A few days ago I ran across a strange article in the New York Times. At first I was certain that it was another “Ways to Catch a Mate” kind of story. But something hiccupped in the title which was: To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do this: It sounded like an updated version of Love Potion #9, yet it had that air of believability. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad
Not to keep you in suspense, 20 years ago, psychologist Arthur Aaron discovered that he could literally make someone fall in love…using a set of parameters he had set up. It involves a set of questions and answers (in 3 parts of ascending intimacy). After 36 questions they must then stare continually at each other for a period of 4 minutes. Okay…think of this discovery as phase I: Arthur Aaron Creates Love.
In Phase II, Mandy Len Catron puts this 20-year-old thesis to test, in a bar. The second eyeball-to-eyeball test of the thesis takes part at night and on a bridge. Several months after this somewhat informal test is taken to its ultimate outcome, Mandy Marries!!!
Love Potion #9: You and I are invited to speculate on the ramifications of this concept. Seriously… Think about it, except for the time involved in answering 36 questions, plus the time it takes (4 minutes) to stare deeply into each other’s eyes, what we are seriously talking about now is a somewhat slow-reacting Love Potion #9. Think for a minute as you sit there, if you actually had a bottle of the love potion…OR a willing participant to take the above test, who would you choose to fall madly in love with? Remember, however, that they are going to fall in love with you as well.
If the answer comes easily to you, that’s either a really good sign, or a really, really bad sign, with not a whole lot in between. Run this idea past your mate, because in a few minutes you will know exactly how to perform this test. If you could really fall in love with someone and have it be reciprocal, whom would you choose? If you’re married and the answer is anything other than “my mate” then you’re already in trouble. If you’re young or divorced or some combination of never-been-married then it’s a whole lot easier. I ran the idea past Pamela and got an answer before I’d even finished the sentence. “You,” she said. I waited a second. “You answered really fast,” I replied. She volleyed the question with, “Why? Who would you pick?” and as soon as she said it I was forced to actually “own” the question.
The Keys: Intimacy and Trust: What quickly and interestingly happened, however, was the question morphed for us. It seemed, in the course of reading about Arthur Aaron’s experiments that what the experiment was actually doing was forcing the two subjects to become mentally and emotionally intimate...AND…to form some quick rudimentary trust. I’m pretty sure that those two characteristics, intimacy and trust, are some of the most basic building blocks to love.
Phase III : Phase I: Aaron comes up with a test that actually causes people to fall in love. Phase II is the writer, Ms. Catron testing Phase I and ending up married. But Phase III? That’s where we come in. We, as in Pamela and I….and YOU plus your mate. What about an increase in trust and mental intimacy among friends? Interesting questions arise. Do you fall in love with your friends? Or do you just progress into a deeper, more rewarding friendship? What if you give the test to your boss at work…or your secretary? Clearly this can lead to greater understanding and respect. But it’s a two-edged sword and Love thy Neighbor takes on potentially dangerous ramifications.
Another Aspect to Consider: What if you give the test to someone you’re already in love with? What happens, as in the case of Pam and me, if you give this apparently potent test to two people who have been together for decades, 4.6 decades at the moment?
If Pamela and I take the test, it’s possible that nothing will happen. But it’s also possible that we will strangely progress into an even deeper relationship… Not sure how much deeper we can go here. It’s gettin’ pretty deep. We already finish each others sentences and thoughts almost in ad nauseum. Also…could it be that love and intimacy is like a circle, such that once you get so far in, you start coming back the other way? Not sure if that makes sense…
Could we finish the test and learn some deep dark truth about the other that we wish we hadn’t known? We don’t know either. But in the next day or so, we’re taking this most interesting test together. I’m not sure I could stand looking at myself in the mirror for four minutes without imploding. For me it’s a little like feedback on an amplifier. Put the microphone too close to the speaker and it begins to howl and meltdown….and that’s just looking at yourself. If you think about it, looking deeply into someone’s eyes is about as intimate as you can get. In a way, much more intimate than sex. I feel like I’m about to climb into a space capsule and blast off. Wish us luck!
