What does love mean to you? Do you think it’s a feeling? Fate? Something out of your control? You probably haven’t considered that it could be possible to make love happen – to fall in love with anyone.
The tools? Thirty-six questions developed twenty years ago by psychologist Arthur Aron, a few free hours and the willingness to be open to a relationship. The study placed two strangers in a lab together, face to face, and made then answer the 36 questions set out by Aron. After answering the questions, the participants were required to spend four minutes staring into each other’s eyes.
Six months later, the participants got married.
Of course, this could have just been a very lucky coincidence. Or fate.
Enter author and academic Mandy Len Catron, who decided to test the theory with an old university acquaintance – a man she had noticed, but with whom she was relatively unfamiliar. Catron and her date didn’t have access to a lab, so instead they went to a bar. They Googled the questions, and the conversation began.
It started out easily enough, with questions such as, ‘Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?’ and ‘When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?’
RELATED: What Makes Men Fall In Love
Quickly, though, the questions become a bit more challenging. ‘What is your most terrible memory?’ and ‘How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?’
Catron and her date spent hours going through every question in detail, becoming more and more intimate as the night progressed. By the time they reached the seriously tough questions, like, ‘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?’ they felt as if they really, really knew each other.
Catron recalls one of the questions having a big impact on her: ‘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.’
‘Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion”. Saying things like, “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you,” makes certain positive qualities belonging to one person explicitly valuable to the other.
It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.’
Finally, Catron and her date stared into each other’s eyes for four full minutes, uninterruptedly.
After that night, they fell in love.
Catron says that the study treats love as an action or a choice, not something that ‘just happens’. By consciously putting yourself in the position to become known – truly known – you’ll automatically open the door to love.
Of course, maybe Catron was also just really lucky.
You can find the full list of questions here. If you ever give it a try, let us know what happens!