Back in 1967, coincidentally the "summer of love," social psychologist and professor Arthur Aron met his future wife, a fellow researcher. Together, they developed 36 questions meant to spark connection and intimacy between two people, which they published in 1997. And while no one question can actually guarantee love and connection, the notion is that active listening and mutual vulnerability—the willingness to really open yourself up to and receive someone else—can build empathy, trust, and warmth.
Probing questions also tend to reveal someone's values, qualities, fears, and personal past, so even if they don't lead to love or you're already in love, they also help you learn a lot about your partner, friends, and self.
So with Aron's questions as inspiration, we came up with 30 questions of our own to ask your partner, friends, or even yourself when you want to dig a little deeper. Whether you find yourself sitting in a long car drive with a loved one, or you simply want to get to know someone on a deeper level, these 30 questions to ask your partner will definitely beget some interesting conversations (or journal entries if you want to treat them as introspective prompts).
- What is your most irrational fear? What's your most rational fear?
- What's the biggest risk you've ever taken that didn't pay off?
- What's one risk you took that did pay off?
- How do you think you will die?
- Do you wish you were raised differently? Why?
- What quality do you wish you had? What's one thing you wish you were really good at?
- Would you rather spend a day with your kindergarten self or your elderly self? Why?
- What's your favorite childhood memory?
- What's your favorite early adulthood memory?
- If today were your last day to live, and your life suddenly flashed before your eyes, would you be proud and satisfied with how you lived?
- What has been your greatest accomplishment in life?
- What memory keeps you up at night? What mistake you've made keeps you up at night?
- What are your favorite characteristics of each other?
- Is your family warm and affectionate?
- When was the last time you cried?
- Is there anything you've been holding onto you that you want to get off your chest?
- What were you like at school as a kid? Did you ever get detention for anything? What for?
- What do you think the hallmark of a good relationship is?
- What would you title your memoir?
- If you could have a time machine for a week, what three eras would you visit and who would you be? Why?
- When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- Would your younger self be proud of who you are today?
- If your life were a novel or a movie, would you be entertained? Would you admire your own character and the decisions they've made?
- What are your simple pleasures in life?
- When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
- What or who did your parents name you after? What's your relationship like to your name?
- If you could get drinks with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
- What are three things we have in common?
- What are three things we don't have in common?
- Is there anything you've been too afraid to say out loud to someone?
Berkeley News. "Creating love in the lab: the 36 questions that spark intimacy." February 12, 2015.