When your non-dancing spouse doesn’t support your Dance Life.

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The post below was written by Melissa West-Koistila.  She is a salsera in Ohio who had a few thoughts on a topic that alot of dancers can identify with. Please read the article below and give us your thoughts on this important topic!

Something unusual happened during dance class last weekend.  Upon walking into my Sunday afternoon dance class I noticed a young man sitting silently by the window at the front of the dance studio.  I generally make an effort to introduce myself to newcomers to the class, but the instructors started playing music before I had a chance to speak to him.

After our class warm-up I noticed that the young man was still sitting by the window. He was watching us quite intently, but made no move to join the class.  We soon began our partner work and I temporarily forgot about this “mysterious” stranger.

At the end of the class, nearly two hours later, I noticed that the young man was still sitting by the window.  However, by this time he was no longer alone.  Rather – he was speaking quietly with one of the female students in the class.

The two spoke briefly and then the young man left the studio.  As I was now beyond curious, I approached the female student and asked “was that one of your friends?”  She turned to me and said, “No. That was my husband.  He wanted to watch me dance.”  I said, “Oh—is he interested in learning to dance?” She replied, “No, that’s not it.  He told me last night that he wants me to stop dancing because he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for a wife to dance with anyone other than her husband. So he was here watching to see what goes on … he is really making me mad.”

Needless to say – many ears perked up at this last statement and some of the women in the room, including me, began to gather around this young woman.  No one expressed shock at her husband’s attitude; rather we all began to exchange similar “war” stories in an attempt to comfort our fellow student.

Unfortunately, many of us could relate to this situation as most of us have experienced problems in either past or present relationships due to our involvement in Latin dance.  Prior to meeting my fairly laidback husband, I was often interrogated about my “need” to go out dancing by the men that I dated.  I even had to break up with one man who totally lost it during a salsa social when I danced with someone other than him.

Based upon the experiences of myself and my friends, most of the problems between dancers and their non-dancing mates seem to fall into the following categories:  1) dancers being begged and/or “told” to stop dancing; 2) dancers being told that they can dance, but only with their non-dancing or beginner dancing spouse/mate; and; 3) dancers being given an ultimatum to choose between dancing or continuing the relationship.

I should mention that my friends who have experienced the “relationship ultimatum” are all male dancers.  Interestingly, two of the three men who complained of this situation actually gave in to the demands of their partners and stopped dancing COMPLETELY after years and years of dancing.  As a side note—both of these men are now happily married to the women that offered the ultimatum, so perhaps this was a good choice for them.

Although I am writing from the perspective of someone who is an avid social dancer, I do understand the perspective of the non-dancing spouse/mate.  The Latin dance scene is filled with attractive, interesting people whom are easy to connect with, both on and off the dance floor.  For many non-dancers this scene is intimidating and is ripe with many possibilities for jealousy to rear its ugly head.

With regard to myself and my female friends –none of us have stopped dancing, but most of us have reduced the frequency and intensity of our social dancing for the good of our relationships.  I can’t speak for my friends, but I understand that my husband did not marry me with the expectation that I would be salsa dancing in a club with strangers every night of the week.  We’ve informally negotiated a dance schedule that gives me the dance time I need, balanced with the time my husband and I need to be together.

Some people have suggested to me that I should encourage my husband to take salsa or casino lessons so that we can dance together, but this suggestion makes little sense to me.  My husband has no interest in dancing and would rather spend his free time doing something he enjoys, like playing golf or riding his bike.  And, while I do not consider myself to be an advanced dancer I am certainly an intermediate level dancer who enjoys being challenged on the dance floor.  Due to the inevitable gap in dance skills between a beginner lead and an intermediate follow, I doubt that my husband and I would enjoy dancing together on the social Latin dance floor.

A few of my dancing friends have spouses/mates who insist on accompanying them to dance events even though they have little to no dance experience.  This puts a lot of pressure on my friends as they want to please their mates, but they also want to dance with the more experienced leads present at these events. Once again, the imbalance of skill and training between my friends and their mates leads to an experience that is usually lacking in entertainment for either partner.

Ultimately, when these kinds of problems arise, it seems that communication and negotiation are the keys to erasing or at least diminishing the negative feelings the non-dancing spouse/mate may have developed with regard to his/her partner’s dance life.  The dancing spouse/partner should make an effort to balance his/her dance life with home life and to reassure his/her spouse that he/she will not allow dancing to destroy the relationship. Similarly, the non-dancing spouse should allow his/her spouse the freedom to dance, while making sure that he/she is still getting what he/she needs from the relationship.

