"How to Fall in Love with Anyone" author on why love stories might mislead us

Writer Mandy Len Catron's memorable article for the New York Times series "Modern Love" is one of the newspaper's most-read essays.

The 2015 article, "To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This," is about what happened when she and an acquaintance re-created an intimacy experiment she'd read about.

They asked each other 36 personal questions like, "When did you last cry in front of another person?" Then they stared into each other's eyes for four minutes.

The essay was widely shared, and that acquaintance became her boyfriend. Now Catron has published her first book of personal essays, "How to Fall in Love with Anyone."

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"How to Fall in Love with Anyone" by Mandy Len Catron

In it, she takes a candid look at her own life and explores the psychology of relationships and the myths we create about romance.

Catron argues that love stories limit our idea of what's possible in love.

Ironically, her book about love opens with her parents' divorce.

"For most of my life I just thought, if you're a good person and you don't do anything to betray your spouse in any way, that's all you need to do to have a long, stable marriage. And when my parents split up I was shocked and I kind of thought, 'Wow, maybe a lot of what I think about love is actually wrong,'" Catron said.

One of the author's major points is about the difference between falling in love and staying in love. In preparation for the book, she took a hard look at the many love stories in our culture.

"So many of our stories are really about how two people get together, but ultimately we don't talk that much about what it means to stay in a relationship and what that looks like and how that works," Catron.

The author cites romantic tales such as the movies "Notting Hill" and "Dirty Dancing" as examples of stories that focus on the falling in love part—not the staying in love.

"I do think the reality about love is we often think about it as this thing that happens to us and we're just sort of passively accepting whatever love throws our way. But the truth is we have a lot more agency than that," she said.  

Catron's advice?

"Choose to invest yourself in another person and that might lead to love."

To find out what happened with Catron and the man she posed the 36 questions to, watch the above video.