Getting serious with the person you’re dating means having more intense and lasting feelings about them. It involves things like vulnerability, chemistry, learning about each other, and openness—a combination of emotions and shared experiences that creates an intimacy and a bond. But what if there were a set of questions that could create that same sense of intimacy with someone, in a short amount of time?
Psychologist Arthur Aron conducted a well-known experiment where two people ask each other 36 questions that increase their level of intimacy over time and are thought to build a foundation of love between two people. Some of the questions are lighthearted, others intense, but his idea was that, when answered openly and honestly, this particular set of questions can bring two people closer together. So is this an experiment you can use to strengthen the bond in your relationship?
It can be.
Asking relationship questions can be an important way to learn more about your partner and start strong conversations that bring you closer. And because Aron’s 36 questions were specifically created to bring people together, they can be an interesting exercise to complete with the person you’re seeing.
You can choose to ask and answer the questions alternatively or you both can share your answers after you’ve written them out separately. The recommended time to answer and go over the questions together is forty-five minutes, with fifteen minutes spent on each of the three sets of questions.
36 Questions That Create Intimacy
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.
So how do you know if the questions and the exercise were helpful? Well, how does the person make you feel match up with what they say? These questions provoke thoughtful answers but does your spouse’s actions and habits reflect their answers.
Let things happen naturally. Try not to look at these questions as yielding immediate results in your relationship. The best way to create intimacy is letting the relationship flow naturally. One way to do that is by having open and honest dialog with someone, and these set of questions create an environment where that’s possible. But they aren’t the only way to have a deep conversation or form a deep bond with the person you’re with.
Asking each other these 36 questions may give you a chance to discuss things you’ve always wondered about each other or haven’t yet thought about. Enjoy the exercise and don’t put too much pressure on it to lead to love or create a magical sense of closeness right away. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn more about each other and get used to having conversations at a deeper, more intimate level.