Want to fall in love with your partner again? Here are 36 questions for couples that, according to a Stony Brook study led by Dr. Arthur Aron and his team, are sure to do the trick.
The paper, The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness, was designed to explore how intimacy between two perfect strangers could be achieved quickly (in under an hour) and for free.
The key to the researchers’ experiment was “reciprocal self-disclosure”. Self-disclosure referred to the revelation of personal thoughts, feelings, and memories by one person. The reciprocal part was that their partner did the same.
The participants in Aron’s study were college students and were each paired up with partners they had never met before. They were then assigned to one of two groups: the first was called “Small Talk”, and the second was called “Fast Friends”.
Each group was given a set of questions that the partners could answer together. Starting with the first envelope, each partner answered a series of questions for 15 minutes. They then moved on to the second envelope and then the third for a further 15 minutes each. The whole thing lasted 45 minutes and the only rule was that both partners had to talk.
The only difference between the two groups was the questions. For the “Small Talk” participants, the questions remained surface level throughout each envelope. Questions included, for example: “Where did you go to school?” or “Where are you from?”
The partners in the ‘Fast Friends’ group were given open-ended questions designed to reveal more personal information about partners. Each envelope encouraged more self-disclosure than the pack before, with the questions getting increasingly more intimate. For example: “What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?”; or “What is your most treasured memory?”
The 36 questions given to the “Fast Friends” group were designed to encourage participants to reveal more and more information about themselves and share more intimate details throughout the course of the 45 minutes.
Once the 45 minutes were up, the participants of the study filled out surveys regarding their feelings towards their partner. People from the “Fast Friends” group felt significantly closer to their partners, compared to those in the “Small Talk” group.
Although this study was designed for partners who had never met, the findings can still benefit couples who have been together for years. The below 36 questions can spark meaningful conversations that'll help you get to know each other better, liven up date night, and reignite the spark.
Today, the 36 questions continue to be used in studies to create quick bonds with people, even across multiple different cultural backgrounds. There's no doubt that being vulnerable and pushing conversations to a deeper level builds trust and intimacy in a wide variety of contexts.
As Dr. Aron puts it in his research paper: "One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure."
Want to give the experiment a go? Below are the 36 questions to fall in love, designed by Dr. Aron and his team.
Take 15 minutes to answer as many questions as you can with your partner from the following list. The only rule is that you both have to answer them:
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
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?
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Now take another 15 minutes to answer as many questions as you can with your partner from the following list. The only rule is that you both have to answer them:
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
Is there something that you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
What’s the greatest accomplishment of your life?
What do you value most in a friendship?
What’s your most treasured memory?
What’s your most terrible memory?
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
What does friendship mean to you?
What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people's?
How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
Here’s your final set. Take another 15 minutes to answer as many questions as you can with your partner from the following list. The only rule is that you both have to answer them:
Make three true "we" statements each. For instance, "We are both in this room feeling..."
Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
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.
Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
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?
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?
Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Share a personal problem and ask your partner's advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect on how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
There you have it. Reflect on how you both feel afterward, and the sense of closeness and intimacy the mutual sharing of answers has brought.
Download Paired for more couple questions and to answer daily conversations with your partner and feel more in love than ever before.