Tag Archives: loveops

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

Why I Ended A Perfectly Fine Relationship

My boyfriend and I were going nowhere, so I did what any self-proclaimed gay academic would do: I re-read Roland Barthes.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

I was introduced to Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse by a good friend I was sleeping with. We’d just had brunch and sex when he told me, “Read it.” I found his edition of the book on his bedside table. The yellowing pages were soft against my fingers as his own traced figures on my skin. “It’s right up your alley.”

“Why’s that?” I said.

“You’re like the book.” He planted kisses down my spine with each word. “Intelligent. Gorgeous. Romantic…”

After another orgasm, I got a copy that very afternoon.

We weren’t, nor would we ever be, “boyfriends.” He was in a long-term open relationship (now marriage) and I was living in New York for just a few months. So I didn’t expect much. But his warm brown eyes were engaging. We’d walk around Manhattan and talk about books. We’d go out to dinner and talk about writing. And we’d kiss and turn snowfall into rain.

We weren’t sure what to call ourselves. He was older and established — my mentor, in a sense. So we played with the term “lover.” How French, I thought. I could do French. But for Barthes, an actual gay Frenchman, being a lover was a different ordeal.

Barthes wrote A Lover’s Discourse in 1977 as a collection of notes on amorous language. “Figures,” he calls them, gestures of the lover at work. He says his goal is to present scenes of language wherein the lover might recognize himself. The whole thing reads like a dictionary of a lover’s desire, an exercise in defining every move made, thought shared, word said. Or unsaid.

“Waiting,” for example, Barthes describes as “the tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being, subject to trivial delays (rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns).” He talks about waiting by the phone for his loved one to call. He dare not attempt to find him or call him lest he miss him. Barthes reports how his feelings ricochet between dread and anger and sadness, all while seated by the telephone. (Imagine if he had iMessage.)

“Am I in love?” he writes. “Yes, since I am waiting. The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.”

Barthes uses words to make a lucid mirror out of Discourse. But it was only two years later, when I looked into it again, that I recognized myself. This happened, predictably, when I found myself a “boyfriend.”

We began using the word when we were having real estate problems in New York. I needed to move out of an apartment I couldn’t afford and his landlord refused to renew his lease. After he texted me with this news, I called him.

“I think we can do it,” he said. I could hear his crooked smile through the phone.

Between breathy laughs, I said, “I know we’ve only just met.”

We’d already gone on four dates within nine days, so the intimate act of telephoning was permissible, among other suggestions. “We could live together.”

The fact I could sit in silence with him, gaze into his steely blue eyes for hours, I willingly mistook for comfort. We’d walk around Brooklyn and stare at the pavement. We’d go out to dinner and chew on our food. But we’d kiss and turn the rain into steam.

He was beautiful and said the same of me. He’d text me good night and good morning. He was my age and single. These things, I decided, were good enough. And thus, I became the lover at work.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Adorable


adorable / adorable
Not managing to name the specialty of his desire for the loved being, the amorous subject falls back on this rather stupid word: adorable!

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

During the Gay Pride parade in New York, I got belligerently drunk. He had to take me home to his place in Williamsburg when it was still light out. I accidentally left my bag at a bar in the West Village. In the bag were a flask once filled with vodka and the Ray-Bans he lent me. I wore them at the parade, but they weren’t in my bag when I woke up in his bedroom that evening, close to midnight. I didn’t mention this loss to him when I found him sleeping on the couch in the living room.

“What’re you doing out here?” My tongue was still catching up to my thoughts.

“You’re still drunk.” He smiled. “I need to give you some space.”

In the amber glow of the streetlights outside, his handsomeness was made princely. I said, “You went back to the bar for my bag?”

“Of course.” He turned away from me on the couch, tightening his hold on a pillow.

But I pulled him into his twin bed and wrapped my sunburnt arms around him. I thought about how lucky I was, to be here with him, in this home leased for only a little while longer, but with him nonetheless. I kissed the nape of his neck and said, “Thank you.”

Whenever anyone asked what made me want to be in a relationship with him, I’d often cite this story. Selfless, I called him. We didn’t talk about much else other than work and the weather, but he was sweet, kind, adorable — capable of loving and being loved. The nights after dinner on his couch watching Netflix with my head on his shoulder outweighed everything else. This was the honeymoon period I’d heard about.

But, of course, as all moons do, it waned.

“Special Days”


fête / festivity
The amorous subject experiences every meeting with the loved being as a festival.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

We would see each other almost every day, at first. We had drinks two days after our first date. He spent the night at my place three days after that. He’d meet me at the park for lunch and soon invited me to meet his friends. I’ve always had the habit of marking down these special days in my calendar. In the beginning, these days were wonderfully cramped into short weeks, but it wasn’t long until I began to measure my life in the days I didn’t see him.

