The Paradox of Passion: Sparks, Flames and Fuel

Next year will be me and my husband Jon’s 15th year together: 6 dating and 9 married. We have experienced and accomplished so many amazing things. Adventures like honeymooning in Costa Rica and trekking through Europe. ¬†Personal triumphs like health kicks and lifestyle changes. Helping each other create and grow businesses that didn’t even exist when we met. Overseeing a major home remodel and making room for the 4, sometimes 5 people that live here. And, of course, making two awesome tiny people that manage to fill us up and drain us completely, often simultaneously.

Yay, us!

So I’ve decided to put down the parenting books for a minute, and pick up the relationship books for a while. And I have to tell you, the first one I’m reading is kinda blowing my mind. I had a vague memory of an excellent TED talk about marriage, looked it up, and found Esther Perel, a kind of Dr. Ruth for the new millenium. I got her book Mating in Captivity and I find myself nodding and grunting aloud in agreement every two pages or so, and I’m just a few chapters in. Her essential question is: “Can we desire what we already have?”

And of course it has everything to do with improv, this thing that I’m supposed to be so good at. One of the quotes that stood out to me (and I’m not a huge Tony Robbins fan or anything) is this one:

One of the benefits of improv training is the ability to not only tolerate but enjoy uncertainty. Improv should shift you from a fear of the unknown to a curiosity and perhaps even excitement about what might be to come. I’ve often used this Keith Johnstone quote, which is built into our slide deck:

I’ve always thought about this literally, in terms of actions: the places you go, things you do and people you meet. But now I see that it is equally true in relationships. That when you don’t give over 100% into the need for stability and certainty, you can allow for more passion in your relationships. That the need for security is often a need to control, squeezing the vitality out of something that once was vibrant.

“We all share a fundamental need for security, which propels us toward committed relationships in the first place; but we have an equally strong need for adventure and excitement. Modern romance promises that it’s possible to meet these two distinct sets of needs in one place. Still I’m not convinced. Today we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning and continuity. At the same time we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all? It’s hard to generate excitement, anticipation, and lust with the same person you look to for comfort and stability, but it’s not impossible. I invite you to think about ways you might invite risk to safety, mystery to the familiar, and novelty to the enduring.”

Why is this news to me as a life-long improviser? Why does it sound so scary and hard when I’m supposed to be good at it? Dang it, y’all–I gotta keep working on this stuff! Apparently, what I’ve been saying–it’s not about finding a great offer, it’s about how you develop it–is actually true. It’s not about coming up with good ideas, it’s about exploring the ones you have in front of you. It’s the commitment that makes the performance great. On with the show!

Happy 14th-and-a-half anniversary, Sweetie.

Shana Merlin
Founder, Merlin Works


About Karina

Karina Dominguez is the registrar and assistant to the Dean of Merlin Works Institute of Improvisation. She graduated from the Merlin Works program in December 2011 with three performances of "The Amazing Improvised Race." She is a full-time actor with commercial credits such as Burger King, Ford, Totino's, H-E-B and various departments for the State of Texas. She was last seen in the opening episode of the second season of "American Crime", and as the welcome video ranger in the second season of HBO's "The Leftovers". She also performs on-stage in various Austin, TX plays including for Capital T Theatre, The Vortex, Vestige Group, Pollyanna Theater among others.

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