Recently I stumbled upon the 36 Questions that Lead to Love which were developed by psychologist Arthur Aron over 20 years ago.
It was an experiment to see if answering certain revealing questions could make two strangers fall in love. Since then I have gone through the list with a small handful of friends and loves and the results are always fantastic.
I love going deep with someone I meet right away and exploring the often hidden aspects of their personality. I also love sharing all those parts of myself.
I recommend this list to anyone, no matter if you are strangers, friends or long-time lovers.
Now I am in a loving relationship where most of the revealing questions have been asked and answered. All the cans of worms, for the most part, have all been opened and accepted. And although I feel that I know this person as an individual, I still feel like there is a sea of unknown between us.
As we spend more time together and deepen our intimacy, I noticed a newborn being has emerged—the relationship itself. It is a thing that did not even exist before we met. It is a force that we are both unfamiliar with. Our relationship surprises us, comforts us and challenges us and with every day we realize we must take time to get to know it and honor it.
A curious thing occurred as I noticed this triangle emerge and start to reveal itself. I realized that no matter how much we learned about each other, there were new questions needed that were less about “you and I” and more about “we.”
What do we like and dislike about “us?”
I figured that maybe—in the same way that mutual vulnerability fostered closeness between two people during the 36 Questions experiment—the same type of experience could be designed to make us fall (more deeply) in love with our relationship.
So I thought of things I wanted to know, as well as things I was afraid to know. I came up with 33 questions intended to create a shared awareness that I think will enhance two lover’s ability to dance together as two and also as one.
I must give a firm warning before handing over this list to anyone: Whenever I recommend Dr. Aron’s (36) Question(s), I always mention that they are only going to accelerate a bond that was already going to happen.
If you were not meant to jive with the partner you were going through the list with, then the questions weren’t going to change that. Love could be realized, but so could a proper amount of disdain if your answers were too polar opposite.
Some of the questions here will elicit warm and fuzzies, but some are extremely raw and a bit brazen. You must be ready to take an unabashed look at your relationship like you never have before. You may find out things that make you feel uncomfortable and less at ease with your lover.
Or you may feel a staggering relief to know more deeply how much you are loved and adored. You’ll probably feel a mix of the two.
But allow yourself to take the good with the bad. And speaking of good and bad, there is no such thing: This is truth.
Some things will be comfortable and some things will be uncomfortable.
Either way, this list is designed to reveal the truth.
The thoughts and feelings uncovered here are real. They already exist and are only just now being coaxed to the surface. You may not like what you hear. You may not like the feeling of being brought up to speed on how your lover feels about you and your relationship. You may even find out that you love your relationship less…but I would guess that if that is the case, that you were already aware.
Find relief in the denial being washed away.
Also, be gentle when you hear honest answers. They are hard to give. Notice that “Name a behavior of mine that irritates you.” Does not say, “Name a behavior of mine that you wish I would change.” It also does not read, “Name a behavior that makes me not love you.” You are loved despite your imperfections. Let your lover feel safe in sharing those with you.
Remember that “I don’t like this about our relationship,” does not have to be about you. Look at every answer as your lover telling you something about them. Even though it sounds like it is about you. It is not. It is your lover sharing their likes and dislikes—in that moment. This is an exploration of them, in the present moment. Do not feel pressured to change your future behavior when it is not being asked of you.
Resist your ego wanting to take every answer personally. When you hear an answer that makes you feel discomfort and you aren’t sure what to say, try responding with, “Thank you for sharing that piece of you with me. I am grateful to know this information.”
When answers feel difficult and hurtful, you can also say to yourself. “I am glad that I know something that already existed. Nothing changes. I do not have to change. My lover is not asking me to change. It is my choice how I respond.”
Have empathy for your lover and encourage truth by sharing yours. Nothing is made better by hiding the truth. It is true that many relationships are prolonged because truths remain tucked away. If your relationship cannot withstand the information revealed from this list, then it was not meant to be. It is better to find out now so that you can be free to start a relationship more suitable for you.
Keep in the forefront of your mind that this is someone with individual tastes and who has chosen to love you. If they answer that they thoroughly enjoy time spent away from you and would actually prefer more of it, you are still loved! Be careful not to make assumptions and hear things that are not spoken.
Be understanding, tolerant and graceful as you offer and receive the truth.
I also believe that lovers should be given the choice to pass on any of these questions. I also encourage breaks. This is a lot to reveal for some people and it can be overwhelming. When you give your partner freedom to pass you are honoring them. They may just need time.
Try not to worry that they want to hide something from you.
Give space and they will be more willing to revisit the question later.
At this time you may want to ask yourself how your behavior may have contributed to their fear of sharing on this particular topic. Why are they afraid? Could you have possibly made them feel your love is conditional? Unconditional love is the only place where truth can breathe and thrive.
Lastly, be gentle with your answers. Before sharing something that might feel uncomfortable to hear, hand it over with lots of sugar. For example, if your answer to “Do I compliment you enough?” is a resounding “No,” share more than just that. Start with telling your lover about the times they did compliment you and how good that felt. Explain how their behavior makes you feel without making your lover feel wrong or attacked. Truth can and should be revealed without inflicting pain.
Lastly, this list doesn’t cover the basics. If you haven’t talked about things like what commitment means to you, offspring and long term plans, then you aren’t ready for this list.
Only the most mature, open and honest relationships are going to benefit from this experience.
Please proceed with caution and care.
- What types of things do I say or do that make you feel loved?
- What types of things do I say or do that make you feel unloved?
- What initially attracted you to me?
- What is your favorite thing that I do during love making?
- Do I touch you enough?
- Do I compliment you enough?
- How/when do I make you feel special?
- Do you have an interest in a sexual activity that you haven’t told me about yet?
- What scares you the most (if anything) about our relationship?
- What is the most pleasurable thing about our relationship?
- How can I help you maintain your individuality?
- Think about your impression of me when we first met. What has changed since then?
- Is there anything you think I’m not 100% truthful about?
- If you could change one part of your body, what would it be?
- What is the most hurtful thing I have ever said or done to you?
- Tell me something you wish I would do during love making.
- What is your favorite thing about my body? My mind?
- Name a behavior of mine that irritates you.
- Tell me what sets me apart from other people.
- When we met, how long did you think we would be together? How long do you think we will be together now?
- How do you feel when we are apart?
- What do I contribute to your life?
- What do you think attracted me to you?
- What are some thoughts you have when you see me talking to an attractive member of the opposite sex?
- How can I show you my support?
- Have you ever worried that I would be unfaithful to you?
- Have you ever thought about being unfaithful to me?
- When do you most admire me?
- Are you confident in how I feel about you? What could I do to increase that?
- Do you think we spend too much time together? Too little?
- Is our relationship less exciting now compared to when we first met? In what way?
- What is your biggest fear?
- When do you feel most alive?
Author: Lealyn Poponi
Editor: Renée Picard