Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How to Fall in Love in 37 Simple Steps (Scientifically Proven!)


I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life. I spent the first couple of minutes just trying to breathe properly. There was a lot of nervous smiling until, eventually, we settled in.

That’s step 37 of falling in love. The 36 steps before aren’t so much steps, but questions — questions that were scientifically proven more than 20 years ago by the psychologist Arthur Aron to make two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. The questions, followed by the 37th step — looking into your partner’s eyes for four minutes — was tested again recently and written about by Mandy Len Catron in this past week’s “Modern Love” column in the New York Times.

In the original study, “a heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.” In the more recent “study,” two university acquaintances go to a bar after agreeing to try this experiment “designed to create romantic love” (something “one neither suggests nor agrees to if one isn’t open to this happening.”).

The two acquaintances spend two hours passing an iPhone back and forth with a copy of these 36 questions:

Set I
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?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
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?

Set II
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.

Catron writes: “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.”

After the final question was answered, the two classmates, suddenly more than just acquaintances, walked to a nearby bridge and looked into each other’s eyes for a timed four minutes. And guess what? The two fell in love. “Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.”

So, there you go — 37 easy steps for falling in love. You just have to find a willing partner for the experiment. (But, oh, isn’t that always the hardest part?).

[via NYTimes and The Loom]

23 comments… add one
  • MissDre January 13, 2015, 1:24 pm

    I am definitely going to try this with my long distance lover 😛

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    • Addie Pray January 13, 2015, 2:40 pm

      When does he come to visit again?

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      • MissDre January 13, 2015, 2:43 pm

        Next week!! I figured I’ll ask him the questions over the next few days before he gets here. Just as an added fun way of getting to know each other better 🙂

  • kmentothat January 13, 2015, 1:42 pm

    So, I actually saw a few friends post this on Facebook earlier this week. My boyfriend is already wary of me starting a conversation with the phrase: “So I read this article/study…” But since he had the flu and was a captive audience, I actually went through this exercise with him (without the staring, because no).
    I actually think it’s a pretty interesting thing to do with your current partner (I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year and half). We already often do a game of sorts with hypotheticals, asking how much money It would take for the other person to accept a certain scenario (e.g. How much would it take for you to only wear the color pink for an entire year? or: To live in Zimbabwe and only be allowed to leave the country for two weeks a year? or “To kick a child in the face?””) In our game, we are always trying to get the person to say “no amount of money.” It’s very telling of values, beliefs, etc. Long story short point: I think these 36 questions were interesting (some I accurately guessed what his answer would be, on a few I got more details on painful parts of his past he rarely talks about, and many made us both feel more validated in our choice to be together). I think looking at intimacy as something you deliberately build piece by piece versus something that just “happens” when you are around a person a lot, eating, drinking, and having sex is a healthier way to look at it.
    I think doing this with a stranger wouldn’t necessarily make you fall in love or even want to be friends, but it is a different way to cut the bs and start to understand the way that person ticks and what’s important to them. And unfortunately, I see a LOT of couples out there that not only don’t know their partners values and beliefs about major things like finances, elder care, leisure preferences, etc. but actually have totally incompatible views that they don’t realize until they are already neck deep. Because: EMOTIONS. So I actually really support finding ways to pose questions in a non threatening, non-personally invested way (it’s really hard to ask someone their views about marriage when you are dating them without them thinking you are asking “are you every going to marry meeeeeeeeeeeee”). Better communication early on = better ability to understand fully what you are committing to = better chance for happiness.

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    • ktfran January 13, 2015, 1:51 pm

      If I were taking a drink of water while reading this, it would have ended up all over my screen after I read “kick a child in the face.”

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      • kmentothat January 13, 2015, 2:04 pm

        My response to that one was “no amount of money.” And then “how old is the child? Can I negotiate with like a 12 year old and tell them if you let me do this, we both get $10 million?”

        And then I realized maybe I’m a terrible person haha.

      • ktfran January 13, 2015, 2:21 pm

        You are awesome!

      • booknerd January 13, 2015, 3:14 pm

        What’s a kick with money like that on the table?

    • MissDre January 13, 2015, 2:05 pm

      “I think looking at intimacy as something you deliberately build piece by piece versus something that just “happens” when you are around a person a lot, eating, drinking, and having sex is a healthier way to look at it.”
      I completely 100% agree with you here. That’s why I think this is kind of a cool idea/experiment.

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    • Addie Pray January 13, 2015, 2:44 pm

      Haha you’re wise and funny – you’re wunny!

