“It takes two to tango”

I am sure you’ve heard it before. “It takes two to tango.” It’s a lie. If a person is actually talking about dancing, it may be true, but if they are talking about relationship problems, it is not true. It takes two people to make a healthy and happy relationship. It takes two people to be mature and work at being present, kind and respectful to each other. But it only takes one person to destroy a relationship. If one person steps away from the relationship, or has an affair or is cruel or abusive, that one person destroys the relationship.

The women I support try everything to make their relationships work. They go to counselling, they read self-help books. They try being more accommodating and they try having “clearer boundaries,” but the problem is their partner is abusive and so, no matter what the woman does, she can not make the relationship work. It takes two people to make a relationship work but only one person to destroy a relationship.

The lie, “it takes two to tango” hurts women impacted by abuse because it holds them partly responsible for the abuse. It is time to destroy this lie.



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  1. I have seen this one trotted out every time I read an article about how a woman was abused if there is a comment section. Sometimes, in the article itself. I see journalists present articles about domestic violence as if “it takes two to tango”. They will call an incident where a woman has been attacked a “dispute”. This angers me very much because it perpetuates the idea that the woman must take “some responsibility” (another one I see along the same lines) for what has happened.

    I find this outrageous. Would you say that some tourists in New York city who get mugged were having a “dispute” with a mugger? Really? Like it is a difference of opinion instead of a crime committed by a criminal or criminals?

    I wish that journalists would be a lot more careful in the language they use, because I think it has a huge impact on society who read these articles and form opinions and impressions. That phrase “It takes two to tango”, to me, is the typical attitude of those who want to blame women for abuse.

    Thank you so much for your book and this site, you’re like a refreshing spring of cool pure water in a huge, hot desert.

    Milan McCandle

  2. Thank you for this wonderful article.
    I’m both a psychotherapist AND a survivor of a covert narcissistically abusive relationship, perhaps more than one.

    Nothing gets me more upset then when colleagues in my field try to tell me that it Takes Two to Tango. I’ve tried to explain myself, but they seem to shut off their willingness to hear about it. Your article says it so beautifully.

    Thank you, thank you!

  3. Thank you so much for your kind comments. I think when someone says, “It takes two to tango” really don’t understand what they are saying or are in their own denial. I would rather say that it takes at least two people to make a relationship awesome but it only takes ONE to blow it. The other point, other than possibly not understanding what that phrase really does, hurts, seeks to put shame and put condemnation on the other person, thereby not taking responsibility for their words and actions. Am I right?

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