10 January, 2015

How to Fall In Love With Anyone*

*or at least 90% of anyone...

What if falling in love is a choice? What if it isn't something that happens to you, but rather something you do?

I've always felt this way, of course. I fall in love easily -- many probably feel too easily...but the truth is that any two people, given considerably less initial attraction than you'd think, can fall in love in ninety minutes. (Add one hug of longer than twenty seconds duration--probably after that ninety minutes, there are few people willing to give hugs like that up front) and your fates are sealed.

Here's an account of how to make it happen. And here (pdf) is the actual study.
Basically, you need to be attracted enough to somebody that the thought of falling in love with him or her doesn't scare you silly. My personal threshold for that is very, very low; yours may not be, and that's fine. But by no means do you need to look at him or her and see fireworks. In fact, the study shows that you stand a ninety percent change of achieving significant results even if you go into it with no expectation of liking the other person. 

How do you do it? You ask each other questions and listen carefully to each other's answers. Here's the set of questions:

Set I: 
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
 Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? 
What would constitute a "perfect" day for you? 
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? 
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? 
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common. 
For what in your life do you feel most grateful? 
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
Take 4 minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? 

Set II 
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
Is there something that you've dreamed of doing for a long time? 
Why haven't you done it? 
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? 
What do you value most in a friendship? 
What is your most treasured memory? What is your most terrible memory? 
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why? 
What does friendship mean to you? What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of 5 items.
How close and warm is your family? 
Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people's? 
How do you feel about your relationship with your mother? 

Set lll
Make 3 true "we" statements each. For instance 'We are both in this room feeling ... "
Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... " 
If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know. 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. 
Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life. 
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself? 
Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? 
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? 
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?
Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why? 
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.

These are, of course, excellent questions to ask your partner no matter how long you've been together.  They get progressively, but almost imperceptibly, more intimate; many of the questions in the third set are things you may have never told anyone...in fact one of them is guaranteed to be. It doesn't matter how little you have in common, because these questions are designed to unite rather than divide.

Do they generate love? No. They're actually called "closeness-generating" questions. But closeness and trust are two necessary qualities for love...probably the two most necessary. It won't even matter if you disagree on important values, which the authors themselves found surprising...you'll still stand a 90% chance of having significant feelings for your partner.

I have not done this study, but I intuitively understand the underlying principles. It's really not rocket surgery: if you ask interesting questions of each other and genuinely listen to each others' answers, good things will happen. I submit it doesn't even have to be these questions (although these are damned good ones). The mutual willingness to go through with an exercise like this, formally or informally, is a hell of a powerful indicator of incipient liking, at the very least.

Go out and be loving. Give generously of yourself. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Above all, choose love, and love will choose you.

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