Love As a Collection of Moments, Not Everlasting PassionFebruary 8, 2013 • Contributed by Zawn Villines
Romantic comedies, fairy tales, and romantic fiction leave many people expecting that, once they find their prince or princess, love will last forever. Marriage counselors, researchers, and long-married couples are increasingly fighting against this idea, arguing that it contributes to unreasonable expectations and dashed hopes.
But the idea that love is simply a matter of finding the right person and then working on problems as they occur lingers. In her new book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson attacks this idea as one that contributes to chronic unhappiness.
Love As Moments
Many people are familiar with research indicating that romantic passion tends to die down after a few years, but Fredrickson takes this research a step further, arguing that love occurs in moments, not as a single choice that is sustained over time. She calls these moments “micro-moments of positivity resonance.”
While the term might not sound very romantic, Fredrickson’s research provides valuable clues for making love last. For Fredrickson, these micro-moments are characterized by a rush of positive feelings during positive interactions with others. A long-term loving partnership, then, could be little more than a large collection of happy moments sustained over a period of years.
Love and the Brain
Researchers are increasingly interested in the effects love has on the brain. They’ve found, for example, that good listeners tend to mirror the brain activity of speakers, which means that if you’re listening to your partner, you may end up feeling similar feelings.
When couples interact, stimulation by the vagus nerve enables them to mirror each other’s facial expressions and maintain eye contact. Fredrickson characterizes this mirroring as a micro-moment of love resulting from the intense connection between two brains.
Maintaining Long-Term Love
Fredrickson’s research might undermine the idea of a choice made once and sustained over a lifetime, but Fredrickson offers several helpful tips for keeping love going. She points out, for example, that people who engage in Buddhist loving-kindness meditation—a practice geared toward sustaining positive feelings and empathy—are better able to empathize and may be better at anticipating their partners’ needs. If love is a micro-moment, daily choices matter much more, and a simple act of kindness or a favor for your spouse may be the key for sustaining another day of love.
Couples who want to use Fredrickson’s research to increase closeness and commitment can take several steps, including:
- Spending time focused on one another each day. The average couple spends only 150 waking minutes in each other’s presence each day, and spends less than 30 minutes on quality time. This doesn’t leave much opportunity for micro-moments of love.
- Cultivating positive feelings about your partner by thinking warmly about him or her, meditating, or focusing on his or her strengths.
- Making eye contact, which is a key for maintaining connection. Mirroring your partner’s feelings through body language and active listening can also help increase positivity, warmth, and feelings of love.
- Doing small favors for your partner, such as bringing home a favorite meal or stopping to get the dry cleaning, every day. These acts increase positive feelings and decrease stress.
- Creating moments of positivity with people other than your spouse. Fredrickson argues that people who have a lot of micro-moments of positivity during the day experience more feelings of love. Feeling hopeful and happy in your life will also make you easier to be around and decrease the likelihood of stress encroaching on your marriage.
- Couples spend only 150 minutes together each day. (2004, July 15). Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-310293/Couples-spend-150-mins-day.html
- Hazell, K. (2011, November 30). Couples spend just 30 minutes a day together, study reveals. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/30/couples-spend-just-30-minutes-a-day-together_n_1120721.html
- Javed, N. (2013, February 4). Everlasting love is a myth, author says. The Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/life/2013/02/04/everlasting_love_is_a_myth_author_says.html
- Smith, E. E. (2013, January 24). There’s no such thing as everlasting love (according to science). The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-everlasting-love-according-to-science/267199/
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mackieFebruary 9th, 2013 at 4:28 AM
This is difficult for many of us to deal with because I guess It isn’t the fairy tale version of love that we have grown up with. I am sure that this is why I ended my first marriage because once the newness of it all wore off and it was just your every day ho hum, I thought that I wasn’t getting what I needed. But looking back maybe it was just that the marriage was evolving into something different, maybe even more mature and I was not ready for the giddiness to end. I hope that this will give me a little better perspective the next time at figuring out what real and lasting love is all about. Everyone likes one another during the honeymoon stage, but the key to longevity is making it last long after the honeymoon is over.
Sebrina mFebruary 9th, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Can’t it be all of the above?
I want the wonderful memories and the lasting passion too!
NedFebruary 10th, 2013 at 9:13 AM
Knowing about love and its manifestations is very important too.Walking into a relationship or marriage without a clear picture of love or its effects can leave even an optimist stranded.
Having excessive and abnormal expectations does not help either. Knowing that there will be moments of dullness, times where you will be frustrated with your relationship and partner, all help one prepare.
And not knowing all of those things and just walking into a relationship,having a distorted view is the reason for so many failed relationships.if only people cared to learn and know first.
FrancisFebruary 11th, 2013 at 3:53 AM
One very important issue that is so often neglected is that you need to take care of yourself in order to better be able to care for someone else in your life.
You can’t have so much stress and pressure going on in say, your work life and then be expected to have a picture perfect family life at home. It doesn’t happen that way.
I have to take the same things that I try to do at home to keep a more harmonious environment at work too, because if things at work are not going well., no matter how hard I try, my relationships at home are going to suffer too.
You don’t think about much the two things are intertwined but they are.
AugustinFebruary 11th, 2013 at 3:06 PM
“Love As a Collection of Moments, Not Everlasting Passion”
This is such a beautiful thought.And it is something I’d love to live by.So many people do not even know what love feels like and they are just looking for what has been told to them of love,what other people think an believe.
Love can be different for everyone but knowing that you will still be happy with this person decades later is what is love, that you will still be able to create that moment is what is love,not just cheesy lines and artificial ‘love’.
Thompson R.February 13th, 2013 at 8:40 AM
The last bullet point cannot be stressed enough. If I’m having a difficult time with another person at work, my wife is not going to get the best of me at home. Period. I can try to leave it at the office, but I just cannot help how it affects my general mood.
U. SandersFebruary 13th, 2013 at 8:42 AM
The best is when the hubs does # 4. I loved being surprised. And, I think it’s b/c it means he was thinking about me (nicely-haha) when he wasn’t with me and even when I didn’t ask him to do something. My favorite is bringing home dinner or even better dessert.
MarilynFebruary 13th, 2013 at 8:44 AM
My partner and I would love it if we got to spend 30 minutes a day actually talking to each other, uninterrupted. But, how exactly is that going to happen? Kids have us running ragged-b/w homework, dinner, baths, bed, and then soccer, basketball, and dance, we fall into bed exhausted 2 minutes after the kids do. Maybe one day…if we survive.
AsherFebruary 13th, 2013 at 8:46 AM
Eye contact is very important, I agree. If I’m mad, my husband knows it b/c I won’t make eye contact.
RyanFebruary 13th, 2013 at 8:49 AM
I had never thought about thinking about my partner with I’m not with her. Maybe that will really help though. Sometimes I get so “in my head” that I just get madder and madder which does no good at all. Sometimes, I get so upset that I get past the point of talking it out which is never, ever good. Maybe if I can stop that negativity before it really gets started by controlling my thoughts better, we can take our relationship to the next lever. Thanks for the food for thought!
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