Twenty years ago, New York psychologist Arthur Aron made two complete strangers fall in love using just 36 questions and, two decades later, a New York Times journalist tried it out for herself – and it worked.
She fell in love with the person asking the questions.
So, what are these mysterious questions, and why do they work?
The theory is that the 36 questions, which become increasingly more personal and intimate, break down the emotional barriers most of us have naturally, allowing anyone to become friends, lovers and even partners.
And they break down those barriers very quickly by creating the type of interpersonal closeness that usually comes after knowing someone for a long time.
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When Arthur first conducted the research, way back in 1997, he put two strangers in a laboratory and had each of them ask and answer the questions below. At the end of the session, the couple had to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes in total silence.
The result was that the couple, a male and female who had never met before and, may not initially have even been attracted to each other, left the room after 45 minutes – in love.
Six months later, they married – and invited everyone at the lab to their wedding.
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Last year, New York Times’ Modern Love columnist Mandy Len Catron tried it out for herself – and the results were the same. She’s now living with the fellow, a former university chum, she took the test with.
She’s not sure if it was the test that did it or whether they would have fallen in love anyway, but she does say, “Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate.
“We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become. Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”
See the questions below – and, if you fall in love, do let us know!
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?
Each set is intended to be more intimate than the one that came before – and is said to bring you closer
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?
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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.
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