It can’t really be that easy…can it?
Let me start by saying that when it comes to this kind of thing, I tend to get quite skeptical.
I mean, it’s hard not to be these days—especially as Valentine’s Day approaches, you can’t go anywhere without hearing one of Hallmark’s sappy platitudes. Ever since the day after Christmas, it’s been cards and roses and candy hearts galore.
But the thing is, love sells. We are teased with the promise of it daily; that we’ll find it in a new dress or a chocolate bar or cell phone or a blender. Even as I write, I can see one such example staring at me from across my kitchen table. Featuring two attractive and amorous models, this coupon declares, “More points. More shoes. More happiness.” It couldn’t be more clear.
So, I’m supposed to believe that a pair of shoes is the only thing standing between me and a lifetime of bliss with my one true soulmate?
No. That’s preposterous. As much as they try to convince us otherwise, love can’t be bought. It can’t be bottled or modified or willed into existence…it just happens.
It happens automatically—it happens when you least expect it and sometimes, it happens at the worst possible time. It’s one of those rare things that still can’t be touched.
It’s completely pure.
So, to anyone with half a brain, the idea that you could create love in all of 34 minutes is outrageous. And usually, I would count myself among them. It sounds like one of those overblown claims on the front of a beauty magazine, or the tagline for a matchmaking business. Pure hyperbole.
But what if it were true?
Could it really be possible to make love?
Science says yes and I would have to agree. I’ve seen it with my own eyes..but more on that later.
According to Arthur Aron, a New York psychologist, there is a formula for love. Aron, who has done extensive research in the fields of love, intimacy, attachment and relationships claims that falling in love is easier than we think. So easy, in fact, that you can do it in a lab, in under an hour.
He says to fall in love, you just have to follow three simple steps.
1. Find a complete stranger.
2. Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
3. Stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.
Though there is no absolute guarantee—all the participants in the study reported significantly increased levels of intimacy, attraction and attachment.
Two of them even got married; if that’s not a testament to the system, I don’t know what is.
The experiment clearly worked for the two lovebirds, but it does bring up some interesting questions about the nature of love.
The relationship that each pair created in that first half hour was clearly deep and meaningful bond. But is that love?
Is real love something that can form instantly, or does it take time to grow?
Clearly, the love that you have for someone on day one is different from the love that you have for them a month or a year or a decade later—but are they still the same?
These are some pretty big questions that we all have to answer for ourselves. But let me give you my take, as someone who once participated in a similar love experiment…basically by accident.
Two summers ago, at a bit of a crossroads in my life and seeking some guidance, I signed up for a workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. It was very radical of me, just to venture off on a whim like that. Never having done anything of the sort before in my life, I committed to a near week of seminars and hardcore bonding with people I had yet to meet.
And on top of all that, I was sleeping alone in a tent during several days of relentless rain.
Nevertheless, I can truly say it was the best gift I have ever given myself.
The workshop was called Quarter Life Calling and it was for 20-somethings like myself wanting to find passion and purpose in their lives. It completely changed my life, and I recommend it wholeheartedly and without reservations to absolutely everyone who will listen. But aside from finding ourselves and getting in touch with our feelings, the workshop was really a lesson in love.
How to love ourselves and how to love each other.
On our first day of class, unbeknownst to me at the time, we basically recreated our own little version of Aron’s experiment. After introducing ourselves, one of the first things we did was pair off and spend a few minutes staring into each other’s eyes. Initially, I remember thinking that it was a particularly intimate activity for two strangers to be participating in, and it made me uneasy.
Society teaches us that such a level of closeness with people we don’t know is inappropriate and I couldn’t get those voices out of my head.
But if I thought that was revealing, it was nothing compared to what followed. Those few days made up one of the most intimate, honest, intense, vulnerable and cathartic experiences I have ever shared with anyone.
Not only did we share intimate details of our lives, we shared our whole lives—the important parts, at least. The deep parts, the secret parts, the scared parts—the parts you are not “supposed” to share with strangers.
But that was the beautiful thing: in no time at all, we were no longer strangers.
I hardly knew anything about these 10 other people, but within a matter of hours, I knew them better than anyone else. We didn’t know each other’s last names, but we had bared our souls to each other and cried in each other’s arms. I couldn’t have told you where they lived, but I had witnessed their most private emotions. As we remarked on many an occasion, it was like we got to know each other backwards—hard stuff first.
It was bizarre, but wonderful.
I can’t put my finger on the exact moment that I fell in love with each of those people, but it didn’t take long. I can’t promise it was 34 minutes, but it was damn close.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do believe that we can fall in love as quickly and as deeply as research suggests. It is a love that can and will evolve with time and care…but it is absolutely still love.
Love has no limits: not on time, not on amount, not on strength. And if we feel it, we should say it! (Don’t be shy.)
Valentine’s Day can get a bad rap for being a holiday fabricated by the card-and-chocolate industries to prey on the weak hearts of singles everywhere, but it’s a good a time as any to make a meaningful connection.
So go fall in love with a stranger, I dare you.
Caroline Scherer is finding her way in the world. She is a thinker, a dreamer, a writer, and an old soul. She enjoys, but is not very good at yoga, and is feeling guilty about maybe wanting to reevaluate her vegetarianism. She is also an increasingly less recent graduate of Skidmore College, but pretends otherwise. Nowadays, she uses her liberal arts education to work at an independent bookstore and navigate the strange world of post-graduate underemployment. She is an avid swimmer, crossword puzzle enthusiast and dog lover.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise