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Why love and tango don't always go together

posted May 26, 2014, 2:27 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 3:39 AM ]

Here's an article by Veronica Toumanova -  
Why Love and Tango do Not Always go Well Together

There exists a belief that tango makes love relationships really difficult. I often hear: “In tango people are exposed to romantic temptations all the time. It is very difficult to build a stable couple this way.” Are love relationships really different in tango? And what is the role of tango in all of this?

When two people come to tango in a couple, they bring with them their specific couple dynamic. While they are learning tango together, this dynamic is playing up. Their connection is tested by learning a new activity together, and not only together, but in total dependence of each other. How well they listen to each other, how insecure they are, how much they want to please or criticise the other, how much responsibility they take for their own emotions: all this transpires in how they learn tango together. The learning process does not define the couple dynamic, the couple’s dynamic defines the learning process. In short, the couple can make it very easy for themselves – or very difficult.

Women are often happier in the beginning of tango, while men struggle; then comes a point that men start to enjoy tango and the plentiful choice of dance partners, and women run into their first tango troubles: lack of technique and lack of invitations. Sometimes one partner advances quicker or is a more gifted dancer, and this becomes hard to handle for the other person. Insecurities blossom; jealousy comes into play.

Tango can make your relationship flourish or it can be the beginning of the end. But is it really tango’s fault?

Tango is only a context that life puts us in, so that we can work out our internal conflicts. It is there for our joy, but also for our personal development. Tango will become a playground for your relationship problems, but only if there were problems already waiting to be revealed. It may be that your issue is lack of self-confidence, and tango is the perfect context to bring this up. If you are suffering in tango, it has nothing to do with tango and everything to do with you. There is no specific tango-related insecurity, it is the same insecurity you always carry inside yourself, only now it is playing with a new toy. Blaming tango for making you insecure is like blaming food for making you hungry. Tango gives us ample opportunities to become more wholesome, wiser, better human beings, but we have to want to go there – and find the means whereby.

When two affirmed tango dancers fall in love it is a slightly different story. Each of them already had some tango experience, found his/her favorite dancers, developed his/her own “coping strategies” in tango world. Dance compatibility can fuel romantic attraction and romantic attraction can fuel dance compatibility, which actually feels a lot like romantic attraction. A student of mine, who studies neurology,
told me that tango experience (movement, touch, embrace, odors, sweat, intense presence in the moment) can trigger your brain to believe you are falling in love. Unending tandas, full immersion in one another, intense bliss. We all have had that feeling at least once in our tango life. Yet not all dancers who share a good connection on the dancefloor end up falling in love with each other. However, the majority of dancers who do fall in love in tango, do so while dancing.

What about building longterm relationships, is it more difficult in tango? Frankly, I don’t see why it should be more difficult in tango than anywhere else. Building a solid longterm relationship IS DIFFICULT, period. I know couples who manage and others who don’t. However, there is one important factor. If your primary and only shared interest is tango, building a longterm relationship WILL be difficult. For a relationship to work you will need other common interests, some shared background, a strong friendship, something to talk about, compatible temperaments, compatible sexuality and so on. No matter how deeply you both feel about tango, it is still just a dance. A lot of relationships don’t survive in tango because, except for tango, they don’t have much else to survive upon.

When we start a relationship, we often feel that we somehow own our partner, and that we are entitled to get satisfaction for our needs from our partner. Tango becomes one of those needs and we take it personally when this need is not satisfied. We become unforgiving with our partner and nurture expectations we would otherwise never have. With other dancers we are open to any experience: if it is bad we prefer to forget it, if it is good we like to remember. With our life partner we often expect nothing but the BEST, right now and s/he’d better give it to us exactly the way we like it! We forget the good, but
we damn well make sure we remember the worst!

The truth is, your partner doesn’t have to be your favourite dancer, and neither do you. This expectation only puts unnecessary pressure on both of you. Do you like exactly the same food? Exactly the same books? Exactly the same movies? If it does not work between the two of you in the dance, then maybe you are compatible in life but not in tango. Which one is more important, in the end? Wanting your partner to be everything for you in your life (your best lover, your best friend and your best tandas) is not always a realistic expectation. It fits well with what tango lyrics talk about, but we all know that lovers from tango lyrics are not the best of lovers, they are just the most volatile ones. It still can happen that your love partner is also your favorite dancer, in that case enjoy it to the fullest. But if it doesn’t happen, do what you already do with other people: be open to any experience. Forget when it doesn’t work, remember when it does. Take it easy. It’s a dance. There’ll always be another tanda.

published in Gancho Magazine  (May 5, 2014)

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