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Love 2.0
February 12, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

There is no such thing as Everlasting Love. Apparently all we have are "micro-moments of positivity resonance." Deflating the Love Myth, just in time for Valentines Day?

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson hopes that her newer, streamlined version of love, "Love 2.0," will give lovers and love-lorns alike more tools and more realistic expectations of romance. Oxytocin, Mirror Neurons, and Vagal Tone might make for some interesting science reading, but definitely seem to be a buzz-kill for rom-com devotees.
posted by cross_impact (52 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
But to Fredrickson, these numbers reveal a "worldwide collapse of imagination," as she writes in her book. "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.
If your description of a phenomenon fails to capture what "most on earth" think defines the phenomenon it's just possible that you've missed something important in your theory.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on February 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


You have to physically be with the person to experience the micro-moment. For example, if you and your significant other are not physically together—if you are reading this at work alone in your office—then you two are not in love. You may feel connected or bonded to your partner—you may long to be in his company—but your body is completely loveless.

This seems like a pretty limited definition of what love is. Why does being 'connected' or 'bonded' not seem to count for anything in this definition of love? "That thing you think you feel? You don't actually feel it. Or, if you do, what you feel is not valid. Because science."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:22 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Since I feel my love for my husband all the time, whether we are together or not, I must respectfully disagree.
posted by bearwife at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, you see, if we redefine 'love' so that it no longer refers to love, but to vaguely-defined, short-lived positive feelings that you might have about people you pass on the street, then love isn't like we think it is, and can't last for long periods of time.

Also, if we characterize this semi-literary, not-even-quite-philosophical speculation as "science," then...maybe people won't notice that we're just playing semantic games here, and there's no very good reason for accepting this position that seems to amount to little more than a proposal for a neologism.

Also also, this will make people who don't have actual, y'know, love in their lives feel better. So...see?

Q: How many legs does a cow have if we call its tail a leg?
A: Four. Calling it one doesn't make it one.

Jeez this kind of stuff is tedious.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


With Valentine's Day around the corner, many Americans are facing a grim reality:

is it rabies

They are love-starved.

oh
posted by Greg Nog at 11:31 AM on February 12, 2013 [60 favorites]


On the bright side, by parity of reasoning, if you think you have a phobia of, say, spiders, but there are no spiders present, then you don't actually fear them so...cured.

All you have to do is take extraordinary measure to stay away from spiders no matter what and...voila! Goodbye arachnophobia...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, great. Now I'm experiencing micro-moments of spidery resonance.
posted by perhapses at 11:35 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, okay, Barbara. You keep thinking that. Let me know how it works out for you. I'll be over here feeling the illusion of love for my husband.

There was a faith healer from Deal
Who said, "Although pain isn't real,
When I sit on a pin
And it punctures my skin
I don't like what I think that I feel."

posted by Sidhedevil at 11:44 AM on February 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


I read this the other day. I would ask her - does she love her children?
posted by marienbad at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2013


But if true love is defined as eternal passion, it is biologically impossible.

Pretty sure my wife and I will be nailing each other in the nursing home.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:55 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure my wife and I will be nailing each other in the nursing home.

Today?
posted by bongo_x at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I'm in a coma:
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love's as good as soma.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ms. notreally just gave her a Bronx rasberry and determined Barbara desperately needs some serious loving.
posted by notreally at 12:32 PM on February 12, 2013


She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions

Frederickson's talking about limerence, not love.

Why believe love is an emotion? I most certainly do not feel a "flood of positive emotions" for my wife at all times. Love, unlike limerence, persists even through extremely negative emotions.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:36 PM on February 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Since I feel my love for my husband all the time, whether we are together or not, I must respectfully disagree.

People can also feel this sort of love for dead people they used to know. I think it's a bit silly to dismiss what this guy is actually saying about the need for positive, direct, physical interactions with other human beings, in favor of arguing that feelings inside your head are enough to sustain your emotional wellbeing.
posted by crayz at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Pretty sure my wife and I will be nailing each other in the nursing home."
"Today?"


Probably by 2045.

*checks watch*
It's 0145 now.

...What?

