Tag Archives: love

We Tried A Classic Love Experiment And This Is What Happened

Can asking each other 36 questions and staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes make two people fall in love?

Alice Mongkonglite / BuzzFeed

A few weeks ago, Mandy Len Catron of the New York Times published “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” which has since gone viral and even inspired a few parodies. In the piece, Catron talks about going to a bar with a man who would later become her boyfriend and asking each other 36 questions, followed by four minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. The study, formed by Dr. Arthur Aron of Stony Brook University, was originally designed to measure closeness in strangers, but has since then been used to try to form romantic bonds between people.

“We were trying to find a method in the laboratory to create closeness,” Aron told BuzzFeed. “There had been a fair amount of research on how people tend to form friendships, and what that research showed was that a very standard process is that they self-disclose, reveal personal things about themselves at a gradually increasing rate, and that it’s reciprocal. So we wanted to see if we could make that happen in a short amount of time in a lab.”

What matters even more than self-disclosure, Aron said, is how the other person responds. “If I’m sitting there self-disclosing and the other person is just sitting there blankly and then takes their turn, it’s not going to have the same effect, we think, based on the research, than if the other person is nodding and appreciating that that’s how you feel.”

“Believing that someone is interested in deeply knowing you and seeing you for your true self is an extremely important ingredient for intimacy to develop,” Dr. Jill P. Weber told BuzzFeed. “But more powerful than believing this about a person is actually experiencing someone asking questions and displaying interest in a person’s most intimate details.”

As far as the eye contact’s effect, Dr. Kelly Campbell of California State University told BuzzFeed that “researchers have found that the ‘bonding’ or ‘love’ hormone of oxytocin gets released during prolonged eye contact. This is the same hormone that gets released when mothers breastfeed and gaze into the eyes of their infant.”

With all that in mind, we decided to test out this experiment ourselves.

Some of us were meeting strangers for the first time on a blind date. Some of us had just started seeing the person or were in new relationships. Others were together for a decade or so.

The official study had the 36 questions divided into three sets, where each section was timed for 15 minutes and the whole experiment lasted for 45 minutes total. However, we decided to answer all 36 questions the same way that Catron did in her piece, our experiences ranging from three and a half to seven hours, respectively.

Alice Mongkonglite / BuzzFeed

Brett Vergara and Anonymous, Blind First Date

A: The hardest part was probably the build up to it. I was really nervous about the idea of opening up to a complete stranger. When I got there it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I actually really enjoyed myself!

BV: What quickly became apparent doing this exercise is how we were far more similar than I’d have originally anticipated. On the surface, it would seem that my partner and I came from very different backgrounds, with entirely different upbringings, and in turn had completely contrasting life experiences. This definitely wasn’t the case. It only took a few questions to unravel the similarities and common chords in our backgrounds.

A: I’m hoping that after this experience I will go into future dating situations being less afraid to really open up about who I am.

BV: I would say that going through this process serves more as an intensifier of any type of relationship, romantic or platonic. I mean, before I went through this experience there wasn’t a single person that knew the answer to every question involved with this exercise. Not my parents, not anyone I’ve been in a prior relationship with, not even my closest friends. When someone knows that much about you, especially on that intimate of a level, it’s only bound to bring you closer.

Sarah Karlan and Becca Sherman, Dating for Two Months

SK: I like sharing what is going on in my head. I found it more strange to hear how I appear to another person. I think we all have an idea of how we come across to others, but to hear someone say what they ‘like’ about me was weirdly amazing — and also made me feel uncomfortable at the same time. Such brazen honesty is not usually how we function in everyday life. It was refreshing.

BS: The weirdest part of this for me was talking so much about my childhood and family. I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on my childhood, and don’t think of asking about it or discussing it much with someone I’m dating — at least, not in some sort of analytical way. That being said, I surprised myself with some of my answers, and it felt important and worthwhile to share with her.

SK: I like the idea of “cutting to the chase” or “cutting through the bullshit” and asking real questions. On dates sometimes you can get wrapped up talking about the superficial but it was a different ballgame doing the deep dive into each other’s lives. I think more people should do this even with non-romantic partners. Do it with your friends, your mom, everyone! Maybe not the eye contact though… that could get weird.

BS: I think I was most surprised at how comfortable the eye contact part of the experiment was for me. I had built that part of the experiment up in my head, and was expecting it to be pretty nerve-racking and/or awkward, but after spending time digging into all of these questions, it just felt right. You spend this very direct, focused time digging deep into who you both are with these questions, learning to “see” who the other person really is, and then you spend a really direct, focused amount of time physically seeing this person. I thought it was just a really perfect way to wrap it up and make you feel even closer.

Jenna Guillaume and Chris Guillaume, Together for 13.5 Years, Married for Two

JG: The hardest part for me was staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes. It didn’t feel natural — I kept wanting to lean forward and kiss Chris or ask what he was thinking or talk or do SOMETHING. It felt a little absurd, and I think it was probably more to do with my habit of constantly wanting to keep myself busy. Being still without any distractions was tough for me. But it was kind of relaxing too.

CG: I was surprised at how nice it was to share these things with each other again. It brought up wonderful memories of what we have done and achieved together.

JG: The thing that struck me most was that there weren’t really any surprises, which is probably good considering we’ve been together for 13.5 years. We know each other better than anyone else. The most surprising part for me was actually thinking about my OWN answers, and dwelling on a few things I hadn’t really considered before.

CG: The main takeaway from this was that talking more is always going to make for a happy relationship. It is easy to forget to talk with all the distractions in life these days so setting time aside each day to just talk might be my new favorite part of the day.

Alice Mongkonglite / BuzzFeed

Julia Pugachevsky and Anonymous, Second Date

JP: I really liked the questions where we had to name things we liked about each other, because we had to do it several times and go deeper than just “you’re smart” or “you’re attractive.” He had some very thoughtful things to say about me that I don’t think would normally come up on a second date, and it was quite wonderful to hear what nice things people notice about you when they first meet you.

A: As we opened up to each other more and more, to my surprise, I actually felt more physically attracted to her. I tend to think of physical attractiveness as this immutable rating, like one you’d give a Sims character or something, certainly something that only changes over a long time scale. But I guess it’s rare to look at someone hard, really scrutinizing them, without the intent of criticizing them or judging them negatively, and really finding the good.

JP: In some ways, this felt more comfortable to me than a standard second date at a bar because it gave us the freedom to open up when it’s usually considered a dating taboo to reveal too much too soon. I ended up telling him some hilariously incriminating stories about myself and we both had a good laugh, and I think that was a positive experience for me — not being afraid to really make fun of myself and just trusting the other person to get it.

A: Something that I’ll take away from this exercise is just remembering to compliment people. It felt so great when she said nice stuff about me. It’s so basic, but everyone’s so wrapped up in trying not to seem too vulnerable or too interested that people don’t compliment each other enough.

Arianna Rebolini and Brendan N., Together for 1.5 Years

AR: The questions that assumed or required us being strangers were funny, we had to alter how we were answering them, like the things we appeared to have in common. That one is probably better when you’re venturing a guess instead of being like, “We both like sushi; this is a fact.” Same things for the ones that were better suited for single people (like the “I wish I had someone to share ___ with” one).

BN: I had a hard time with some of the more abstract ones, like the one about love and affection.

AR: I was surprised at how visibly uncomfortable he was talking about himself. I feel like I knew he didn’t like being the center of attention, but it was like he didn’t want to take up time on his own stuff. I was also surprised by how much we DID know. I thought we’d be like learning all these new things about it each other but I guess we’ve covered a lot.

BN: I couldn’t believe how hard it was for me to tell my life story. It was such a struggle, and I picked such weird things. It felt impersonal the way I told it, like what was it, my fucking Facebook timeline? It felt like the most impersonal of all my answers.

Erin Chack and Sean C., Together for 9.5 Years

EC: I found it funny when I asked Sean the first question — “Who would like to have dinner with?” — and he looked at me blankly and said, “Am I supposed to say you?” After topping off his glass of wine and explaining the experiment wasn’t to prove we are in love but to help new couples accelerate intimacy, he relaxed. It was endearing how nervous he seemed at first.

SC: Erin and I have been dating for nine years so it was cool to go over a lot of views we’ve both talked about in our relationship and see what has changed, which wasn’t much.

EC: The most surprising thing to me was that there was literally nothing we didn’t know about each other. I thought there’d be some uncharted territory, but every response he gave I knew before he said it. The only new thing I learned was Sean thinks he’s going to die very old and I think I’m going to die young, which is something we may have never enunciated but I ascertained from the way we talk about our futures.

SC: Just thinking about the foundation of our relationship again was cool. And to always try to remember what we clicked together on and how we grew with each other and grow outside our relationship as well.

