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From ‘Love’ to ‘Legal’: How to Take a Good Relationship to the Next Level

From ‘Love’ to ‘Legal’: How to Take a Good Relationship to the Next Level

  • Some questions that will allow two people seeking a relationship to deepen their feelings for one another and eventually fall in love and get married.

It’s no secret that I met my husband at a matrimonial convention. He brags that he was just there to party, but I know I was there to find me a partner, and I still believe that mindset/determination was me manifesting what I wanted and the universe heeding the call. I guess you could say we were one of the lucky ones that knew, fairly early into our relationship, that we were headed for marriage. 

But how did we know, know? Let me take you back in time, back to when there were no social media and in order to communicate with someone in a long-distance relationship, you had to email them and wait, sometimes for hours, without knowing if they even read your message yet! Because we were long-distance, we had to be creative in how we communicated and got to know each other. Because we knew so early on that we wanted to get married, we knew we had to be certain that this was “the one”. 

I had come across an article somewhere discussing a study that claimed to speed up intimacy between strangers, simply by discussing a set of questions in a particular order. The idea being when both partners answer these questions together, thoughtfully and respectfully, that vulnerability would bring you closer together. Since we had countless hours between in-person meetings, and because I think my husband was still in the “whatever you say dear” phase, we decided to give it a go.

Before going too much farther into my story (in case you don’t want to read any further), I want to point out that this study was later adapted into a New York Times essay on “Modern Love” because the author had tried out the 36 questions with her partner, and in her opinion, it allowed them to fall further into their feelings for one another and eventually fall in love and get married. While no one can guarantee the same outcome should you want to try it with your partner, I strongly recommend the concept of getting vulnerable with your significant other, as a way to truly understand one another and gauge future compatibility. 

I even recommend this as an exercise for some of my long-distance clients who are still in the “getting to know you phase” of a relationship, because I know that it worked for me. Not all 36 questions need to be answered in one go (though the study says if you want to walk away “in love” with the other person, you need to go thru them all, sequentially), rather I like to pick and choose a few depending on where you are in the relationship. They start out relatively harmless, even quirky, but then go deeper into exploring more about you and are designed to expose your vulnerabilities. How your partner handles or reciprocates these questions, oftentimes, gives a good indication of mutual compatibility, and of course, will there be a chance for love. I’ve included a few of my favorite questions below.

Now, there are “rules” to how the questions are supposed to be asked and answered, should you want to try them out yourself, but my future husband and I essentially filled out our answers (like a questionnaire) and emailed them back to one another. We then discussed our similarities, differences, and everything in between, for hours on end, over the phone and on Google Chat to pass the workday. These emails are still saved in my inbox to this day. And of course, the final “task” of staring into each other’s eyes for 4 entire minutes, is pretty much impossible in a virtual world, so we skipped it, but there might still be something to it — maybe I’ll try to pin him down this weekend to give it a whirl!

‘Getting to know you’ questions (when you’re first dating someone)

These questions are designed to gradually ease you into the exercise. You are starting to dive below surface-level conversations, but aren’t in that cringy, “I hope you don’t think I’m crazy” type of questions that come later.

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

  • Indicates how prepared you like to be before anxiety inducing situation; beginner personality style question.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

  • Can be approached with humor which indicates more about their personality. Do they have anxiety? Are they optimistic?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

  • Start learning about each other’s backgrounds and diving into past experiences. Hopefully, you see similarities and can bond over the funny ways immigrant parents raised their children and empathize when the same experiences might have led to embarrassment or uncomfortableness during your adolescence which is such a formative time in our lives.

Deeper dive questions (after you’ve become “exclusive”)

So you survived round 1, phew! On to round two. These questions are meant to peel back more layers, to make you start exposing parts of yourself that you might not have shared with your friends or acquaintances before.

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

  • Aspirational questions like these will expose what a partner’s goals and dreams are in life, be it professional or personal. Keep the conversation going by talking about how you could help them through a dreaded situation and set up an activity/date as a next step to build on this.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

  • Expanding on a similar question above; questions about family serve to teach us about what pivotal moments in childhood contributed to who we are today and potentially start the discussion on how you would treat/consider a family of your own in the future. Should the relationship evolve into one where you want to involve the families, giving each other a heads up on how to “win them over” could go a long way in your family getting on board with your relationship?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

  • We all know about the “momma’s boy” trope, but what about the opposite; was the woman raised like a “princess”? Was there generational trauma in your life that a partner should know about? How do you feel this would impact your potential role as a parent?

Do or die (if you weren’t feeling close to your partner before, this is the last stop)

See Also

Buckle up — it’s time to get to work. These questions are gut-wrenching at times. These are the types of questions that are easy to “glance over” when you’re deciding whether or not that person is your person for life. It’s easy to avoid difficult conversations, but these last sets will really push you to become vulnerable, which is needed if you want to truly “fall in love” (according to the study). For me, I think by exposing your vulnerabilities to anyone, you learn more about who they are as a person and how they handle what you’ve presented to them. Are they supportive? Empathetic? Judgemental? After completing this final set of questions, I truly believe you’ll walk away with a better understanding of your relationship, your significant other, and your future together.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

  • This question requires you to truly consider all aspects of your partner – the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you plan on being together for life, it’s important to know what your partner values about you, and if that aligns with how you want to be perceived. Are they into you for the right reasons, or is it just for your money, body, etc.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

  • Crying, or talking about crying, is the ultimate form of vulnerability. We grow up hiding and ignoring our emotions, especially when people identify as male, and talking about emotions does not come easily. As I said in the intro, this is one of those questions that you learn more about the other person, not from what they share, but how they react to what you’ve just shared with them.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

  • This question allows you to open up and talk about what you truly value or hold sacred in life. I like this question because it’s not most likely discussed during the courtship period of a relationship. Often, getting to know a person’s fundamental character and values comes out over time, which might or might not be before marriage. By addressing it head-on in this exercise, you’re sure to guarantee that not only is it discussed, but you can share and learn about each other’s topics, together. 

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 on how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

  • Okay, this is a doozy, and likely why the study authors left it for last (besides the staring contest at the end). You are literally opening up your life and asking your partner to step in and get involved. My advice is to not make this a “professional” question – meaning, don’t bring up an issue with your boss or coworker, but really get deep with yourself and share a problem which, when resolved, will bring about real and lasting change in your life. Again, how you handle your partner’s vulnerability demonstrates how you handle conflict/challenges and your attitudes on what a successful resolution looks like. 

To conclude, the “36 questions to fall in love” are not meant to be “hard”. In my opinion, if there is a lot of conflict or drama between you and your partner when working through this exercise, it could be a huge red flag for how your relationship will progress. The idea of getting vulnerable enough to share about yourself with a significant other, even when your personality does not normally have you thinking about deeper experiences, forges a bond with your partner that is essential in a healthy and successful experience. While I haven’t necessarily done the exercise the way the “rules” require them, just going through the questions, in a way that is comfortable for both of you to share, learn, and grow together, is the point or value of the questions.

(Top photo, the author with her family.)

Radha Patel is based out of Dallas, TX and has been married for 12 years with 2 kids and a dog. Never having used dating apps before, she was surprised to hear from so many of her friends and family how they are just not working. Most of the singles she spoke with said they were being open to being introduced, but either their networks weren’t that big or they were being set up with people they had nothing in common with. Radha decided her approach would be to serve as an extension of your “Friend Group” to make more meaningful introductions. 

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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