The Zen approach to dating is to cut through all the games, to be your authentic self and to be present and compassionate toward whoever is with you.
The biggest game in dating is wanting something from another person and pretending we don’t. We want all kinds of things from other people when we date them. We want love, acceptance, appreciation, understanding, confirmation, sex, commitment, money, security, healing, and on and on. We bring every want and need in our lives into our relationships. In a dating situation it is a brand new relationship and so we play the game of pretending that we are complete, have lots to offer and need nothing. Playing that game is already taking something from the other person as we rely on them to support the fantasies we project about ourselves.
To approach a date from a zen perspective you go into your date as an enlightened person. You can’t just put your enlightenment on for a date like a sweater or scarf. That would be playing a game. You have to use that as your approach to life. You must approach life as a process of personal growth, learning to be who you are, where you are in all circumstances. Going out on a date, is a special opportunity to catch yourself at your normal habits, pretending to be things, and wanting things from other people.
Dating is a time of heightened judging and self-consciousness. When you find yourself being present and connecting with another person you judge positively, imagining a long life of happiness together, or getting what you want from them. When you are not connecting, you imagine you are wasting your time, that the person will not give you anything that you need or want. You sense that they may want something from you that you can’t give.
Whether you are connecting or not connecting changes moment to moment and instead of connecting, you wonder if you are connecting or not. If you think the other person is great, you may start to worry that you are not enough. If you find them annoying, you’re not too worried about how good you are, and you may even find yourself being mean. As you wander away from the present moment, indulge your judgments, and forget your compassion you lose your enlightenment. You find yourself involved in a transaction rather than an interpersonal connection. You are swallowed up by your own game. Zen is remembering to come back to the present and be who you are where you are.
When a date is over, you continue working on yourself, your presence, your compassion and your enlightenment. When you notice yourself playing a game, recognize the game and respond compassionately. When you are deciding what to do, ask yourself, am I playing a game or am I engaged in real life? Ask yourself if you are being authentic or manipulative. If you are bashing yourself, be compassionate with yourself. If you are acting toward another person be compassionate with them.
As dating progresses and you become more intimate, more authentic, with another person, walls crumble, or stand firm. Illusions pop. Pretenses are exposed. You grow and change. You may get married, you may go separate ways. You continue to work on being present, compassionate and enlightened. That is a zen approach to dating.