Dancing My Way Through A Broken Heart


Woman dancing in the street
How the tango helped one woman heal after her divorce.

The morning after I learned about my husband's affair, I woke up at sunrise on our living room couch, still dressed in jeans, still stunned. I couldn't quit thinking about how the past few months with my husband had been a lie. The future I had imagined and hoped for—a child, a house—had been shattered. I sunk into an abyss, between lies of the past and the pain and disappointment that lay ahead of me. MyDaily: I'm Happy Married, But I Still Dream About My Ex

I had liked being married. I felt more at peace. I loved the idea of sharing my life with another person. But this was a deal-breaker for me, and now I needed a plan, a goal, something to replace the loss and emptiness I felt. My husband and I had meant to attend our friends' wedding near Buenos Aires. We had danced salsa together and in passing discussed taking tango lessons before the trip. I decided to learn the Argentine tango and travel there without him.


Initially, I just wanted to see people dancing the tango. That first night out at a social, the music played right to me—the melodies and harmonies of the violin, flute, guitar, bandoneon and piano mourned the inescapable pain of betrayal. I knew that tango understood my broken heart.

I spotted a man I had known from salsa dancing. Marcel. He insisted I dance with him.

"Hey, where's your husband?" he asked.

Tears welled up in my eyes. "It's over," I told him.

"I've been divorced," he answered. "I'm sorry. It's awful." Then he took me in his arms and helped me with the tango embrace.

As he pulled me to him, I felt warmth from his upper torso go straight into me—my chest, my solar plexus, my stomach —and the leaden feeling inside of me softened. I could feel the dark, gaping hole, the deadness I felt since learning of my husband's affair, and I let the heat coming from this man fill that void.

The second song started and I became aware of Marcel's arms around me: One pressed into my hand and kept the circle of connection but it was the other arm I really felt, the one wrapped around my back that held me to him and made me feel secure and cared for. I started to sense his pulse and, for a moment, with my chest pressed against his, I felt all the good intentions of the human heart.

After the dance, he explained to me, "It takes a village to make a tango dancer." Then he suggested different studios and teachers.

I quickly realized that the only time I didn't feel bad was when I was dancing tango, and so I disappeared in to the tango hole. This meant answering "no" to invitations for dinner parties, cocktail hours and theater tickets. Instead, several evenings a week, I attended a dance class, followed by a practice; at times I went to private lessons. Learning tango is not easy, but soon I was going out to social dances, or milongas.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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