Improvising Relationships

Do Internet dating sites reflect our romantic world or shape it?Dating Sites

Dating sites try to capture our mate selection parameters in a plethora of check boxes, pull-down menus and search criteria. It's now so easy to find your exact match – height, income, religion, hobbies, eye color, you name it! It's an extension of the mind, of our idea of what we want. In that respect, dating sites reflect the mental process of evaluation – which is how we commonly think of each other.

If only love were rational this approach would work splendidly, but – it's not.

If you follow this path you will likely end up with someone perfect. However, it's a momentary conceptual perfection in which your mental evaluation of the other is in concord with your mind's fantasy of an ideal mate. That kind of perfection is unstable. As you get to know someone reality inevitably catches up with you, and what seemed so perfect can quickly become perfectly wrong.

Evaluations are, in essence, the projection of our internal process onto each other. One may decide “You're the perfect match for me,” or “Not a chance!” But either way, it's the mind's projection of its desire and fear. It's an enticing illusion. Unfortunately, the nature of illusion is that eventually it's dispelled. One day you wake up next to your “perfect match” and say to yourself “this is not my beautiful wife...” They've changed, or you've changed; your initial evaluations were erroneous or incomplete.

That's not to say that you can't find love on a dating site, just that dating sites tend to encourage an evaluative approach that is less likely to produce the desired results.  The problem lies in believing we can evaluate our way to love – and that's a deeper problem.

The nature of love

Our most fundamental relationship with each other as human beings is one of love. You can be certain that when love seems to be missing it is only obscured – by desire, by aversion, by all the manifestations of the mind's grasping. The path of love isn't so much the creation of something new, as the revealing of something that already exists. Love is the mutual exploration of “what is”.

Michelangelo slave embedded in marble

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
– Michelangelo

And here is the crux of the matter. Love is an exploration, a process. Something you do. It can only exist in the moment, this now, where all doing takes place. Love happens in the domain of experience, not the domain of thought. That's what renders it a mystery instead of a known quantity.

It's inevitable that our partners will do things we don't like, and vice versa. We will show up in ways that trigger each other. A partner in loving keeps returning to that exploration of “what is”, wherever it leads. That's very different than a partnership based on the mind's evaluations. It's the difference between loving and the concept of love.

Ox HerdingAnother way of looking at it is that intimacy arises as we free our minds from what we know, and learn to rely on what we experience. There is a Zen koan to this effect: “Not knowing is most intimate.” We are brought more into connection with our “partners in relating” when we approach them with “don't know” mind.

Of course, this means letting go of control, and the mind hates that!

The improv alternative: what to do when you don't know what to do

Letting GoWe pay each other the highest respect by seeing each other as the beautiful and imperfect human beings we are, and by holding our evaluations of each other lightly. They are, after all, our evaluations – at least as much a reflection of subject as object. By maintaining a “don't know” mind we create a realm of possibility. Is it possible to hang out a little bit longer in that space of not knowing?

This is right in line with what we do in improv. You may have thoughts about where a scene is going, or where you'd like it to go, but holding those thoughts lightly allows you to maintain your spontaneity. Let the scene unfold on its own, without trying to control it! Treat each new offer from your partner as brilliant, “Yes, and...” what they give you. In each moment, respond to those offers in a way that maintains the truthfulness and integrity of the conversation, surrendering again and again to “what is”.

Using these improv axioms in our relationships creates this very definition of love: the mutual exploration of “what is”. It won't look like any other relationship, or indeed, the relationship your mind is so sure it desires. But it will be uniquely beautiful, always a work in progress, and rich beyond measure.


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