Is there a such thing as true love

What Love Is and What It Is Not

True Love: What Love Is and What It Is Not

Relationships By PsychAlive

The topic of true love has been debated for centuries.  Cynics often swear it doesn’t exist, while hopeless romantics think everyone should set out to find their soulmates.  With science now showing that true love is not only possible, but can actually last a lifetime, we’ve decided to look at the psychological elements that allow love to bloom or fade.

Let’s start by defining what true love really is:

What is True Love?

Dr. Lisa Firestone, co-author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships, often says that the best way to think of love is as a verb. Love is dynamic and requires action to thrive. As Dr. Firestone wrote, “Often, we spend our time worrying about what our partner feels toward us or how the relationship looks from the outside. Even though it feels good to be loved by someone else, each one of us can only really feel our loving feelings for another person and not that person’s feelings for us. In order to connect with and sustain those loving feelings within us, we have to take actions that are loving. Otherwise, we may be living in fantasy.”

At times it may feel frustrating, but it’s actually pretty empowering to accept the fact that the only person we have any true control over in a relationship is ourselves. We are in charge of our half of the dynamic. Therefore, we can choose whether to engage in behaviors that are destructive to intimacy or whether to take actions that express feelings of love, compassion, affection, respect, and kindness. In order to consciously and consistently choose the latter, it’s valuable to look at the characteristics that in more than 30 years of studying couples, Dr. Robert and Lisa Firestone found to be vital to maintaining truly loving.

The father and daughter research team created what they call the “Couples Interactions Chart,” which compares the characteristics of an ideal relationship to those of what Dr. Robert Firestone termed a “fantasy bond. ” The fantasy bond is an “illusion of connection and closeness [that allows couples] to maintain an imagination of love and loving while preserving emotional distance.” A fantasy bond forms when couples substitute real love and closeness for the form of being in a relationship. This bond diminishes the feelings of liveliness and attraction between individuals.

Characteristics of True Love vs. a Fantasy Bond

1. Non-defensiveness and openness vs. angry reactions to feedback

To maintain closeness, couples should be open with each other, which means being willing to hear feedback from each other without being defensive or discouraging. Dr. Lisa Firestone advises couples to look for the kernel of truth in what they’re partner is saying. That truth can offer an important clue into ways we may be pushing our partner away without realizing it. Even if we don’t agree with everything, listening to our partner naturally makes them feel seen, heard, and cared about.  On the other hand, punishing our partner for being honest and direct with us shuts down communication.

2. Open to trying something new vs. closed to new experiences

A relationship thrives when both people are in touch with a lively, open, and vulnerable side to themselves that welcomes new experiences. We don’t have to love and participate in everything our partner enjoys, but sharing new activities, visiting new places, and breaking routines often breathes new life into a relationship that feels invigorating to both people.

3. Honesty and integrity vs. deception and duplicity

To tell the truth is one of the first lessons most of us are taught as kids. Yet, as adults, there can be a lot of deception in our closest relationships. When we are dishonest with our partner, we do them, the relationship, and ourselves a great disservice. In order to feel vulnerable with our partner, we must trust them, and this can only be achieved through honesty.

4. Respect for the other’s boundaries, priorities and goals vs. overstepping boundaries

To avoid a fantasy bond, we have to see the other person as separate from us. That means respecting them as a unique, autonomous individual. Often, couples tend to take on roles or play into power dynamics. We may tell each other what to do or how to act. Or we may speak for and about each other in ways that are limiting or defining. Essentially, we treat them as extensions of ourselves rather than separate human beings.  As a result, we actually limit our own attraction to them. As Dr. Lisa Firestone says, “We treat the other person like our right arm. Then we are no more attracted to them than we are to our right arm.”

5. Physical affection and personal sexuality vs. lack of affection and inadequate, impersonal, or routine sexuality

Affection is a huge part of how we express love. When we cut ourselves off to our feelings of affection, we tend to deaden the relationship. This weakens the spark between ourselves and our partner. Sexuality can become routine or impersonal, and as a result, both partners feel more distant and less satisfied. Keeping love alive means staying in touch with a part of ourselves that wants physical contact and is willing to give and receive affection.

6. Understanding vs. misunderstanding

It’s easy to project onto our partner or to misunderstand things they’re saying, either using them to feel hurt or attacked in old, familiar ways that resonate with us. It’s also easy to get stuck in our own point of view without seeing things from the other person’s perspective. We are always going to be two different people with two sovereign minds, so we won’t always see eye to eye. However, it’s important to really try to understand our partner from a clear point of view. When our partner feels seen and understood, they are much more likely to soften and see our perspective as well.