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  • Miel January 13, 2015, 2:13 pm

    I find it curious because that resembles a lot how I met my boyfriend. People say it was “love at first sight” and no it wasn’t, but it was love on the first weekend. Basically we met (not in a lab, entering by two different doors) on a trip in a foreign country, just the two of us, and then we spent the next day stuck together on a train, stuck together in another train, stuck inside because of a blizzard, then walking around a town with nothing else to do other than talk. So we talked and talked and talked and talked. And I’m so blunt I have no filter, so he heard about embarrassing moments, friendships and treasured memory in that first 24h. And we stared into each others eyes, because wow he has really nice blue eyes.
    And yes, the initial attraction is really a thing. We exchanged our first “I love you” less than a week after our first ever meeting. And I was definitely feeling it !
    Now many years have past and the feelings have definitely deepened. I think that the “immediate love” through questions and answer creates all the right neurotransmitters in the brain for it to be called love, but that doesn’t create a long lasting relationship. I’ve been really lucky that my boyfriend and I are actually very compatible individuals but that we only found out in the months and years following our meeting. It could have also gone to crap, we don’t know.

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    • kmentothat January 13, 2015, 2:15 pm

      I’m not going to lie, now I am totally picturing your first weekend together as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise 🙂

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      • muchachaenlaventana January 13, 2015, 3:12 pm

        best trilogy everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

      • kmentothat January 13, 2015, 3:36 pm

        Weirdly, my super serious anti-fiction and romance movie boyfriend (he really only watches documentaries and the occasional mainstream comedy) is obsessed with this series! He made me watch the first one and we are watching the second one tomorrow. He just…really liked them?

      • Portia January 13, 2015, 4:00 pm

        I’m also a before-trilogy fan. 🙂

      • Dear Wendy January 13, 2015, 7:05 pm

        Me too! But I’m just an overall Linklater fan (see also: Boyhood). He can do no wrong.

      • Addie Pray January 13, 2015, 5:07 pm

        I’m a fan too. Though I was starting to get really annoyed with their bickering in the 3rd one.

      • muchachaenlaventana January 13, 2015, 5:26 pm

        Really? I loved the third one, I just love how it was so real life after their fairytale esque beginning and how even if people have this idea of “soul mates” and we are meant to be, the day to day drudge and shit of real life still catch up with you, and relationships take work to sustain.

      • Addie Pray January 13, 2015, 6:11 pm

        It may have just been Julie Delpy; I was starting to get annoyed with her in the 2nd one, I don’t know why. I loved the first one and I love the concept and content.

  • RedroverRedrover January 13, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Seems like they took the process that naturally occurs when people fall in love, and accelerated it. I wonder what percentage of people actually did fall in love when they did it? It says that one couple from the original study got married, but out of how many total couples? That would be interesting to know.
    Either way, this seems like a great way to weed people out that don’t interest you. I have to think that if they answered all the questions with responses that you disliked, you wouldn’t fall in love. But at least you’d know this isn’t the person for you. It would be an awesome exercise to go through when you’re dating. You’d only have to date each person once, until you find the one you fall in love with. None of this staying with someone for five years only to find out you’re not a great match.

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  • eelliinnss January 13, 2015, 4:01 pm

    I love psychology so much. And as great as I think these questions are for getting to know another person, I think they’re better for getting to know yourself. I ran down the list and answered internally and I just finished feeling really great. Like really open and honest and relaxed about life. The narcissist in me wishes I could have participated in the study to have other people hear my answers too. The “partner” yes, but even more importantly to me, the researchers. Because if I were in their position I’d just be absolutely freaking fascinated with everyone’s replies, more than the results of the study itself.
    However, I do want to know more “6 months later” information about more pairs. I have to wonder how much does this really “make” people fall in love, and how much of it is just expediting something that could have happened on its own? Did the researchers pair up couples who they thought were good matches, or was it totally randomized? Because I’m pretty sure this would not work on me unless the planets aligned. I’d have to be paired with a pretty special person with answers congruent with mine for it to work. This much honesty is great regardless; I’d like to know all this about a person right away, good or bad. But I think what would be more likely (for me), is I’d find a person I’m most definitely NOT compatible with, rather than someone I definitely AM.

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  • bittergaymark January 13, 2015, 7:12 pm

    And some women are so desperate to fall in love — which usually leaves them in a HUGE splat on the ground anyway, so honestly, really, I so so don’t get the rush — that they will believe and try almost fucking anything.

    *rolls eyes

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    • RedroverRedrover January 14, 2015, 10:43 am

      Yeah, and I’ve never seen this happen to a man, ever. They are so superior, honestly.

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