I’m afraid I disagree. ‘Love’ is not a silent assassin that sneaks up beneath you, brandishes a pistol and marches you off at gunpoint. It’s not a force that sweeps you off your feet, regardless of existing commitments. Love is more like a series of little decisions, most of which start with a question, not an imperative ‘Will I..?’ not, ‘I will..’ Sure, physical attraction can be powerful and hard to resist. But hard to resist is not the same as impossible. Though the two can go hand in hand, love and lust are not the same thing.
I was reminded of this by an interesting study carried out in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The study, conducted in 1997 by Dr Arthur Aron, was entitled, ‘The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness’. (Researchers, eh? Not known for their catchy titles). But here’s what the study asked: ‘Is it possible to make two strangers fall in love?’
Could they create lab conditions that would encourage strangers to form close friendships and even romantic attachments? The answer it seems, is a resounding ‘yes’.
The experiment worked like this. Volunteers were paired up and given a list of 36 questions that they had to answer over the course of an hour. Questions that started simply enough, but then pressed the pair to share their deeper values.
Here’s some examples:
Would you like to be famous? In what way? Before making a phonecall, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Ouch! Smokin’.. What is your most terrible memory? If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, what would you change – and why?
Sixty per cent of the world’s marriages are arranged by matchmakers or parents. A study conducted in India in the 1980s compared the strength of feelings of partners in love matches to those of partners in arranged marriages. The ‘love’ in love matches started to fade after about two years, but the love in the arranged marriages grew gradually, surpassing the love in the love marriages at about the five-year mark. Ten years on, the love in the arranged marriages was twice as strong.
But what about the couples in Aron’s experiment?
Even before the hour was up, participants experienced an intense feeling of bonding – often exchanging contact details and arranging to meet up again. The first cross-sex couples who tested the thesis fell in love and got married. And as of last year, they were still together.