Scientists have come up with these 36 questions that lead to love.
And the idea they say is “mutual vulnerability fosters closeness”.
However, all of these 36 questions are kind of abnormal to ask. Is there a list with a smaller set of questions that still have the same effect?
For anyone that hasn’t heard of this study, as the writer says, an actual psychologist conducted an actual experiment on whether intimacy can be created or accelerated.
He had a set of couples who did not know each other ask 36 increasingly personal questions and then had them stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
One pair who participated in the experiment was married six months later.
And a New York Times writer looking to recreated the experiment, also fell in love when she tried it out.
Compelling case studies.
Is There an Alternative?
The problem that the writer alludes to is that going through these sets of questions can take hours, and they’re not exactly the most natural questions.
I agree, if you randomly ask, “What is your greatest accomplishment in life?” it would absolutely come off as a forced, job interview type question rather than natural date conversation.
I think you have two options here.
You could ask her if she’s heard of this study, tell her you’ve always wanted to try it, and see if she’d be up for it. Some girls would think that this would be a lot of fun, and a welcome deviation from the same ole boring, getting-to-know-you small talk. OR it could freak her out.
If you DO want to give this a shot, maybe wait until the third or fourth date.
Or you can skip the formality and keep the bottom line of this study in mind.
Aron searches to create something close to what other researchers call intimacy, “the process in which each feels his or her innermost self validated, understood, and cared for by the other.” To do that one most be brave enough to “share that which is inmost with others.”
In other words, small talk won’t get you anywhere.
But small talk is almost impossible to avoid when you’re first getting to know someone. I say, you don’t have to skip it all together, just let it lead to something deeper.
Questions like “Where did you grow up?” and “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” are common, getting-to-know-you small talk topics.
You could answer Boulder & two older sisters. OR you could dive deeper.
These some questions from Arthur Aron’s list:
- How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
- How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
- Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
- What is your most treasured memory?
You could easily fold the answers to these questions into your response. If you’re honest and vulnerable—maybe your father died young and it was really tough for you, maybe you don’t actually like your asshole brother who bullied you all throughout your childhood—then she’ll likely start answering questions honestly and vulnerably too.
The 36 questions aren’t magic. You don’t have to ask each one for it to “work”; you simply have to be willing to be vulnerable, and create a space where she feels safe to be vulnerable as well.
The Missing Piece
Most headlines you see associated with this study (including this one, heh) credits the 36 questions with facilitating L.O.V.E. But that’s not exactly true.
Arthur Aron only claimed to foster intimacy, not love. Intimacy is a key ingredient of love, but not the whole thing.
Here’s what he’s missing.
Nope. Go back. Don’t skip over this video. Watch it.
Perel, another highly credible researcher in the area of love and desire, explains why intimacy isn’t enough.
We all have dual desire between “the known”—security, predictability, safety, dependability, reliability, and permanence /and/ “the unknown”—adventure, novelty, mystery, risk, surprise.
Aron’s 36 questions drives “the known,” but can kill “the unknown” if you don’t take time to also nurture that side.
If you fall too heavily on the side of the “known,” and they may find you “boring” or lose interest after they feel like they know all there is to know about you. Fall too heavily onto the “unknown” side and you may seem unstable, uninterested, or untrustworthy.
What’s the balance?
There’s no formula. I can’t tell you what to share and when to share it, but to be sure, love thrives somewhere on this continuum. The best we can do is be aware that this dual force of attraction exists. The more that you recognize it in your own attraction—the drive to learn more about her, to see her more vs. the wave of satisfaction and connection you feel when she lets you into her life— the more you will understand how this is fostered in others.
Good luck out there.
Oh! And for those interested, here is the list of Arthur Aron’s famous “36 Questions”
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.