7. Noncontrolling, nonmanipulative and nonthreatening behaviors vs. manipulations of dominance and submission

Many couples find themselves wrapped up in dynamics where one acts like a parent and the other like a child. One looks to the other for guidance then resents that person for telling them what to do. Or one person tries to control the situation, then complains that the other person is irresponsible, immature, or passive. In order for a relationship to be truly loving, it must be equal. When one person tries to control or manipulate the other, be it by yelling and screaming or stonewalling and playing the victim, neither person is experiencing an adult, equal, and loving relationship.

Learn more about the Fantasy Bond in PsychAlive’s eCourse, The Fantasy Bond: The Key to Understanding Ourselves and Our Relationships

How to Create a Truly Loving Relationship

Now that we know the characteristics of real love, how can we take steps in ourselves to create a more loving relationship? First off, it’s important to acknowledge that despite these clear-sounding discrepancies between real love and fantasy, many people mistake one for the other. They may even prefer fantasy to reality, because it’s less painful to appear connected to someone than to actually feel connected to them.

Many of us become caught up in the fairy tale, the superficial elements, or the form of the relationship (i.e. how it looks as opposed to how it feels). We may fall in love with the illusion of connection or security of the situation offers, but we don’t let ourselves get too close to the other person. That is because, while most of us think we want love, we often actually take actions to push it away. That is why the first step to being more loving is to get to know and challenge our own defenses.

1. Challenging the defenses that limit true love

Many people have fears of intimacy of which they aren’t even aware. We may be tolerant of realizing our dreams of falling in love in fantasy, but very often we are intolerant of having that dream fulfilled in reality. Dr. Robert Firestone describes how being loved by someone threatens our defenses and reawakens emotional pain and anxiety from childhood. He’s posited that both giving and receiving love tend to disrupt the negative, yet familiar, ways we think about ourselves. “On an unconscious level, we may sense that if we did not push love away, the whole world as we have experienced it would be shattered and we would not know who we are.”

For these reasons, the biggest obstacle to finding and maintaining a loving relationship is often us. We have to get to know what defenses we bring to the table that ward off love. For example, if we grew up feeling rejected, we may feel anxious about getting too close to another person. We may not feel we can really trust or rely on a partner, so we either cling to that person or ward him or her off, both which lead to the same result of creating distance.

If we felt criticized or resented in our childhood, we may have trouble feeling confident or worthwhile in our relationships. We may seek out partners who put us down in ways that feel familiar, or we may never fully accept our partners loving feelings for us, because they threaten this early self-perception.

If we felt intruded on in our early lives or if we had an “emotionally hungry” parent, we may avoid intimacy altogether and feel pseudoindependent, or we may subconsciously seek out people who depend on us to meet all their needs and more. Again, both of these extremes can lead to relationships that lack real closeness and intimacy.

The good news is we can start to break these destructive relationship patterns by better knowing ourselves and our defenses. Why do we choose the partners we do? What are the qualities we’re drawn to – good and bad? Are there ways we distort or provoke our partner to act in ways that fit with our defenses? How do we create distance? What behaviors do we engage in that may feel self-protective but actually push love away.

Learn more about the Fear of Intimacy

2. Differentiation from the past influences that no longer serve you in the present

Dr. Robert Firestone has further developed an approach to challenging old, engrained patterns and defenses, a process he refers to as differentiation. This process involves four steps:

  • Differentiate from critical, punishing, and destructive attitudes that you internalized in your early lives
  • Differentiate from undesirable traits in your parents that you see in yourself
  • Challenge the defensive reactions you had (as a child self) that no longer serve you in the present
  • Formulating and learning to live by your own values – who do you want to be?

Taking these steps of differentiation allows us to live in a less defended state in which we go after what we really want in life.

Learn more about Differentiation

How to Make True Love Last

Many answers to why love fades can be found in understanding how and why we form a fantasy bond.  The fantasy bond is the ultimate defense against love. Even after we’ve dropped our guard and allowed ourselves to fall in love, as soon as we get scared, be it of losing our partner or differentiating from our old, familiar identity, we may turn to a fantasy bond to allow us to maintain an illusion that we are not alone, while preserving emotional distance from our partner. To avoid a fantasy bond, we should avoid the characteristics listed above but also take the following actions.

