The Cure For Falling Out of Love

I’m a sucker for love. I love falling in love, being in love, supporting other people in love – and saving people who are falling out of love. It’s true. There are certain behaviors that partners engage in (and fail to engage in) that cause them to fall out of love. You see, love is a science. And to ensure that I gave you the absolute best information on love, I went to the source – the love doctor: Dr. Arthur Aron.

In the mid 1960’s, Aron identified 36 questions that he claimed would cause complete strangers to fall in love. Nearly 50 years later, those questions are still touted as containing the formula for falling in love.

Today’s post is intended to put a different spin on Aron’s research. My hypothesis is that couples who are disconnected can use his questions to reconnect in a way that will promote the same stuff that causes us to fall in love. Here’s why I think mine’s a safe bet:

My wife Steph and I recently put the final touches on a course called Relationship Skills Bootcamp which we’re launching soon. The course is intended for anyone – singles and couples. Because it’s all about building your own relationship skills and you don’t need a partner to do that. But you can’t have a course on relationship skills without teaching people who are currently in relationships how to reconnect.

Falling in love (as well as staying in love) requires connection – and connection requires vulnerability. Aron’s questions are designed to provoke a level of vulnerability that generally takes adults months to engage in. So, if you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, schedule a night alone, carve out a couple of hours and take turns asking each other the questions below. And please shoot me an email letting me know what your experience was:

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

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

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

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

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

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

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

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

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

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

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

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

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.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

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

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

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

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

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


5 Questions You NEED To Ask on a First Date

Ah, the awkwardness of the first date. There’s nothing quite like it. At least in a job interview (where the awkwardness is about equal), it’s acceptable for the employer to ask questions designed to root out crazies.  Yet on a first date, where the ‘candidate’ stands to wreak more havoc than any other person in your life, questions like how do you handle stress are considered too direct.  So how do you get to know the important data without breaching social boundaries? I’ve got 5 questions designed to do just that.

1. Dogs, cats or neither? If the answer is neither, pay the tab and don’t look back. Your date’s capacity for empathy is questionable, which makes me wonder if you’re sitting across from someone who’s personality disordered.

2. How important is it for you to be passionate at your job? 30% of human life is spent at work. If your date is willing to spend that amount of time doing something that doesn’t turn them on, it tells me that their standards aren’t high enough (at best), and at worst, it could indicate someone who’s depressed, chronically apathetic, or who gets attention through being a martyr. Water seeks it’s own level. If you’re passionate and your partner isn’t, guess what’s going to happen to your level of enthusiasm over time?

3. How long is your oldest friendship? People who are emotionally stable tend to have longstanding friendships that date back at least 5+ years. The longer the friendship, the more opportunities there are for conflict – and conflict resolution. If your date jumps ship at the first sign of trouble in friendships, you can expect the same.

4. Tell me about a New Year’s Resolution that you achieved. Or about any goal you reached. The answer to this question will tell you so much about the person:

a)    Are they reality-oriented enough to identify areas of their life that need improvement? If not, this is someone who pretends everything’s fine when the roof is about to collapse, or someone who walks around with an extra 30 pounds pretending that their health isn’t at risk, or someone who gets blindsided when she’s laid off because for years she didn’t think her performance at work needed improvement.

b)   Do they have self-discipline? Can they take action even after the initial excitement of setting a goal has abated? Self-discipline is the skill that allows you to do a task that you don’t enjoy, which constitutes a majority of what we have to do as adults.

c)    Can they create a strategy (or can they hire someone who can)? Identifying a strategy shows problem-solving skills. That’s something I want in a partner. You?

5. Do you trust new people in your life or do they have to earn your trust over time? This one’s important. If the answer is the latter, it’s a recipe for making you jump through hoops, proving yourself again and again, and to what end? To me, it feels manipulative as fuck. You shouldn’t pay the debts of the people who screwed your date over and left them fractured.  That’s the job of a shrink. And not this one, btw. 