Alice Mongkonglite / BuzzFeed

Isaac Fitzgerald and Alice Kim, Together for Two Years

IF: I found out things I didn’t know about Alice, which is always exciting. I also thought it was really interesting to see what she focused on when telling her life story in four minutes. I was actually surprised by what I focused on during my own answering of that question as well.

AK: You get into a groove concerning the day-to-day, which is fine, but a little high-flown abstract talk never hurt anybody.

IF: I think there are ways that I could better support Alice based on some of her answers. I feel more familiar with the things she’s hopeful for, and with the things that she worries about. (She really didn’t like looking me in the eyes for four minutes, so we should probably avoid that in the future.)

AK: I had no problem staring at Isaac for that long, as he’s dreamy, but I found myself getting twitchy and self-conscious about being looked at — really looked at — for so long.

Krystie Yandoli and Chris W., Blind First Date

KY: Answering these questions wasn’t difficult for me because I like to consider myself a pretty honest and open person (plus, I talk a lot anyway). Asking the questions wasn’t difficult for me either, since I interview people all the time and am comfortable having conversations that involve an in-depth level of thought. But just sitting there with another person who, presumably was supposed to be a potential love interest felt bizarre in itself — opening myself up to that possibility was new and way overdue.

CW: I think by nature I’m pretty willing to reveal almost anything about myself in almost any situation, so the intimacy and privacy wasn’t a big deal. Maybe the hardest part, then, was staying on track enough to actually get through the questions in a reasonable amount of time since we both were pretty interested in pursuing tangential follow up questions. The whole thing took like five hours!

KY: I haven’t been open to the idea of love or romantic relationships for the past few years, so it was nice to be reminded of the work that needs to be done in order to create a substantial relationship. Since I went out with Chris, I’ve become more approachable, initiated dates, given out my number, and have had plenty of successful romantic interactions. This hasn’t been entirely intentional on my part, but I think subconsciously I’ve opened myself up to the idea of being comfortable with guys and knowing that if I want something, I have to go after it myself.

CW: The biggest takeaway was about the scope and topics of the questions. Essentially they access deeper forms of connections by trying to avoid questions of what you “do” and get in to who you “are.” Sure, getting to know someone’s tastes and interests is important, but by focusing on personal history and how the other person feels about specific emotional cues, or what their hopes or wishes are about their life ahead, these kinds of questions bring out more nuance and information about a person’s personality.

Intrigued? Here are the 36 questions so you can try it for yourself!

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/we-tried-the-new-york-times-love-experiment-and-this-is-what

I Was Sure Freezing My Eggs Would Solve Everything

When I was 35 and single in New York City, I was convinced I’d be alone forever. Undergoing a costly procedure to buy myself time seemed like the right choice.

Illustration by Kelsey King for BuzzFeed

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I started thinking about whether I was going to be able to have kids, but it occurred sometime between February 2012, when the guy I’d been sort of dating for the past few months broke up with me, and May 2012, when I turned 35, because that is the age after which, as a single woman in New York City, everyone knows that no one will ever love you.

I knew, very, very, very deep down, that this wasn’t actually true — that in fact people found love and even had children after the age of 35, even in New York City — but it felt like this knowledge was a tiny little nugget of rationality that had been wrapped in duct tape and put in a steel box and locked with a code and launched into space, and was therefore inaccessible.

Also, I had — have — never been pregnant, so there was a part of me that was convinced that something was deeply wrong with my ovaries; in 15 or so years of having sex, I’d only twice been worried enough about a broken condom or a failure to pull out to take Plan B. I told myself that if I weren’t infertile, there would have been at least one abortion in there, and secretly envied my friends who’d had abortions, because at least they knew that they could get pregnant.

Dating got weird. I didn’t really want to be dating in the first place — I was still thinking about the guy who’d dumped me in February, who I was still really sad about, to the extent that I cried during Savasana, and cried even harder when I realized I had become one of those women who cried at yoga. But the voice inside my head that told me, every morning and every night, that I was running out of time was the voice that put me on OkCupid and HowAboutWe, even though going on mediocre dates made me feel even worse. This was who was out there? And simultaneously: Could this be a person I want to create another human life with?

What I really needed was time. Time would allow me to meet people without the added pressure of trying to figure out, within five minutes of meeting them, whether we would make a nice, normal baby. Then I saw an article about egg freezing that said it was becoming SAFER AND MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN EVER BEFORE!!!!!!!! — or at least that was what I gleaned from it — and I thought, Time. This will give me time. I made an appointment.

