Love in an instant? On a fateful day during the Summer of Love, 1967, two students shared a kiss in front of the main study hall at the University of California at Berkeley. Their names were Arthur and Elaine. They fell in love.
The love Arthur and Elaine felt was intense. The pair were consumed with desire and fascination for one another. But where does this overwhelming phenomenon of human psychology come from? And just how does it occur?
One person particularly intrigued with these conundrums was Arthur himself – or, as he would later be known, Professor Aron, a psychologist at SUNY Stony Brook. In 1997, he set out to discover whether profound intimacy – even romantic love itself – could be sparked in an instant.
Later published in his paper, Professor Aron painstakingly devised a set of 36 questions, which, through trial and error, he ordered into three very deliberate sections so as to create a pervading sense of mutual vulnerability, so gradual as to be barely noticed. He believed such opening up was key to building trust and understanding – and the foundation of love.
Aron invited pairs of heterosexual strangers into his lab. They were given ninety minutes to complete the questionnaire to explore the concept of ‘love in an instant’. Alongside the questions themselves was the sole, simple instruction: ‘Your task: get close to your partner.’
The questions themselves start out seemingly fairly trivial, but slide into ever more intimate territory over the course of the experiment. Aron found that many participants came out of the study feeling genuinely lovestruck, head over heels. One pairing married not long afterwards – with the entire lab team in attendance at the wedding.
In the words of Professor Aron himself,
One key pattern associated with the development of close relationships amongst peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.
It can be extremely difficult to allow oneself to be emotionally vulnerable with someone else, whether the two of you are close or not. This experiment bypasses this entirely by directly obligating participants to reveal themselves to their partner – then reap the fruits of the endeavour.
Aron’s study has seen an exponential rise in popularity in recent years, with the questions readily available online and couples, whether strangers up for an experiment or people who have already been in a long-term relationship with one another, eagerly trying them out for size.
Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the experiment, however, is the ending. In something almost akin to the epilogue of a novel, participants are instructed to stare into one another’s eyes, without break of contact, for four minutes. For many, this prospect is scary to say the least. This is something to which we are just not accustomed, for which we are utterly unprepared.
How to deal with it? There may be nervous smiling, gabbled chitchat – and remembering how to breathe.
Let it go.
Immerse yourself entirely. Embrace the uniquely terrifying thrill as you gaze deep into the soul of another human being – as that person commits themselves completely to absorbing you, and only you. Behind the eyes is an all-encompassing history of memories, worries, love, laughter, pain. Bear your soul utterly.
Phew. The four minutes are up, passed both in the blink of an eye and the passing of an entire lifetime. You will feel brave for having engaged in this incredible, exhilarating endeavour – and the subsequent awe and catharsis you are bathed in might stagger you.
Aron’s study was, and remains, ground-breaking. Never in real life are we exposed to this intensive relaying of intensely personal information to a stranger, unless we’re the protagonist of a film, trapped in a lift with a twinkly-eyed old gent whose wise, pithy anecdotes give us a full-blown epiphany in the time it takes for the mechanic to arrive. The experiment teaches us that love is pliable, not set in stone. It can be both possible and simple to generate trust and intimacy, just by assessing your mutual compatibility. And how better to assess compatibility than by examining your shared dreams, hopes, fears – and values?
As a professional matchmaker, Professor Aron’s study has always resonated with me profoundly. At The Vida Consultancy, we understand the importance of common values. Our intricate compatibility-led ethos has lent itself to innumerable successful relationships. Our clients are amongst the world’s most exceptional singletons, all of them ready to settle down and share their lives with that special someone.
At Vida, we believe there is no greater force behind long-lasting, meaningful, true love than shared values. Our unique blend of psychological expertise and business savvy has made us a world leader in the field of matchmaking, winners of multiple prestigious industry awards and singlehanded creators of amazing relationships all around the world.
So what are you waiting for? Get in touch today – fall in love tomorrow.