Prince Charming or a Psycho? 6 Distinctions

He’s not going to show up for the first date swinging an axe with swastika tattoos in plain sight. And since men are 3 times as likely to be psychopaths (clinical term: antisocial personality disorder) and narcissists (which I’m calling psycho), I’ve chosen to use the male pronoun for this post, lest I’m accused of making unfair stereotypes.

Like me, you may fancy yourself above bedding down with a nut. But if you’ve ever found yourself making excuses for lies that got progressively worse, and engaging in reckless behaviors that, once on the other side, left you wondering what the fuck you were thinking, listen up my friend. None of us are invulnerable to the psycho.

1.  Lies. They start off small - ridiculous random lies - which is what the little voice in your head will say when your gut clenches, urging you to run for the hills. Time tends to be a commonly lied about subject. If he can’t account for it, if he’s chronically late or tends to cancel at the last minute, show him the door.

2.  Charm. Prince Charming has an x-factor, an ability to render those in his presence spellbound. As do narcissists. How to tell them apart? Prince Charming will ask about you. He’ll keep the conversation more evenly focused on each of you. He might even be slightly humble (a sadly uncommon trait these days). Your psycho (aka, narcissist) will be self-absorbed, far less interested in you than in how your stories allow him to shift the focus back to himself. His time is more valuable, his stories more interesting, his IQ superior, and his opinions are more accurate.    

3.  Control. There’s a fine line between showing an interest in your life (flattering) verses requiring minute detail about the minutia in your life. It can be hard to tell which is which. “Who are you texting?” can be either. For me, it boils down to frequency. If it becomes a commonly asked question, I’ve had a history of not answering. If the person is controlling, they’ll escalate in the absence of an answer (which is your signal to exit the room followed by exiting the relationship). If they’re sane, my lack of response usually underscores that the question was annoying. If they don’t take the hint, I say, “Your question is annoying.”

4.  Manipulation. Pacing a relationship is the hallmark of mental health and maturity. If he tells you he loves you (or calls you his soul mate) inside of a month, if he starts talking about marriage (or children, or moving in together) within the first 3 months, this is, at the very least, a sign of someone who is immature and doesn’t know how to delay gratification (which I personally find to be a huge turnoff). At worst, it can be an indication of manipulation: The faster he locks you into a commitment, the less influence your friends and/or family will have over his role in your life – the sooner he can drop his façade and become overtly controlling. 

Another common indication of manipulation is when he compares you to his exes – not because they were so great or he’s still hung up on him/her, but in an attempt to covertly communicate to you what he wants you to behave like, or to provoke competitiveness in you. This makes my skin crawl just writing about it.

5.  Victim. If his ex was crazy and he had nothing to do with the problems in that relationship, if everyone abandons him for no reason, if his life is laden with incident after incident of people doing him wrong – he’s got problems. And if you think you’re going to be the exception to the rule, you’re sadly mistaken. In fact, I’d venture to say that the only reason he’s sharing this sob story with you is to engender in you a desire to right the wrongs that everyone else has perpetrated. Forget it. He’s the common denominator. No one’s that unlucky.

6.  Ice. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with not remaining friends with people from the past, but if he has several examples of ending a variety of relationships without a backwards glance, you should hear ding-ding-ding. People who properly attach to one-another don’t have a switch inside them that, once flipped, allows them to walk away without conflict. Did he have a pet with an ex that he left and doesn’t visit? Did he have close friends in college that he has nothing to do with? After leaving a job, does he keep in touch with his colleagues? How about extended family? Do they talk? Visit? Again, as with the points above, it’s not about having one of these examples. It’s whether or not it’s pervasive.

Finally, since my last post left many of you wondering if Steph and I broke up, please know that we did not, and that in today’s post, Steph is not the veiled example of a psycho I was once in a relationship with. Neither, for the record, were people with the following initials: RS, EC, VR, RR, MG, DF, ST. I think that about covers my serious relationships.

You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers. Send me your questions (click here) and I’ll give you straight advice from a not-so-straight source.