In life as in dance, a true partnership is difficult. How so? Well, let’s start with the meaning of partnership. It is defined as a relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal. Hmmm . . . that doesn’t seem that accurate a definition relative to how most partnerships work.
It is infrequent to see a relationship where there is mutual cooperation and mutual responsibility between the people involved. It can be difficult to achieve. However, most of us don’t put in the effort to ever achieve it. It is easier to go with how we normally do things. To keep in our rut of comfort so that we don’t have to increase our complexity. It is natural to seek the path of least resistance. It is easier to maintain our old habits, no matter how maladaptive, than to try to develop new ones.
In our physical behaviour, our brains map out patterns of movement so that things done repeatedly become autopilot, as we colloquially call it. This allows us to not have to think about what we do everyday. Here’s a scenario to solidify the concept. You normally drive a standard vehicle. You don’t realize it, but you manipulate the car everyday without thinking about it. This goes unnoticed until you borrow a car that is an automatic. When you go to manipulate the car, you automatically – no pun intended – reach for the gear shift that is not there. Your brain and body went into the pattern for driving that you use most frequently. You might laugh it off or feel slightly confused that you reached for something that was not there. This is a pattern generated by the brain to increase simplicity in our life and it happens without thinking about it each time we do that behaviour.
The same thing happens in our social interactions. We may have learned maladaptive behaviour from our family and friends. Behaviour where we manipulate those close to us. Behaviour where we try to exert power over another. Behaviour where we put someone else down in order to bring ourself up. This becomes like the pattern generator for physical manipulation of the standard vehicle. We know this behaviour, we have engrained it, and we use it without thinking. How many times have you thought to yourself, I keep repeating my past. This is what is happening. We are reverting to the pattern that is engrained.
The lucky thing about our brains is that they are plastic. We used to think that brains were static and unrepairable once they reached adulthood. The contrary has been proven. We are capable of learning new things in our adulthood. We can actually train different parts of our body to have a sense that it normally would not have. For example, there is research being done successfully showing that people who are blind are able to start seeing through their tongue. It sounds very science fictional, but it is happening. If we can retrain body parts to take over where other body parts have failed, it is possible to train ourself into a new pattern of social behaviour that is more productive, kind, and functional.
If you struggle at keeping partnerships, take a look at the progression of those partnerships. Evaluate if there is a pattern that leads to failure of those partnerships. Ask those who have worked with you (coaches, judges, other dancers) across multiple partnerships to see if they can identify where things keep going wrong. Yes, you may have had a run of bad luck and you didn’t contribute at all. Truthfully, that is unlikely. Facing our short-comings and errors can be difficult and uncomfortable. Learning anything new can be as well. You always have a choice to remain in your pattern or to create new ones. If you keep repeating your past, you can choose to design your future and make the changes you want so that you can create lasting and healthy partnerships.