I recently watched a TED talk about how falling in love is the easy part of developing a relationship by Mandy Len Catron. She is a writer that explores the dangers and pleasures of love stories through her blog The Love Story Project. It got me wondering whether or not the approach she talks about may be helpful for singles looking for love, or couples wanting to sustain their relationship, to develop greater intimacy or reconnect.
Mandy applied the method utilised by psychology researcher Arthur Aron and colleagues 20 years ago, to help strangers fall in love in his laboratory. After explaining the study to a university acquaintance she bumped into occasionally they agreed to give it a try. At the end of their date she found herself standing on a bridge at midnight staring into his eyes for 4 minutes.
Aron’s study was designed to explore whether or not it was possible for intimacy to develop between strangers. The study involved strangers sitting face-to-face and taking it in turns to answer increasingly more personal questions. The 36 questions were broken up into three sets and are designed to facilitate self-disclosure between the couple. Why?
love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm - Alain de Botton
Being vulnerable, sharing something of ourselves with another person can be a terrifying experience for some. At times we all project an image of ourselves that differs, slightly, from our true selves. When we first meet on a date (and for some even throughout their couple relationship or marriage) we may give a superficial impression that disguises depth or we may seek to convey a glamourised version of who we would like to be thought of, rather than who we really are.
There is nothing wrong with that but to sustain love, for a relationship to become intimate, loving and more meaningful it needs to develop between two genuine faces rather than being hidden behind masks. Intimacy is a process in which each feels his or her innermost self validated, understood and cared for by the other.
According to Len Catron “we all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative.” Love doesn’t happen by chance. It is a process where we risk really being known and knowing another.
What I like about Aron’s study is it highlights that love is more malleable than we think. It is possible for intimacy and trust, the feelings needed for love to thrive to be propagated and nurtured more than we realise.
Unless you are open to love and a relationship you are unlikely to agree to try an experiment designed to create romantic love. Yet, rarely does life present us with an opportunity, to accelerate the development of intimacy and the possibility of love. It may be that just like Mandy Len Catron and a couple of Aron’s research the 36 questions may led to love for you too.
Do you dare give it a try?
If developing greater intimacy is important to your relationship or you notice you struggle to develop intimacy in relationships, counselling may help you develop the connection you crave.