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How to Fall in Love with Anyone

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Our “first” photo together as a couple… can’t see me? My reflection is in the bean… it’s a fun game of “Where’s Waldo”. Early on in our relationship I was afraid to ask him to take photos with me in case it would be awkward… Sometimes I couldn’t even take pictures of him. I was such a weirdo; I’m amazed he stuck around 😉

Link diving – Verb

The act of clicking further and further from your original subject of research. Commonly related to the popular website Wikipedia.com (UrbanDictionary.com)

Link diving is dangerous.

It is dangerous for many reasons I won’t get into but the main reason it is dangerous is because procrastinators, like myself, don’t know when to Shut. It. Down. I could spend hours link diving away from my original purpose only to find myself on BuzzFeed (the death of all procrastinating link divers everywhere) looing at a list of “11 Reasons Why Things Are the Color They Are” (which is highly informative, you should definitely check it out:-)).

The point is… My name is Valerie, and I am a link diver (this is where you say ‘Hi Valerie’ and we move on).

So when I was sifting through my WordPress Reader for new posts and came across the latest from the Daily Post titled “The Socratic Method“; I was intrigued and had to dive a little deeper. Needless to say, I didn’t make it all the way through the post (I have since gone back and read through it and if you are looking for a little writing inspiration it is definitely worth the read) because the first two paragraphs touched on a study and an article about 36 questions to accelerate intimacy between two strangers.

Interest piqued yet? In the original study, two of the participants, completely unknown to each other prior to the experience, ended up married later on in life. Crazy, right?! Who wouldn’t want to link dive away to check that out?

So I ventured to the New York Times article, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This“, and read Mandy’s very interesting story. I want you to read it too and if you think you are up for the challenge here is the link to the 36 Questions that could quite possibly change your life. (I recommend using their app to go through the questions as it makes the process much easier and they kind of explain how it all works in more descriptive terms).

Her article struck me personally because my dearest hubby, Patrick, has a very practical view of love. It was something we talked about often when we were dating. He isn’t romantic in the sense that he sweeps me off to faraway places and brings me flowers and little gifts daily; his romantic is bringing in the groceries, doing the dishes, walking the dogs, helping with the laundry. This article reminded me of him and how he CHOOSES to love me everyday rather rely on fleeting FEELINGS and EMOTIONS to rest his love. This article touches on walking, not falling, into love and I think, unfortunately, most young people today want the head-over-heels when in reality… the practical is so much better and so much more attainable. So read the article and see what I saw:

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To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This 

By Mandy Len Catron, New York Times, January 9, 2015

More than 20 years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Last summer, I applied his technique in my own life, which is how I found myself standing on a bridge at midnight, staring into a man’s eyes for exactly four minutes.

Let me explain. Earlier in the evening, that man had said: “I suspect, given a few commonalities, you could fall in love with anyone. If so, how do you choose someone?”

He was a university acquaintance I occasionally ran into at the climbing gym and had thought, “What if?” I had gotten a glimpse into his days on Instagram. But this was the first time we had hung out one-on-one.

“Actually, psychologists have tried making people fall in love,” I said, remembering Dr. Aron’s study. “It’s fascinating. I’ve always wanted to try it.”

I first read about the study when I was in the midst of a breakup. Each time I thought of leaving, my heart overruled my brain. I felt stuck. So, like a good academic, I turned to science, hoping there was a way to love smarter.

I explained the study to my university acquaintance. A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.

“Let’s try it,” he said.

Let me acknowledge the ways our experiment already fails to line up with the study. First, we were in a bar, not a lab. Second, we weren’t strangers. Not only that, but I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening.

I Googled Dr. Aron’s questions; there are 36. We spent the next two hours passing my iPhone across the table, alternately posing each question.

They began innocuously: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” And “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”

But they quickly became probing.

In response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at me and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other.”

I grinned and gulped my beer as he listed two more commonalities I then promptly forgot. We exchanged stories about the last time we each cried, and confessed the one thing we’d like to ask a fortuneteller. We explained our relationships with our mothers.

The questions reminded me of the infamous boiling frog experiment in which the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.

I liked learning about myself through my answers, but I liked learning things about him even more. The bar, which was empty when we arrived, had filled up by the time we paused for a bathroom break.

