36 Questions To Fall in Love went viral, but does it work?
By now you have probably heard that there are 36 questions to fall in love with anyone. This idea was given a public platform January 9, 2015, in a New York Times article titled, To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, by Mandy Len Catron. This idea went viral. It’s not surprising in our culture of quick fixes and fast solutions, that a 36-Question guarantee to fall in love would spread like wildfire. Who wouldn’t want to have that sort of love potion, with ingredients accessible to every last one of us…by simply asking 36 questions to fall in love, or make someone fall in love with us.
If you missed the original article by Mandy Len Catron, here’s a brief backstory that will help put this in perspective. In the article, Catron explained that she would occasionally run into a “university acquaintance” while at the climbing gym. In one of her random encounters with the climbing-gym-aquaintance, the two struck up a conversation. To her readers, she confessed to having had a pre-existing curiosity about him, saying she wondered, “what if?” after having “a glimpse into his days on Instagram.”
Wittingly, Catron found a way to weave into her conversation with this fellow-climber, a story about a research study she had read by Dr. Arthur Aron. The study, she explained to him, “tried making people fall in love” by having research participants ask and answer 36 questions. This study was published in 1997, and it is the original home of the 36 Questions to Fall in Love. Next she explained to fellow-climber, “I’ve always wanted to try it.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I consider this some pretty advanced-level flirting. I’m impressed.
Predictably, fellow-climber-guy took the bait, and responded by suggesting that they try the questions together. They met at a local bar over drinks. With iPhone in hand, Mandy cued up the 36 questions, and they passed the phone back and forth, taking turns answering each one. By design, the questions progress from less revealing to more and more personal. Clearly, doing this experiment over drinks at a bar, with someone you have an existing curiosity about, is significantly different than the lab research by Dr. Aron. However, the spirit of the research is kept alive, as Catron observes, “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative.” She alludes to how the questions forced her out of her safe zone where she could manage how she was being perceived, and took her into territories that required greater vulnerability. As the questions intensify, the road ahead becomes less familiar, and this 36 questions adventure invites more and more self-disclosure.
Taking much longer than the 45 minutes allotted for Dr. Aron’s research participants, Catron and her climber-guy decide to do a suggested activity involving 4 silent minutes of eye contact with one another at the conclusion of asking and answering all 36 questions. Preferring more privacy than the bar allowed, they decide to walk to a nearby bridge, stand on the highest point, and exchange four minutes of silent eye contact. As Catron brings her story to a close, she reveals that she and climber-guy started dating after that night, and as of last report, they are still dating.
While it’s a more fun to think Cupid’s arrow was built with these 36 Questions, a quick look at the facts tells us we are going to need more than 36 questions to fall in love (and though I have 1,000 more questions if you wish to ask them, I’m not talking about more questions. There are great lessons we can learn from Catron, though, about how we can effectively improve our own search for love, as well as our efforts to nourish the love we have. What strikes me as important pieces of Catron and fellow-climber-now-boyfriend’s love story are these things:
- Curiosity. This is how all real connection begins – having an interest in someone.
- Reciprocation. When curiosity is reciprocated, the potential for a spark exists. It doesn’t work if it’s only one-way.
- Vulnerability. This is the risk-taking part, that opens us to hurt, yet also forms a foundation of trust and intimacy for a relationship to grow.
- Take action. To build love we must do something. Love isn’t a thing we have, it’s a thing we do – so to find it, grow it, and maintain it, we must take action. Love is a practice that never ends, because love is the practice and the practice is the love.
If you want to be an epic sparkster (spark starter) like Catron, here’s a challenge that will give you the perfect opportunity to take a risk to get to know someone better (or to better your knowing of someone you love) – THE 36 QUESTIONS CHALLENGE.
Speaking of practicing love, this recent Style video from the New York Times Modern Love video series, is a perfect ending to this post. Enjoy this quick video that highlights three long-term couples who ask one another the 36 questions to fall in love. Their experiences are captured in this touching video. You will see the unfolding of exactly how curiosity and vulnerability combine to make the perfect intimacy cocktail, and their answers highlight the fact that love is a practice, a thing we do.
