doing exactly what others expect of us. If we were to choose a more personal dance, I would hope that we could relearn what it is like to move in the rythm of the one you love and never even notice when your toes have been stepped on, or whether anyone else was watching.

  14. david says:

    Thanks for this encouragement. Culture offers a variety of so called quick fixes but the reality is that marriage is a long journey that takes time to reap the rewards of the effort invested.

  15. Anna says:

    I live in South Africa and attended your seminar in Rema.

    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it and we were very inspired and will attend every year you are in South Africa.

    I will also tell every around me to attend.

    Keep going!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kind regards

    Anna

    • Karen Jordaan says:

      Hey!
      Mark is spot on as usual!
      I am an ex-South African, living in Canada. It was a South African couple we met here that introduced us to Mark with the DVD Seminar on “Tale of Two Brains”. Just fell in love with the way Mark handles marriage stuff!
      Have we known some of these years earlier . . . . the ride to our 23rd anniversary could have been smoother! But still love every day of it, won’t change it for the world.
      Two teenager later and we can say we survived the ride! Yes, had many bumps along the way, but I say stronger at the end.
      Keep up the good work, Mark!! And may the Lord bless and keep you for many years to come!!!

  16. Dora says:

    This is so true. My husband and I once went to a country dancing club and we are amazed at the older couples who not only danced well, but had some amazing dances that looked completely synchronized. This was early in our marriage and we were so inspired that we threw caution to the wind and just got on the dance floor and made complete fools of ourselves but we just laughed and laughed as we tripped over each other and tried to copy the older couples on the dance floor. After a few spins around the dance floor we were exhausted and out of breath and resigned ourselves to the sidelines and continued to watch the experienced dancers. After 15 years of marriage, we are still working on our “dance”.

  17. Eniko Krilek says:

    Mark, you’re right once again! Your words could have been my companion’s too. He always told me the same thing all the time.
    We live in a common-law marriage for more then 12 years and have 2 doughters. I never wanted to marry him, because I haven’t recognized the sense of it. I came from a family of divorces: my mother divorced twice, my grandmother divorced, my sister divorced. 3 years ago I firstly saw one of your videos and shew it to him as well. He was against every word of yours. As he haven’t ever understood my desires, your video was my last hope that he will understand me. I lost this hope, so I wanted to divorce. Then he changed and began to understand me. He does so ever since and our life begins to be the one where I feel comfortable too.
    I’m happy that we haven’t divorced and we are planning to be made one. We are still at the beginning of our dance and I’d like to bring it to perfection with him.
    I’m an atheist, but as you aren’t I say God bless you Mark for everything you are!

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