Dance Widow
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The Dance Widow
written by Rick Archer

It is a well-known fact that women like to dance more than men do. Witness any children's ballet class - they are just as devoid of boys as any Catholic Girls School!  Then when these little girls grow up, they discover they like to social dance too. However this time the boys show up in roughly equal numbers.  For example, SSQQ dance classes are just teeming with handsome, eligible bachelors who appear to be having the time of their lives. 

Are these men there for the love of dance or to meet women??

There is of course the exception to every generalization, but our educated guess says the majority of men learn to dance as a practical way to meet women and to make them happy. Very few men walk through the hallowed halls of SSQQ simply to explore the intrinsic nuances of the Texas Twostep. 

We know many women who come to SSQQ to learn to dance and only to dance, but few men would admit to the same motive. This said, there exists a situation far more common than most people would realize, the Dance Widow. 

Generally speaking, once a man is comfortably assured of his wife's love, his interest in dance dies a horrible, permanent death and stays extinguished until she leaves him... in which case it gets magically resurrected faster than you can say 'Lazarus'. 

This is a cruel phenomenon. After the marital ceremony, many husbands develop a long and passionate love affair with the TV remote down in the den. Yet upstairs in the heart of their wives memories linger of those thrilling spins around the dance floor that were so common during the courtship ritual. Yes, those same spins that have painfully disappeared from the lives. Just because a woman gets married doesn't mean she doesn't want to dance any more. 

Most women give up dancing for a while. Then they wait a while longer...until one day she decides she misses dancing so much she is going to dance again whether her husband comes with her or not. 

Some husbands do indeed come along with differing degrees of reluctance. They really do care about making their wives happy. But sadly some either quit or never come at all. Their wives are forced with a choice - quit too or become a 'dance widow'.  This is a woman is married, yet consistently shows up dance classes or Practice Night without her husband in sight. Some are happily married, some aren't, and some haven't made up their mind.

Here at SSQQ I can rattle of the names of a dozen women right off bat. I won't, but I can. It just isn't anyone's business to know.  If you are curious, ask her yourself. Most of these women are here strictly to dance although I will add a couple seem to be pretty lonely. Personally speaking, I wish their husbands would join them at least once in a while, but that's a story for another day. I even have women here at SSQQ with boyfriends who won't take classes with them. These guys are going to lose that girl. I know this from personal experience. 

Married or not, all of these ladies are always welcome at the studio. They make great teachers and volunteers. There are many classes that need an extra lady and I am glad we have these women to help balance the classes. 

Below are two articles. The first, Spouses Without Partners, was sent to me by Liz Biggs, a woman who took my Swing class in 2001. She was easily the best dancer in her class. I was not aware at the time she was married. She offered to share this article she wrote on the subject of marriages where one spouse dances and the other doesn't.  She wrote in three-way collaboration with her husband Ted and a close friend named Chris Miller

The other article is a very touching letter written by a husband who learned to dance in order to make his wife happy. I have named it the Christmas Dance Story.

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
March 2002

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SPOUSES WITHOUT PARTNERS
Written by Ted and Liz Biggs with Chris Miller

My spouse won't dance. I love to dance! What do I do?

Dancing is one of those activities that is best done by two people-usually two people who know each other fairly well and both like to dance. However in this not so perfect world there are many couples--married or dating-- that do not meet this criteria. Finding an activity that both partners like to do, is tricky, at best. (For example, my husband and I take self defense classes together.) If you are lucky to have found that person who likes to do many of the same things you do-consider yourself blessed. 

Many spouses (in most cases the husband) do not care for dancing. This is not an uncommon problem among couples -married or not. What does the dance lover do in such a situation? I will be taking this from the perspective of the wife of a husband who does not like to dance, however the information I share with you could also be applied to all types of couples. I will share with you my experience and observations as well as a few thoughts from others I have talked to. Please realize there are no easy answers, but also realize that you are not alone. Instead take this opportunity to have some really good dialogue with your "significant other" (S.O.) so that hopefully you can find a happy medium. 

Excuses: 

"I hate to dance." 
"I will look silly."
"It's for wimps. "
"My ankles are broken."
"Some one will mistake me for an epileptic!"
"Why?" You ask. All you get at this point is a blank stare and then a response such as "I just don't like dancing!" Eh, Typical.
At this point you try to appeal to their intellect. 

Rationale: 

"You're athletic. This requires footwork. Look at the numerous football players who have taken dance prior to becoming pros?"
"Women love men who can dance." 
"You just need a few lessons and you will be fine." 
"No your ankles are not broken-especially since you just returned from playing (insert a sport here) in which you were jumping around." 
"There are many different forms of dancing. You might just invent one (epileptic chicken dance) or start a new craze!" 

