“My trivia is an invitation to be friends.”
- Hugh Prather (Relationship Writer)
A friend of mine recently sent me a set of “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love,” originally created almost twenty years ago by psychologist, Arthur Aron.
Supposedly, these probing queries were designed to see whether love between two strangers could be accelerated by having them ask each other three sets of questions.
Not only that, Dr. Aron, as part of the same research, also suggests the exercise of staring for a few minutes into the eyes of a potential partner (how Tantric!) in order to increase feelings of closeness and loving connection. (More about that in a future blog.)
Nevertheless, any study or prescribed exercise that hypothesizes the hastening of love, is something I want to check out more closely – so I did.
I began by looking at the first set of Dr. Aron’s 36 questions, which are as follows:
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
- 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?
- Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
- Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
- For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I noticed that these first 12 questions were reasonable, absorbing, and could very well open up some interesting conversations between two hopeful seekers of love.
I especially liked the questions dealing with the telling of life stories, gratitude, possible commonalities, and other intriguing hypotheticals, including hunches about “how you will die.”
Then, I went on to examine the second set of Dr. Aron’s questions:
- If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
- Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
- What do you value most in a friendship?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- What is your most terrible memory?
- If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
- What does friendship mean to you?
- What roles do love and affection play in your life?
- Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
- 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?
I observed that these questions got a bit more personal and revealing. Now they were going deeper into personal history, including past memories, relationships, and accomplishments – pretty heady stuff for two people who’ve presumably just met.
But I figure, it’s all fair game.
Then, it was on to the final group of questions:
- Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
- Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
- If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
- 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.
- Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
- When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
- Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
- What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
- 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?
- 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?
- Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
- 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.
It was clear that these questions were designed to become increasingly more inter-personal and penetrating, with each passing inquiry.
Questions were now moving more toward partner preferences, styles of communication, shared moments, current family relationships, and emerging feelings – all the more profound and illuminating.
36 good questions!
Now, I know that these 36 questions aren’t the only ones ever proposed by various researchers and other authors in the relationship field, in order to open up conversations between potential lovers.
But, there’s something very special and especially enlightening that I found with Dr. Aron’s questions.
As compared with other sets of relationship prompters that I’ve seen in the past, these ones really delve deeper into the psyche – all in a soulful, non-shaming, yet penetrating way.
How could two people not feel closer and more connected, after this kind of intimate encounter?
Ask, with caution
So, if the time and setting are right, go ahead and share these questions with your newly-found partner, that is, if both of you are willing and able to deal with them.
Questions that have to do with personal history, family relationships, and thoughts about death, may just be too heavy or premature for you or your new love to deal with, at least, for now.
That’s why I bring up the notion of being able and ready to share this kind of info with another.
In fact, you or your partner may want to initially evaluate, with a therapist or close friend, when and where the disclosure of this very personal information is most appropriate.
I’m a big proponent of sharing and revealing intimate (often delicate) information, both appropriately and safely.
In addition, you probably don’t want to heap too much personal stuff on your partner, all at the same time, because it may overload them and even push them away, before true intimacy can be established.
And, you probably don’t know exactly the type of person you’re dealing with, especially if he or she is new in your life.
You might want to ask yourself (before you ask them!) is it safe for me to share?
Then again, I guess that’s why you’re asking these exploratory questions in the first place – to get to know them!
The right timing
If both of you feel that the time is right, go ahead and freely share your true self with the other, but be prepared to take in all responses and deal with any consequential feelings that may come up.
But, despite the possible pitfalls, have some fun with these 36 questions, as you learn more about yourself and your new mate.
There’s nothing like the process of getting to truly know another person through honest and joyful inquiry.
And potentially, a very nice way to fall in love!
*Please leave your reactions and observations about love and connection, through the mutual sharing of pre-designed relationship questions, in the comments section below – we always appreciate your feedback!