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Happy Spouse, Happy House

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By Andrea Lynn Cianflone


I love to dance! My mother was my first dance teacher. I learned everything from jazz, tap to ballet. In my late teens, I explored swing, tango, salsa, bachata, and merengue, and have been dancing these styles ever since that time. Partner dancing is an amazing experience both to take part in and observe from the sidelines. I always enjoyed a partner who had the creative instinct to know when exactly to spin me in circles or extend my movements outward and could carefully assess when it was time to pull me back into our close circle. Dancing became challenging for me when my partner was passive in his directions. His initiating movements were difficult to read. Spinning became problematic. My basic steps became disjunct. On the flip side, the control was so strong that I could not even turn, or I felt uncomfortable by an unfamiliar dance partner bringing me too close into his space. When I observed dance competitions, I always found the best routines to be the ones that illustrated sensitivity, passion, and a balance of connectedness and separateness. One can observe the respect spinning on the dance floor through the shared trust of the dance partners. Dance is like many art forms striving for those balances. I find it unappetizing to digest the sounds at a concert when that one soprano voice is sticking out in the choir or hearing the overbearing violinist take the lead amongst the string section when no solo selection has been established.


Domineering musicianship behavior is certainly not limited to concert attendances. As a single woman, I’ve observed peripherally the marital dynamics of relationships from afar, often listening to stories of the overbearing string amongst one of the partners. A person once shared a story with me about a man who had to sneak out of the house to visit his mother, a case of the Happy Wife, Happy Life syndrome, it seemed. Though some might chuckle halfheartedly at this idiom, always acquiescing to a partner’s demands could be a form of intimate partner abuse. From what I read online in a variety of domestic abuse organizations, some behaviors may include intentional isolation of the partner, cutting the person off or trying to keep the partner from meeting family and friends, even attendance at important family events. Always wanting to know the whereabouts of the partner’s activities (who the partner is with, what the partner is doing, where the partner is always), and constant contact or checking in are also signs of unyielding control. The controlling partner may take dominion over passwords to the other partner’s phone, email address, physical address (withholding mail and packages), social media accounts to track digital activity, bank accounts, and will often make decisions on behalf of the other partner, like what the partner will eat or wear, often without consultation. When confronted with potential unhealthy interrelationship behaviors, the victim may side with the controlling partner’s maltreatment due to several reasons, including a feeling of attachment from lack of an exit strategy. What I have found to be equally painful is observing the total depletion of the victim’s personal identity. A once happy, content man or woman may over time develop anxiety and depression. Though not all situations may scream an emergency domestic abuse situation, I think any signs of control are guideposts to be monitored to ensure a balanced dance for any relationship, and certainly for a happy spouse, happy house.


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