Words by: Emma Anvari Art by: Ruth Ong
As someone who has never been in a long- term relationship before, I pounced at the thought of simply asking 36 curated and personal questions for a chance at falling in love. It was a no-brainer. Everyone wants to be loved.
But did it work? Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
Believe me, I gave it a red-hot go, but these intimacy-inducing questions by psychologist Dr Arthur Aron are just that: they build intimacy, not love.
The first time I tried these questions I was in my first year of university, meeting up with someone from Tinder for the first time, and recording the whole thing for a podcast episode. Yes, I recorded my first ever Tinder date and published it online in all its raw glory (search up my name and Do Talk to Strangers). And to be frank, it was a mistake — less so the questions, and more the person.
He was nice and good-looking enough, but I just was not into him. So even though the questions certainly helped us understand each other, break the ice, and reveal our entire life stories to each other (seriously, Q11 makes you recount your entire life in four minutes), the fact I was in denial about my lack of attraction meant we were never going to fall in love. Let me tell you now, the four minutes of eye contact were ridiculously awkward.
The second time was much better.
It was with my first boyfriend and this time I was incredibly attracted to him in every sense of the word. We’d been seeing each other for a few weeks and wanted to learn about each other as fast as we could, so I suggested the questions and he agreed.
Not only did the questions make us reveal our most intimate thoughts, fears and dreams, but it brought us together. We were emotionally vulnerable in a way no new couple is after a mere fortnight of knowing each-other (we also met on Tinder). We completed the entire set in each other’s arms and the four minutes of eye-contact were beautiful. Nowhere near the pain of the first time. I was also lucky my partner was someone who was not afraid to be vulnerable — something I think is vital to the success of these questions.
We discovered we had the same values, similar fears, and both prioritised family and friendship over anything else. In a moment of deep emotion he also opened up to me about the book he was writing and was hesitant to share. It was personal secrets and sensitive topics like this which forced us to take a leap of faith to trust each other. A mere three days later we became exclusive.
Yes, we did eventually break up. But the questions ensured that while we were together, we were as close as could be.
I’ve probably completed the questions five times since 2018. In that time I’ve realised undertaking these questions will be a fruitless endeavour if you and your partner do not agree to open up to each other from the onset. If you’re not willing to discuss your most terrible memory (Q18), your childhood (Q23), or share something important the other person ought to know about you should you two become close friends (Q27), you’re wasting your time.
Short, succinct, thoughtless answers defeat the purpose of this social experiment. Rushing it is also meaningless. The questions can take anything between 45 minutes and three hours. There’s no hurry!
If you struggle to open up, need an ice breaker with a love interest, or want a fun game for you and your current partner that also doubles as a way to get to know each other better, then these are the questions for you.
Can you build a romantic connection? Absolutely.
You just have to give it a proper chance.