Two years ago, the New York Times published a groundbreaking piece outlining 36 questions that lead to love.

Of course I tried it. You should too. Push past the gimmickry, the cheap-feeling listicle-ness, the seeming trivialization of one of our tmost complex and cherished human experiences. There’s even a handy mobile app, so you can fall in love at any time on the go with just a tap.

Seriously, though. It’s powerful stuff. The payoff–falling in love!–is one of the highest rewards imaginable to most, myself included. Exchanging personal questions and answers creates an intimacy they might not otherwise experience. These questions shove many of us into unfamiliar ground, and that’s terrifying–and eye-opening.

But–and you knew a big hairy but was coming–I’ve found that if I’ve been dating someone seriously for more than three weeks, I already know 90% of the answers. Maybe I’ve been lucky with the women I’ve dated–I know I’m VERY lucky today–but most have been profoundly thoughtful and candid about their lives and the challenges they’ve faced. Getting to know someone who wants to be known hasn’t been a problem.


Still: a cut-and-paste guide sure makes it easier. And I’m sure it’s a revelation for many. Kudos to the NYT for sparking a revolution and helping untold millions find joy.

But a question has always nagged me.

Once we’re in love, how do we stay in love? Isn’t that the hard part?

Especially as we’re both growing, the world’s shifting around us, add in kids and career and parents, Donald Trump is president, the stresses of digital rivers flow through our fingertips, we’re carpet-bombed with endless, paralyzing options of where to live, how to dress, what’s for eat, who to partner up with.

Amid the maelstrom of life, what are the 36 questions that sustain something great?

That’s not so easy.

Three years ago, my sister got married. There was a huge party in New Orleans, a second line, seafood and craft cocktails and horn ensembles for days. It was one of the greatest events of my life, and I’ll never forget it.

I just forgot their third anniversary. (Sorry guys!)

When the confetti and trombones are put away, how can we make the party even better?

When nobody’s watching, how do we dance?

What are the 36 questions that tend the fire that’s already cooking?

Starting something isn’t that hard. Finishing it is. We’ve got to push past shadows in our soul, learn from the past and break beyond it, stay upbeat and energetic, feed the creative furnace, capitalize on sweat equity. Experience helps, but so does not knowing any better.

What’s the right balance? How can I crack an ever-changing code to give my partner and myself the love we ferociously deserve?

These are the far more interesting questions that a User Manual seeks to answer.

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