How important is it for your spouse/partner to support your dance life?

 

31 Comments

  • Elena says:

    Having your own hobbies is a great start to a healthy relationship. Having enough time for everything – individually and together – is always a challenge, but it is certainly possible to have a strong, non-jealous relationship when you each fully understand how much one’s hobby makes one happy. I dance, and my husband rock-climbs. Sometimes it is really frustrating that neither of us likes the other’s hobby, but we also know that it makes us who we are…and we each understand how much the activity means to us. That freedom crowds out any jealousy or other negativity (Though, for the record, dancing is much safer than rockclimbing!).

  • Charles says:

    Great article. By the way, this applies to dancing in general, I believe. I like to country dance and over the years have developed several dancer friends that enjoy dancing. So it’s not unusual for me to go out dancing and have several female friends ready to dance and keep me on the floor. It’s always been a challenge to date someone who can understand and appreciate this.

    I recently started dating this girl that also loves dancing and even dances with a dance company. And so far, it’s been great! But now, she actually dances more than I do. And I definitely don’t mind her dancing with other people, it gives me a break! LOL

    It all boils down to confidence and comfort. She gets to enjoy what she loves to do, and I get to watch her enjoy herself. And at the end of the day, I get to go home with her. 🙂

  • Niko Suave says:

    I would first ask more details before making any assumptions. Some people have a cultural history of what is and isn’t appropriate. I think this man took responsibility and checked out the dance class. He gave it a chance, and made his decision. He may not like it as much as we don’t want people to feel restrained from doing what they want. At which point, measure the priority levels of the relationship. You cannot ask every person to be open minded, but there is always risk when something like this happens. I know most people want to promote fun and freedom, however, significant others having insecurities need to be dealt with in compromise. I support freedom and fun myself, but I also respect someone’s concerns to insecurities, whether trust or culture based.

  • Juan says:

    Great Article!
    I’m an intermediate level dancer (about 1 year), Male who’s already experienced this a couple times. This can be explained in one simple word, Insecurity! I’ve invited non-dancer dates so she can see it’s fun, challenging and its the love of music that attracts Me.
    If a man or woman wants to be unfaithful, there are many places it can and does happen where Latin dance is not involved.
    My advice to everyone is date who you can trust, lighten up and $hake your booty! 🙂

  • al says:

    Too many thirsty dudes up in club

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Thanks so much for taking time to comment on this article. I really enjoy reading and learning from your responses!

  • Albert says:

    Melissa,

    I would not blame on the jealousy but blame on understanding each other and trust

    A man/women who trust their partner and the partner who values the trust does not have any issues with the other. However, the insecurity (due to lack of trust) is what making people to give such ultimatum. Unfortunate but harsh reality.

    As you pointed correctly, The Dance floors are filled with beautiful and smart people with whom we get attracted easily. My Girlfriend/boyfriend or Wife/Husband will stay with me only irrespective of whether he goes out with Miss Universe is the trust factor that is missing in many relationships. So these Ultimatums are used to protect themselves for not being porched.

    In my indian context which is heavy with the social norms, Dancing with other people who are not related makes big hue and cry (yes India is becoming modern society even then the norms still in place). That is another reason for the ultimatum.

  • AVB says:

    It is worth to point out that the title of this article reflects only one type of situation: Non-dancing partners. But how about in cases when your dancing spouse doesn’t support your dancing life?
    This may sound oddly strange, but think on a situation in which the dancing spouse have chosen a demanding career in which the fun of dancing is put in the back burner for career, while the other spouse have to make all kinds of pleasant request that at the end are met with an ultimatum from the heavily career-oriented dancing partner. In this case, jealousy is hidden by the “work-very-hard” and cannot attend excused. People change over the years; nevertheless, fun of what you so in a relationship should never be renegades for career, since we all live once.

    • Josh says:

      I am a husband to a ballroom dance instructor. She takes her students out to other cities to compete. I have decided after 4 years of marriage and one kid which makes me sad to have mommy and daddy separate to leave because i am dealing with this as i typing that i cannot deal with this life as a spouse to a dancer. Its too hard and i feel totally rejected. I like dancing but if you are a dancer and your potential spouse doesnt like it i suggest u way whats more important to you. You or your family. I on the other hand have been through turmoil everytime im home alone with my little boy while mommy gets to fly and stay in a hotel with her male students. Its to hard on someone like me. I’ve been through multiple therapy to deal with this jealousy that I have and I cannot seem to get over. I have Sadly come to the conclusion that I cannot live this life because I’m drowning in it and I cannot seem to accept living with a dancer. If you are a dancer I imagine it is really really hard to have a spouse that is non-dancer coming from experience I suggest that dancers stay within their community and marry within it because they are the only ones who can relate.

  • Courtney says:

    I have dated a few men who didn’t get my passion for dancing. One even got jealous of my going to team practice. I was a dancer before I met them and I was unwilling to give that up. Now, I’m with a dancer and we both totally get it. He doesn’t care who I dance with and vice versa. We need a break from each other from time to time, nothing a few dances with others can’t cure (though he knows certain songs we have to dance with each other, mostly because they’re awesome on2 songs with great breaks and we can both read the music for a great dance). We also know that no matter who we dance with, we’re going home together at the end of the night.
    I think it’s important to respect your partner and yourself. If you need to dance to feel whole, no one should tell you no. If you can give up a day or 2 of dancing to respect your partner, then that’s ok too.

  • Ains says:

    interesting article. touchy subject for sure. I actually teach a class now so this actually comes up a lot. it really just depends on the stage of life you’re in. if you are trying to build a life with someone and they strongly oppose you going out and dancing with strangers every night then you have to consider their position seriously and ask yourself if dancing worth losing a good relationship. if you are in a great relationship and you break up over dancing then that probably is a true addiction you have there! lol! on the other hand, if you are not ready to build a life with someone then it really doesn’t matter. either your partner gets with the program quick and learns how to dance or they have to deal with you being out at night. or they can just leave the relationship. you just have to be honest with yourself in determining where you are in life and what you really want.

  • Jenny says:

    As one of the non-dancing spouses you refer to I’d like to raise an aspect you haven’t touched on – the predator. My OH has been dancing for years and it has only once caused a problem. A woman (newly single, I later discovered), took a fancy to my husband and hung around him at every opportunity, texted him constantly, was always looking for lifts to and from salsa, and seemed to think that because I didn’t salsa we must have an unhappy relationship. He didn’t know how to handle it – the salsa community is a small one and he didn’t want any awkwardness, so it was left to me to explain to her that she had over-stepped the mark. This was done with his knowledge and blessing and she backed off. So,before you you hold the non-dancing spouse responsible, consider what may have caused her (or him) to be that way in the first place. The salsa world is not immune to people who see it as a dating opportunity!

    • Michele says:

      So true. There are a lot of women out there (I’m sure this applies to men too but I can only speak from personal experience) that don’t know how to respect other people’s relationships and use dancing as an excuse for not recognizing boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.

  • Dan Ashley says:

    My wife is a non dancer. My dancing salsa, bachata and ChaChaCha with others has been the subject of a certain amount of discussion between us.

    We have agreed that I will emphasize student performance teams, and de-emphasize social dancing. This seems to work for us. She comes to my performances and takes video of me. Then we go out and grab a bite to eat.

    My social dance time is limited, but within the context of my marriage, life is good.

    – Dan Ashley, Chicago

  • Ingolf says:

    I am a man who hates to dance more than anything.

    My wife is constantly forcing me into situations where there is dancing and I am forced to dance or cause a big scene.

    My wife loves to dance.

    I often get the argument “it would take you so little to make me happy, please dance with me”.

    It would also take her so little to make me happy, just never ask me to dance.

    I understand that the main purpose of dancing is to make the woman feel beautiful – to make her look good. I do dance on some occasions, but I never enjoy it.

    It is a lose/lose situation really, if we don’t dance, I would be happy, but she would not.

    I would have to admit that if she wanted to dance with other girls, I would have no problems, but if she were to start dancing with other men I would not like it.

    ~ Ingolf, still fighting the dancing battle – going dancing next weekend.

  • Jennifer says:

    I’m a dancer married to a non dancer for 13 years. When we were introduced, my friend told him that if he doesn’t support me dancing, there is no reason to go out. It takes a secure relationship for a dancer and a non dancer to be together. My husband understands that I go to dance and see friends. When he goes with me, it’s to have a beer and sometimes to point out good male dancers for me to dance with. He is secure in knowing I come home to him. If he asks me to dance, it’s to do the three moves he learned 13 years ago when we were dating. We both knew what we were getting ourselves into and we were and still are both okay with it.