The Staring Test: We took the four-minute eyeball-to-eyeball test this morning in the most illogical, unromantic place you could find…the dealership waiting room while they were servicing our car. No people, to speak of and…we’d both been putting it off. The rules: Zero talking, no looking away, blinking…okay. We set the timer at exactly four minutes and went to it. First thirty seconds…goofy. Pamela kept making little faces to make me laugh…batted her eyes. I did about the same. The surprise was how much more comfortable it is looking at her eyes than mine. It was nice. I began seeing her younger and younger. She batted her eyes again and we both laughed. I saw many things, vulnerability, humor, sadness, hope…
We were both getting bleary-eyed from the staring and then…the big surprise was that it seemed like a heartbeat and it was over. Big conclusions? Just one and it was unexpected. I think people become programmed not to stare too much…perhaps to a fault. It felt really good to look at her silently that long and seemed to validate such long stares in the future. The eyes, much more than anything else are a conduit to others. Eyes can’t lie, at least not for very long. We both felt very good, like we’d been making out. I highly recommend it. Long term benefits??? Yes, quite possibly. You just might learn more things from your mate…with your mouth shut.
The Verbal Test: Here’s where being married I expected zero surprises…and yet was surprised. At question 13 we were polar opposites. I don’t want any pre-knowledge of my future…or hers. She wants to know it all…right now. As it turns out, most of these are very easy for us to answer…mostly because of the 46 years we’ve been together.
Having said that, I think the crux of this test…its value is that however close you are, or you aren’t, it artificially puts you in a position of both trust and intimacy and those are two huge factors in…if not falling in love, achieving a deeper empathy and intimacy with the person across from you. If that is your goal……It Works!
Joking and posturing aside, choose your partner wisely. This might be a stronger love potion than you think.
P.S. I believe this photo is several years old… T-Rex is approaching from behind.
Test questions are below.
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?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
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.
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?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
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?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling .
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.
28. 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.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
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?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
After having mutually answered all 36 questions together, take a break, and then set the timer for 4 minutes. No cheating. Eyes open and eyes looking at eyes for the entire time. And….NO TALKING! After the test, it’s up to you what step you want to take next.
My husband and I will be married 30 years this May. Although I think we’re as close as 2 people can be, I can’t wait to try this. Again, thanks for sharing! You are beginning to feel like my therapist.
BTW, we both watched Alive Inside the night you posted your last email. Amazing. My 92 year old father and his caregiver also watched it and thought it was wonderful. Yesterday I ran into a client downtown and she said since I seldom post recommendations via Facebook she knew it was something she needed to watch so it was on her list of things to do. You are impacting lives with your writing.
Have a great day!
You’re very kind…and the documentary we both saw was very powerful. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already joined this tiny guerrilla force to help our moms and pops and sisters, brothers…wives who now sit in wheelchair staring at a wall. Brava and Bravo to you and your mate! We’re getting national attention…due in large part to interest from people just like yourselves. Thank YOU!
Enjoyed this one, Henry. Especially the caption on the final photo! Inspired me to write a presentation on Valentine Schmalentine to present to the local Rotary Club on February 11. Not about the test, but your piece got me to thinking about how I see V Day. What fun.
Glad you enjoyed it Annette, particularly coming from a pro like yourself!
On a baser level, you Valentine’s Day idea brought back a distinct memory from elementary school. It was Valentine’s Day. I was in the third grade and I’d written up several valentines to my “sweeties” and wished each of them, “Happy V.D.”
It was my first trip to the principal’s office and I didn’t even know why. …As you can see, it ruined my life.
My husband and I took the test last night. The questions basically reaffirmed our opinions of each other, with only a few exceptions. The four minute gazing contest was the best and most telling of all. It seemed to go by in a flash, and I never would have thought that would be true. At first you giggle, then you try to hypnotize your mate , then you probe deeper and deeper into their eyes. You enjoy gazing at the tiny lines at the eyes, the depth of iris, the slant and shape and folds in their eyes, and it is mesmerizing. Emotions sprang up from the intimacy of it all. You are dating again, trying to figure out who this person before is. We came away with a glow and a renewed spirit. You know why you chose this person to share your life.
Sounds like you and your husband had a similar experience to what Pam and I went through. I’d be curious to know how long you two have been married. This might be still another positive aspect of this peculiar test. Sort of like taking yourself and your mate in for a psychic realignment. We’re thinking of doing this staring thing once every couple of weeks. With all the iPads and iPhones, and computer screens, maybe we all need more face-time…more deeply staring into each other’s eyes (?)