Ah, love and the search for the ideal soul mate. The pursuit of love isn’t easy. Just watch The Bachelor (or The Bachelorette). Ironically, the show that is supposed to be all about love, is the show that people love to hate. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the show is a veritable car wreck — each week it screeches across the pavement, hops over fences, rips up lawns and flower beds, and crashes into the living room of more than 7.5 million Americans, delivering its payload of histrionics and collective mischief. All of which explains the existence of the so-called “Bachelor Nation” — a legion of fans that laughs, jeers, and gags through each episode, anticipating the next one, like a tourist dehydrated from chronic Montezuma’s revenge eagerly awaiting his next drink of bacteria-laced brown water from yet another restaurant.
Although poets wax um… poetically about how love is free — the pursuit of love certainly isn’t free. Consider this: Americans spend more than $760 million per year on matchmaking and the average American spends $1,596 on dating every year. This includes personal grooming, matchmaking services, and of course the obligatory wining and dining. But what if you could find your soulmate for the cost of a cup of coffee (or tea)? That’s right — a few dollars for some life-changing conversation over coffee at a local establishment. For once, this is when the concept of “talk is cheap” is actually a good thing.
Talk is not only cheap (as in free), it can change your life and definitely lead to intimacy (as in “closeness” not the other thing you though of), and paving the way for profound, unconditional love. Meet psychologist Arthur Aron. In 1997, Aron and his colleagues, published a fascinating study, “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings” in the Personality and Social Psychologist Bulletin (Vol 23, No. 4, 1997). They wanted to know if you could help people develop “temporary feelings of closeness” in a lab setting simply through conversation. In their experiment, two complete strangers (cross-sex and same sex pairs, matched so they agreed about important attitudinal issues and expectations of likeability based on initial questionnaires) would enter a lab and sit face to face for 45 minutes to answer 36 questions. The participants were presented three sets of increasingly personal questions focused on self-disclosure and relationship-building. This study was built on the foundation of previous studies in the previous decade by psychologists; Aron elaborates: “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure.”
So, what did the researchers find? Quite remarkably, they found that about one-third of the participants felt as connected to their partner in the lab — in just 36 questions — as they did one of their closest, deepest, most involved relationships outside the study; Aron writes “That is, immediately after about 45 minutes of interaction, this relationship is rated as closer than the closest relationship in the lives of 30% of similar students.” That’s quite an achievement when it has taken thousands of hours of conversations over many years to reach the same level of intimacy with a significant other. Those must be some amazingly insightful and profoundly probing questions that get right to the heart of the matter (if you’ll excuse the pun). In fact, two participants did fall in love and married just six months later. The questions have also inspired a delightful series on YouTube that explores two strangers trying to find love.
To help cupid’s arrow pierce the heart of your future soul mate, here are the questions you should print out and carry with you on your next date. And don’t dilly-dally. Recall that famous line from the famous romantic-comedy, When Harry Met Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with a person, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
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?
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.
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Read related posts: How Do You Find the Ideal Mate?
Why Do People Watch The Bachelor?
Pablo Neruda on Love
The Fluidity of Life and Love
Famous Love Quotes from Movies
The Best Love Stories
We Never Lose the People We Love, Even to Death
For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html