  • Cait says:

    I’m a fairly young (19, almost 20), intermediate female dancer. And I already can’t count the number of times I have heard some variation of the question “What do you like more, dancing or being with me?” I’m not saying that I can’t understand why people often get the wrong idea. Dancing is a physically intimate acting involving two people. A lot also depends on what your favorite dance is. It can be even more difficult if your preferred dance is one of the dances known for being a bit (or, in some cases, a lot) more on the sensual side, like bachata or kizomba. If that’s the case, the chances of finding an understanding significant other drop drastically. I love my salsa, but I am definitely more of a bachatera than anything else, and I really like sensual bachata. It’s not something I could give up. Unfortunately, this seriously limits my dating pool to pretty much exclusively other bachateros because, let’s face it, asking a date/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner/fiancé/husband/wife to be OK with you dancing salsa, even a romantica to some extent, is one thing, but asking them to be OK with you dancing sensual bachata with someone else is very different.

    • Anna-Ruth says:

      Hey Cait, I would say, definitely don’t tell yourself that you can’t find someone who will support your desire to dance sensually, and still go home to him faithfully every night. I am married to someone who I met dancing, so we go out together when we can, but he fully supports me going out by myself and dancing however I want to dance: which yes includes close bachata and kizomba.
      If a man thinks that you dancing close with other men equates to being unfaithful, that’s his problem, not yours. We women are the ones who get to decide how and with whom to move our bodies, and what our personal boundaries are for sexuality, sensuality, playfulness, respect and faithfulness in a committed relationship.
      I am so stoked that I have a life partner who is dedicated to me and my happiness, which means I can dance freely how I want and with whom I want, knowing that at the end of the day, he’s my man. Its something that requires a lot of trust, but ultimately, you want someone you can fully trust, and vice versa.
      I’m so glad I broke up with a previous boyfriend who had some crap he had told me: “its ok if you dance salsa with other guys, but not close bachata”: oh hell no homeboy, you are not the one to go and put restrictions on how I want to move and live my life, the days of controlling and repressing women are behind us, at least in my life!
      Also: my hubby just doesn’t enjoy bachata and kizomba like I do: he loves his salsa, but knows that he isn’t into B or K that much.. I’m all for people following their passion and excitement, not letting anyone put restrictions or limitations on themselves or others!

  • Mary Forrester says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing these comments – as a result of my husband having read your “horror stories” I can’t even go to one test lesson as my husband wants me to stop before I could even try! Sick.

    The truth is you can find an interesting partner everywhere – football team, choir, symphony orchestra, gym, restaurant, swimming hall, church… if it happens, it happens.

    My violin teacher and her 3 kids were left all of a sudden and after 15 years of marriage by her husband (he worked for a church as a cantor) because of a woman who was working for the church as a deaconess. All very religious and proper people in mature age. No dancing hobby or profession really needed to provoke a sexual relationship.

    Probability of something happening in dancing societies might be higher than in a church BUT what does the probability matter if your partner decides to leave you for whatever reason? Being left because of a serious dancing hobby or profession may be just a fake reason, and my understanding is there certainly exist also other (maybe more hidden) problems behind. It’s so easy to blame a hobby…tooo easy….

  • A says:

    Hi..I’m 35 and wanted to dance ever since I can think of..I met my husband at 16 and have been with him ever since too..got married at 23..I waited for him to get interested in dance but that never happened…so 2 years back I started taking classes and felt awesome..I got an award in a competition but my husband hated watever I did..I try staying away but I love it..I should have been diplomatic about not saying to my husband that my dance partner has fallen in love with me..after knowing this he totally gets upset about me dancing…now it’s the next competition coming up..I want to take part in this..but I am so stuck…Wat shd I do..

  • Ninja MacNinja says:

    My girlfriend started salsa dancing a few months ago and I don’t have any problems with it. There is one guy that has “fallen” for her, but I don’t feel threatened by this this one bit. I 100% trust her and support her dancing fully, plus the guy is a bit creepy and not her type. She has started to get very good, being one of the better in the dance school we attend so she is being increasingly asked to more and more events.

    One issue we have is her wanting me to learn. I really don’t like dancing but I’m willing to give it a try. In m second session of lessons and getting better, but still not enjoying it that much. Been to a few socials with her but I would prefer to just chat to everyone and see her dance with more experienced dancers. I’ll maybe have 1 or 2 dances with her but that’s as many as I’m willing to do as I don’t feel comfortable. She sometimes gets upset with this, but we never really fall out because I hope she understands how we feel. I have my own hobbies as well which she has no interest in.

    She has also started bachata and sensual bachata, which I won’t go and watch her dance. Bachata is ok, but sensual bachata is a bit too much for me to watch. She doesn’t seem to see an issue with it, but I don’t really like watching her grind with other men with “very” insinuating touching. She can dance that as well, just not when i’m watching lol.

