The relationship dance?

May 3, 2009

pushmepullyouSomeone once referred to the patterns of a relationship as a dance.

The interactions, reactions, ways in which we respond to one another, … all of the habitual dynamics seem to form what can be described as a dance.

The dance I hate the most is the “Push-Me-Pull-You”. Named of course after the fictitious character from the original Dr. Doolittle movie from the 1960’s.

Fictitious, yes.  But one meaningful and telling feature of the fabricated photo is the look of dumb-oblivion on the two creatures’ faces.

Meaningful because the Push-Me-Pull-You dance is largely done on the unknowing level… and is done repeatedly, continuously.  We just get in a habit of acting and reacting with and to each other, often in ways that are like a continual taking from one another.  A continual effort to make our point or sway the other person to do what we think they should do.

Expecting someone else to change is always easier and less painful than looking at ourselves and doing the work to change our part.  This, I believe, is why blame tends to be our default.  It is subconscious pain avoidance and self-preservation.

Is this what any of us want in our relationships?  Probably not.  But do we not often live them out this way?  I know I can plead guilty to this to a large degree.  It just happens over time if we do not get help with our self-awareness. 

Another contributing factor is the propensity to blame.  It is easy to do and I experience it in all relationships.  If the first thing we think about in a relationship struggle is what the other person is doing wrong, then we are likely engaging in the PushMePullYou dance.

It is a hard habit to break.  But the reward is the ability to have functioning, satisfying relationships.

I say this because I am in the middle of some issues with my wife.  They are not big deal-busters, but they are painful and prolonged.  I find my first reaction is to think of how she should change.  I know this thinking pattern is not healthy.

So what I did today is shut off those thoughts and start calling around for some outside help.  I got “out of my head and into my fingers”.  I dialed the phone.

I first called an AA friend who is happily remarried for over 20 years and has gone through through huge challenges in his blended family relationship that they survived and thrived thereby.  His advice based on his experience was,

“As long as you and your wife are on opposing benches and blaming each other, the problems will never be solved. 

Getting on the same bench and solving the problem together, no matter which of you is the primary cause is the only way to do this without turning it into a blame battle”. 

So my next call was to the counselor that we had used in the past.  They are unavailable indefinitely, so I did something very simple…. I did a web search for all counselors in our geographic area and left messages for a half-dozen of them asking if I can do a brief introductory phone consultation given that I don’t know them and they don’t know me.

At least I have set the ball rolling to shorten the list of possibilities for counselors we can see in hope to find a good one.

None of these actions involved blaming my wife.  None of them involved self pity. 

All of them were “something different” than what my habitual thoughts and feelings wanted to do.  Growth invariably involves doing what we have not done before.  And usually starts with a few simple things we CAN do.  Like dialing a phone or doing a web search. 

Who knows what huge victories a few simple actions that are on today’s “Can Do” list will lead to.  These are seemingly tiny things but if I am grateful to be able to do them, then they can act as a gateway to the bigger part of the solution.

I just know that doing the same old thing, particularly blaming, will get us no where.  Likewise, doing nothing will get us nowhere.

Here’s to doing things differently. 





  1. Good luck on getting things sorted out. I’m reluctant to weigh in because I’m feeling a little “anti-wife” myself right now. I’m tired of working on problems that are never solved. Of course, in my case, we know what “problems” I refer to.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, my friend.

  2. Teev…

    It sucks working on problems alone and is opposite to what my vetran remarried friend advises.

    If only one is working on the problems, we are not on the same bench cause one of us may not be on a bench at all.

    But at least if we are maintaining our honour and integrity by doing our part, we know we are being credible people and true to ourselves.

    This is worth a whole lot.



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