According to Dr. John Gottman, being polite in relationships is one of the first things to go.
Dating brings out the best in us. We put our best, shinnyest foot forward, putting in extra effort to make a good impression. We are eager to please. Not surprisingly, we tend to receive the same in return. We experience our partner to be kind, generous in spirit, and polite. Being polite in relationships comes naturally when we first start out, yet for most, politeness is the first thing to go.
Eventually we commit. We settle in. We get comfortable. Well, maybe it’s not so much “comfortable,” maybe it’s that we become inattentive, or distracted. It’s easy to turn our attention elsewhere (work, family, hobbies, friends, etc.) when we feel safe in our relationship. We begin to notice more about what we don’t like, than what we do like. We begin to express our frustrations and concerns, rather than focusing on all of the things we love and enjoy.
If this negative focus persists without intervention by one or both partners, eventually, we run the risk of the four most toxic relationship behaviors to seep into our relationship. Rather than being polite in our relationships, we begin to be defensive, critical, contemptuous and all of this can lead to stonewalling by one or both partners.
Is being polite in relationships important to you?
Have you said “thank you” to your partner lately? Just because she loves to mow the lawn, that doesn’t mean you can’t be grateful when she does. Always say thank you. Every time your partner exercises an act of love, be it big or small, it is important to acknowledge and express gratitude for that love. Every behavior, action or contribution either partner makes to the relationship deserves recognition and appreciation. Have you said “thank you” to your partner lately?
Being polite in relationships matters. If you want to get a good snapshot of how your relationship is going, consider taking the Gottman Relationship Check-Up Assessment, Both of you complete a thorough relationship inventory and received detailed feedback about your strengths and challenges.
Compliments are nice things to say to people, and by “people,” I am including your partner – especially if you want to keep relationship / marriage romance alive!
Are you more likely to thank a waiter for bringing you a glass of water, or your partner? If your answer is, I am more likely to thank them both, and I do so regularly, then you might already be off to a good start with strategy # 25. When you have nice things to say to people, otherwise known as compliments, you are developing a habit that will pay off in your marriage romance department (or pre-marriage for that matter). Just be sure you have nice things to say to your partner, too!
Do you ever tire of hearing, “You look great, baby,” or, “Good job, I’m so proud of you!” and, “What a great dinner – thanks for cooking,” and, “I couldn’t have picked a better partner in the entire world.” I know I don’t about you, but I don’t tire of hearing these sorts of things. Ironically, the more we say nice things to people, the more nice things we hear. Guess it’s true, what goes around, comes around.
Do you know the two most important ingredients to sustaining a long-lasting romance, according to researcher John Gottman?
Fondness and admiration.
When you say nice things to your partner, you are making one of the most powerful feel-good contributions you can make to your relationship on an every-day basis to create a strong foundation of fondness and admiration. When you find multiple ways to express your fondness for your partner, and you are able to communicate your admiration, you will benefit from her feeling desired. To keep the home fires burning, both partners need to continue feeling good about themselves. Random, authentic, compliments to one another is a great way to fan the flames of marriage romance. You are likely already thinking many things, the key is to start saying them OUT LOUD.
What are other nice things to say to your partner to improve your marriage romance?
- Time with you is my favorite.
- I always enjoy your company.
- There is no one I would rather spend time with than you.
- Thank you for being so good to me.
- I love how you love me.
- You make me laugh.
- I have so much fun with you.
- There’s no one I’d rather wake up to every morning than you.
- I can’t help but smile when I see you.
- I am a better person because of you.
- You are so talented, I love how you…
- I admire your ability to…
- I am so proud to be your girl.
You can say nice things to people about their appearance, abilities, personality, behaviors, style, humor, values, what they do, how they move in the world, ways they make you feel, etc. The list of compliments is really endless. What nice things to say to people are you comfortable with? (Share in comments section if you want).
Also, when you make it a habit to have nice things to say to people, it becomes second nature. Clearly, you will not say to your friends, family and coworkers the same romantic sentiments you share with your partner, but the more you practice giving compliments to people, the easier it is to do with everyone.
Share at least one compliment a day with your partner. A compliment a day keeps the therapist away.