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Science Suggests There Is No Such Thing As Everlasting Love

How do you define love? It’s an important question with Valentine’s Day less than a month away. Love can be defined as an unselfish devotion; a munificent concern and compassion for the good of another. Traditionally, we either think of an unconditional love towards a child or a romantic affectionate love exchanged between two people.

Eternal, unshakable love is the emotion quixotically spun into romance lore, whether in the pages of a novel or played out on film. We have seen the guy running into the church to stop a wedding, through an airport to catch a flight, and barge into a room, all professing his truest feelings at the last second.

Love can empower and render us weak in the same breath. Poets have been inspired to write odes, composers create musical works about it, and filmmakers’ bank on it for a guaranteed tear-jerker.

Ideally, we want to think love can move mountains, thwart villains, and mend all wounds. And if not, at least our lovelorn soul mate will pine inconsolably at the loss until they can be reunited.

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson offers a defiantly new, unconventional concept of love in her recently released book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. She defines love as the emotion which happens in “micro-moments of positivity resonance.”

In the first chapter, Fredrickson suggests setting aside or deprogramming your culturally-fed traditional view of love:

“If you’ve come to view love as a commitment, promise, or pledge, through marriage or any other loyalty ritual, prepare for an about-face. I need you to step back from all of your preconceptions (of love) and consider an upgrade. Love 2.0 offers a different perspective, your body’s perspective … Love is not sexual desire or the blood-ties of kinship. Nor is it a special bond or commitment.”

Instead her perception of love is the reinforcement of positive emotions, how those are interpreted by the body as love, and the physical effects thereof.

Fredrickson, a leading researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage. Nor is the powerful emotion the yearning and passion that characterizes young love. Rather, it is built upon brief encounters of reinforced affirmations. Fredrickson suggests love is a connection characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person, whether a child, close friend, or romantic partner.

A global poll taken last Valentine’s Day showed that most married people, or those with a significant other, list their romantic partner as the greatest source of happiness in their lives. According to the same poll, nearly half of all single people are looking for a romantic partner, saying that finding a special person to love would contribute greatly to their happiness.

Fredrickson thinks these results reveal a “worldwide collapse of imagination. Thinking of love purely as romance or commitment that you share with one special person, as it appears most on earth do, surely limits the health and happiness you derive (from love). My conception of love, gives hope to people who are single or divorced or widowed this Valentine’s Day to find smaller ways to experience love.”

Fredrickson asserts you have to physically be with the person to experience a moment of positivity. She means in the same space, in person, otherwise you are not in love. You may feel connected or bonded to your partner, you may long to be in his or her company, but your body is completely loveless based on Fredrickson’s theory.

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