Love Letters from Ana: Let’s Play 36 Questions


As a love and relationship columnist, it’s in my job description to explore the hidden reasons behind some human sex behavior. My column, at times, survives on the over-analyzation of this behavior. A prime example: is monogamy attainable on a college campus? From time-to-time, however, something comes up that is strictly science in its purest, simplelistform. If you haven’t heard of the 36 questions to make you fall in love, you’re about to have many of your misconceptions about love defenestrated. These questions demonstrate that there can be an actual formula to falling in love and, most importantly, we have control over whom we fall for.

In a controlled lab environment, psychologist Arthur Aron had a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman enter the room through separate doors and sit down face-to-face. They then asked each other 36 intimate questions, alternating posing each. The questions are arranged in three sets and get more intimate with each set. Set I, for example starts with, “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”Set III ends with, “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.”After this question portion is over, the couple is asked to look at each other for four minutes in silence. This part appears to be where the connection transforms to love.

Alright, so that’s it ladies, grab a fella before the big 1-4, ask him to play a round of 20 questions with you (plus 16)…and an awkward four minutes in silence and you’re good to go. After all, not only did the participants in the study end up married, but 20 years later, Mandy Len Catron from the New York Times decided to reenact the study with her best guy friend and they too ended up falling in love.

What she ended up realizing is that love is more malleable than we may expect. The 36 questions almost compiles things that would end up being discovered on multiple dates, while the eye contact exercise forces a kind of intimacy not broken by something physical or verbal. The silence is just there and you end up connecting with the other person in a way you wouldn’t be able to in an uncontrolled environment.

So, yes this is a lot to think about, but I think it’s almost inspiring to be able to realize how much control we actually have in choosing out mates. If it really is a scientific code, where this superficial side of romance melts away, you are left with love and humanness in its most vulnerable forms. I think about how wonderful it would be to do this exercise with a male best friend like Catron did and being able to have both a lover and a friend in the same person.

“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be,”Catron said, commenting on her choice to perform the experiment.

Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, this idea is simply revolutionary. Love can be created and then thrive because two people made the choice. You don’t have to sit around waiting for it. If you want love, you can become its master artist.