Dance-hall days

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend and I are dance instructors. Ladies hang all over him, and he eats this up. He invariably favors certain ladies. If he sees a lady alone during class, he engages her in a long conversation. If I join in, he ends the conversation and leaves. During a recent lesson, several women left early. I had been dancing with one of his favorite ladies (I often dance the man’s part). He told me to sit down; he didn’t need my help. They danced together until class ended. I was crushed. I tried to talk to him about a similar incident once before, but he grew angry. He said I was trying to control and change him. I said we should reassure each other and not show favoritism. I want to be professional and not overreact, but my feelings are easily crushed. He says I should tell him if I’m bothered, but when I do, he is defensive. He turns it around so that it is never his fault. I don’t like his anger, so I shut down. He has been married three times and has had numerous affairs. I was married twice but never had an affair. When we began dating two years ago, I said I would overlook his past if we were in a committed relationship (we now live together). I realize we are still adjusting to each other’s ways, but I need spiritual insight. Please help.

It’s clear that, despite your nearly heroic intention to overlook his past, you can’t. You’re afraid that he will cheat on you, and that fear inspires your hypervigilance. For example, are you joining those conversations because you really want to talk to the woman your boyfriend is talking to? Or do you want to police the conversation? If you enter the conversation with the desire to prove he’s taken, the conversation may feel controlled.

Perhaps your boyfriend excuses himself because now you’re there to talk to her and she is no longer alone. In other words, you may be injecting yourself into innocent conversations and being a bit more sensitive than necessary about his choice in dance partners. I’m not saying that your concerns are empty. I simply want you to focus them where they truly belong.

I understand that some dance instructors believe they must rely on flirtation to keep students interested. Talk to your boyfriend about this.

If that is his approach, you know it means nothing. It’s simply his neediness to be admired and desired. It’s his fear that his dance skills are not enough and that he must give something extra. It’s not healthy, but only he can do something about it. His proclivity for affairs stems from that same wound. So when he says that you are trying to change and control him, he’s right. His neediness is so ravenous that he does not comprehend the need to control himself. It’s obvious to you (and probably his ex-wives) so you try to staunch the wound. But only he has the power to heal himself.

Despite the sappy lyrics of pop songs, intimate, committed relationships should change us. You, for example, are being called to not cower when faced with anger. You’re abandoning yourself to avoid being abandoned by him. Not good. If you feel safe, persist through his anger. It’s likely that no one has loved themselves or him enough to resist his drama. His roar is just an attempt to protect himself from being seen as imperfect, needy, desperate.

Remember, intimate relationships allow us to be seen in our entirety; that’s why it’s so wonderful and so scary. You’ll need support through this process. I suggest that you engage in a committed practice of prayer and meditation and meet with a spiritual counselor.

Meditation of the week
Remember that childhood game, “Mother May I?” Sometimes you took a huge leap forward, just to take two giant steps back. That was fun. One child stood before you like the Great Goddess, granting permission. Do you enjoy it as much now? Taking a leap forward, then several steps back in relationships, career or play?

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