I came across the New York Times article “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” a while back, and I was incredibly intrigued. The 36 questions are from a study by psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether strangers feel more intimate towards each other after answering a series of deep questions. Can 36 questions really make two people fall in love? I needed to know, and the results surprised me.
I attempted this study with my last boyfriend because I wanted to speed up the “getting to know each other” process. I know I’m kind of cheating since we weren’t complete strangers, but I can confirm that we were not in love at this point and we were only a few months into dating. I also didn’t tell him I was attempting to get him to fall in love with me through a series of personal questions because I thought that it might interfere with my study and that he might think it was a psycho move. I phrased it as “do you want to play a game of sorts” and when he agreed, I started shooting off the questions over text. You may be wondering why this all occurred over text and not face to face, since intimacy is usually felt when you can actually see and feel the other person, but my mindset was that it might be easier for him to answer the questions if he couldn’t see my reactions. Sometimes we say things more honestly through a screen because it’s harder to say them out loud.
At first, I could tell that my now ex-boyfriend had his guard up. I was disappointed because at first, I felt that he didn’t want to open up or show a vulnerable side of himself. Throughout the relationship, and especially after we broke up, I realized that he struggled with empathy and was emotionally unavailable. He wanted to present himself in a way that only showed his positive characteristics and he was pretty obsessed with what people thought of him. With all this in mind, I can see why he used these questions to try and present himself in a positive light. I know that intimacy shouldn’t be forced, but it also shouldn’t feel impossible, especially with a boyfriend.
As the questions kept going, I started feeling more satisfied with the answers. When I asked him “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” he started telling me a dream that he’s had since childhood and why he wanted to pursue it. It was a new piece of information that made me feel like I knew something about him that others wouldn’t if they weren’t that close with him. Progress.
As the questions went on, I did feel that he was sharing personal details about his life and was curious about my responses as well. Towards the end of the “game”, one answer stuck out to me. It was in response to the question: “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?” I’m obviously not going to share the exact answer, but the response was genuine and it was something that didn’t necessarily paint him as a perfect person. It showed me that he did have complicated feelings for someone in his life and he would regret not telling this person something meaningful. This indicated to me that he did think about regrets and perhaps this was something that he wanted to explain but didn’t know how. In a way, it sort of humanized him because it was one of the few times I felt that he was being 100% genuine.
Did these questions make us fall in love? No, there wasn’t some sort of big revelation for either of us, but I definitely felt that I knew more about him in a very short amount of time. I could also recognize that towards the end he was letting his guard down a bit, so I do believe that intimacy takes time and some questions will prove to be more satisfying than others. I wish I could say that a series of questions can magically make two people soulmates, but the process of falling in love takes time because it needs to. 36 questions can definitely expedite the process, but I wouldn’t expect any drastic changes, but possibly a newfound perspective on your partner.
Jones, Daniel. “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Jan. 2015.