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Tango can help you to recognise an unhealthy relationship

posted Nov 4, 2014, 2:06 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 4:08 PM ]
North sydney tango lessons
"Amanda in tango class with Alejandro, demonstrating what happens when you don’t pay any attention to your partner and don’t express your intent (in tango or life)" - Sasha Cagen

Argentine tango is increasingly being used in couples therapy. Here is an excerpt from an article by Sasha Cagen on how dancing tango can provide insights and greater awareness for creating and sustaining healthy love relationships. 


This week I want to share two stories with you from Carissa and Amanda, two awesome women who joined me in Buenos Aires this May for the Quirky Tango Heart Encounter (note new name).

Carissa and Amanda shared with me how tango continues to reverberate in their lives in unpredictable ways. While some people who joined our Encounter already danced tango, Carissa and Amanda were both total beginners when they arrived. Now Carissa is dancing in Tampa, Florida, and loving her “tango hug time.” Amanda hasn’t taken up tango in Portland *yet* but she is thinking about tango when she thinks about relationships.

Six months after the trip, I caught up with Amanda to see how tango is resonating in her life. Amanda is super insightful about how learning tango has changed the way she looks at relationships. This is why I teach “quirky tango”–learning deep lessons through your body, through dance in particular, can change your life in a different way than “thinking” your way through a problem can. When you learn something through the cells of your body the lesson sticks.

Later this week I’ll share Carissa’s stories of tango hug time in Florida. Stay tuned.

Here’s Amanda.

What did you learn through tango about creating a healthy relationship?

I learned what constituted a healthy relationship; the ability to give generously to one another without losing sight of one’s own needs. I also learned how to recognize an unhealthy relationship and walk away.

I learned that learning relationships is like learning to tango; it will take a lot of practice to become moderately good at it but that practice can (and should) be very enjoyable and you can practice with the same person as long as you are both making an effort to improve. You don’t have to enter into a relationship (or the dance) as an expert and when you do start dancing with someone new it will take some adjustment before you moved seamlessly.

What you have applied to your life now that you have been back almost six months?

Tango provided me with a concrete example of how relationships require self-awareness and the ability to recognize and respond to another person’s emotional state. I also realized that my inclination to make excuses for a communication gap in a relationship was counterproductive for all; I just had to imagine how we might tango and how uncomfortable it feels when you are being led by someone who doesn’t seem to notice or care where your weight in centered or how awkward it would be to lead someone unable or unwilling to follow.
Tango is an intimate conversation, much like relationships, and it’s critical that we understand ourselves and each other on a very basic level so that we can communicate effectively.”

What did tango teach you about being confident within yourself?

To tango you must have stability and confidence and the same applies to relationships and the rest of life. If you don’t know what you want or who you are then that will be reflected in how you move and how you interact with the world.
Although I had heard that many times before it was the experience of tango and the physical analogy the dance provided that really brought it home. When you trust someone to lead the dance and they lack confidence then they will give you mixed signals so you’ll have to guess what they’re asking of you.

Half of the time that guess is wrong and they may become frustrated which will just result in mutual irritation. It is a similar problem if a follower lacks confidence; there will be missteps and a lack of grace. As such, being confident in yourself is essential to dancing with or relating to another person.

You told me that you used the tango dance as an analogy when you were talking to some friends who were having relationship problems. What did you say?

I used a variation of the tango analogy with two friends who are going through a tumultuous time in their 10+ year relationship. She had reached a point of frustration over his lack of communication. She would express herself and prompt him for his thoughts and he would fail to respond. I said that a relationship was a dance and if she was the only one dancing she was essentially dragging him around while she danced. She needed to decide when to stop dancing.

When I spoke to him he mentioned that she would ask him to express his own needs but that he didn’t see a point answering since he didn’t feel she was 100% invested in their relationship. I told him that they both needed to fully invest if they expected things to move forward and he should, in good faith, express his needs and then evaluate her response (or non-response).
I reiterated the bit about relationships (as in tango) requiring two people to be fully engaged.

If one of you stops dancing then neither of you are dancing.”

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