Skip to content ↓

Keep On Learning To Dance

It’s a metaphor I heard from a friend and one that has stuck with me ever since. It illustrates a common, perhaps even universal, experience within marriage—sexual intimacy is good and wonderful but, maintaining healthy intimacy through all of life’s ups and downs is a life-long challenge. The illustration goes something like this.

You are a young man or woman attending a wedding reception, an old-fashioned dance in a small-town dance hall. The band takes its place on stage and strikes up the music, a simple waltz. You don’t know how to waltz, but you’re eager to learn. You find your partner, a partner who is equally unskilled but equally keen to learn, and together you begin. You learn the positioning for your feet, you take hesitant first steps. For a while you stumble, you trip over each other’s feet, you make silly mistakes. But after a few minutes you realize that you are beginning to get it. A few minutes later and you’re moving, you and your partner gliding around the floor as one. This is fun!

But no sooner do you start to move smoothly than the music fades and stops. There is a moment of silence before the band leader strikes up a new number, this time a polka. “But, wait,” you want to cry, “I’ve just figured out the waltz! It was just beginning to go well!” But the band is already well into their next number. You and your partner turn to one another, shrug and smile, and begin to learn this new dance. You discover the tempo. You learn where and how to position your feet, you learn to move them in unison, and after a while you are once again gliding across the floor. It becomes easy, it becomes smooth and fun. You’re dancing!

And then, wouldn’t you know it, the music changes again and this time the band moves into a foxtrot or swing or something else. “But, but, we had only just…” But it’s too late. The band leader has given the word, the music has switched, the evening has moved on.

And in just that way, sex within marriage is like a dance. It is rhythms and movements of living, habits of communication, patterns of intimacy that you learn and act out together. Over time you grow in unison, you grow in your ability to anticipate your partner, to please and serve one another. There are moments when it just seems to work, where intimacy is smooth and fun and satisfying, where sex fits into life like a hand fits into a glove. It just works and you want it to stay that way forever.

But life is not a static thing. Just like the music changes at a dance, the circumstances change in life. Just like new music requires new steps and movements, these new circumstances require new rhythms, new ways of communicating, new ways of relating. For sex to be successful and mutually satisfying in these changing circumstances, you will need to let go of some of those old patterns and begin some new ones. You may want the old music to come back on, the old circumstances to return. You knew that dance, you knew how to move through life as one. But the past is the past and will never return.

If you are married, you need to learn the dance, the rhythms, patterns, habits, and actions that promote the deepest intimacy, the healthiest sexuality. Expect that you will learn to move to life’s music, to learn its dance. But also be aware that the music has a way of changing at the whim, or perhaps better said, the design of the band leader. And when the music changes, be ready, be willing, be eager to learn the new dance.

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (March 1)

    A La Carte: Rumblings of revival among Gen Z / Addition by subtraction / Seeing red / Burying the talents of the Great Rewarder / Inviting evaluation of your preaching / Book and Kindle deals / and more.

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for February 2024

    February is typically a solid month for book releases, and this February was no exception. As the month drew to its close, I sorted through the many (many!) books that came my way this month and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you…

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 29)

    A La Carte: Is it ever right to lie? / When the “perfect” fit isn’t / An open letter to Christians who doubt / When a baby is a disease / The long view of preaching / and more.

  • A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    We are probably so accustomed to seeing bonsai trees that we don’t think much about them. But have you ever paused to consider how strange and freakish they really are?

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 28)

    A La Carte: Can Christians buy expensive things? / You are probably WEIRDER than you think / Our limits are a gift from God / Big dreams impress. Ordinary faithfulness delivers / The biggest problem in worship education / Children’s books / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 27)

    A La Carte: God doesn’t owe me kindness / Jordan Peterson’s “We Who Wrestle with God” tour / Does your church have an evangelist? / Putting Jesus first in a world of pleasures / Send help. My husband believes in me / and more.