It was a rare weekend evening out without the baby. I was looking forward to trying a new restaurant, but I was even more eager to connect with my husband. Our current work arrangements have us spending much of our time together in our home, but even so, it sometimes seems that our conversations have grown rare.
Lately, too, I’d sensed some tension in the air. He was frustrated, I guessed, because I had been a little more careless than usual about keeping the kitchen tidy. I was annoyed because he seemed distant and removed, and I wanted to share life with him. Sometimes, we were like the proverbial ships passing in the night.
The restaurant was nice and it felt good to dress up. But our conversation was stilted and forced. We were a table’s width apart, but it felt like a chasm was widening between us. I couldn’t wait to leave.
Back in the car, I could feel myself pulling even further away. In the presence of awkwardness and tension, the last thing I wanted to do was reach out and hold my husband’s hand or lean in close. I wanted to withdraw, to read an article on my iPhone or watch a movie and then eventually fall into sleep on the far edge of the bed.
Fortunately, we had planned more for our evening. Our next stop was a group contra dancing lesson—the first dancing lesson we had taken together since well before we had started dating. Yes, we had once been friends who decided to take a summer’s worth of swing dancing lessons on a whim.
Amateur dance classes are always so awkward at first. You don’t know where to look, and (if you’re me) you stumble through the same steps over and over, with no idea how to make the moves look graceful.
For the first part of the class, my husband and I were separated, alternating dance partners across the floor as we practiced allemandes and do-si-dos. But finally, we were partners again. We had to hold hands and lean in close. And when the call came to “swing your partner,” we held eye contact as the instructor recommended, to keep from getting dizzy.
There were those kind blue eyes that I love so much, with the crinkles at the edges. Here were the arms that had grown so familiar to me. There were the two left feet that I remembered from before, threatening to wipe out other dancers on the floor. There’s a reason we haven’t tried to dance in years; neither of us has any talent for it.
Still, the moment of closeness seemed to dissolve the invisible barrier that had grown between us. As we left the dance hall, red-faced and sweaty, it was easier to talk about the day and how we felt. By the time we got home, we were reminiscing about our honeymoon and our fondest memories of marriage.
I doubt a night of contra dancing will solve all of our future marriage problems and disagreements, though it did help to get away from our home and workday habits for a few hours. But what really helped us reconcile, I think, was being prompted to draw in close, instead of pulling away. Rather than keeping my distance and sulking, as I had wanted to, I was forced to engage with my husband and follow his lead as a partner on the dance floor.
The next time we feel frustrated with each other and sense a gap widening between us (and I know there will be a next time) I’m going to try to lean in and take his hand. Perhaps the simple act of closing the gap will bring us eye-to-eye once more.
Unsplash/Daniel Silva Gaxiola