I love the New York Times Modern Love column. If you’re also a fan, you may have seen Mandy Len Catron’s piece – To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This. In the essay, she talks about a study in which strangers ask each other 36 questions. The New York Times reports that the study, by psychologist Arthur Aron, is designed to see if feelings of love can be accelerated.
The original piece was so popular that the New York Times published the list of questions and now is offering a free app to help people answer the questions with a partner.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how much I love lists of questions. So, you can imagine, when I first saw the article I thought, “How fun! Maybe we should do that.” Despite the fact that I’m already in love with my husband (going on 17 years!) I thought it could be kind of cool to go through the questions together. But then I forgot about it.
However, last weekend, after wrapping up the dinner portion of our date night and deciding to head over to our favorite coffee house for a little dessert and decaf, I remembered the questions. We decided to give it a go.
We started off rather casually. We already know each other so well. But as we got deeper and deeper into the list, something happened. We started to answer the questions in a whole new way. Often we started off saying, “Well, you already know this but…” Then we found ourselves adding layers of thought and emotion to the stories that maybe we hadn’t previously considered.
Having each other’s undivided attention, we began to tease out the hidden feelings behind some of our responses. Our respective “worst memory ever” and “most embarrassing moment ever” became almost like new stories. More than just facts now, they were filled with new insight and new reflections.
It really was an incredible experience. We feel like we share everything and yet I know we both completed the questions feeling like we expressed thoughts, ideas and emotions that we hadn’t previously voiced. More than once we teared up. More than once we told each other something we hadn’t said before.
What we did most of all was listen, reflect, respond and reach out to each other. We don’t technically need a list of 36 questions to do that, but somehow the questions provided an additional layer of focused task and permission. Our life is full – with work and 3 kids and moving all over the world. The questions removed us a bit from the day to day. They were about us and they enabled us to focus completely on each other.
Most of the time it feels impossible to give our undivided attention to our friends and loved ones. Even those of us who truly try to, still fall short. But what a nice reminder these questions were. When we ask and then wait for a response, we have the power to deepen our relationships tremendously.
I highly recommend checking out the article and spending some time with the questions and someone you want to know better…or someone you already love. You may find you learn something you never knew about him or her…or even about yourself.