Zen and the Art of Dating

What does it mean when your current “relationship” drives you to seek out Eastern religions? Wait, don’t answer that…

One of the basic tenants of Buddhism is non-attachment, something I’ve struggled with in the past when studying the Buddha’s teachings. I attach deeply, so this was mystifying to me. How can you practice Buddhism, love someone and be in a committed relationship with them?

As I’ve read, I’ve come to understand this path is more about the expectation you place upon the relationship. Am I using it to fill a void within myself? Do I expect it to make me happy? Am I relying on the other person’s love and presence in my life to make me complete?

Of course, the complete path of non-attachment would be to accept my relationship with my lover in the present moment and have zero expectations for the future. If he were to call me up tomorrow and say, “I don’t feel we can be together”, I would be accepting, wish him happiness and not be crushed by the loss of the relationship. That sounds like a great place to work toward!

So I decided to review where I was at on the non-attachment path of zen:

  • Do I feel like I “need” this person/relationship to make me happy? (Yes. Part of me is absolutely convinced if my lover and I end things I’ll never find another decent man and will end up dying alone, my lifeless and lonely body not found for days by my family) 
  • Am I living in the present moment? (Sure…as long as anticipating, analyzing and planning for the future present moment, pretty much all the moments between the current present moment, counts!)
  • Am I placing expectations on him? (If he doesn’t return my text, phone call, initiate contact… you might as well book me a stay in a cozy padded cell until he does.)
  • Would I be crushed and curl into the fetal position and weep for days if it suddenly ended ended again? (Hide the wine and old Sarah McLachlan Cd’s!)

Obviously, I have a long way to go toward enlightenment.

I think in theory, practicing non-attachment with my relationships is a wonderful plan. I DO need to work on being happy with myself and my life, without a partner. I absolutely need to stop worrying about the future and placing expectations on a specific outcome and simply enjoy the moment. I very much want to know I’ll be okay no matter what happens.

In reality, it’s going to be a struggle.

Adding to my confusion is that tiny voice that whispers “All this Buddhist non-attachment discussion might simply be a way of rationalizing staying in a relationship you’re not totally okay with.” Afterall, despite my love for my lover, I do have concerns about how this will all turn out. I’m not 100% happy with how he’s choosing to proceed in the relationship or the attention he’s giving to me. What is the balance between loving someone and having no expectations of them and ensuring your own needs get met?

Of course, all of this deep analysis of non-attachment is probably the antithesis of the path to zen.


Time to go meditate.


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