You could say that I panicked, and you would not be completely wrong. But I got spoiled in my late twenties and early thirties because I usually had a boyfriend, which meant I always had a wedding date. But after I broke up with a Serious Boyfriend, aka the one I thought was maybe The One even though I outwardly scoffed at the notion that there was such a thing as The One — maybe One of Several Potential Ones? But enough of A Potential One that we moved in together, and our families met each other, and he told me about the monstrous 6-carat diamond he and his brother were supposed to split with their intendeds (I pictured a man in a yarmulke on 47th Street cutting it precisely in half with a laser) — I was suddenly, at 33, the Single Friend, because I was never dating anyone for long enough that they would be a potential wedding guest. But I had never been the only single person at a table of couples, or had to have the awkward conversation with the only single guy at the wedding, the guy who was surprisingly handsome and sweet but who turned out to be going through a nasty divorce, was a deeply religious Christian, had two children, and lived in Maine, and yet made me think, Well, this could work.

I distanced myself from my friends who got married, mostly because it felt like a reminder of my own personal failure. I was unapologetic about the selfishness of this stance, as I was about the selfishness of allowing myself in general to be selfish. I got off OkCupid and told my friends that even though I was 99% sure I would never have sex again, it also felt liberating to be alone, to never have to think about anyone else’s needs or fears. Then again, that also meant I was only ever listening to my own.

Illustration by Kelsey King for BuzzFeed

In my twenties, I felt like the shared experience of struggle comes with it the shared experience of possibility, and possibility is still exciting. Every choice doesn’t portend a monumental, potentially life-altering result; it seems like the Choose Your Own Adventure book still has many potential endings. In my thirties, though, choices started to feel overwhelming, each one pushing me farther down a specific path beyond which there was no turning back. I started to see the appeal of religion — never to have to make any decisions! There was, I realized, freedom in that too.

I told my therapist that I was considering freezing my eggs, and she said she thought it was a good idea if it would alleviate some of the anxiety I felt about dating, and I said it would but it would also cause me a different kind of anxiety because it was so expensive in New York City — thousands of dollars in tests, then thousands of dollars for the drugs to stimulate egg maturation, then thousands of dollars for the extraction of the eggs. All told I would be looking at close to $15,000 to buy myself a few years of reduced anxiety, plus $2,000 or so each year to keep them frozen. I told myself it could be amortized over, say, five years and then it didn’t seem so bad. Still, I needed to come up with the money, so I cashed in a couple of 401(k)s from short stints at other jobs that had a couple thousands dollars in them each, and put a freelance check in my savings account, and figured I would charge the rest.

I also had the idea that egg freezing was basically foolproof; I’d get the eggs, and a couple years later, when I decided I was ready to have kids, I’d just knock on the door of the ol’ fertility clinic and they’d stick some more needles in me and voilà, babies. It turns out, according to the fertility doctor I met with, who had the genial, slightly condescending “I know what’s best for you” air of a good salesman, that egg freezing has only a 40% success rate. He must have seen the disappointed look on my face because he assured me that that was in fact at least double what it would be out in the wild, and if I waited a few more years, my fertility would drop precipitously. He drew a crude representation of this on a sheet of paper as we talked, and I swore I could feel it dropping even more.

Still, 40% sounded better than 0% or even 20%, so I had him take blood and do an ultrasound, and it turned out that I had eggs, I was healthy, it would be fine. I had eggs to freeze.

It would be fine. I would be fine.

Still, there were moments of deep, and scary, loneliness. Sometimes I tried to tell myself that these moments were somehow making me a stronger person, but at other times I thought, Fuck being a stronger person — where is the joy in being a stronger person? When Hurricane Sandy happened, I sat on my couch in my apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and the wind and rain scared me less than the feeling that I was really alone, that I could have been one of those people on Staten Island who drowned in their houses whose bodies weren’t discovered for days.

After a couple days I made my way to Chelsea, where I usually volunteered once a week walking an old disabled woman’s dog, to see if she was OK because she wasn’t picking up her phone, and she was sitting in her apartment in the dark with the dog. Everything smelled bad, but she seemed to be in relatively good spirits, and I walked the dog and came back and gave her my flashlight, and then she asked me, in the voice of the truly lonely, when I was coming back.

I didn’t tell many people I was planning on freezing my eggs — it was a private thing, the world didn’t need to know. But I think what I really feared was the momentary flash of pity in their eyes before they told me what a good idea they thought it was. I saw that flash — or at least, I thought I saw it — in the eyes of the few close friends that I did tell, the ones who told me they admired what I was doing and empathized with how much it sucked that the biological clock was so real and how much it sucked that it was so expensive and how much it all, well, sucked.