Well, mom won't let me borrow the car.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:46 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Sad and resigned comment referencing my life]
posted by flaterik at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a bit silly to dismiss what this guy is actually saying about the need for positive, direct, physical interactions with other human beings, in favor of arguing that feelings inside your head are enough to sustain your emotional wellbeing.

But the article doesn't say "positive, direct, physical interactions with other human beings are necessary for emotional wellbeing." It says "Since you're at work right now, you don't actually love your husband lolz"
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:51 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reads like the Logical Scientists of reddit trying to define love.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2013


I suppose next she's going to try to tell me I don't love red curry. Or Spider-Man. I'm pretty sure I love Spider-Man.
posted by straight at 1:11 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


HURF DURF ACCORDING TO SCIENCE HURRR
posted by Evernix at 1:14 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


> So, you see, if we redefine 'love' so that it no longer refers to love, but to vaguely-defined, short-lived positive
> feelings that you might have about people you pass on the street, then love isn't like we think it is, and can't
> last for long periods of time.

If it isn't sour it's not a grape. It's something, sure, but not a grape. All grapes are sour, which proves that this unsour purple thing here (whatever it may be) is totally lacking in the is-a-grape department.
posted by jfuller at 1:28 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this one of those things where the author "proves" a controversial point by simply re-defining a word to fit their purposes?
posted by Dasein at 1:28 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, I really love MeFi.

And that's not some lame attempt at a joke referencing the post.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to say I don't understand the pushback here. There are two different main points in the article. It seems like everyone is focusing on the part of the article that says that you're not in love with your partner, at least not in the biological sense that the researcher is talking about.

But there's a lot more to the article. It's saying that we can trigger the same positive responses our bodies and minds get from romantic love in the everyday, with more people, and this exposes us to more possibilities for happiness and contentment. I think this is kind of beautiful.

The alternative, which many people are expressing here, is kinda "I got mine, so clearly this researcher chick needs more love!" "Raspberries!"

I mean, that's cool I guess. But if you're interested in this idea like I am, you might want to check out the book A General Theory of Love, which talks a lot about how love works in a biological sense, and is not very much about just romantic love, but friendship, parent child bonding, etc. It's really fascinating.

And yeah, I don't have a relationship and haven't in years so maybe I just like this idea because it makes me feel less lonely and I like the idea of the possibility of connection on different levels with different people. Raspberries for me I guess.
posted by sweetkid at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


If I stand to one side and squint, I think I can sort of get what she's getting at.

But Kathleen Turner once said it even better and in a way I agree with more readily - that the good thing of long-term love is that it ensures "the act of repeatedly falling in love safely". She argued that you don't - and can't - actually be in that way-happy blissed-out overwhelmed-by-love state all the time, because that'd be emotionally exhausting, and you'd never clear the happy fog away long enough to do anything else. So that feeling fades to the background - but you have lots of little opportunities to have your beloved do something that just knocks you out and reminds you "holy shit, you are amazing" and you start to fall back into love with them, but it's even better because you already know you're not going to get hurt because you already know they love you back, so awesome.

I think what Barbara Fredrickson is talking about is more like the big peak moments of "omigodiloveyouloveyouloveyou" which don't happen all the time, and Kathleen Turner is sort of alluding to them but also acknowledging the rest of the big freakin' iceberg that is under the surface of the water. And sometimes you do have to take your eye off the big peak moments and go deal with the other stuff in life, but that iceberg is still there and it will bob up again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'll leave this here -- saw it on The Hairpin.

I don’t buy it, says

the scientist.

Replies the frail

and faithful heart,

it’s not for sale.

-Wendy Videlock
posted by kimberussell at 2:03 PM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Agreeing that I don't understand the pushback here. I think the author is trying to underscore the point that what we call "love" is not a universal and immutable definition at all. It's definitely cultural - different languages will have different categorizations for love (e.g. English does not differentiate between platonic and romantic love, whereas other languages do.) It even varies from person to person - what I would call love will not necessarily be what you call love.

But I think what the author is trying to say is that despite how definitions and viewpoints of "love" are obviously not universal, our society holds it up to be because we confuse the idea of universality of love with the idea that a definition of love should also be universal. There is this monolithic idea that love (in the romantic sense) is this one special central thing that you share between yourself and the one person you're romantically involved with.

And that viewpoint, while not necessarily wrong, still does have its flaws and limitations. As the researcher points out, it's responsible for the malignant and prevalent idea that one can instantly be happy just by finding someone to pair up with. And it discounts the experiences of anyone who is not actively in a relationship. As the author points out - we CAN have micro-moments of what is identifiable as love with even perfect strangers. It's a more inclusive model.

What I like about this essay is that she uses science as a way of backing up her point, not as the ultimate proof - which is what science should be about. So I don't get the feeling of "lolscience said so" from this article, but rather, "here's my main point, and here are some interesting scientific findings that add validity to my argument." She's presenting an unconventional point, so she has to back her argument up with strong evidence - and she uses that BOTH in the form of scientific and emotional reasoning. It's unfortunate that the journalist chose to conflate the scientific aspect of it so much, when she's really using it as one of multiple viewpoints to advance her arguments.

So while I understand that she's making an argument that in its most shallow and superficial veneer, can be viewed as an unjustified attack on the way we view the world, when we delve further into her argument, we see that she does have a lot of good points to make. While I do have problems with a few of the intricacies that she presents in her model, I still can see how it can be a very positive thing to encourage people to think about what love really is and analyze the assumptions we're making in our grouping of our experiences as love, and to encourage people who may feel oppressed and discouraged by the one-central romantic love model to embrace alternative approaches.

Overall, fantastic article. Really great thinking material.
posted by Conspire at 2:07 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, who actually believes love exists? I've known it's just a chemical reaction since I was a kid, which is pretty depressing. OTOH, there's a Hold Steady song where they sing 'Damn right I believe in love because I've been in love and I've been loved right back', which is a handy mantra for the loved up types and the rare moments when I feel it. But it's still just lust and chemicals that we've elevated to a secular God since we've killed everything else.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:14 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, who actually believes love exists? I've known it's just a chemical reaction since I was a kid

I believe that a chemical reaction called "love" exists. People get sentimental about it a lot, which is also a chemical reaction.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:22 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Darren Hanlon wrote a great song about this, Elbows.

Now there's naught the nosey observer could've guessed
But the rock and roll drummer inside of my chest
Everyone's seen her films and now whisper her name
That we only touched elbows is not such a shame

Because the world's getting crowded and I can't see a lapse
It's not about leaving spaces but filling the gaps
We're all knocking and bumping strangers all the time
Sometimes we don't notice, mostly we don't mind

A foot brushes your ankle on a peak hour bus
Someone's hand on the small of your back as they pass
A shopkeepers fingers while handing your change
Can lightly brush yours without feeling too strange

But why I felt so alive I can't quite determine
There could be a world to explain it in German
Some take others home, waking up to regret it
We only touched elbows and I'll never forget it

posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:22 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've known it's just a chemical reaction since I was a kid, which is pretty depressing.

Eh, this is one of those things that's technically true, but also not very useful. I mean, yes, love is just a chemical reaction. But so are anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and thoughts. All of these things happen through the vehicle of neurochemistry. But while that's true, it's not the way we experience the world. Sadness feels real, even if it's just chemicals. People run from bears, even if it's just their adrenal system acting up. All of these things may not be really true, but we live as though they are, and it's almost impossible not to.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:26 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"just"?
posted by LogicalDash at 2:30 PM on February 12, 2013


People run from bears, even if it's just their adrenal system acting up.

smh if you guys believe bears exist; they're obviously just collections of chemicals designed by Satan to trick us into hiding in the Great Stump Of Safety From Bears that we've elevated to a secular God since we've killed everything else.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always feel sad when we try to reduce everything to just science, and I'm saying this as a biologist. Science is only one lens we can see the world from, and there's a wealth of experiences out there that just aren't served by that one model of perception! The happiest people I know all know how to tailor their lenses to the experiences presented to them, and see things from as many angles as possible as so to appreciate the beauty of complexity.
posted by Conspire at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Technically isn't just about everything just a collection of chemicals?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:57 PM on February 12, 2013


Eh, who actually believes love exists? I've known it's just a chemical reaction since I was a kid, which is pretty depressing.

Pain is just a feeling produced by chemical reactions. How you should respond to that chemical reaction depends on what's causing it.
posted by straight at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2013


There is no such thing as everlasting anything. All is flux, even flux. Embrace it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:27 PM on February 12, 2013


[Sad and resigned comment referencing my life]

[Sad and commiserating comment]
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:31 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in touch noted everlasting love proponent Dr. Howard Jones about this topic via email earlier and he sent me the following critique. He gave me permission to share it with MeFi:
Dr. Frederickson's research is flawed. Her direct experiments were conducted on a population that was overly homogenous and not representative of the diversity of human pairings. As is the case in a lot of academic psych research this appears to have been caused by an over-reliance on student volunteers. Reading summaries of her research observations is like watching an episode How I met your mother; some of the subjects seem to have walked right off the TV. It is very hard to find everlasting love between hedonistic self centered late adolescent kids. They lack that interior smile and confidence that comes from a more mature individual.
Another criticism is that her research focuses too much on how couples meet short term physical needs. We can learn nothing from cuddles in the backseat, or 5 minute thrills. Everlasting love is only observed in couples who don't constantly think about tomorrow or next week. Those couples are able to develop a deep friendship and god(dess) like intimacy with their partner. The disposable emotions generated by oxytocin and mirror neurons are a notch on the bedpost. They are not indicators of an everlasting love. Finally her findings are contrary to established convention. Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence. When we push and pull at her writings, the seams burst open.
My own decades of research has shown time and again that there is everlasting love. It is precious and worth waiting for. Don't get bitter if you can't find it quickly in your own research. Just wait for it, give it some time.
Here is a lecture by Dr. Jones for those unfamiliar with his work.
posted by humanfont at 5:51 PM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought that romantic love was meant to be a goal-oriented state, a system in the brain which compels the organism towards the goal (the affections of a subject) on pains of anguish neurochemically similar to cocaine withdrawal. This seems incompatible with Frederickson's redefinition of love as a set of moments of micro-bliss. If anything, Frederickson's version seems to be like a love substitute for the chronically unlovable, a sort of chicory coffee for the soul.
posted by acb at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've known it's just a chemical reaction since I was a kid, which is pretty depressing

When you put it that way, you never experience anything that isn't a chemical reaction.
posted by pullayup at 7:57 PM on February 12, 2013


If anything, Frederickson's version seems to be like a love substitute for the chronically unlovable, a sort of chicory coffee for the soul.

The point is that love can mean different things than Big Romantic Love. Being reductive about it is an option but not the most thoughtful one.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2013


I was in touch noted everlasting love proponent Dr. Howard Jones about this topic via email earlier and he sent me the following critique.

I'm heartened to discover that Howard Jones finally knows what love is.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I do like that those gloriously emo moments when you fall in love with somebody on the train because she's wearing the right patches on her bag and you're listening to the right music are real.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


From a very Love 1.0 publication, the New York Review of Books personals:

"FANNIE MAE with troubled assets, bored with Freddie Mac, seeks well-regulated stimulus package from counterparty too big to fail. No cash for clunkers."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2013


everlasting love proponent Dr. Howard Jones

I'm sorry but you can't just create love in a test tube.

My own decades of research has shown time and again that there is everlasting love. It is precious and worth waiting for. Don't get bitter if you can't find it quickly in your own research. Just wait for it, give it some time.

I don't know how this is helpful. It's like looking at a menu, but you just can't eat. I don't even know who to blame.
posted by straight at 11:47 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hah, menu? Someone has menus? I'm just staring at an empty table in an empty restaurant.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Sad and resigned comment referencing my life]

[Sad and commiserating comment]

[[[Hugging comment for both of you. And free beer.]]]
posted by ersatz at 3:22 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the free beer!





and the hug!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:24 PM on February 13, 2013


Aziz Ansari weighs in.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a little known fact that the Moog Synthesizer was the critical breakthrough technology that enabled Howard Jones to successfully mix the first test tube baby.
posted by humanfont at 3:41 PM on February 13, 2013


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