I tried out those '36 questions to make you fall in love' on a blind date – this is what happened


No more awkward silences on your first date – try out this list of probing questions designed to cut to the chase and help you to find The One.

Is there anything more socially awkward than a bad first date – and a blind date at that? There are the uncomfortable silences, the stilted attempts at conversation and a desperate desire for the bill to arrive.

I experienced it all on a particularly awkward date that turned out to be disastrous, to put it mildly. His left eye can’t stop nervously twitching and we’re never on the same page. When he glances to the left, I look to the right. Our eyes meet only when one of us says something then we again look in opposite directions– his eye still jumping.

I comment on the weather.

“Yeeees,” he sighs and takes a sip of his coffee.

The cup of coffee seems bottomless and there’s a real chance it will never empty so we can call for the bill.

I wish I’d known about psychologist Arthur Aron and his famous list of of questions you can use to find out if you’ll be able to fall in love with a person.

Aron, an expert in the field of interpersonal relationships and love, developed a technique 20 years ago that apparently dramatically improves two people’s chances of falling in love.

All they have to do on their first date is to ask each other his 36 questions (below), answer them honestly and gaze into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

The technique certainly worked for at least two of his research subjects. He invited several strangers to his laboratory to ask each other the questions in pairs. Six months later two of them were married and Aron, professor of psychology at the State University of New York, was guest of honour.

The questionnaire has become popular again in recent weeks and interest was piqued ahead of Valentine’s Day. More and more people online are saying the questions have helped them to find their true love.

So could it work for me given that I didn’t have much luck with Jumping Eye Guy?

The logic behind Aron’s technique is that 36 very personal questions would force two strangers to reveal something of their own vulnerabilities to each other. This forms a bond between them.

When I learnt about the questions I decided to put them to the test. My guinea pig  was Werner Hattingh (31) a software engineer of Somerset West in the Western Cape. We were introduced by a mutual friend.

As I arrived at the beachfront restaurant at 6 pm I reminded myself I wasn’t there to find my Great Love. It was work – I wanted only to find out if Werner and I would feel “more intimate” after answering the 36 questions and staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes uninterrupted.

YOU journalist Joanie Bergh and her guinea pig, Werner Hattingh, put psychologist Arthur Aron’s questionnaire to the test. Could it spark love and intimacy by forcing you and your date out of your comfort zone? PHOTO: Misha Jordaan YOU journalist Joanie Bergh and her guinea pig, Werner Hattingh, put psychologist Arthur Aron’s questionnaire to the test. Could it spark love and intimacy by forcing you and your date out of your comfort zone? PHOTO: Misha Jordaan

Although Werner knew he was there to answer some questions it was nerve racking work to say the least.The questions gradually become more serious as they delve deeper into your family, personal disappointments and expectations of a partner.

To our surprise the questionnaire, which apparently should have taken only 45 minutes, kept us busy for five hours. In fact the waiters eventually began to pack up and stash away the tables around us.

Your personality probably determines how you respond to the questions but with every question Werner and I spontaneously started talking about other things as well. Each question sparked another anecdote, experience or I-feel-the-same exchange.

Things became so sociable we had to remind ourselves of the questionnaire.

The list appears to spare the potential couple – introvert or extrovert – any uncomfortable silences. The questions are highly personal and force you to think about them and respond in depth.

Aron’s novel technique nudges you out of your comfort zone with questions you definitely wouldn’t want to ask or be asked on a first date. There were times I prayed Werner wouldn’t flee, freaked out by the intrusiveness of the questions.

But the vulnerable moments definitely created intimacy and for that we have Aron to thank.

When we finally said goodbye just after 11 pm, the only people around in the parking lot were Werner, the car guard and I. We hadn’t even had time to gaze into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

So did Arthur’s questionnaire lead Werner and I to true love? After that date we saw each other in a restaurant again – this time without the questionnaire– and again we talked for nearly five hours.

“It was weird at our first meeting to have a list of 36 questions on the table and someone telling me to answer them all,” Werner said after our first encounter.

Asked if the questions were useful and would make two people fall in love, he said possibly. “It might work. Or perhaps it means two strangers would in any case fall in love – with or without a questionnaire. Who’s to know?” Who knows if Jumping Eye Guy and I would have fallen for each other if we’d had Aron’s questionnaire. Instead I’d taken the board game 30 Seconds along, which in hindsight was probably not as clever as I’d thought. I asked him if he wanted to be the blue or the yellow icon. I thought my idea of getting to know each other better through 30 Seconds was innovative and creative. He didn’t. His eye stopped jumping – and we got our bill.

The 36 questions that lead to love 

  1.  Given the choice of anyone in the world,who 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’re 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 could live to 90 and retain either the mind or the 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’ll 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 to 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 you’ve dreamt 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 you’d die suddenly in a year’s time, would you change anything about the way you live now? Why?
  20. What does friendship mean to you?
  21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  22. Take turns sharing something you consider a positive characteristic in your partner. Share a total of five items.
  23. How close and warm is your family? Do you think 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, share what would be important for them to know.
  28. Tell your partner what you like about them. Be honest, saying things 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 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 save one last 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 they might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to feel about the problem you’ve chosen.
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