These 36 Questions Are the Secret to Finding Love—But What If You Only Have Time for Three?

It’s no joke: making friends is hard. Falling in love? Feels even harder. (Even if you’re organized.) The whole process takes time and effort. (Not to mention sorting through all the red and green flags.) But what if there was a secret to forming a connection—and fast? Enter the 36 questions that lead to love. Originally a 1996 study looking at the possibility of fostering affection between strangers, now they’re something of a phenomenon, including a Jubilee series that went viral in 2017. But they’re still as relevant as ever—even Netflix’s Queen Charlotte co-stars India Amarteifio and Golda Rosheuvel recently put it to the test.

In the original study, the questions were broken up into three sets that progressively ramped up the intimacy factor. Set 1 included questions such as “What would constitute a perfect day?” and “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” Meanwhile, Set 3 dove deep, asking, “When did you last cry in front of another person?” and “Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find the most disturbing?” The conclusion of the study found that fostering intimacy and trust was possible, and honestly, these questions do come in a clutch if you’re nervous about making conversation but want to cut the small talk. Let’s face it, though: 36 questions are a lot of questions. I tried them at a recent dinner with a new-ish friend and we made it through...four questions in...two hours. So what if you only have time for a few? We asked vice president Maria Sullivan to weigh in on her top three picks.

Meet the Expert

Maria Sullivan is the relationship expert and vice president of and the CEO of Once Dating app. launched in 1993 and is present in 32 countries. It works to help people around the world find their romantic match, wherever they are in the world.

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The Best 3 Questions to Ask to Get to Know Someone

1. If You Could Have Dinner with Anyone, Alive or Dead, Who Would You Pick?

Sullivan chooses this question for its lighthearted approach. Don’t be fooled, though. It feels surface level, but she reveals that it can still tell you quite a bit about your partner. “It can give insight into the people they find interesting, allowing you to see what types of people they might typically have around them,” she explains. “If you can’t envision yourself enjoying a dinner with their dinner guest choice, it may be a sign that you won’t have a lot in common or that you might not get along with their friends.”

2. What Are You Most Grateful for in Life?

This question can cue you into your partner’s values. Are things like family, friends and health important to them? Or do they value material things, like money and social status?  “While you may be looking for financial security in a partner, it's also important to make sure that you connect on a deeper level if you’re looking for a lifelong partner,” Sullivan says. While a relationship can work if both parties are willing to put in the effort, it’s often easier when you share the same foundation, which is why it’s important to understand what your partner values before jumping in. And then, if you find that they are different from your own, you’ll have to decide if you can accept that.

3. What’s the Most Important Thing to You in a Friendship?

“Asking your partner or potential match this question will help you assess if you hold the qualities that they are looking for in a friendship which can in return indicate whether there’s potential for something serious,” Sullivan explains. Because, yes, your partner should also be your friend and the person you go to as a confidant. She notes that this is another question that can reveal what they value. “If they’re just looking for someone to party with, it may not be the best candidate for a long-term relationship. However, if they mention something like honesty, loyalty or dependability, this is a sign that they may be ready for a real and meaningful partnership.”

While that 30-minute first date at a coffee shop is insufficient for all 36 questions, these are the three you can definitely have in your back pocket with the confidence that they’ll be as fun as they are insightful. Here’s to falling in love.

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