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.