The Married Couple’s 36 Questions for Staying in Love


Photo by Dennis Skley, flickr

I am sure that by now you have probably read the recent Modern Love column in The New York Times by Mandy Len Catron. In “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” Mandy unpacks the 36 questions that can help two people fall in love. The exercise suggests that both parties answer the questions and then, as a bonus, stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

The questions, based on the work of psychologist Arthur Aron, become more and more probing as they go: “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” “What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?” “What roles do love and affection play in your life?” “How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?” “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”

Reading the questions I can see how it would be such a heady, intoxicating feeling to get into deep, important topics on a first date — some of these issues, like relationships with family, embarrassing moments, thoughts about illness and death — might not normally come up until much later dates. I can definitely still remember that feeling when you are just getting to know someone and how exhilarating it is when you feel like you are getting at something important, something at the very core of the other person.

And then you look into each other’s eyes. Instant love.

My husband and I went through some of the 36 questions, but we already know so much about each other — there weren’t any big surprises. What struck me the most is that I realized that the questions that are important at the beginning of the relationship are very different from the questions — and answers — necessary to keep that love going once you are in the trenches. Once you don’t have time to ponder the big questions of love, death, illness, childhood or life goals over a glass of wine, what questions become essential for survival? When you don’t have four minutes to stare into each other’s eyes, how do you stay in love?

Here is my stab at the questions that I think are important — or at least helpful — to think and talk about after the first big rush of love has faded.

The list is over at The Huffington Post…

How do you make 13?

This has been a frequent question in our house lately, now that Sam is suddenly interested in letters and numbers: “How do you spell mama?” “What is 5 and 5?” “How do you make 13?”

Easy answers.

But today is our 13th anniversary and suddenly, I am not sure how one makes 13. It’s not just a matter of simply writing one number after the other — is it?

I spent the morning sending my husband calendar appointments for various trips and plans that I have so that he can take all of that into consideration when he makes his travel plans for work. It all seems very official and clinical, like we are running a business together.

Before you get married, or even when you are first married, you do not think of your relationship in cold business terms. And I still don’t — but somehow it’s all necessary. The listening, the scheduling, the planning, the changing plans to accommodate the other. It is not sexy at all. It is the opposite of sexy.

But maybe our idea of what sexy is changes over time. I used to yearn for flowers and cute cards and jewelry for our first couple of anniversaries. Now I just want us all to be at home at a reasonable time in the evening so that we can eat burgers and drink champagne — a tradition left over from our first anniversary. I want our calendars to synch up, so that we don’t miss anything. I want the easy shorthand of our relationship. I want simple, I want boring, I want predictable.

I know that we are supposed to keep our marriage fresh and spice things up with date nights and lingerie and new adventures together. Am I the only one who is too exhausted to do that? I am busy putting one number in front of the other. I want a comfy bra and my yoga pants. And wine.

Spice, to me, comes from security. From knowing where my next kiss will come from. That I will be making dinner and a pair of strong arms will hug be from behind and just stay there for a few seconds. That I can take up the entire couch with my laptop and notebooks and that around 10:30 I will get a gentle nudge to go to bed.

Or that I can put 1 and 3 together and somehow make 13.