So now that I have lured you in with the title of this blog post (hehe), this post is about something I stumbled across a while back, and which totally reshaped the depth of my empathy and understanding when it comes to human relationships.
You may remember a while back that I was seeking some good podcasts to listen to, but after trying a few here and there, I just couldn’t find one that hooked me. Low and behold, sleepless nights and browsing countless psychology articles online, I stumbled upon the wonderful Modern Love podcast series whilst reading the article ‘The 36 Questions that Lead to Love’ on the New York Times website. I was reading up on Arthur Aron‘s study of creating interpersonal closeness between two people in a lab setting – this had however become popularised in the media as ’36 questions that make you fall in love’ (with any stranger), apparently.
Once I started listening, I couldn’t stop. The format is absolutely brilliant and the podcasts cover real stories sent by real people, of their experiences and lessons learned in love, loss and redemption. It’s seriously moving stuff. If you saw me at the gym listening to it, you’d see a series of shocked facial expressions and silent gasps as I slowly ploughed my way on the elliptical. They’re only 30 minutes long and take you through a roller-coaster of emotions.
Modern Love – The Podcast
Without a doubt this is the podcast that officially got me into podcasts – I have never really listened to podcasts so avidly before, and I couldn’t recommend it enough! My own modern love story coincided with listening to these podcasts oddly enough – so there must be something to it eh?
Here are my 7 favourite episodes to date. I would highly recommend listening to these to get you started on the series:
1. ‘To Fall In Love, Do This’ – Episode 30
This is the first one I listened to, late at night a couple of months ago when I was having trouble sleeping. As mentioned above, it’s based on Arthur Aron’s famous study about creating interpersonal closeness between two strangers in a lab setting, through asking each other a series of 36 personal questions which increase in ‘intensity’. The idea is that mutual vulnerability, and revealing increasingly personal details about yourself and vice-versa, helps to accelerate fostering closeness.
Taking inspo from this episode, I tried it out on a first date too (me being me and trying to be experimental and stuff), and found it was a great way to park any initial nerves to the side and get to know someone quickly without the dry chit chat that involves the weather and/or how their journey was to the restaurant (nobody cares, honestly, nobody – unless you got attacked by a squirrel or something). It’s also fun to do, as it’s a bit like a game – you’ll just have to find a willing participant! I’m a huge fan of social psychology so this was right up my street!
Here are the questions, if you’re interested:
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.
2. ‘A Millennial’s Guide to Kissing’ – Episode 10
I listened to this on my way to Edinburgh back in August 2017, and it’s a must listen, especially if you’re a millennial. The story is about how love in today’s fleeting world of instant gratification is like a short ride on a plane… the story is so pertinent and insightful. I really loved this one – I think I will give it another listen!
3. ‘The End of Small Talk’ – Episode 59
This is another brilliant one and talks about moving beyond small talk when it comes to dating or meeting people and getting to the real questions we want to ask someone.
4. ‘Kept Together By The Bars Between Us’ – Episode 35
This is the most strangely romantic and incredibly gripping Modern Love story that I’ve ever come across, and I certainly would not have come across it had I not stumbled across this podcast. I was listening to it whilst walking uphill on the treadmill at the gym and was gasping and making all sorts of dramatic faces as the story went on. It’s a story about a woman who falls in love with a convicted murderer… and my god it is incredible.
5. ‘Flowergate’ – Episode 76
This is a story about a flower delivery gone wrong, very very wrong. And it’s so tragic because it is such an easy mistake to make. This really had me teary on the train back home from Edinburgh. And I rarely cry!
6. ‘Just friends? Let me read between the lines’ – Episode 28
This is absolutely brilliant, told with so much humour for what is a heart-rendering story. I was laughing out loud at so many points but it ‘cut me deep’ at the same time too. Again, something everyone can relate to: dating someone, falling head over heels for them, and then it not working out. How to get over them? Well, definitely don’t do these things…
7. ‘Friends without benefits’ – Episode 19
This is a story of friendship and love never reciprocated. It’s told so well and it’s so moving, I can’t imagine anyone who would not be able to relate to it. Unrequited love is the hardest, but what’s even harder is that when it eventually happens, but doesn’t live up to your expectations. I listened to this whilst I was drawing and just had to stop and take a moment to just fully focus on it. It really makes you and appreciate the intensity of the emotion that comes with falling in love with someone, pining for them for years and then for it to ultimately amount to nothing but heartache and pain.
I’ve learnt so much from this series, and because they are stories submitted by real people and of real life experiences, there’s something in all of them that’s not only easy to relate to, but of value – something you can really take away and apply or consider in your own life. There’s more commonality to human experience then we may immediately realise, and these podcasts have really shown me that I am not alone in my experiences.
You can download it on iTunes or your favourite podcast app. Let me know if you start listening to them – I would love to know what you think and which your favourites are!
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Images obtained from The New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com