It was late in the afternoon, and the bumpy school bus rattled down the road as the high schoolers in the back of it discussed the meaning of love.
“I mean, I’ve gone out with a lot of guys, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been in love.”
I pressed my head against the school bus window to eavesdrop more easily on the conversation between the two cool teen girls in the seat behind me. As a shy teen who’d never had a boyfriend, I was intrigued that this popular teenager, who never lacked for attention from the guys, would say that she’d never been in love.
Her friend agreed, “I know what you mean. Are you in love with your boyfriend right now?”
Pause. “I don’t know. I like him, but I’m pretty sure it’s not love. And I think he’d say the same thing.”
I sighed and looked out the window. How sad, I thought. I imperceptibly nodded my agreement as the first girl continued, “I wish I could know how to fall in love.”
But is it LOVE?
Is there a fool-proof way to fall in love? A 1997 study offered stunning evidence that there may be. In this almost 20-year-old now-famous experiment conducted by psychology professor Arthur Aron, participants were coupled and took turns asking one another a series of increasingly intimate questions. At the end of the 90-minute encounter, both the man and woman were required to stare deeply into each other’s eyes for four whole minutes.
Sound ridiculous? Not to the participants, it wasn’t. In fact, one of those couples said “I do” six months later.
Cold feet abound
Many people have bemoaned the fact that fewer and fewer couples are tying the knot these days. Although folks have suggested a smorgasbord of possible causes, there are a host of searching singles who would love to be married. They just can’t seem to figure out how to get the sparks flying.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty
That’s where the 36 questions come in. The first of three 12-question sets asks fun, low-cringe-value questions like, “Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?” and, “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”
The second set of questions digs a little deeper, requiring more thought, and – more uncomfortably – more honesty. “What is your most terrible memory” and “What is the greatest accomplishment of your life” require thought, and it’s easy to see when your partner is laughing it off.
The third set gets even heavier and headier with questions like, “What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?” and, “Tell your partner something that you like about them already.”
These carefully formulated probes aren’t merely designed to reveal whether or not each of you have the desire to be famous or to discover how you both feel about your relationships with your mothers. Of course, they do answer these questions, but they also accomplish something greater: they expose the willingness of each person to know and be known.
True, meaningful soul-meshing happens when there’s intimate, heart-baring knowledge exchanged between a man and a woman. .
The results of the “36 Questions to Love” experiment prove that all it takes to begin some chemistry is a pair of open hearts, open ears, and some honest dialogue. On another note, it’s a great reason to save the heavy dialogue for when you’re truly ready to get in a lifelong relationship. After all, they say that breaking up is hard to do.
That said, it’s important to understand that these questions aren’t simply a magic “Love Potion No. 9.” The same group of questions that can potential catapult you head over heels for one person can just as easily make you want to block another guy from your Facebook page.
These questions cut right to the heart of many crucial relationship issues that, left unvisited, could damage a relationship for decades. They also serve to shine the light on glaring problems that can be missed when Cupid’s butterflies are dancing in sync.
The underlying foundation is this: if both the girl and guy are open to the possibility of becoming a couple, the 36 questions might just be the match that lights the fire. The experiment works because 2 people to quickly get to know one another. Whether or not a couple wants to know more depends on, well, the chemistry.
If the 36 questions are posed as part of a reluctant blind date gone horribly weird, it could at least become a great nightmare date story to share with your friends later. I’m sure they will understand if you conveniently forget the four-minutes-staring-into-his-eyes part.
In the end, it all boils down to a choice. Will I open up to this person? Can I trust that he is opening up to me? Will I let myself love this person? So many times, people approach love as a wonderful disease that they can’t seem to catch. People don’t realize that love isn’t something you catch, it’s something you give – even knowing the other person may disappoint you.