At this point they are not buying into it so you bring out reinforcement. 

"If you loved me you'd dance with me." Upon which they respond. "If YOU loved me you wouldn't make me do this." Fair enough. 
"Think of it like a contact sport."
"Think of it like our self defense class. You just dip the person gently instead of throwing the person down to the floor."

Still no response: only mild irritation from the non-dancer. So with one last ditch effort you respond by saying:

"Well you know what dancing is, don't you?" At which they look at you with some curiosity and some slight interest, wondering where you are going with all this and say,

"Dancing is the vertical expression of the horizontal desire!!" 

The non-dancer thinks about it for a few seconds and retreats back to their initial posture and mentality. 

Frustrated at this point and not sure if you should feel insulted or not, you walk away in disgust and say: " Fine! I will find a friend who will dance with me if you won't." 

The non-dancer thinks about it for a minute trying to decide if it's a trick question or if you are serious. Worried that you really mean this, the non-dancer then says "Well, who would it be?"

Ah, now it gets interesting! 

Points to consider:

For one thing this may not be the best time to discuss such a heated issue. Wait until things are calm. In the interest of keeping your relationship intact there are many things to consider. 

Dancers keep this in mind:

1. Your partner may be frustrated that he/she can not offer you the chance to dance. They want to be supportive. However they do not like being unable to do things, or worse yet, they do not want to look foolish (we all know this is irrational but we love them anyway).
2. They may not come right out and say this, but at some point they may be concerned that you will "leave" them for your dance partner if they gave you an opportunity to go dance. (Maybe they watch too many movies.)
3. They feel they have 2 left feet and can't do the complex moves. Yeah right! You've seen them multitask a number of activities at once. For example, they can prepare dinner while simultaneously carrying a screaming child and talking on the phone. They can program the VCR while reciting obscure sports facts. They can play complex computer games which require hand-finger contortions that would give a chiropractor conniptions - but they can't move their feet around. 

Significant others keep this in mind:

1. Most people when they go dancing are looking for fun, companionship and a chance to practice their new dance steps they learned in dance class. 
2. Most people are not looking for a date. Nor is asking someone to dance with them on the dance floor considered a marriage proposal.
3. Most dance studios/clubs have a mix of people who come with or without a partner. Many places encourage practicing with other people just to learn to adapt to different styles.
4. There are many forms of dance. Salsa is just one. Consider researching the other types of dances. You might find one that you like based on the cultural background or the type of music (such as the Texas two-step, ballroom dancing or swing).
5. Don't worry about being self-conscious. All great dancers were once beginners. 

Choosing and Dancing with a Friend: 

In my case, my spouse was OK with me dancing with another male friend. Here are some main points we discussed:
1. Which Friend? One friend I asked had an "alternative lifestyle". My husband and I both figured he would be safe. However, he politely turned me down stating he did not dance. Drat! His advice was to see if I had another male friend who might dance and then that might get my husband to reconsider. We agreed instead that I would ask a friend my spouse was comfortable with. This friend said yes. 
2. There has to be trust. My husband was willing to let me dance with someone else, because I liked to dance. How would I feel if the tables were turned, and he was practicing self-defense with a female friend? We all know how sensual salsa dancing can be and my dance partner was sensitive to this. I had assured him that my spouse was OK with all this. My dance partner and I are very respectful of each other. But when we started to have some difficulty with a few fast moves, the only way to correct the problem, according to the instructors, was to dance a little closer to each other. Once we realized this, the dancing became easier without creating any comfort or trust issues. 
3. I had invited my spouse to come to dance classes and outings to watch the group, hoping he might gain some interest, obtain a finer appreciation, feel less intimidated and just maybe feel a little more comfortable with trying a few steps. 
4. My friend understood our situation. I stated quite simply that my husband does not wish to take the dance lessons with me right now and is comfortable with him as my dance partner. Never berate your spouse.
5. Since my husband and I have good communication skills, I always told him what we did at practice. All three of us went out to eat and dance at the restaurant/club hosting a party. My dance partner was also able to socialize with my husband and include him in conversations so that everyone was made comfortable. It helps if the dance partner is friends with your S.O.

Advice for the friend: 

If you decide you would like to dance with someone who is married (or otherwise involved), it is best to make sure you ask the S.O. This shows respect for the S.O. as well as for the dance partner. It saves a lot of hurt feelings, broken noses and keeps friendships in place. This includes taking the dance lessons as well as dancing at a club.

