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Science says everlasting love is a myth

Love isn't what we think it is, one researcher says—but it might be better.

By Kristin Wong Jan 29, 2013 5:28PM

If you have fairy tale expectations, you may want to proceed with caution.

This week, the Atlantic posted a piece on Barbara Fredrickson's new book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. In her book, Fredrickson describes a new concept of love that is dramatically different from our traditional definition. Instead of an everlasting, always-present emotion, Fredrickson says that love is a "micro-moment of positivity romance."

Fredrickson explains that love is simply a rush of positive emotions one feels in a certain instance. This rush can happen with anyone, even a stranger on the street, the article points out.

Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty ImagesMore on MSN Living: 9 sex & dating myths

The Heart Beat spoke with Fredrickson about this new view of love. Specifically, we were curious how it fit in with marriage, science and soul mates.

"People have strong personal beliefs about love and may mistakenly think that I am asking them to trade in their own cherished view of love in favor of this new definition," Fredrickson told The Heart Beat. " A concept as rich as love, however, can be approached and understood from many different angles…"

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Fredrickson's definition of love is more universal. It's less about romance and more about compassion. It's what's at the heart of 'Love Makes the World Go 'Round.'

"I wrote the book because the scientific evidence has convinced me that how we think about love matters," Fredrickson continues.

The vagus nerve is one of three biological factors responsible for the feeling of love. Scientists believed a person's capacity to love—their vagal tone—was stable; it wasn't something that could increase, they thought. But Fredrickson debunked that notion in a 2010 study.

Fredrickson asked participants to practice a Buddhist "loving-kindness meditation."  Subjects cultivated feelings of love and peace toward another human being. After the meditation, Fredrickson measured the participants' vagal tone and found that there was a significant increase. Her findings were so substantial that she was asked to present them to the Dalai Lama.

So if love isn't some star-crossed, meant-to-be force and instead a series of controllable biological functions, what does this mean for the concept of soul mates?

"I have no quarrel with the idea of 'soul mates,'" Fredrickson said. "A soul mate, according to this new perspective, is someone who deeply understands your inner-workings and uses this privileged knowledge thoughtfully, for your benefit, to create frequent moments of connection, or what I call 'positivity resonance.'"

Her theory also doesn't discount marriage:

"I see marriage as a commitment ceremony, a pledge to be loyal to one another to the end. Such commitments create foundations of safety and trust that support more frequent experiences of positivity resonance, which over time help each partner become their best."

Overall, Fredrickson's theory may be an improved view of love. Her angle expands the definition to include the compassion and warmth we're able to feel for those around us.

"It offers new lenses through which to view your every interaction with others and can help you see those interactions as precious opportunities to nourish health, both your own and that of others, and to unlock collective capacity. Love becomes a forever-renewable resource, if you know how to tap into it."

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More from The Heart Beat:
Is courtship really dead?

Politics, religion & relationships: When couples don't agree
Study: Confidence before marriage leads to a happy union

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Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images

83Comments
Feb 11, 2013 2:29PM
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One day, I walked into a room and saw my future wife sitting there.  As my eyes glanced her way, the first thought in my mind was, "I am going to marry this girl".  Honestly, that was my first thought.  We are now in our 43rd year of marriage and I love her more today than I ever did.  We have 3 wonderful children and just had our 3rd grandchild.  I never want to be without her and if that is not everlasting, I don't know what is. 
Feb 11, 2013 2:28PM
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i thought i found it several times during my 51 years  on this earth. but i was proved wrong. i believe it's  based on luck,to a degree. to be in the right place at the right time with the right person.  all the what ifs. what if i went  here and not there? what if i went out to that party ? what if i turned left and not right?  why didn't i call her when she asked me to? what if i took that job in another state? what if i lived there and not here? etc.
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Good to know our scientists are working on what matters... global warming, AIDS, cancer, increased longevity, determining whether or not true love is a myth.  Maybe Frederickson can expand his truly groundbreaking work to discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Feb 11, 2013 1:42PM
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I suppose it depends.  I was very fortunate to find someone who I love and who I know, every day, loves me as much.  We started living together in 1985 and have been together ever since and will be together "til death do we part", yet, I don't think we'll part, even then.  If you really do have love in your heart, then it won't easily be wrestled from you.  So no, I do not agree with this "scientific finding"...true love DOES exist...but like everything in this world, it must be found...
Feb 11, 2013 1:33PM
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They said it would not  last 35 years and i love my wife more than ever.We had our ups and downs like everyone but in the end  were in much of love as when we first met.What does science know about anything they cant even get the weather right.Remember happy wife happy life!Theres someone special for everyone!

Feb 11, 2013 1:30PM
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americans prove this every day......30 plus years and I am head over heels in love with my wife...ans she with me....
Feb 11, 2013 12:58PM
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People WANT to BELIEVE in everlasting love, but the simple truth of the matter is, nothing last forever.

 

Rational minds would agree, everlasting love is a fact.

 

Once again, people's feelings clouding reality.  Love doesn't allow rational thought, that's the problem.

Feb 11, 2013 12:09PM
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This is a pretty dumb article.  Of course love relates to feeling and of course feeling are based on not just mental, but biological impulses.  That isn't even remotely new.  That's probably been known for at least a couple thousand years.  As far as the number of people who think there's only one person in the world for them... there really aren't that many who really believe that.  There may be people better suited to you - matching personalities, ability to accept you as you are, and so on - but it's possible to find love that lasts for decades even if it isn't that "perfect someone."  If it came down to only having one perfect soul mate in the world, you would not see so many people who have been married for 50+ years and still love each other.  Unfortunately, the number of long term marriages are in decline thanks to the way society looks at marriage these days.  These days, it's almost expected that people get married and divorced multiple times throughout their lives.  Simply put, if you can't see yourself being with someone for the rest of your life, day in and day out without end, then don't get married.
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