Last summer, the choose-your-own-adventure-format documentary The And took the Internet by storm with videos of couples answering candid questions like, "Are you scared I'll walk away?" and, "Do you want to marry me?" Over the past week, the film has come back into the spotlight with a viral video of exes Ali and Andrew debriefing their relationship and discussing his infidelity. But what is The And documentary? It's a lot of things, of course, but perhaps what is the most is a tool to deepen our relationships — something which is at once exhilarating and terrifying.
The And is a collaboration between content creating collective The Skin Deep, marketing agency Noise, and director Topaz Adizes that shows us the intimate details of couples' emotional lives that we're all curious about. The project's website contains a "couple's gallery" with videos of 30 pairs (mostly romantic partners, but also some family members and friends) answering questions about their relationships — but a more fun way to access the videos is to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that determine which videos are best suited to you. The questions can get pretty random — one is "what do you want most in life?" ("to be happy" vs. "to be in charge"), and another is "how would you decorate a big apartment?" ("lots of space" vs. "lots of furniture"). Adizes told Nerve in 2014 that the site uses "a unique tagging system" and "decision tree modeling" to show you a personalized assortment of videos based on your answers. Science!
Most partnerships are filled with drama and intrigue, yet the only depictions of relationship drama we usually see are either through fiction or reality TV, which might as well be fiction. That probably explains why people are so hungry for these honest peeks into real relationships.
Where does that leave your relationship? Here's an idea: Remember that Modern Love article about the 36 questions you can ask someone to fall in love? Once you're already in love, try the questions in these videos instead. You can take the site's initial quiz to see which questions show up in your individualized videos, but here are some of the ones that led to the most fruitful discussions in the documentary:
1. Are you scared I'll walk away?
This is a fear many people in relationships have but are afraid to discuss. When partners Cammie and Erin got this question, the one answering (it's unclear who is who) responded that she'll always have that fear but feels confident that if something were going wrong, they would talk about it, which is how couples should feel.
2. When do you feel closest to me?
One man in the video told his partner, "When we're watching Stargate or Daria or Firefly." D'aww. The couple above, Giulia and Elijah, simply giggled uncontrollably at this question. I think we all know what they were thinking.
3. When was the last time I disappointed you?
Asking this question out of the heat of the moment probably yields a more productive conversation than expressing anger as it arises. We all disappoint our partners at some point, and I think most of us actually want to know why and try to fix it even if our automatic reflex is to get defensive.
4. When you think about the first time we met, what do you remember?
Zuba, who has been married to Ed for 19 years, has a beautiful answer: "I just remember thinking, 'He smiles with his eyes, and they're the kindest eyes I've ever seen.'" You guys, I can't.
5. What is our biggest challenge as a couple?
Tread lightly with this one. Chuck's answer to this one — "your hoarding" — is a little hilarious, but not the most understanding. Better to take at least partial responsibility than blame your biggest challenge on the other person. You've got to respect his honesty, though.
6. Where do you think I may fail you?
Cammie and Erin also got this one, and the response was perfect: "I don't place that kind of expectation on partners... I don't want my partner to ever think they can fail me."
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