Marital Advice from None Other than James Brown.

“The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.” -James Brown

Every time I tell our story the same way.

“He walked in the door and I knew I was going to marry him. Then I thought, that’s ridiculous. Who thinks like that? But it didn’t stop me from smiling at him anyway.”

Our story goes, once upon a time I fell in love with my husband at first sight; although that’s not entirely true. It’s true that my stomach flopped and my heart picked up it’s cadence; I was instantly drawn to everything about him that my mind could absorb in five seconds of staring unabashedly at him (as I leaned in a doorway trying to look casual while feeling incredibly not casual) across a room full of friends. It would be more accurate to say that I fell in desperate like with him that day; I fell in love with him when I saw him dance.

There’s something about him dancing that made my heart send out an alarm; ding, ding ding! This is it, folks! We’ve found our winner!

He’s got this thing feet and he always knows where to put his shoulders and his arms. There’s no set plan to it; no shuffle to the right, shuffle to the left, elbows at my side, arms in the air. He is, for lack of a better word, smooth. He is smooth on the dancefloor, and it delights me.

He makes my aunts giggle like school girls, and watching him dance has put several non-participatory husbands in the dog house. My husband is generally on the quiet side; he’s introverted and thoughtful and only says about 1/12 of what he thinks. Put him on the dance floor though and he is in his glory. He is the master and commander of a giant discoball that comes from the ceiling when it’s time for him to do the shuffle.

When I learned to dance with him, I found that I could dance. I am an acceptable dancer with anyone else; with him and him alone I am Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire. I mirror him and we are a sight to behold (or so I’ve been told). We have fun with each other on the dancefloor. We have a rhythm and we are in sync, without all of the horrible boy band references. We make each other laugh and we know what we’re doing. Every time we dance, it reminds me all over again of why I loved him in the first place. It let me see him in his natural habitat; it was the difference between watching a lion in the zoo and seeing a lion in the Savannah. There was no doubt which creature was King.

Going through piles of photos the other day I found one from a friend’s wedding. We’d had our first child but not our second. We scarcely had our feet planted in our 30’s and our faces were bright and free of worry lines. We were turned towards each other and I wish I knew which song we were singing to each other at that moment so I could sing it to him again.

This just makes me smile.
This just makes me smile.

We were at a function a month ago, and I know that if there was a photographer out there, they could have taken the same photo again; a little older, a little grayer, but still dancing.

I wish that marriage was always as easy for us as dancing. After almost 12 years, I think I’m so transparent, so perfectly crystal clear that it would be ludicrous for him not to know my every thought and the undertone of every gesture. Apparently, I’m still as opaque as a black-out curtain at least half of the time. I’m a talker when we’ve got a dilemma; he’s a thinker. He accuses me of being overly emotional, I accuse him of being aloof. By the time he’s thought enough about what he’s trying to say, I’ve talked so much that I’ve started three more arguments.  Around and around the merry-go-round we go until one of us jumps off of the stationary horse and starts pelting the other with our respective weapons; me with words and him with silence.

We never stay on the merry-go-round for long. When we are off key, when our duet isn’t harmonious, we both keenly feel it and generally do what it takes to keep the scale level.  It’s simple things; we get a babysitter and have a date night. We stay up and watch Jimmy Fallon just to hear each other laugh. We actually stop and make eye contact, put the phones away, and listen to each other for more than 15 seconds. We do the dishes together, or take the dog for a walk.

We are lucky, I know, that it’s that easy most of the time.  It goes without saying that I realize not all marriages are like ours. We are both grateful for our level of compatibility, but it doesn’t come free. We still choose each other every day, in a hundred little ways.

There have been moments when the daily checks and balances aren’t enough and I have to go back in time to remember the how and why of the “what are we doing this for” and that’s when I always think about the dancing.

As long as we remember how to dance, we will be more than alright.  Something that simple keeps the reasons I choose to love him in the front of my mind instead of buried deep under layers of life’s unimportant details.

Us dancing is us having fun; it’s us communicating, it’s us moving to the beat of our own drum. It’s us knowing that we are strong and we are confident and we are, in fact, a team.

When we are dancing, it’s the perfect metaphor for us at our best, and remembering us at our best helps us pull ourselves back up when we are us at our worst.

So, in the end my advice for a happy marriage is to find your dance, whatever that means to you.  Take each other out on the metaphorical dance floor and show yourselves that you still know how to have a good time. Dance your troubles away if you can.

“And his feet danced to the beat of her heart.”

-Louise Alexandra Erakine

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