Most of us operate under the impression that love is something that happens to us, not something that we make happen to ourselves, which means that those of us looking for love are basically left waiting around for it to happen (not easy, not fun). It’s that preconceived notion about love that writer Mandy Len Catron took on in an essay in The New York Times called “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.”
In it, she details a study carried out by psychologist Arthur Aron in which two strangers were instructed to ask each other a set of 36 questions—broken up into three sets—with each set getting increasingly more personal, and were then asked to stare into each others eyes for four minutes. The zinger: Apparently actual marriages resulted from this study.
Catron decided to give it a try in her own life, albeit out of the control of an actual scientific study, asking and answering the same 36 questions with the person she’d just started dating while at a bar, and finishing the experience staring into each others eyes for the full four minutes with the help of a stopwatch. She finishes the essay with the revelation that she did actually fall in love with the person she acted this out with.
While we don’t think Catron is trying to make the point that asking and answering these 36 questions with just anyone will automatically lead you to fall in love, we do think she’s trying to make the point that there are ways for people to accelerate intimacy, which can lead to falling in love more easily. Just think about how long it takes for someone to really get to know you, and how challenging it is to get to that point with someone you’re dating. This is simply a method for speeding that process up.
The complete list of Aron’s 36 questions are below, and don’t forget to stare into each others eyes for a full four minutes if you want to try this.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.