I called the fertility clinic and told them I wanted to do it in February 2013— you had to sign up a couple months in advance, and I was going to L.A. for most of January for work — and they told me to come in for a final round of tests and an orientation session where a nurse would go over everything. At the session, I sat around a conference room table with four other women; we each had folders in front of us with various documents and brochures. Everything had to be executed perfectly: You had to pick up the drugs at one of only a few pharmacies in the city that stocked them, and they suggested buying only a batch at a time because they had to be kept in the fridge and they cost thousands of dollars and you didn’t want them to go bad. Then there was a whole timed, two-week regimen of injecting yourself with hormones — everyone had a different drug cocktail prescribed for them, scribbled on a sheet of paper by our respective doctors at the practice, tailored to our age and, presumably, how fertile the tests had shown we were — and a schedule of when we had to come back to the office for more tests during the two-week window. They had us practice filling up the special syringes for one of the drugs, and one woman raised her hand and said she was afraid of needles, and could she hire a nurse to come to her apartment twice a day to inject her? (Yes, but it would be very expensive.) You weren’t allowed to exercise during the two weeks, and you might get bloated and be in pain a lot of the time, and could also be quite weepy, though the nurse, a very no-nonsense type, probably didn’t actually use the word “weepy.”

Then when the hormones had stimulated all your eggs to mature and release and you were ovulating, you’d come back to the office and one of the doctors would extract your eggs and freeze them, and we had to make sure we had someone who could pick us up, and I mentally ran down the friends I could count on to do this and came up with a couple potential candidates, and then momentarily felt sorry for myself that I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to do this and then reminded myself that it was exactly because I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband that I was doing this in the first place and that in some convoluted way this would be something that would help me get a boyfriend or husband, and felt a little better.

The nurse told us the eggs were held at the clinic, and she assured us that it was not susceptible to flood or power failure; it was an NYU clinic and the NYU hospital had, famously, flooded and lost power during the hurricane and the patients had to be evacuated and I thought, No one would care about a cooler of eggs during a hurricane, now would they? Before I left, I signed the form that said in the event I no longer wanted my eggs, or I stopped paying for their storage, that I wanted them destroyed.

Illustration by Kelsey King for BuzzFeed

I spent most of January 2013 in Los Angeles for work, and when I tell the story of why I decided to move, I like to say that the abundance of the Pasadena Whole Foods was what finally put me over the top, which always gets a knowing laugh, particularly from anyone who has tried to buy produce at the Key Foods on Avenue A or waited in line in the rain outside the 14th Street Trader Joe’s just to get inside or visited the Union Square Whole Foods bunker on a Sunday afternoon and wanted to die. And certainly it was a factor, but so was a coffee meeting I had in L.A. with a friend of a colleague who wanted, I think, a job, although we ended up discussing dating in Los Angeles versus New York.

Dating, he said, was very hard in Los Angeles.

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s much harder than it was in New York. I mean, I was a guy in media in New York. It wasn’t exactly tough for me.”

I looked at this unremarkable man, and thought, Right. I’m sure it wasn’t.

The rest happened fast. I got back to New York and my boss agreed that moving to L.A. was a good idea, and then I was pricing out movers and looking at apartments online and getting excited about not having to buy a new winter coat, like, ever again. In the flurry of getting ready to move across the country, I almost forgot that I was supposed to be getting ready to ensure that my future self would have a 40% chance of artificially conceiving a child.

And then at the last possible moment, the day or so before I got my period, I decided I wasn’t going to go through with it.

It’s the most apt metaphor to say that I realized I was putting all my eggs, literally, in that particular basket, and I had imbued the idea of freezing my eggs with so much meaning that I expected to see all of my anxieties and fears about getting older and being single and dying alone to disappear instantly the second I went through with it.

But I also felt like if I went through with it, the eggs would be left behind in New York, in cold storage, in some petri dish or vial or however they preserve them, and I would be across the country. It would mean no clean break, no fresh start. I’d be actually leaving a part of myself 3,000 miles away, as though to keep just the most microscopic connection to my old life, and I wouldn’t get the clean break with all of those anxieties that I needed.

Instead, I set off for Los Angeles, not completely sure I was doing the right thing but also pretty sure I wasn’t doing the wrong one. I even thought that maybe, one day, I might find that duct-taped box I’d sent hurtling through space, the one I thought was definitely gone forever.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/doree/i-was-sure-freezing-my-eggs-would-solve-everything