Arthur Aron, (in 1997) but perhaps more famously, Mandy Len Catron (in 2015) proposed a scientific experiment that resulted in two people falling in love. Aron hoped to find formulae that researchers could use to better understand bonding, closeness, and really, love. Catron, instead of trying it on research subjects, tried it herself.
Both studies are interesting, and have been tapped by dating sites like Match and eharmony, with some success. I propose what other researchers have investigated, however, that before you can fall in love with someone, you first have to like the person in the mirror.
Call it self-esteem if you like, psychologists, therapists, sociologists and others have all delved into the notion that one’s self-esteem is paired to a large degree with our own happiness and ability to bond with others.
So: an experiment. Aron’s questions, with Catron’s notion of self-application. Of the 36 questions, 31 make sense to answer independent of a lover, a stranger or a spouse.
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?
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.
– I left this one in, and here’s why: summing ourselves up into four minutes is more difficult than you’d think. Do you start with childhood, your job, your travels? You might surprise yourself with your own answers.
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?
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?
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.
- I left this one too: what is it important for you to share with anyone you plan to be close with? Maybe your spirituality? The number of partners you’ve had? Diseases that run in your family?
29. Share … an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
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?
For me (and I’m a counselor, so routinely stress the importance of knowing oneself) I was still surprised by some of my answers. We push our clients to be honest with themselves, to be genuine in their lives, but do we give them tools to do that?
Whether you ascribe to Aron or Catron’s notions that 36 questions can create affection and love between strangers, I’d argue this activity is worth the time to better know yourself and can act as a starting point towards self-love.