Present situation: 

At a recent wedding that my husband and I went to, I was able to get my husband to come out on the dance floor for a few songs. I took the opportunity to show him a few easy moves of which he tried and did pretty well. We are not making leaps and bounds with the dancing but at least it is a start. He does not expect me to become a black belt in self-defense and I do not expect him to become a dance instructor, but at least for now we have found a happy medium. 

Now I realize this does not occur in all situations. My spouse can communicate in a calm, open-minded manner. Some spouses are not as flexible and in the interest of your relationship there has to be some give and take. If the person is completely inflexible, this may be a sign of more serious problems, and you may want to rethink your relationship (if you aren't married) or look into counseling (if you are married). Just remember that the choice that you make for yourself is the right one. Some people will decide it's just not worth the fights, so they will give up the dancing. Some feel its something they enjoy too much to give up, and their spouse will just have to understand (or join in on). 

As I have said before, please realize there are no easy answers. Discuss this with your S.O. Find someone you and your S.O. are comfortable with. All the conditions discussed above were part of conversations with various friends at social gatherings. I was fortunate enough to have friends and a spouse that allowed me to discuss this difficult situation in a warm, loving, open-minded atmosphere. Take this opportunity to have some really good dialogue with your S.O. so that hopefully you can find a happy medium. Good luck, and happy dancing.

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CHRISTMAS DANCE STORY
Written by Frank Jefferson

Note: This letter was sent to me in an email back in December 2001. It is a very touching story. RA

Mon 12/17/2001 2:41 PM

Hi Rick, 

My name is Frank Jefferson. I doubt you will remember me and my wife Jackie, but we remember your studio very well. We took lessons at SSQQ back in 1991 for about five months until my company transferred me to Denver that summer. 

The reason I am writing is to tell you how your studio and dancing changed my life and my marriage eleven years ago. I ran across your web site the other day while I was visiting my oldest son here in Houston. He mentioned an interest in taking dance classes so I looked you up on the Internet. As I read some of your anecdotes, I started to reminisce about learning to dance Western at SSQQ. Then it occurred to me my Christmas story might be interesting to some of the people who visit your studio.

As 1990 neared its conclusion, things were going pretty well for me. My career as an accountant was going well, one boy was finishing his doctorate work at UT, my other son was in college and my daughter was a senior in high school. I thought my marriage was doing pretty well, but as I look back I realize increasingly my wife and I were spending less and less time together. Part of the problem was I had become a golf addict. 

Back then I played golf Friday, Saturday, and Sunday without question and usually managed to play a round during the week plus at least go practice my driving or my putting after work one or two other days. It was an obsession with me. I love the game with a passion (still do for that matter!). What other sport allows you to visit with friends, take a leisurely stroll through the woods and beautiful scenery, gives you some good exercise, and challenges you mentally as well as physically? 

Even when I wasn't playing, I was reading golf magazines or watching a golf tournament on TV or on videotape. I may have physically been in the house, but mentally I was usually on the golf course. As I said, I was a golf addict.

Then came Christmas 1990. Christmas was always an agony for me since as usual I had no clue what to buy my wife for a present. What do you give the woman who has every possession she would ever need? I wracked my brains for what to get her. Finally in desperation I gave up and simply asked, "Jackie, what do you want for Christmas this year?"

It was almost like she had been waiting for this moment! Without hesitation her reply was to grab her purse and pull out a schedule listing your studio's dance classes. I think a girl friend had given it to her. She laid it out on the table, pointed to it, and simply said, "Frank, I want you to take a dance class with me in January." No anger. No pleading. No guilt trip or anything like that. This was just like my Jackie. I asked her a question and she answered me matter-of-fact. She wanted me to take a dance class with her. 

For some reason, I was stunned. I had not expected this. Money I had to give. Going out and buying something was no big deal. Even building something like a porch would have been no problem. But committing some valuable free time to do something stupid like take dance lessons? You gotta be kidding!

But Jackie knew me too well. Deep down she knew I enjoy pleasing her. She held eye contact and said nothing. In fact she smiled the whole time. I think she knew exactly what was going through my mind. For a while I sort of felt set up, but eventually I realized it wasn't the worst thing in the world that she had asked me to do. I can still remember while she just sat there at the kitchen table watching me make up my mind! I think she enjoyed watching me squirm, something she has never denied for a moment. 

It took me a long time to answer. Finally I realized I wasn't going to figure a way out of this. Despite my best efforts I could not come up with one good excuse so I gave up and said, "Okay. If that's what you want, you got it!" I wrapped up a letter and put it in a box. When she opened it Christmas Day, it said, "I promise to take a dance class with you in January! Love, Frank" Jackie gave me a big hug and grinned as my kids teased me unmercifully. What had I gotten myself into?

