Saturday, February 21, 2015

36 Questions to Fall in Love by Milou Koenings

Is it possible to marry just anyone? Maybe, if you ask the right questions.

question mark of hearts
A friend of mine who is a marital therapist claims that any two mentally healthy people with just a bit of physical attraction can have a successful marriage as long as they have two things: respect and generosity.

I found the idea cold and unromantic. But I've been mulling it over a long time and when I read about Mandy Lee Catron's essay in The New Yorker (and then read the essay itself and many more about it), it seemed to confirm my friend's assessment.

For those who haven't yet heard about it, Catron's essay was entitled "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This."

Her essay struck a chord - aren't we all looking for love or looking to keep the flame of our love shining bright? The essay went viral, spawned a slew of YouTube videos, both endorsing and mocking it, at least half-a-dozen apps, and even a few humorous spoofs.

The essay was inspired by research done in the 1990s by Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at SUNY at Stonybrook. His study looked at whether intimacy could be accelerated between random strangers by having them discuss 36 questions and then stare into each other's eyes for four minutes.

Catron and a friend decided to try it. And yes, they did fall in love.

The obvious flaw in this proof that the 36 questions work is that Catron and her beloved were friends to start off with and if they were willing to give the experiment a shot, they clearly were already open to the possibility of falling in love with each other. The millions of people who devoured the essay and are busily downloading the apps seem willing to put that point aside in the hope that asking the right questions will magically produce Prince or Princess Charming.

There's logic to the questions, though. They start out innocuous enough and progressively get more intimate, asking people to reveal things about themselves and their lives that they may never even have considered. In the process, both parties make themselves increasingly vulnerable.

Isn't that the process of any good romance novel? We start out with protagonists who, because of whatever life has thrown at them, have reasons not to make themselves vulnerable. Through letting their defenses go, and risking the vulnerability of intimacy, they give themselves over to love.

One reason we all love romance novels so much is probably partly because no matter what the details of the stories are, the process of falling in love is universal, in fiction and in life.

Want to give a go at the 36 questions that lead to love? You can bet we did!

You'll find them here.

Milou Koenings writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.

Her novel, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon.

You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.


  1. If you liked the 36 Questions, please support the #Kickstarter card version of it at

  2. Fascinating stuff! I hadn't seen that before. Not sure what I think, though.

  3. Great post, Milou. Those 36 questions are interesting, but I think some of them would make me squirm. I guess that's the whole point, though, to make yourself vulnerable to someone else.

  4. Those are tough questions! I'm just glad it doesn't say you and your partner need to agree with them!

  5. They are tough questions aren't they? I think you point out the magic we still need though - how two people treat other once they disagree on something so personal is what will make or break it, not the questions themselves.

  6. Thanks for the interesting post, Milou! Wow, I got exhausted just reading that list of questions! It seems it would be mentally taxing to sit down and answer them all at once. I don't think that would necessarily put me in the mood for I like the good old-fashioned way of the "slow reveal." Yes, like how it happens in romance novels. :)

  7. I've always thought that the 2 most important things to look for in a mate are HONESTY and KINDNESS.

  8. Milou, I read the original article a few months ago and thought it was interesting. They do say that is a man and woman were abandoned on a desert island together, it doesn't matter who they are or how old they are, they would eventually fall in love. It is fascinating.

  9. So interesting, although I'm with Ginny - I like the good old-fashioned way of falling in love.

  10. You have outdone yourself this time. It is probably the best, most short step by step guide that I have ever seen. Love toy

  11. You have performed a great job on this article. It’s very precise and highly qualitative. You have even managed to make it readable and easy to read. You have some real writing talent. Thank you so much. couples dating