As gym visits dwindle and resolutions come face-to-face with harsh realities, February takes over while we patiently wait for a baby sporting a bow and arrow to sort our sh*t out for us. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about Valentine’s Day, but I have come to witness many differing perspectives. My roommate surprised me by being a huge fan and is leading us down a path I can only assume will end with our living area being decked out in various shades of red and glitter. With all of the cute couples and plans displayed in every ad and screen, it can be difficult to be single in February. For those who are feeling a slight tug at their heartstrings – just remember that it could be worse: you could be asking dating app matches 36 questions that supposedly lead to love.
Psychologist Arthur Aron conducted a study in which 36 questions were designed to accelerate intimacy between strangers. This self-disclosure is what makes the questions so personal and (apparently) efficient. They are divided into three sets which get progressively more personal and are included at the end of this piece.
To celebrate the approach of Valentine’s Day, my friends and I took to dating apps to see whether we could find anyone who would be willing to participate in testing the efficiency of these questions. I designed a set of guidelines and a questionnaire for participants to fill out prior to asking each other the questions. This gathered information on their history with dating apps, the nature of the match and their expectations for the experiment.
Having devoted far more time to these apps than usual in the last week, I would just like to personally congratulate anyone who has ever been on them, for their strength and perseverance. If I see one more bio stating that a guy is “here for a good time, not a long time” or looking for someone who “doesn’t take life too seriously”, I will agree to be @lucaspaul6969’s sugar baby and flee the torment. I am not sure I fully comprehend what it means to take life unseriously, but then again maybe that is why I am still on a dating app.
The reactions to the experiment were mixed. One friend was eager to take part and re-downloaded Tinder, only to delete it a day later. It is really a sport of stamina at this point, which is why I am very appreciative of those who agreed to participate.
Female, 21, On Tinder and Bumble
She has been on dating apps since 2019 and matched with a fellow participant on Tinder just over three weeks ago and has been on one date with him. She is anxious about discussing question 14 (How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?) and was curious to hear what her match’s answers were to questions 26 (I wish I had someone with whom I could share…) and 36 (Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice…). She believes that the questions have the potential to help them learn more about each other, but aren’t extensive enough to lead to love. She expects that they would either be more comfortable or awkward with each other after discussing such intimate details.
Male, 26, On Tinder, Bumble and Hinge
He joined Tinder one month ago and is most nervous to share his answer to question 30 (When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?). While he is most curious to hear his match’s answer to question 14 (Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?), he doesn’t expect the questions will change much about their current relationship.
Female, 21, On Tinder and Bumble (Me)
I have had Bumble for five months and Tinder on an on-and-off basis for longer. I matched with the following participants on Bumble and have not met up with them before – really sticking to the stranger part of the study. I am most nervous about sharing my answer to question 21 (What roles do love and affection play in your life?) because I am having a tough time piecing together an answer, and I feel this might be something to discuss with a therapist instead. I am curious to hear their answers to question 14 because I think it would be helpful to know what they are passionate about as well as understand certain circumstances that act as obstacles for them. I expect that these questions will facilitate better conversations than average small talk, but I am not sure how it could shape or change intimacy between strangers. While I am excited to try something new and am generally the over-sharing type, to begin with, I feel like a lot of these questions will trigger some trauma dumping on my end. To avoid that, I generally try to stick with a light trauma peppering rather than dumping, upon first meeting someone.
Male, 22, On Bumble and Hinge
He seems to not be nervous about answering any of the questions he is most interested in hearing my answer to question 28 (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.) I should start reflecting on that so as not to disappoint him too much. He thinks that the questions will speed run the dating process and might detract from shared life experiences, which he believes are most effective for building intimacy.
Male, 23, On Tinder, Bumble and Hinge
He uses dating apps on an on-and-off basis every couple of months throughout the year. He is most hesitant to share his answer to question 23 (How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?). I am also struggling to decide what the right balance of information would be to answer this question. He is most curious about question 36 and believes that the questions are simply icebreakers that create a space for vulnerability. He expects that they will go better than shorter conversations on a dating app would, which could benefit a relationship.
I am grateful that I asked my friends for article topic ideas since one of them asked if I knew about these 36 questions which ultimately sent us down this rabbit hole. I am also looking forward to the exchange of questions and answers even if I am dubious of the effectiveness. Although, it seems that I am not alone in my cynicism as everyone (despite being excited to partake in the experiment) believed there was more to intimacy and love than a set of 36 questions. There are many questions to which I am unsure of the answer, so even if this experiment goes horribly awry and I get banned from dating apps or somehow fall in love with a complete stranger only for it to be unreciprocated, at least I will get some self-reflection out of it. Maybe that’s the gift of the questions: just strangers sharing stories as they take the time to better understand themselves and each other, bonding over the ridiculousness of their histories and the experiment at hand. I do hope neither of my matches is a secret killer so I can live to write about the outcome.
The 36 Questions that Lead to Love
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. 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?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. 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.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. 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?
34. 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?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. 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.
Jones, D. (2015, January 9). The 36 questions that lead to Love. The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/09/style/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html