Two weeks later we started taking a Twostep class at your studio. I think the teacher was a lady named Sharon. Fortunately the class was on a Wednesday which was practically the only day I didn't play golf. 

I was so nervous the first night. I did not know what to expect. At first I didn't even know if your studio really existed. We couldn't see anything from the street that looked like a dance studio. We had to walk down this long hallway till we found the place to register. Then we sat on some chairs in a big room with about 60 other people with a bunch of guys who looked just as worried as I was. 

Once we got going, to my surprise the moves weren't very difficult. Within fifteen minutes Jackie and I were already dancing to music. Then came a shock. Sharon asked us to switch partners. Jackie hadn't told me about this! She grinned at me as suddenly I was expected to move to dance with a woman I had never seen before in my life. What had I gotten myself into? My heart sank with worry. Fortunately I soon discovered the moves worked with the other women in the class too. This was good!

In fact I began to enjoy dancing with everyone in class. Everyone was so nice! Once I got on the wrong foot and accidentally stepped on a lady's foot. I didn't put all my weight on her foot, thank goodness, but it still had to hurt. Her name was Carol. She laughed and said don't worry about it. I just melted with gratitude at her forgiveness. From then on Carol and I became good friends. At each class she would point at her foot and say it had almost healed, but could I aim at the other one instead just in case? By an odd coincidence another time I ran Carol into the pole in the middle of the room. This time as I stared in shock at my stupidity, Carol almost died laughing. "What are you trying to do, Frank, kill me? Did someone pay you to do this?" 

At the end of the evening, Sharon told us about Practice Night. Jackie asked if I would mind staying. I looked at my watch and thought about work the next day. I was tired and ready to go, but then I saw that look on her face. Sure, why not? I said we could stay for a little while and see what it was like. 

It turned out to be more of a challenge than I had expected. Without the teacher calling out the timing, I had a hard time figuring out how the steps fit the beat. And I couldn't tell a Polka from a Waltz from a Twostep to save my life if I had to. However Jackie came through like a charm. She told me to just dance and she would try to follow. Although I doubt I was anywhere near the beat, once this pressure was off, I started to enjoy plowing around the floor. I had an absolute ball! This was better than dodge 'em cars! The highlight of the night came towards the end. I had been so absorbed in counting "slow slow quick quick" to myself I was oblivious to everything around me. But after a particularly good run around the floor, I realized I had danced an entire song without making a mistake. I looked at Jackie and saw her beaming with pride and happiness. She was so grateful to be here with me that her smile brought actual tears to my eyes. I had not seen her smile at me in this way in a long, long time. I will never forget that moment. 

To make a long story short, dancing became a hobby I looked forward to just like I did with golf. On days I knew I was going to dance class, I would hitch a ride to work. Then later Jackie would pick me up at work and we would go somewhere for dinner before class. We began to chat again just like we did earlier in our marriage. Then we would go to class and have fun learning the Western Swing. We would visit with some of the people we had grown to like before class and during breaks. Practice Night became pretty much a ritual with us as well. 

Then in March 1991 I got the news - my company wanted me to transfer to Denver. God, how I hated agreeing to do it! As I talked the move over with Jackie, I was surprised that golf never really entered my mind. However one thing that kept going through my mind was where was I going to dance in Denver? But the money was too good to resist plus with my daughter leaving soon for college, it was less of a problem for the two of us to relocate than the other families in the firm. 

Up in Denver we found no studio like yours was in existence. And Western dancing like you have in Houston was practically non-existent. But dancing was in my system now, so we decided to try Ballroom Dancing. To my surprise, I liked it just as much as Western. I even discovered I was able to tell a Waltz from a Tango and be able to keep the beat as well! 

We discovered a 'dance underground' in Denver. Practically every night of the week a different studio would offer social Ballroom dancing, and on the weekends there were special events sponsored through a dance organization I am sure you have heard of called USABDA. The big moment for me was when I realized I was looking forward to a Saturday evening dance with my lovely wife just as much as I was looking forward to playing golf that afternoon!

I still play a lot of golf, but have cut back a little to make more time for my dancing as well. Recently I even let myself get talked into dance competitions. Can you believe that? We haven't won anything yet, but the point is I enjoy improving at dance just like I once obsessed over my putting. I realize my story borders on being sappy, but the truth is that dance has become the favorite activity for my wife and I to share. 

Thanks again for helping us get started! 

Regards, Frank Jefferson


(Editor's Note: I would imagine stories like this one are more common than we might realize, but very few people take the time to write them down and send them to me. I am particularly grateful to Mr. Jefferson, whom I did indeed do not know, for sending me this timely and poignant letter.) 

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