The yoga of dating
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published by News Press on September 30, 2014
A friend told me that the best relationship is between two people who are deaf and blind.
If you look at someone long and hard and listen to every word, you’ll eventually detect things you don’t like.
And, in romantic relationships, that’s what we often do. We analyze and dissect. Who could stand up to that kind of daily scrutiny?
Divorce statistics are startling. The national average hovers around 50%. The rates are higher for younger couples and for those with more marriages under their belts.
Practice doesn’t make perfect.
But, in the spirit of Michael Corleone, I would like to ask, “Where does it say relationships have to last forever to be meaningful?”
Happily Ever After is not a theme in the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest love stories of all time. The top three are Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and West Side Story. Roman Holiday, The Way We Were, Doctor Zhivago and Love Story join them in the top ten.
And, even if the couples do stay together, like in the remaining three films (An Affair to Remember, It’s a Wonderful Life and City Lights), there is going to be pain, pining, near-death experiences, suffering and extended separations.
Lest we forget, the quintessential Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. The sonnet at the play’s start makes it clear that the lovers are doomed. A double-suicide may not be doused in candy hearts, but that level of passion and intensity is tantalizing. What does it feel like to want someone THAT much? Too bad you’d have to die to find out.
Given that most people’s intimate relationships eventually fizzle (most first dates don’t end in forever), perhaps tragedy is a defining characteristic of romance.
Don’t worry; your heart does go on.
Just the Way You Are
I always liked that Billy Joel song until a friend ruined it for me.
“What do you mean you want me to stay as I am? I can’t change and grow with life? If I change for any reason, you won’t love me anymore?” she demanded.
She had a point. People do have a vested interest in you staying the same. That’s one of the issues with relationships: People change.
Try this. Make a list of three people you love and note three reasons why you love each person.
I’ve done this activity with many students, and the reasons are similar: He listens to me. She respects me. He gets me. We share the same interests. He’s hot. She’s always got my back. I can trust him. The sex is great.
When you have your list, imagine that the people you love no longer fulfill those functions. Do you still love them as much? If your love was based on the reasons listed, it was never love.
Frequently, the people you love make you feel the way you want to feel. That, unfortunately, is selfish, and love isn’t selfish.
Nowhere else is this selfishness clearer than in online dating.
When you create your profile, you are marketing yourself by the trappings of the ego. Your likes and dislikes. Your hobbies. Your job. Your political affiliation. Your religion. The books you read. The movies you watch. What you eat and drink. How often you exercise. Your highest level of education. You create a myth of who you think you are (when the lighting is favorable), what you think people want to see, or worse, the person you wish you were.
You’ll then go shopping. You’ll flip through the profiles and evaluate the pictures. You’ll hunt for red flags and dealbreakers. If someone reminds you of That Loser, next!
You might settle on a potential acquisition, one who could be My girlfriend, My boyfriend, My lover, My spouse. Mine.
The first date is the interview (or test drive).
(Can you tell that I’ve done this before?)
If you are single and your singleness is agitating you and you are compelled to try the online thing, do it. Acquiring My Boyfriend or My Girlfriend may lessen your agitation.
Part of the problem is that the ego window dressing is not the spirit of a human being. You and another person may have everything in common, but your everything-in-common is bound to change. And then there are those pesky character traits that hide in the nooks and crannies.
It’s possible that two human beings can come together and forge a spiritual bond. But, if the relationship is a product of a quest to fill a void, the void will yawn all the more. You cannot solder a spiritual abyss with air. In fact, the relationship itself may make you even more anxious. Being in a relationship is a comfort zone. You have verification that you are desirable. But comfort zones are paradoxical because you always know the Red Zone lurks.
Coping with Loneliness
Feeling lonely on a planet with 6 billion people sounds odd. Why aren’t you connecting?
The reality is that the most fulfilling connections are not physical, emotional or even intellectual. They are spiritual. Your spirit is beneath the skin yet beyond the body. Your spirit overflows the banks of language and online profiles.
Your spirit lies in your compassion, your ability to feel with all beings, not just the people you know or those who have treated you well. This compassion is the heart of how you plug in and connect.
Examine how you relate in general, and practice honesty. How does selfishness manifest itself in your relationship with your job? Your neighbors? Your pets? Money? Family? Your garbage? Strangers? Criminals? Water? The planet? Your political leaders? Yourself? Are these relationships tinged with fear, paranoia, waste, abuse or impatience?
Ask not what your relationships can do for you but what you can do for your relationships.
Loneliness is a wakeup call to begin evaluating how you relate to the world. You can use other people as Band-Aids for this wound, or you can dive in and heal it.
Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, has written about the importance of experiencing emotional distress without anesthetizing, condemning or justifying the experience. She said when you struggle against your energy, you’re rejecting this source of wisdom. Sit with it. Make a friend.
Chödrön offers three basic life misunderstandings in her marvelous book “The Places That Scare You.” First, we expect that what is always changing should be graspable and predictable. Second, we proceed as if we are separate from everything else, as if we are fixed identities, when our true situation is egoless. And finally, we look for happiness in all the wrong places.
Try this meditation. Create a profile, and be brutally honest even with the picture. You don’t have to post it. Warning! I tried honesty with one dating site’s questionnaire, and the site rejected me. They offered a nice apology, but they didn’t think finding my match was possible.