Two to Tango: Confronting Our Shadow Selves in Relationships

Crystal Jackson
The Startup
Published in
4 min readMay 24, 2019


Photo by Sam Barber on Unsplash

Few, if any, of us go into love and relationships as completely open books, and more’s the pity. We are afraid to see (ourselves) and to be seen. We are afraid that if we drew out our shadow selves, our opportunity for love would leave.

Sometimes, we don’t even know our shadow selves are there. We think we are who we say we are until the wrong relationship draws it out of us. If it takes two to tango, our shadow selves seem to attach themselves to the partners we choose and then wait to be seen. And they need to be seen.

It takes two to tango is an interesting phrase. When I was an undergraduate, I took a social dance class. My instructors were both professional dancers who participated in ballroom competitions. Each class would begin with a demo of a dance performance before they taught us the basics. They showed us the full beauty of the dance before we started stepping on each other’s toes and awkwardly counting our steps.

Of all the dances they taught us, the tango was my favorite. It was violent in its passions and beautiful. The give and take, yin and yang, and perfect synchronicity of the movements left me astounded. It was like watching a beautifully choreographed fight or a perfectly orchestrated piece of music.

It can’t be done alone. Dancing the tango alone would look like a full mental breakdown. To be beautiful, it requires partnership, and our relationships should look like give and take, yin and yang, and synchronicity. Too often, we seem to capture the violent passion of relationships and leave out the partnership — the part where we work together, compromise, and yet still maintain our own individuality.

The tango requires that duality, but it also requires each individual partner to be strong in their role.

I don’t mean male-female or dominant-passive. Each partner is a full individual, a strong dancer capable of supporting and being supported in the dance. It’s equality masquerading in the beauty of the dance.

Maybe your style runs to the waltz or salsa or that middle school slow dance with arms looped around waist and neck in a gentle swaying to the music. Dance takes partnership…