Couples in the study were asked to participate in what is known as the “Fast Friends” activity, originally designed by psychologist Arthur Aron, to help people get to know each other. Although this exercise has a reputation for making people fall in love it is useful for anyone interested in feeling closer to family, friends, and acquaintances. Questions start with get-to-know-you topics such as What is your idea of the perfect day? and Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? The questions gradually venture into more personal territory such as Describe an embarrassing moment in your life and When did you last cry in front of another person? The process of self-disclosure — revealing thoughts, feelings, and facts about yourself — has been repeatedly shown to make people feel closer. What is interesting about this study was how couples who engaged in this type of conversation with another couple ended up feeling more in love with one another afterwards. Couples who engaged in casual chitchat with another couple, i.e. had conversations lacking in self-disclosure, did not experience the same surge of love. Nor did couples who had a tête-à-tête.
The researchers theorize that having deep and meaningful conversations with other couples boost feelings of passionate love within a couple because these interactions cause us to see our romantic partner in a new light. As relationship expert Esther Perel observed in a wildly popular TED talk, we are most attracted to our significant other when we see them with fresh eyes.
It’s when I’m looking at my partner from a comfortable distance, where this person that is already so familiar, so known, is momentarily once again somewhat mysterious, somewhat elusive. And in this space between me and the other lies the erotic élan, lies that movement toward the other.
It is possible that having a meaningful conversation with another couple provides a renewed perspective on each other. As Proust says, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Everyday life dulls our sense of discovery and lulls us into a false sense of knowingness. Perhaps a meaningful conversation with friends is just what we need to restore our sense of wonder.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman