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Ira Israel Headshot

Mindful Dating

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DATING
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"Man's greatest labor so far has been to reach agreement about very many things and to submit to a law of agreement - regardless of whether these things are true or false."

Nietzsche, "The Gay Science," section 76

In our "crazybusy" adult lives, dating has become extremely speedy and contrived with people "pencilling in" business-like Starbucks rendezvouses that are not dissimilar from job interviews or writer-directors auditioning actors to play the leading roles in their screenplays entitled, "This Is What I Think My Life Should Look Like."

After college - take note, young people - organically getting to know fellow humans outside of work, bars, and a few social activities is becoming increasingly difficult. I recently watched the politically scintillating first season of "The Newsroom" and was appalled to find that most of the (egregiously dysfunctional) romantic relationships portrayed on the show are between people who work closely together. I am quite certain that America's equivalent to Shakespeare, Aaron Sorkin, is familiar with the phrase "Don't crap where you eat," so I am wondering if this is really a phenomenon in contemporary offices or if it is added for dramatic effect? In either case, the couples and trebles involved appear to work better together than stand a snowball's chance in hell of growing old together.

Some people feel as if technology is helping them connect but it can also be argued that Facebook and Twitter delude people into believing they are interacting when they actually are not receiving the tactile affection they crave, that people construct flagrantly inauthentic facades when social networking and dating online, and that 95% of communications are non-verbal - thus 95% of communications are lost through text messaging and emailing.

"What about Tinder?" I hear you query. Right. There is probably no better tool to find a sugary sweet piece of arm-candy or eye-candy, but swiping left or right contingent upon someone's photoshopped headshot is probably as accurate prediction of compatibility as the SATs are to college performance.

Similarly, as Cindy Gallop posits: "Google has ruined alot of first dates!"

At the risk of offending all, I shall not even mention Lori Gottlieb's provocative New York Times Magazine article "Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?" wherein she argues that gender equality can be detrimental to a couple's sex life; specifically, Ms. Gottlieb cites a study claiming that wives reported greater sexual satisfaction when their husbands stuck to doing "masculine" chores around the house. I hope that someone conducts a parallel study regarding single people: women obviously want gender equality and equal pay (and rightfully so), but when the man doesn't buy dinner I wonder if that adversely affects the perceived sexual "chemistry" between them... hmmmm...?

Correspondingly, you may be familiar with the concept of the myth of romantic love as explicated by Robert A. Johnson in "We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love" wherein damsels in distress seek to be saved by knights in shining armor, and/or "soulmates" believe that the apple of their eyes are the missing parts of them (cf. "Jerry Maguire" - "You complete me"). Such myths would constitute matrices of assumptions that we all agree upon regarding the etiquette of courtship. In our post-post modern information age, all of these assumptions regarding gender roles have been cast aside. Thus, it is unwise and often unprofitable to make assumptions regarding which partner leads when dancing, who is supposed to call whom (does anyone even use the telephone anymore???), who pays for dinner, and who makes sexual advances.

In my mindfulness workshops and on my DVDs I discuss what Mary Ainsworth called "ambivalent-insecure attachment" and "avoidant-insecure attachment" observing that some of my patients have a difficult time trusting that others will not abandon or betray them; thus, they sabotage their relationships before the other person can leave them, which would re-open their primal abandonment/betrayal wounds; or they don't/can't fully ever commit; or they learn how to create hardened facades (false selves) so that they can shrug their shoulders and say "Whatever..." as they continue to blame others and abnegate responsibility for their inauthentic ways of showing up as relationship after relationship implodes or conveniently FADES OUT.

The problem is as follows: the most propitious tools for making relationships succeed - authenticity and authentic communications - may not be the most alluring traits when dating. For it is highly probable that your authentic self is not as glorious, glossy, and glamourous as the facade or false self you created in order to survive your childhood, which is the face you mostly like choose to meet the faces that you meet on Facebook and Match.com. Also, it takes time for people to grow to trust each other and allow themselves to be open, authentic and vulnerable; another paradox when unveiling yourself in front of yet another potential mirror - especially in our crazybusy society where instant gratification takes too long for many people.

Thus, when we date we must be mindful of our own expectations and assumptions, our own projections, our own ways of communicating, our own psychological baggage, and our own attachment dynamics, so that we can show up authentically, make honest commitments, communicate with the utmost possible compassion and integrity, and learn how to grow intimately with another human being over a period of time.

And we also must know how to have fun. :-)

This is mindful dating.

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