I sat alone at our table, aware of my surroundings for the first time in an hour, and wondered if anyone had been listening to our conversation. If they had, I hadn’t noticed. And I didn’t notice as the crowd thinned and the night got late.

We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

The moments I found most uncomfortable were not when I had to make confessions about myself, but had to venture opinions about my partner. For example: “Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner, a total of five items” (Question 22), and “Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met” (Question 28).

Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate others into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion.” Saying things like, “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you,” makes certain positive qualities belonging to one person explicitly valuable to the other.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

We finished at midnight, taking far longer than the 90 minutes for the original study. Looking around the bar, I felt as if I had just woken up. “That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Definitely less uncomfortable than the staring into each other’s eyes part would be.”

He hesitated and asked. “Do you think we should do that, too?”

“Here?” I looked around the bar. It seemed too weird, too public.

“We could stand on the bridge,” he said, turning toward the window.

The night was warm and I was wide-awake. We walked to the highest point, then turned to face each other. I fumbled with my phone as I set the timer.

“O.K.,” I said, inhaling sharply.

“O.K.,” he said, smiling.

I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life. I spent the first couple of minutes just trying to breathe properly. There was a lot of nervous smiling until, eventually, we settled in.

I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected.

I felt brave, and in a state of wonder. Part of that wonder was at my own vulnerability and part was the weird kind of wonder you get from saying a word over and over until it loses its meaning and becomes what it actually is: an assemblage of sounds.

So it was with the eye, which is not a window to anything but rather a clump of very useful cells. The sentiment associated with the eye fell away and I was struck by its astounding biological reality: the spherical nature of the eyeball, the visible musculature of the iris and the smooth wet glass of the cornea. It was strange and exquisite.

When the timer buzzed, I was surprised — and a little relieved. But I also felt a sense of loss. Already I was beginning to see our evening through the surreal and unreliable lens of retrospect.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I wondered what would come of our interaction. If nothing else, I thought it would make a good story. But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.

It’s true you can’t choose who loves you, although I’ve spent years hoping otherwise, and you can’t create romantic feelings based on convenience alone. Science tells us biology matters; our pheromones and hormones do a lot of work behind the scenes.

But despite all this, I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be. Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible — simple, even — to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive.

You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love. Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 2

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK --- Childhood nightmares / night terrors --- Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK — Childhood nightmares / night terrors — Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

I told myself I would post once a week, just to help get me into the swing of things and to keep this fun and not let it become overwhelming.

But I REALLY wanted to tell you about the other night terror regarding the spiders I mentioned in my previous post. If you didn’t read it yet I suggest you do. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So now that you have background information on the subject, let me tell you about the spiders.

This story starts with me quite asleep; like that kind of sleep that takes you awhile to wake from when you are startled from it. Which is exactly what happened. I’m fuzzy on how it all started but am all too familiar with how it progressed.

I begin to wake up when he is, again, thrashing about in bed. I roll over and prop myself up, my usual stance for night time questions of, “what’s wrong,” and, “are you okay,” and “what the hell are you doing?” (I like my sleep, people, and I don’t like it interrupted).

By the time I am “up” he has gotten out of the bed and is telling me, “they are coming.”

This is a terrifying little notion but since this is not my first rodeo, and I am pretty positive he is still asleep, I indulge: “Who is coming, hun?”

He just repeats, “they are coming,” a little louder this time while he moves around to the foot of the bed. He continues shouting, “THEY ARE COMING,” and all I can do is stare at him, wide-eyed and confused, while he shouts and screams at 2 a.m.

Finally something snaps:

“THEY ARE COMING! THEY ARE–
OOWW!!

IT BIT ME!

IT BIT ME!

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

This is the point where he takes off running out of the room and down our narrow hallway where I can only assume he collided with a chair in the dining area because I hear a crash.

The running out of the room thing was new, and deeply concerning. I shout after him (without leaving the bed, of course),  repeating my questions of, “what’s wrong”, “are you okay”, and, “what the hell are you doing?!”

He is still shrieking. I’m not sure if he hears me, but he is making his way back to the room because the wails get closer and louder. He appear is the doorway, still whimpering loudly, still claiming he was bit by something.

