How Improv Makes You a Better Lover

If you haven't done improv you may not be aware that improv has rules. These rules are constraints that have been shown to make a scene more interesting, and to provide more avenues for story and character development. The first rule of improv – you could even call it the “prime directive” – is commonly called the “Yes, and...” rule.

The “Yes” part means that we commit ourselves to accepting “what is.” For example, if someone walks on stage and says to you “Here is the traitor's head, your highness,” then you must accept the implied reality that you are the king or queen, and that you are being presented with a human head. Experience has shown that affirming the “reality” of such an offer is more productive (and fun!) than denying it.

The “and, ...” part of the rule is simply to add something that furthers the story that is being developed, for example, “Well done, varlet. Now find me another lawyer, one who can be trusted.” This statement affirms the implied relationship of monarch and servant, and adds a bit of information that the other player can use.

I Love Improv“Yes, and...” asks us to accept rather than negate, and to exercise our creativity and courage by adding something new to the mix.

If love is understood as unconditional acceptance of another being, the “Yes, and...” rule is like the not-so-secret instruction for finding love, or better, for creating it. For love is not so much something that happens to us as it is a choice we make, an ongoing practice. When two people engage in this ongoing exploration of “what is,” the essence of how they are relating is love. There is no script. You're making it up as you go along.

Now, it can be very tempting to write a script! In improv your mind will come up with all kinds of brilliant lines for you to say as you anticipate walking on stage. It seems as if the script will keep you safe. If you can just say your clever lines everything will turn out okay! Unfortunately, the other players can't read your mind and will suddenly do something that sends the scene careening off in a direction that makes your lines meaningless. Similarly, in love, your “script” for your future may be derailed by a partner who has plans of their own. In both cases, the solution isn't better planning or better partners, it's the ability to quickly respond in intelligent and creative ways to the reality that is presenting itself.

Improv provides an ideal environment in which to exercise your “Yes, and...” muscle. If you want to be a better lover, use improv to cultivate acceptance, spontaneity, playfulness. You can make those qualities the foundation of all your relationships, on stage and off.

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