"Dancing" with DifferencesAug 16, 2021
By John Trent, Ph.D.
Recently, I gave my wife a birthday present that I knew she would love. If the truth be known, I’ve known for forty years of marriage that she’d love this present. But I didn’t want to give it to her. That’s because in some ways, I was still stuck back in Junior High when I made the decision… “I don’t dance.”
Of course, back in Junior High, I couldn’t actually get anyone to dance with me at the school dances in the gym, which was a major factor in my life-long (until now) decision that, “I don’t dance.” But as the years went by, my unwillingness to get out on a dance floor with my bride became more and more indefensible. Particularly with a wife who loves to dance.
So I finally broke down a few months ago, went to a local dance studio, bought the five lesson minimum package, and made my wife’s day (or rather made her four decades of marriage) with a dance lesson gift certificate. And guess what they taught us at our first lesson?
If it’s been a while since you were dancing, that’s two steps forwards. Two steps to the side. Two steps backwards. Two steps to the side. Just two steps – something even I could do – and in no time, I was moving Cindy around the dance floor and ready for Dancing with the Stars! (Or at least a dance somewhere in public.).
Which leads me to a “two-step” I've been teaching couples for several years that might be of help to you in your relationships, and as you help others. Don’t worry! I’m not asking you to put in a dance floor in your home. But I would suggest that there’s a “two step” way of dealing with “differences” that you can use to get up off your feet, onto the floor, and get moving together. And in the process, perhaps even getting into each other’s arms in a good way, and moving beyond some past decisions “not to dance” together.
To begin, I’ve seen time and again how “differences” have brought couples together in the first place. For example, you see a young woman say to herself when she first meets that special person, “He’s so strong and independent!” And a young man says, “She’s so caring and involved with others!” Often, they’re drawn to that missing side of themselves they see reflected in the lifestyle, personality or life-choices of the other – but then comes that subtle, powerful shift. From differences drawing this couple together (and onto the dance floor) those same differences start pushing them apart! (Back to “girls on one side of the room” and “boys on the other” just like at junior high dance). Let time go by in a relationship and that same woman can look at her husband now and say, “He’s so inflexible and aloof!” and he looks at her and thinks, “She’s too soft on the kids and spends way too much time with friends and her mother!”
Differences absolutely attract and they can absolutely become the basis for attacks as well. That was certainly true for Cindy and me. In fact, we are so different as people, we joke that the only thing we have in common is that we were both married on the same day! I’m right-handed. Cindy is left-handed. I’m a night person. Cindy’s a morning person. I’m more of a spender, she (thankfully) is more of a saver. It’s really important to Cindy that the toilet-paper go off the top of the roll… I just want it there! We started off drawn to those differences, but before long, it’s easy to retreat, struggle over who’s going to “take the lead,” and even end up sitting this dance out (emotionally) in some cases.
That’s where the “two step” comes in.
In the book of Revelation, we’re given a picture of a church who had walked off the floor when it came to loving Christ. Not that they hadn't been drawn to Him at first. In fact, we’re given a list of seven things they did right at first that really did have them “dancing with the star” (Jesus.). We’re told in Rev. 2:2-3, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” Seven’s a very important number when it comes to Scripture, and it’s a picture of how “sold out” this church was when it came to being fully engaged and “on the dance floor” with Christ.
But then there’s those six words that state where they’re sitting today – on the sidelines. Jesus, always full of truth, says of them, “You have left your first love.” It’s in the newness of love that we give ourselves fully, completely. That head over heels willingness to engage and that look at strengths as strengths – not as negatives.
So what’s the answer that Jesus gives to this wayward church? “Do the two step.” Or put in biblical wordage, “Therefore, remember from where you’ve fallen” (Remember when you were out on the dance floor with Me), and do the two-step, “Repent, and do the deeds you did at first.”
That problem and prescription that Jesus gave to the church at Ephesus can help churches, individuals and couples today. It’s a call to closeness and connection. To commitment and action. It is one step of “turning around” (repentance) and another of moving forward by getting back to doing “the deeds you did at first.” I actually go through this passage with couples in counseling, asking them to “Remember” from where they’ve fallen…” In other words, to remember the positive things when things were uplifting and moving forward in their relationship (Even if we have to go back to their courtship to find a time when they were “dancing” together and doing positive things and seeing positive traits in each other). Then I challenge them to make the decision to “turn around,” and finally, I literally map out with them what just “one” step forward would look like, if they were actually off their seats on the sidelines – and were once again in each other’s arms and moving forward. Those are all things I encourage you to do after reading this as well.
I think dance teachers know that with “both left-foot” people like me, that a simple “two step” can open up a world of dancing. I’ve seen it be true in marriage as well. It’s an invitation to get back on the dance floor with the Lover of our Souls, and our life-partner in marriage. To enjoy that closeness we were meant to experience, and to get back to doing those small things we did when things once were going well. It’s a way of dealing with “differences” with our own spouse – and helping other couples as well.
See you on the dance floor!
Dr. John Trent is a best-selling, award-winning author and speaker, of books like The Two Sides of Love, the Language of Love, and The Blessing (which has sold over 2 million copies). He is the President and Founder of StrongFamilies, a 501c3 he runs with his oldest daughter. StrongFamilies is dedicated to helping others end loneliness and create genuine attachment through The Blessing.