The Dance of Differences

The Dance of Differences

“what was it, Adelle? What was it you liked about us?”

“I liked the way we danced.”  Bagger Vance.

The Dance of Differences

We all grow up learning our own steps to the dance.

At first, the dance seems so elegant as we move and sway through the initial romantic fireworks. We can anticipate each other’s moves and can almost finish their sentences for them. We,

“know them so well, and we’re so much in love.”

It isn’t long though before we start seeing fireworks of another kind. Differences start showing up we couldn’t see before, while still under the influence of the romantic “fairy-dust” of new love.

The dance we knew the steps to before starts fading, and instead of an “elegant swirl,” the dance is feeling awkward as we work hard not to “step on each other’s toes,” or trip over our feet.

When the Music Fades . . .

How could anything that felt so good, with no friction, start feeling like this?

Dennis Rainey in Rekindling the Romance, states,

“New love is 90 percent unsustainable. Why? We tend to date and mate based upon an illusion. It’s only after we are married that life has a chance to peel back the layers that mask the tarnished reality.

Love may be blind— for a while—but marriage quickly produces 20-20 vision.”[1]

This was the case for Linda and me. It’s incredible how many differences show up. You know so little about each other’s personality, let alone preferences, like, and dislikes, or needs. You feel more and more alien, and uneasy as time goes on. You feel pressured to “do something” about it.

Unrenewed Music

The natural tendency when we’re in disillusioned love is to create a new song. We engineer a plan that will make it better. It goes like this,

“To be like me Lord, to be like me. . .

“All I ask, make them like me. . .”

Why do we do this?

Because we don’t understand yet what’s going on, and are believing the wrong things, bringing conflict and bad outcomes.

We’re trying to “make it feel better,” and our efforts are only feeling worse, leaving us more anxious as our partner withdraws when they feel our control.

Yes, we push each other away, then blame our partner for “how they’re acting.” We are believing the wrong things about “the steps to the dance.”

The Wrong Belief

If I can only change that difference bugging me, then we’ll be the same, have peace, and it will feel better.”

This lie will fuel the marriage with rejection, manipulation, and control. As soon as we start “engineering the dynamics,” by applying pressure to change them, say goodbye to romance and freedom. We start releasing toxins into our dynamics. We feel each other’s disapproval.

The Right Belief

“These differences are here on purpose. They are designed by God to make our love relationship better. I need to accept them and press into them.”

Love doesn’t demand its own way, or “sameness.” [2]

Throw Another Log on the Fire

I know it’s hard, but if you can view “a difference” as a new log to throw on the fire of intimacy, the better you’ll stay engaged in the process. You will have hope, and faith, knowing what’s going on. You can say to yourself,

I’m Just learning “new steps” to the dance that will dance me into “Happily Ever After.” This is no big deal, I’m not going to take myself, or us too seriously.”

Marriages fail because couples fail to learn the “new steps” to sustain their marriage through the adversity and conflict that awaits all marriages. These conflicts often surround differences, and the pressures applied to change them.

“Why can’t you just accept me for who I am?”

Reasons for failure are common, predictable, and can be mitigated with understanding. We don’t have to dance into potholes, but around them. You only need to learn the steps.

I think anyone who’s been married a few years can attest to this.

Again, Dennis, in Rekindling the Romance, says,

“For the first ten to twelve years, most couples, including Barbara and me, are primarily working through the relational baggage they lugged with them to the altar.”[3]

In the upcoming book Hope for Happily Ever After, (under construction,) we will talk about “The Art of Unpacking, and “When bags don’t fly free.” This “unpacking” is part of learning the new steps to our dance.

This dance is our healing journey together.

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Try to see the differences between you as potential “pools of intimacy,” and you’re invited to swim into them. Can you swim? Not at first, for sure, but anyone can learn.

It’s important to understand your core beliefs will drive your behavior.

Beliefs are the engines behind what you do and why. If wrong or faulty, they “fuel” you in wrong directions, creating distance, not intimacy.

You “do” what you believe will make the marriage better. Everybody does at first. These early beliefs are unrenewed and “wrong” when it comes to healthy relating and becoming one with another. If they don’t work, we must identify them and name them as wrong, lies, untrue.

Help me to Grow

Left to ourselves, at first, we are infants when it comes to oneness and emotional intimacy. We are “children,” in our thinking, and must “grow up,” into maturity.[4]

All our broken beliefs and issues ensure the train wreck we feel the marriage is having.

This is by design, and nothing is wrong. It takes faith to believe this, it feels so bad.

It’s not a train wreck, the cars are just being moved around. Reconstruction and growth often feel like a wreck, but it’s not.

Think of it as God doing some remodeling and taking down some walls. He’s hauling some stuff out to the dumpster that’s not needed anymore. What He’s creating will be beautiful and life giving.

Redemptive goals

If intimacy and connection are your goals, you’ll see things less selfishly, and go deeper with each other to know their heart, and the new steps to the dance, instead of manipulating them. We can agree to grow and hold these values in unity.

It’s good to check motives. Questions help;

What’s motivating me, or them?

Why am I pressuring them to change? Or they me?

“Is this about them, or me?”

“What need do I, you, have that’s not getting met?

“What would love do here?”

“What could my marriage be like if I made conscious choices to accept them the way they are?”

Engagement Questions

Pray together before working through these. Determine you are going to be safe and not defensive with each other. Give permission to be honest, so you can explore together. Give the truth, not what feels safe. Put on your swimsuits and jump in.

  1. Ask if your spouse feels accepted by you or manipulated. If they say “manipulated,” ask them to,

Tell me more about that.”

Ask as many questions as needed to get down to the dynamics. Swim deeper.

2. Before going to the other spouse, ask them, “What do you feel when I manipulate you?” Get down to the feeling.

3. What does that feeling make you do in relation to me? (want to change, or withdraw?) Why?

4. How can we repair that? What can I do? What would it look like for it to be different between us? How can you feel accepted and loved by me?

5. Repeat the above questions with the other spouse initiating.


Lord, Join us at the point of our differences. Help us accept the invitation to explore these together to find the pools of intimacy that await us. Help us surrender our need to control and follow you Jesus into the promised land of love and acceptance. Take the fear of honesty and vulnerability from our hearts as we’re made safe in your perfect love that casts out all fear. Let your wisdom lead us. Heal us, meet our needs in healthy ways. Give us a strategy. Amen XO

[1] Rekindling the Romance, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Pg. 184

[2] I Corinthians 13

[3] Ibid. Pg. 193

[4] I Corinthians 13:11, Ephesians 4:14,15

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