36 Questions

I read an article recently in which Mandy Len Catron talked about a psychological experiment she did with a friend, a friend with whom she is now very much in love with. Arthur Aron proposed that two strangers would fall in love if they answered a set of 36 questions, then stared into one another’s eyes for 4 minutes in silence.

Mandy Len Catron admits that her experiment into this was flawed as, obviously, with her friend agreeing to it they must both have been interested in one another to some degree, and as they weren’t strangers it wasn’t a legitimate recreation. Also it was in a bar over drinks not a sterile science lab. However, the results were the same. She and the friend are now partners.

Doing this experiment with The Boy was even more flawed. For one we are already in love, for another we already know each other pretty well and are very open with our thoughts and emotions. We hide very little so know a lot. But, all that said, we figured if all it did was give us a giggle that’s still fun, and if we learn something and develop our relationship further, then great. So we gave it a go.

I will post a list of the 36 questions at the end of this post so if you and your partner, a friend, or a random stranger in a pub fancy giving it a go then see what happens and let me know!

We took it in turn, handing his phone back and forth between us, asking a question each.

They start off fairly innocuous, your dream dinner guest, what you’d do on a perfect day, things like that. We laughed and chatted, the superficial nature of the questions relaxing us and giving us fun things to talk about.

Gradually the questions more personal, your most terrible memory, your relationship with family members. The mood changed, we got serious. We still talked about fun things, opportunities to discuss one another’s best characteristics allowing us to both flatter and flirt, but still, there was a heavier weight in the air and emotions started to come to the surface. We learned.

By the end, the questions getting deeper and more intimate about life choices, values, things we care about most, I feel we learned a lot about one another. Things we might never have talked about, things we might have taken years to learn. We were honest, as we always are, and that helps. It was interesting. It was intense.

Then the four minutes. Four minutes of eye contact. No touching, no talking, just looking into one another’s eyes.

It was weird at first, awkward. A lot of nervous giggling under our breath, eyes flicking back and forth. It seemed to be a very long time. I have spent a lot of time looking into his eyes but during conversation, during intimate times. Not just looking, and not for so long.

The Boy’s eyes are blue, with dark grey and amber flecks around the irises. His pupils change size at different times and the slight smile lines crease up very easily, an outer sign of the happy character within. His eyes are beautiful and studying them so closely stopped being so awkward and became fascinating and worth taking time over.

I felt myself moving towards him, an automatic response to his close proximity and my natural desire to kiss him, but pulled away determined to see out the four minutes. He felt the same response, and I could hear our breathing respond to this urge.

The four minutes seemed to take a very long time but then once it was over seemed to have gone incredibly fast. Four minutes. The timer signalled we were allowed to come together again and my goodness that was a kiss I wanted so badly!

The experiment was designed to see if strangers could fall in love. Mandy Len Catron did it with a friend. I did it with The Boy. In each case the results were the same, love.

I wasn’t hoping for a change in our relationship because, quite honestly, it doesn’t need changing. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever had. I wasn’t even expecting to learn things about him that I didn’t already know, but I did. I learned a lot. I learned good experiences, bad ones, things he likes about me, things he dreams about and loves. I didn’t “fall” in love with him, but the questions made me see even more depth and character in a man I already saw as deep and interesting, and the four minutes of looking made me long for him like I did on our first date, when we sat side by side, talking, looking, not touching. A crackle in the air between us signalling the line we dare not cross out of politeness, respect.

The questions are below. If you want to do the experiment with a friend or loved one then don’t read them, discover them fresh and answer honestly. Give your truth in the most simple way and embrace the other person’s truth. Take an evening, a bottle of wine, 36 questions and 4 minutes of eye contact. Learn, enjoy, and most importantly love.



36 Questions. Once you’ve answered them, set your timer to four minutes and look into each other’s eyes. Don’t talk, don’t touch. Just look.

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.


About J.J. Barnes

Author of The Lilly Prospero Series Writer and Podcaster at www.SirenStories.co.uk Blogger at Rose And Mum And More Contributor to The Huffington Post
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