When I left Australia I knew I will go back someday and that’s because I fell in love. Some people say I fall in love every day with something or someone, but the way I did it in Australia was absolutely amazing. My experience there reinstalled my belief that I am able to feel things I thought there are only for the fortunate ones. Unfortunately, now I have plenty of unanswered questions about this newly rediscovered phenomenon called “love”. This article aims to answer a few of them.
Aron et al. (1997) have made this practical experiment to create closeness between individuals under controlled conditions and illustrated its applicability for testing theoretical issues. The idea behind was to structure self-disclosure between strangers in only 45 minutes. However, being inspired by the “acquaintance paradigm” of Collins and Miller (1994), the study was meant to develop a temporary feeling of closeness, not an actual going relationship. Closeness is defined as “including other in the self” by Aron et al. (1992) and similar to what researchers call intimacy. “Intimacy is a process in which each feels his or her innermost self validated, understood, and cared for by the other” (Reis & Shaver, 1988). But as you probably agree, there are plenty of other definitions to words like these.
Furthermore, to have a better understanding of the closeness study, I will use the more popular and modern love essay written by Mandy Len Catron (2015) called “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This”. She calls the closeness study a success of making two strangers fall in love in the laboratory and demonstrates it with her own. Her experiment was quite like mine in Australia: I went there to fall in love, but when four months had past and the only one I could feel some kind of closeness was my unattractive roomie, I gave up on men. I was like “damn it, I am incapable of feeling and maybe I will actually ending up marring a friend and not a lover like my roomie”.
In June I went to see Uluru, the biggest rock in the world. [😃 Sorry, is just I cannot smiling whenever I start this story…] The night before I had a date with a guy that looked just like prince William (for real). Let me explain the correlation. When I saw their picture (Figure 1) in 2014 I just knew I wanna go there. I had no idea why, but I really wanted a picture like that. Additionally, the photo has history (figure 2).
The day before my trip I went shopping for a similar royal dress. All I could find was one with bears and I didn’t fall with my date William, nor did I take him with me.
My trip to Uluru was planned long time before I arrived to Australia, but I didn’t know it until I left there. It was a rainy day and I was one of the 2% lucky tourists to be there when it rains. 3 hours after my arrival I freaked out. The sun was up, I checked everything out but what in the God’s name was I doing there all by myself? It was the first time I went somewhere completely alone without any plans. I think it was minutes later I heard his voice. It wasn’t God, it was the guy that now is part of my “eat, pray, love” story down under.
But let’s go back to Catron. Just like myself before Uluru when I said outloud and very serious that I need my love to eat and pray, Catron needed a man to make the love experiment. They knew each other from university and she chose him after just a “glimpse into his days on Instagram” and a few rounds at the gym (fair enough).
I explained the study to my university acquaintance. A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.
‘let’s try it’, he said
I know, right? this just made you think of that one person you would wanna fall in love with and text them right away. But hold your horses for a second here, will ya?
Just like so many other people I know, Catron turned to science whilst being in the midst of a breakup “hoping there was a way to love smarter”. With an iPhone and 36 questions, these two “acquaintances” fall in love in a bar that night and they are still together.
I didn’t have to ask my guy too many questions. I just got sucked into his ocean blue eyes, his wide and silly smile, and …ok, can you hear my chuckles now? 😃
Catron (2015) brings upfront how everyone has a narrative of themselves that they offer up to strangers, but Dr. Aron’s 36 questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. She says that when you are young, it feels natural to get to know someone quickly and it rarely happens in the adult life. I would add to this the fact that we know so little about the world as youngsters and too much about ourselves when we grow up. Please feel free to disagree.
Falling in love in a laboratory is definitely less romantic than in the middle of Australia’s red desert under the starry skies. But getting to know someone, evolving, growing in and out of love, being in a relationship and letting someone to know you, well that’s a successful story.
I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life. I spent the first couple of minutes just trying to breathe properly. There was a lot of nervous smiling until, eventually, we settled in.
You need to trust yourself and go for what you want with all the patience in the world. Staring into someone eyes might make you the most vulnerable you have ever been. Letting someone to get to know you might be dangerous, but seeing someone seeing you increases way more the level of your vulnerability. Now, my Question #37:
Are you willing to fall in love?