Today’s post was inspired after reading this Deseret News National article about relationships. A study was done exploring love and compatibility developed by Arthur Aron at State University of New York at Stony Brook that was published not long ago in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
There’s actually 72 questions. The study was divided into two “games” where each couple was given a bunch of slips of paper with one question written on it which they were to answer and discuss with each other. The two categories were:
Interpersonal Closeness and Small Talk
It was fun to read through the Interpersonal Closeness questions as I’ve often fantasized what it might be like to discuss such topics with someone I could call my soul mate. Instead, I had to answer them all-by-my-lonesome. Since I have never (either now or at any time in my life) had a partner to share these topics with, I will share them here, with the world, on my blog.
I would encourage anyone reading this to do the same, either with the person they love or by yourself, as I did, as a good exercise in self-reflection and evaluating your personal values.
36 Questions for Closeness-Generating Procedure
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
That’s an easy one. Those who know me best will recite the answer along with me: Paul “Bono” Hewson, lead singer of U2, of course! We’ll start the discussion on their latest album, Songs of Innocence, which wasn’t very impressive (as thousands of grumbling public voices agreed after hearing their free download on iTunes) and why it might very well be their first “crap album.” Then Bono can listen to me sing his praises about his efforts to use his money and celebrity status to make a difference in the world. The fact he’s always been a faithful husband and dedicated father to his wife and four children has always been more important to me than anything else, aside from the music. Alison Hewson is also welcome to join us at the dinner table. I’m not trying to steal your husband, Ali, I promise!
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Of course! In our current culture obsession with fame and popularity, who wouldn’t want five-hundred thousand internet followers while the commercial industry beats a path to your door with multimillion-dollar contract offers? These days, if the right circumstances come along, all you have to do is work at Target (if your name is Alex) to achieve such success. As for me, I’d prefer being a famous author as my claim to fame.
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Well, this one’s easy enough. Yes, I think all of us have done this at one time or another. Why? So we don’t sound like stupid idiots, of course! I always rehearse, even when I know I’ll be talking to a computer automated voice, I’m determined to be smarter than the machine.
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Hmmm, let’s see. My fantasy of a perfect day is living the life of the now outdated, anti-feminist, 1950’s housewife. I’m sorry, but after twenty-plus years of working my ass off in order to pay my own bills, studying my ass off to obtain college degrees and certifications, traveling, volunteering and babysitting other people’s kids; I’m ready to experience some of those greener pastures for myself. I WANT the stewardship of seeing my breadwinner out the door to his job, spending my days wiping noses, overseeing naptimes, building outrageous models out of Legos, cleaning house, chauffeuring kids to soccer, tending a backyard garden, playing the piano, reading a good book (when I can spare a minute), and looking forward to an upcoming Friday “date night” with my wonderful, eternal companion who is feeling a little stressed out with his job, family and church duties right now and needs me, his all-wise, all-supportive, loving wife to tell him he’s doing great and we’ll muddle through this together. After homework, family dinnertime, family games on the iPhone or some other wholesome activity, baths, prayers and tucking the little monsters into bed, hubby and I look at each other in disbelief that we actually made it through another day and could still remember each other’s name. We then make wild, passionate love until we pass out in exhaustion because, hey, it’s my “perfect” day! Anastasia Steele, eat your heart out.
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I caught myself singling along to “Love Runs Out” by One Republic just the other night as I was doing dishes while my iTunes shuffled through my favorite playlist. I last sang to my two-year old nephew, Charlie, at my mom and step-dad’s house at the piano that no one else in the family ever uses. Charlie was doing his best to pound out what constituted as music to his ears, but he finally agreed to let his aunt have a turn. There was an open Children’s Songbook in front of us and since little Charlie is already acquiring a list of favorite primary songs, he requested, “I am a Child of God,” one of Mormonism’s most popular songs, especially among the younger set. He joined me in singing the chorus. I’m glad my sister makes a nightly habit of singing to her babies before tucking them into bed and whenever the opportunity arises, I do the same.
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?
I’d have to go with the body of a 30 year old because my mind is already pretty sharp and I plan to keep it that way. Alzheimer’s doesn’t run in my family (but cancer does). When I think of all the knowledge I’ve acquired over the last 10 years; I wouldn’t want to lose that.
