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36 Questions You’ll Hear When You’ve Been Married a Long Time

On Sunday, January 11, the New York Times Modern Love column was entitled To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This. The author, Mandy Len Catron, wrote about how she and her partner fell in love when they first met following an exercise during which they answered 36 questions created by Dr. Arthur Aron. The article was the catalyst for many conversations and comments, and resulted in 365,000 shares on Facebook.

This is an interesting proposition – that two people can fall in love simply by answering these 36 questions. I tend to agree with those who commented that one makes a choice to fall in love, and that, as in Ms. Catron’s experience, these questions will lead to love if that’s what both people are hoping for.

I thought it might be interesting to interpret the questions based on long-term love vs. falling in love. How would the questions be different?* Might some of them be the same? Might some of them not be questions at all? Would any long-married couple really want to go through this exercise in the first place?

Please note: some of the questions have the same answers. This is not a mistake. Some questions are universal.

Here are the original questions and my alternative choices for long-time couples (in italics).

marriage, long time relationship, married a long time, husband wife conversations, midlife, new york times

Set 1:

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
    Is your family coming over again? We just saw them!

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
     You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you? 

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?
    Did you call your mother for her birthday?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
     I’ll be gone all day, you’ll have the house to yourself. Is that ok?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
     For goodness sake, can you please stop whistling/humming/singing out of tune?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind of the body of a 30 year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
    Do I look fat in these pants?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
    Are you really going to eat that entire pizza by yourself? Did you take your Lipitor?

8. Name three things that you and your partner appear to have in common.
     Did you use my toothbrush this morning? 

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
    Thanks for taking out the trash. Can you fold the laundry?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
      You don’t really want me to go to your high school reunion with you, do you?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
      Haven’t I heard this story already? Like, a thousand times?

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

Set 2:

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?
      Where should we think about retiring?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
      No, you cannot buy a motorcycle. Are you crazy?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
      Can you believe we’ve been married for 25 years? 

16. What do you value most in a friendship?
       Your friends are coming for Monday night football again?

17. What is your most treasured memory?
      I told you about this last week. Why don’t you ever listen to me?

18. What is your most terrible memory?
      I told you about this last week. Why don’t you ever listen to me?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
      No you cannot buy a motorcycle. Are you crazy?

20. What does friendship mean to you?
      What would we do without our friends?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
      Has it really been that long since we had sex? Wow.

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
      Five items? That’s all you can come up with after 25 years?

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most people’s?
      Your parents really did a number on you, didn’t they?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
      My mother is moving in with us.

Set 3:

25. Make three true “we” statements each.
     Did you forget our anniversary?

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
      Did you use my toothbrush this morning? 

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.
      Don’t forget to take your Lactaid.

28. Tell your partner what you like about him or her; be very honest this time, saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
      Do I look fat in these pants?

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
      Did you fart in bed again?

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
      Are you watching Father of the Bride again?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about him or her already.
      Do I look fat in these pants?

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
       How do you always know when something is bothering me?

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?
      Where are the passports?

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 and save any one item. What would it be? Why?
      Have you seen my keys? My glasses?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
       We have the most wonderful kids, don’t we?

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.
      I told you about this last week. Why don’t you ever listen to me?

*Some of these are based on personal experience. Not all. And I’m not telling which ones.

Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, Empty House Full Mind, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on Sharon writes for the Huffington Post and Purple Clover. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

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Monday 9th of February 2015

My mother and farther read this and they both said 90% of those they never ever thought about asking. They've been married for 35 years. What's this mean?

Gary Sidley

Thursday 29th of January 2015

Sharon, I loved your alternative take on this. As someone who has been with my wife for almost 34 years, I could identify with many of your responses. Best wishes.

Sharon Greenthal

Thursday 29th of January 2015

Thank you Gary!


Sunday 25th of January 2015

So funny! Might need to print this out for our upcoming 25th anniversary!

Kim Acedo

Friday 23rd of January 2015

These are hilarious!

Maritza Martinez

Thursday 22nd of January 2015

After a very looooong day, this is just what I needed. I smiled all the way through it.. Great article!

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