From what I pieced together from him, the following is what happened:

He “awoke” in our bedroom to see dark shadows moving in the corners of the room. He sat up and at some point deduced that they were MONSTROUS spiders (okay, maybe we need to lay off Skyrim for awhile) that were coming to get us. He jumps out of bed and was “trying” to get me out of bed to come with him when the spiders attacked. One bit him hard on the foot which is when he screamed and fled, leaving me to fend off the hoard of angry spiders by myself.

He is still crying about being bit by something though so I am worried that maybe there really was something attacking him, although not as dramatic as he was making it out to be.

I still don’t get out of bed (I’m almost certain he is nuts) while he searches the ground for evidence of what “bit” him. He discovers a safety pin in the carpet. I’m pretty sure the thing was closed so I could not tell you how it poked him, but the man is positive that is what did it.

Whatever helps him sleep at night.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 1

The stuff of nightmares...

The stuff of nightmares…

I started this blog post with in depth re-tellings of a couple night time experiences with my darling husband of 2+ years when I realized something:

I’m long winded and you don’t need that. You don’t WANT that.

When I realized I was not entertained by my own writing I decided scrapping the post was for the best… but I still want to tell you the stories! So I’m going to do two things:

  1. I am not going to give you the unnecessary details, making it shorter and more enjoyable.
  2. I’m only going to post one at a time. One story now, one story later…

So, without further ado let me tell you about my husband’s night terrors.

You might be thinking, “Valerie, you are a horrible person and wife! Why would you write a post about something so personal/frightening for your husband?” Maybe you have experienced terrors yourself or know someone close to you who has. There are many people for whom this is a serious and super scary experience. Sometimes they even hurt people they love, not aware that they are not fighting a monster/enemy but their spouse or significant other. I totally get that they are awful for some people, in fact, when I was I kid, I had some pretty awful night terrors. But let me tell you something… this is not the case with my husband’s.

First, they are funny as heck. Seriously, I sit flabbergasted after the ordeal wondering what on God’s green earth did I get myself into by marrying this man! Okay, that is an exaggeration, but I do marvel at the ridiculousness of the terrors. He has never hurt me while he is experiencing these very vivid, very bizarre hallucinations (at least not yet) so I just get to laugh and roll over and go back to sleep. Second, he tells everyone anyway. They are fun stories for us share tandem style– him from his perspective, me from mine. He knows they are crazy the minute he snaps out of the delirium of the waking nightmare and the only thing he can do is laugh.

So we both get to laugh.

Let me help you laugh too.

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One night, shortly after we were married, I am lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep unsuccessfully. Patrick (who, I just realized I didn’t clarify, is my husband) begins to toss and turn and mutter. I ignore this, as he has a tendency to say unintelligible things in his sleep that he never remembers in the morning anyway. Suddenly his wiggles and mutters turn into thrashing about in the bed and bellowing loudly. I hear him shriek what I think to be a word sounding something like … “bug.”

Well that had me out of the bed because if there was a bug in the bed making him freak out this bad, I wanted nothing to do with it. I jump to the light switch, flip it on, and whip around. I wanted to find this bug and kill it immediately. DEATH TO THE INVADER!

What I see puzzles me. Exceedingly. This was my first experience with his terrors, mind you.

He stands hunched over the bed, eyes wide in a state of panic (and possibly confusion), breathing heavily and not saying a word. His body language tells me he has no idea what is going on, which makes two of us.

When I asked him what happened he began to tell me that he “woke up” and rolled over to look at me and instead of seeing my beautiful face he saw my face…

… with a hawk perched on my forehead trying to peck my eyes out.

I’m dead serious.

So when he was thrashing about and I thought he said something about a bug, which neither of us actually knows what he said at that moment, what was really happening was he was desperately trying to save me from the evil hawk that had me in its clutches. My hero.

So I do the only thing I can.

I tell him I love him, that he is CRAZY, and I am going back to bed. Then I switch off the light.

At least I know that if some monstrous creature were attacking me he would be up to the challenge…

That was until spiders attacked. But that story is for next time so STAY TUNED!

Have you ever experienced a CRAZY dream you could have sworn was real when you woke up? Tell us about!