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’ll die an old maid, of course. A wholesome, untouched virgin that plenty of men wanted, but not in the way I wanted. I often speculate who will find my cold, dead body since I live alone in a world where patriarchy is already dead.
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My two nephews, Calvin (age 8) and Charlie, (age 2) of course! Both the children of my happily married younger sister. Thanks for letting me be part of their lives!
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Ray and Linda Llewellyn won’t like hearing this, but I wish they hadn’t always been such narcissistic assholes. Growing up, it seemed to me they always valued themselves and their own lives and happiness over their five children.
Stepdad, Alan Scholes, was always too disengaged from my life to take any interest in it. He had five boys living outside the home to maintain a relationship with.
Linda Scholes had her new husband to flaunt in my face.
Ray Llewellyn (living in another state) always made sure he had a woman in his life to keep him company.
Who was left to take any interest in MY life?
Gee, this is getting depressing. And we’re not even halfway through the list yet!
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
I’ll spare you those painful details. However, my life does contain pleasant events. We took fun family vacations to the lake or amusement parks. I’d lead my younger siblings in putting on wild theatricals, make up games to play outside and we’d roam the neighborhood on our bikes as part of those carefree, innocent days of childhood in the 1980’s. We’d go out to dinner and to the movies as a family (both during the years as a biological and blended step-family), attend church together and hold family scripture and prayer study (both before and after the divorce). My best date was in 1994 when my college friend Mandy turned down Roger and set him up with me and we ended up having a good time together. I managed to get a good education, earned enough money flipping burgers and washing dishes to support myself so my life wasn’t the dark, bleak Dickensian life I sometimes make it out to be. I just wish more good had come out of all the effort I put into preparing myself to be somebody’s companion, helpmeet wife and mother but, alas, it was never to be. That pretty much ends my life.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
If I can’t wake up tomorrow with the ability to make a good man fall desperately in love with me and want to start a family with me, then I’d like the ability to succeed in a satisfying job or career that paid more than $25,000 a year. Simple, right?
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?
I think many of the previous questions already covered this one. I suppose the crystal ball would point out the many superficial faults marrieds enjoy telling singles: I have a bad attitude, don’t make myself attractive enough, should just be patient and keep waiting or that Prince Charming will knock on my door at approximately *blank* time and day. I’m sure the majority would say they’d love the crystal ball to show them swimming like Scrooge McDuck in a roomful of money. You can buy anything in this world with money, except (Mormon temple) marriage.
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Um, because it takes two people (or at least two incomes) to make a marriage, baby, mortgage or even a satisfying career; at some point in all our lives, somebody has to open that door of opportunity for us. Somebody has to make the choice and pick YOU, out of all the other candidates for that dream job or dream date that might lead to marriage and happiness. I’ve done all I can while watching all my dreams fade away…
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
I wish I could say, “Serving an LDS mission,” or “All the hours I’ve spent babysitting my nephews,” but I have to choose obtaining my two bachelor’s degrees. Even if they never bring me a satisfying career, I worked hard, learned a lot and (for the most part) enjoyed the experience of being part of the campus life at two different universities in the state of Utah.
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
Kindness. Growing up I didn’t have many friends but those I counted as friends were always the ones who didn’t join the others in bullying or teasing but included the social outcasts like me in their conversations and activities. I always made an effort to return such kind favors so I had friends to help me celebrate birthdays, go on group dates and just hang out.
So, everyone, just be kind. To me, that is real friendship.
17. What is your most treasured memory?
I’m afraid I don’t have one. Holding my nephew Calvin for the first time in my sister’s hospital room, I suppose. That was the moment Bono got knocked off his pedestal.
18. What is your most terrible memory?
Ouch! This might get painful. Linda Higginbotham Llewellyn and Ray Llewellyn weren’t immune to the occasional slapping or kicking of the little innocents under their care when they felt justified in exercising unrighteous dominion. Even Alan Scholes slapped my ass once. Then there was that morning in October 1995 when I was nearly raped in my own bed by a strange intruder. Oh, wait, I can only pick ONE?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
This is a good one. Many people would probably make drastic changes in their work schedule to spend more time with their family. For me, there’s nothing I would change. That year can’t pass quickly enough because nothing ever changes for me. I can’t wait to die!