He grew distant, for whatever reason. We saw each other less. His texts became less frequent, less sprinkled with emojis — which everyone knows is an infallible barometer of intimacy. And we used to call each other on video just to watch movies together. I’d point my phone at Clueless on the television and hear how he’d memorized the lines.

Then it became different. Then came weeks of radio silence. I could only count on seeing him on our monthly dates on the 15th, our month-aversary. But even then I’d have to wait for him, for his texts to tell me when and where to be. And whenever I did see him, the festivity I felt was more of a gratitude than sheer joy. Thank you, I wanted to tell him, thank you for picking me tonight. But after the dinner, after the gazing, after the toe-curling under the sheets, I was made to wait again — the subject subjected.

I decided to re-read A Lover’s Discourse. My copy’s pages were beginning to soften and yellow. In it, I found my notes naive, if not foolish; wide-eyed, if not provincial. And if Barthes’ work was once incandescent, now it was searing. His words were once warnings, cautionary tales to be heeded. But now the book, for better or worse, was our shared diary.

Still, I lied to myself. I gave my boyfriend excuses in the weeks between, blaming his own rendezvous and returns. And he was adorable; no one else could promise such pleasure. These were just growing pains, I reasoned. Our relationship was going through puberty, and every time we met, my voice would crack.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

I Love You


je-t’-aime / I-love-you
The figure refers not to the declaration of love, to the avowal, but to the repeated utterance of the love cry.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

On our first date, he took me to the carousel at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. He paid for our two tickets and tossed me the penny he got back. I tried to catch the change, but failed. It spun in circles on the cement, then rolled toward his foot. He stepped on it and picked it up. I told him he should have checked first, to see if it was lucky or not.

He put the change in my shirt pocket and pressed a hand to my chest. “Make your own luck.”

Then the lease ran out. I landed an apartment with friends in Harlem and he was moving to Crown Heights. We were on his Williamsburg rooftop for the last time when I thought I felt the breeze pick up. I held his face in my hands and ran a thumb across his manicured stubble. His hands were on my waist and I inflated my chest against his.

“I love you.” I felt him tense. I added the next line I’d practiced: “You don’t have to say it back. I just wanted you to know.”

“I’m not a good boyfriend,” he said. “Just wait. Let me catch up.” This was one of his many promises.

Time and again, he’d promised to communicate more openly, to be more forthright with his emotions, to just treat me like his friend. But I never once felt him work on these vows. I felt us going in circles where nothing was wrong and nothing was right.

In cabs, in bed, outside parties, it was the same conversation: how I felt like an accessory of convenience in his life, to be used only when he needed help moving furniture or having an orgasm. We weren’t us anymore, as much of an us as we ever were. He’d left the job of making our own luck to me. He was not the lover at work.

At last, after months of waiting, he explained that whenever he’s in a relationship, he wants to be single again. And when he’s single, he wants to be in a relationship. I congratulated him on this novel feeling.

“Are you dating someone else?” I said. He paused, tightened my duvet around himself. “You’re not lying to me in my bed.”

“I’m not dating anyone,” he said. The next morning, we woke up with our backs turned to each other.

On the 15th of some month, we broke up at the waterfront of Brooklyn Bridge Park, near the carousel and the horse he rode in on. Some paces away, a couple taking their wedding photos was standing in the water, the Manhattan skyline as their backdrop. I silently wished them luck; I’d just found out fidelity is too much to ask for nowadays.

“I love you,” I said, “but I can’t keep waiting for you.”

From Waiting


A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. “I shall be yours,” she told him, “when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window.” But on the ninety-ninth night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

When I began to feel my relationship crumble, I picked up my copy of A Lover’s Discourse, fiercely notated, aggressively dog-eared, and loved. In both, I saw the lover at work. But it’s the “lover” — singular, alone — at work by himself. The loved one, the other, is oblivious to this. He is passive while the lover becomes active in his waiting. He begins to feel himself waiting. Calling it hoping, calling it pretending.

The title of the book can be misleading. Barthes was not writing about love, at least not in its healthiest sense, but about desire. It’s a romantic work, sure, wildly emotional and recklessly hopeful — very much up my alley. But it makes no pretenses about deconstructing an unrequited ideal. As Barthes discloses on the very first page of the book, to see oneself in these scenes of language is to be reminded of the lover’s extreme state of solitude.

Today, Barthes’ figures now come with sharp pangs of recognition. It’s a comfort in disguise. Barthes, eager and tormented next to his telephone, seems to say, “You are not alone in your aloneness.” It’s as singular and unique a work as it is unrequited and one-sided; that is to say, devastatingly so.

As I flip through the beautiful, bleeding pages now, I’m made to conclude that, by Barthes’ standards, I can’t do French. I don’t want a lover, for the time being at least. I just want a good friend I’m sleeping with.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mattortile/the-one-who-waits