Culture and Trends ›

36 Questions That Will Make You Fall in Love (With Your Family)

Illustrator: Priscilla Liu

36 Questions That Will Make You Fall in Love (With Your Family)

In January of 2015, the New York Times article To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This went viral. Its premise was that by asking one another a series of 36 questions, couples could spark and accelerate romance. Psychologist Arthur Aron had pioneered the concept decades earlier, testing his theories in a laboratory, but writer Mandy Len Catron took things to a new level by trying the experiment in her own love life.

Catron and a date dove into the questions one warm night, sipping drinks in a bar. Within an hour, they’d learned more about each other than many couples do in years. They discussed their relationships with their mothers, shared their most treasured and terrible memories and spoke about what might constitute a perfect day. And afterwards, Catron wrote, they did indeed fall in love.

The article detailing their experience has been shared hundreds of thousands of times, inspiring countless people to try it themselves. But meanwhile, another set of 36 questions just as intriguing has been largely overlooked. The exercise I'm referring to is called Talk of a Lifetime. Like Aron’s “fall-in-love” questions, it brings people closer together; the difference is that it’s designed to strengthen familial bonds rather than igniting romance.

FAMIC (The Funeral and Memorial Council) created Talk of a Lifetime to help families have better conversations. The group agreed, based on decades and decades of collective experience, that deep, honest conversation is often therapeutic when a family member is dying. By offering families a framework for opening up and sharing memories, Talk of a Lifetime enables them to honor loved ones’ lives more completely. 

Using Talk of a Lifetime in this manner makes sense, but we needn’t limit our use of it to times when we're dealing with death.

My own family isn’t planning a funeral anytime soon, yet I still decided to have the Talk of a Lifetime with my parents. The results were fascinating... how did I never know, for instance, that my dad had shared my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut when he was young? How had I missed out on my mom’s recollections of an unconventionally picturesque childhood in Miami?

We delved into heavy topics at times, but the talk was an overwhelmingly happy one. It was a joy to hear my mom’s laughter as my dad shared his favorite memory: he was four years old, it was Halloween, and his mother had sewn witch costumes for him and his brother. Later that evening he triumphantly won a costume contest at the local community center. At age 65, his recollection sounded just as jubilant as he must have been on that day in 1954.

Although Talk of a Lifetime was created for mourning families, it seems any family could benefit from this type of conversation. Forward-thinking funeral professionals agree. “I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of how effective it can be in connecting communities,” said David Andrew Clayton, Vice President of Wilson St. Pierre Funeral Service & Crematory. “At our firm, we immediately liked the idea because it wasn’t about selling anything. It was merely a conversation to have with your family about your life and what’s important to you. We’re so busy today; in my family there are three of us and we’ve got three phones, a laptop, four TVs... all of these things inundate us. Do we really know each other? When I sit down with a family, there’s so much that hasn’t been talked about.”


Ready to have the Talk of a Lifetime? Click to download the question series.