20. What does friendship mean to you?
Please see my answer to question #16.
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
One of the hardest parts about being single and living alone is that utter lack of physical affection. It’s especially tough if you grew up in a family that didn’t show a lot of physical affection. As I grew older, I’d hug and kiss my younger brothers but they would push me away. Our mom encouraged this. It seems everyone loved reminding me that there must be something hideously wrong with me to be *blank* age and never had a boyfriend. No one is going to associate themselves with someone like that. Love and affection? What are those? I’m lucky to get hugs and kisses from my two favorite nephews; that’s the extent of any love and affection I’ll ever know in this life.
Okay, this is getting depressing. Moving on…
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of 5 items.
It would be easy to skip this one, since I have no partner. But I suppose I could use my imagination and list the 5 positive characteristics my perfect partner would share with me.
1. You are smart and witty with a mind like a steel trip. You intrigue me!
2. You are good and kind with a nurturing heart and desire to love and serve others. I’m grateful to be one of those.
3. You have so many wonderful gifts and talents: you are like that character in the Book of Mormon who was “mighty in writing,” you enrich our home with your music and homemaking skills. When do I get a cooking lesson?
4. You’re a scholar of the scriptures. I love that we can hold friendly debates about the physical existence of Kolob.
5. You absolutely love being a mother to our children. Except when they’re mine.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other peoples?
I think some of the previous questions have already answered this one.
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
Oh, let’s not even go there! But, I’d always imagined our relationship considerably improving once someone found me attractive enough to date, court, marry and start a family with. Linda Scholes seems to take great pleasure in reminding me that because I’ve never given birth, I can’t possibly understand her point of view on some of our most toxic issues; like why I’m still single, have never presented her with grandchildren and the frustration that I won’t live beyond my meager income and just purchase a home of my own already.
25. Make 3 true “we” statements each. For instance “We are both in this room feeling…”
There is no “we” there is only “I” and I’m feeling quite forlorn.
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
Um, yeah, pretty obvious, “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…MY LIFE!!!
27. If you were going to become a close friend to your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
I have some baggage: childhood divorce, abuse, molestation, insecurity and low self-esteem, but we can work through it. I’m also ready to accept you and all your subsequent baggage for us to work through together. As long as it doesn’t include porn or illegal drug smuggling.
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.
When I was a senior in high school, I was sitting with a group of girls before first period started when another girl came up to us who was writing an article on whether or not to allow vending machines that sold condoms on school property. The question was directed at me. Blushing furiously I was forced to admit I didn’t know what a condom was, (remember I’m only 18, it’s 1992 and I’m living in Utah where sex-ed classes haven’t been invented yet!) the others girls began squealing like a bunch of baby piglets exclaiming, “How could you not know…?!” “You mean you’ve never…?!” “Don’t your parents…?!”while I just wanted to crawl under my desk and not come out until graduation.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
I cried in my bishop’s office two months ago over the heartache of reaching the age I’m currently at and still single with no reason to go on living. Just last night, I was sobbing in my room, alone, still struggling over that same question.
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
This is getting redundant.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
The sexual exploitation of children. Nuff’ said.
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?
We know what the underlying point of this question is: call someone and tell them you love them NOW before it’s too late! I know this makes me sound like a narcissist but there’s no one I can think of, not even a member of my own immediate family, that I would call and say that to. We’re just not that kind of family. My oldest nephew or my next youngest brother, the one I’m closest to in the family, maybe, but they both know I love them. I’m not worried.
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?
Right now, at this point in my life, with no family or pets of my own to worry about, I would want to save my computer-my entire iTunes music library is in there! My huge collection of books would be impossible. My USB flash drive with all my Word documents and home movie files might be the easiest item to dash in and save.
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Either one of my adorable nephews, Calvin or Charlie, because they’re still so young and have so much life ahead of them with plenty of family around who love them and are encouraging them to grow up to be good men and contributing members of society. Besides, I’d miss them terribly.
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’m sure all singles share my problem of how to cope with the daily grind of loneliness but for me, compounded with my lack of career opportunities over the last twenty years of my life that keep dragging me down into the depths of depression and despair, I would love to know how someone in my shoes would be dealing with so many lemons and a shortage of sugar.