    I just feel worried that she expects too much of me, mentioning how she cant wait until i’m as good as her. My heart isn’t in it to say that’s never going to happen so I dread the day she realises this, but I’m sure we can get over that. we love each other very much.

  • R says:

    You are an extremely supportive guy..girls think differently, trust me. They thinking about one..two..three..lala..watever..it’s about the dance..and of course all women want to be desired by men..but I heard by my non supportive husband that men think differently..a touch is more than just a touch..they are wired differently..u must be knowing that. .if u don’t have passion for dancing u just dont have it..I think your gf should be supportive of u too..u can tell her that u will not reach that level of dancing and u are OK with that..! Just as she expects u to be OK with her dancing with men!!

  • Jose says:

    I have to take issue with many of the assumptions and judgements made here about people who are uncomfortable with their significant other dancing salsa, bachata ect. – socially labeling them as “insecure” and highlighting trust issues.

    Consider for a minute that the intimate contact inherent to many of these dances in and of itself can make people feel uncomfortable. I suppose it depends where you draw the line for what is “appropriate” behavior in a relationship or what “cheating” may even mean.

    Even if it isn’t heavily sensual, the idea of my significant other being physically close and intimate with someone, moving together to sensual music makes me extremely uncomfortable. I am not afraid at all that she will jump into bed with anybody and I trust her endlessly. But that does not mean that this type of physical contact with other men is automatically ok for me. This is something I personally would feel uncomfortable doing when I am romantically involved with someone. I have been socially dancing for years but it feels very different when I’m single. That physical closeness and parallel movements are moves that I want to reserve for my romantic partner.

    I love to dance. But I don’t feel a drive to dance those types of dances closely with other women when I am involved romantically with someone. It’s just a values thing – not an insecurity or trust thing.

  • Salsa says:

    So yes, my answer is that salsa dancing is a relationship: a relationship to one’s own body and inner emotions.

  • Mark says:

    Great comment Jose. I feel exactly the way that you do.

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Thanks to everyone for your insightful comments. I learn something new from each and every one of them. Happy dancing!!

  • Daniel says:

    I tend to think of dancing in the same terms I think of sex. Meaning, let’s say that one person has a whole lot more sexual experience and is super into anything and everything to do with sex and the other one is not really all that experienced and possibly not as much of a sex geek. If you cannot find a way to negotiate that disparity in experience and interest, it is inevitably going to tear you apart. The fact is that if your partner can’t meet your dance needs and isn’t willing to make concessions so that you do get them met, you will inevitably become dissatisfied. By the same token, you have to ask yourself what and how much you do need and communicate that. It’s all about the middle ground. In the end, dancing only brings out the things that were already there. Issues of trust, jealousy, possessiveness, disparities in what is “appropriate”, social and physical needs; all these landmines were already there. If dancing didn’t set them off, something else would.

  • Dayana says:

    Hi Everyone….. I am so glad I was able to find this article and read every comment here. I learned that it is OK to have a passion for dance the way I DO. I often find myself questioning my NEED to dance; and usually end up giving up this hobby as my husband disapprove me dancing. He sometimes dances with me at home and thinks that’s enough, but he doesn’t understand that’s not I a mean. When I dance I get lost on the rhythm of the Salsa, Bachata , Merengue , not just “a ” song dance with very basic moves. I have been dancing on socials ( 2 in the period of 12 months) on my own , there is a huge event this Saturday and I wanted to go but he says this ” dancing thing” it is getting too much… I absolutely LOVE my husband him as he is the love of my life, but I really want to go to dance because it makes me super happy. I guess it doesn’t sound good ” she went to dance while I stay home with the kids tonight” but I really hope he sees it as ” She is doing what she loves while I trust and support her” instead.

    What do you think?.

    Will let you know what happened after this weekend LOL….

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Hello Everyone! I wrote this article some time ago, so I’m genuinely happy that people are still commenting on it. I guess it’s an issue that affects a lot of dancers in different ways.

    Anyway –by way of an update — I just found out that the husband and wife I referred to at the beginning of my article are now divorced. While I don’t believe that this dancing issue was ultimately responsible for ending their marriage, I’m sure that it certainly played a part. Thanks again for reading and commenting on my article, and HAPPY DANCING!!

  • aleste says:

    Hi People, i think most dance addict are being a little hypocritical.

    Dance is truly intimacy between a man and a woman, and when you finally have a deep connection with a partner, it is literally like making vertical preliminary before horizontal sex.

    It then become obsessive, and the relationship with your non-dancing partner is going down.
    Sure thing.

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