These 36 questions are based on the theory is that love can be cultivated with anyone, instead of waiting around for it to strike us down through a mix of chance, fate and alcohol.
And what better way to find out than to try these 36 questions for yourself? So I did.
Which sounds dangerous, especially with questions like:
“No. 2 Would you like to be famous? In what way?”
It also sounds uncomfortably intimate as we’re talking words, which is type of intimacy I usually avoid.
Particularly around questions like: “No. 21 What roles do love and affection play in your life?”
Now physical intimacy, well there’s not a time of the day or night when I wouldn’t at least consider that. You know, like beer and jokes and watching anyone get hit in the face with a ball. Repeatedly.
So these 36 questions were invented way back in 1997. Before Twitter, Facebook, reality television, the internet and gluten. You know, the good ‘ol days.
Back in 1997 New York psychologist Arthur Aron separated two groups of people, then paired people up within their groups, and had them chat with one another for 45 minutes.
The first group of pairs spent the 45 minutes engaging in small-talk, the second group got a list of questions that gradually grew more intimate.
Not surprisingly, the pairs who asked the gradually more probing questions felt closer and more connected after the 45 minutes were up. One of those pairs ended up married six months later, hence the rumour that these questions can lead to love.
It’s common-sense. Instead of small-talk, ask a bunch of probing and deep questions, and of course you’re going to feel closer to someone. Making these questions, if nothing else, excellent date-night fodder.
If you’re both brave enough. To want to know thinks such as:
“No. 7 Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?”
A journalist in New York recently wrote about ’em, and they’re all the rage again. She was on a first date, the guy whipped them out and six months later they were married.
There is only sketchy anecdotal evidence of them leading to love with any sort of regularity. Which basically means no evidence at all.
To fall for someone, you need to be attracted to them in some way beforehand. For example, if you don’t like olives, no matter how good and deep the chat is, there’s no way you’d ever want to screw one.
So what I did, was I asked my girlfriend the 36 questions.
And how did that work out?
Well the questions did allow us to share some extraordinarily intimate information. While we didn’t share anything we hadn’t told each other before, what we hadn’t done before was share it all like that in one go.
What we quickly realised is that although we had strong feelings for each other, we don’t take the time to state those feelings often enough.
Oh and we did the four minute eye staring thing at the end, too. That’s a big part of the original 36 question test – it must finish with a staring competition.
During this gazing ceremony, I discovered three strange things:
1) Staring into someone’s eyes for an extended period is actually quite tricky. Like you can’t stare into both eyes at once. You have to choose one, then swap to the other. It’s a bit awkward.
2) At times, I could see my reflection in her eyes. Which was the last thing I wanted to see.
3) As much as you might think you know someone, as you stare into their eyes with what you hope is loving concentration but fear is coming across as a mix of anguish and constipation, you are reminded that you can never really know what someone else is thinking. We are all forever mysteries to each other.
So just like the original research suggested, these questions are great for building intimacy. As to claims that they’ll make you fall in love with anyone… Well provided there’s a spark, they’ll probably help, but these questions are no magic potion.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian