Lately, God’s been teaching me a lot about how important listening is in a romantic relationship. In fact, there’s good evidence that listening doesn’t just help a couple stay in love, it’s a key factor in helping people fall in love!
Earlier in the year, when I was writing Forget Paris, Love in Store book 4, a friend sent me this New York Times article, To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This. I’d already written a draft of the story, but the process discussed in the article was exactly what my anti-romance psychologist heroine needed to use to try to prove her point!
Back in the 1990’s, social psychology researcher Arthur Aron wanted a way to create a sense of intimacy between people in the psych lab, so he could study how feelings of closeness affected other psychological tests. The aim wasn’t to make people fall in love, yet it did happen! One marriage and a number of lasting friendships came out of that first experiment. And Mandy Len Catron, who wrote the NYT article about her experience trying the process, also fell in love.
When the article published, a lot of newspapers and websites ran a list of Dr Aron’s questions, and treated it like some sort of magic formula to make anyone fall in love with anyone. But what creates the sense of intimacy isn’t just the questions, the way they make people think about what they value in a relationship, and the gradually increasing level of self disclosure they require.
The closeness happens because of the way that the person asking the question needs to ask, then stay quiet and listen. No interrupting. No giving advice. No, “Oh yes, that happened to me too….” Only listening. Then once the person speaking has finished, they ask the question, and listen in their turn.
If you’re interested to try the process, you can use the questions listed below with just about anyone you’d like to feel closer to; friends, family members, or of course your sweetheart or a potential sweetheart! The only requirements are a willingness to answer honestly, and a willingness to listen.
Just watch out though! Like Zoe in Forget Paris, you too might find yourself falling deeper in love than you expected!
American graduate student Zoe Gallagher doesn’t believe in romance. She’s in Paris on Valentine’s Day doing research to prove that romance is an illusion and love based on it doesn’t last. When she meets Gabe Ross, there to fulfil his mother’s dying wish by placing a lovelock on a bridge crossing the River Seine, even she finds it hard to resist the most romantic city in the world on the most romantic day of the year. An impulsive challenge to try a psychological experiment feels like more, much more, for both of them. Zoe tells herself their one wonderful day together proves nothing. But on her return to London, she discovers she needs Gabe’s help to learn the biggest lesson of all, that love does last. Especially God’s love….
Arthur Aron’s Closeness Generating Procedure
Each of you should take a turn answering each question:
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 phone 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 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 choose?
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 you partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained 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 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.