Actions to break a fantasy bond and become more loving:

  1. Be affectionate. Find even the smallest ways to make contact and show affection and attraction.
  2. Slow down and be present. Make time to really talk and listen to your partner.
  3. Make eye contact. It sounds simple, but we often forget to just look at our partner.
  4. Try something old. Make time and don’t stop doing the activities you loved to do together.
  5. Try something new. Don’t just fall into routine. Keep suggesting new activities and be open to ones your partner suggests.
  6. Break routine. If doing the same thing is deadening your excitement, be open to breaking the habit and making space for spontaneity.
  7. Avoid passivity and control.  Strive for an equal exchange of ideas. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t try to control your partner.
  8. Talk as an “I” instead of a “we”. Remember you will always be two separate people and not to overstep boundaries which diminishes attraction.
  9. Be aware of your critical inner voice. We all have an inner enemy that criticizes ourselves and our partner and undermines our closest relationships
  10. Do something independently. Just because you’re a couple doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. Don’t give up friendships and activities you enjoy on your own and don’t aask you partner to either
  11. Communicate what you feel. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. Saying what you want and feel directly helps you avoid passive-aggressive or nasty ways of relating. It also encourages your partner to do the same.
  12. Avoid the “tit for tat” mentality.  Love is an action each of us must choose for ourselves. When we start measuring what we do for each other, we create expectations and breed resentment instead of staying in touch with how good it feels to be loving toward someone else.
  13. Support the things that light your partner up.  Never stop supporting and encouraging your partner to be the most alive and to do the things that make your partner feel the most like him/herself… even when those things aren’t what matter most to you.
  14. Take actions your partner would perceive as loving. Make sure the things you do are things that matter specifically to your partner. You may love getting flowers, but is that something that would make your partner feel loved?
  15. Don’t become closed off. It’s much too easy to shut down whenever we feel embarrassed, anxious, disappointed, or triggered by our partner, but we have to fight to not be closed off and push away the love that comes toward us.

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9 Reasons True Love Does Exist Says Expert Kim Saeed

Insiders in Hollywood know that the off-screen go-to good guy, even during writer or actor strikes, is Tom Hanks. So what does this have to do with True Love? Read on, cynical hearts, because there’s a relationship mechanic named Kim Saeed who has graciously agreed to do a rundown on kismet.

Meanwhile, rifling through a few dictionary definitions is useful because it shows the range of parameters, and indicates that even linguistic experts can not agree on one definition. 

YourDictionary online describes it this way: “True love is a strong and lasting affection between spouses or lovers who are in a happy, passionate and fulfilling relationship. An example of true love is the emotion shared between a couple who has been married for 40 years and who are still passionate about each other and care deeply for each other.

Not sure where they came up with the 40-year benchmark, perhaps it’s the Moses in the desert yardstick?

Ironically, Cambridge Dictionary has a prompt for “True Crime” as the next search option. 

William Goldman, who wrote so eloquently about the heart’s conundrum in his classic movie “The Princess Bride” (Robin Wright, Cary Elwes), was himself less of a true believer in real life. Famously, he once said: “true love is the best thing in the world, besides cough drops.”

Even if you’re in or you’re out on the subject, at least you’ll know what to look for and how to handle it should True Love find you anytime soon. 

Kim Saeed of is a recognized relationship expert.

Well here goes…

Quendrith Johnson: How does anyone keep a love life lit up in cynical times?

Kim Saeed: The days of being enmeshed with another person 24/7 are over. 

There’s no mystery or excitement in that and it can lead to boredom and indifference.  If someone wants to be with their partner all hours of the day, this could be a sign of an insecure attachment style which can lead to problems later.  

It’s also a sign that someone is jealous and controlling.  

If someone is trying to isolate you from your friends and family, it’s one of the top red flags of emotional manipulation.  Run fast in the opposite direction.  

But, if you’re in a cynical phase in your relationship and you don’t detect signs of dysfunction,  here’s what to do: don’t chase, beg, or cling. Don’t issue ultimatums. This is a sure way to create distance, resentment, and unwanted pressure.

Sure, there may be a need for communication. Relationships die a slow death without it, but instead of forcing things, take a breather and make some space where both people can be themselves. This is the fastest way to decompress, while creating magic and mystery at the same time. 

However, if one party is always going dark, disappearing without explanation, and not available by cell phone for days, this is another sign of dysfunction.   If this is a pattern in your relationship, it’s a sign of bad things to come.

Quendrith Johnson: Is every man the same when it comes to his woman?

Kim Saeed: Men can be fickle creatures. 

They generally don’t approach relationships the same way women do. A man might be in a relationship with a gal where there’s lots of chemistry and attraction, but she may not be long-term girlfriend material for him or someone he’d take home to meet the parents. 

Men obviously enjoy being physically attracted to a woman, but more than physical attraction, most men need emotional attraction. 

Therefore, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, jumping into bed on the first date might not be the right move. Men typically want someone who’s selective, and if he gets the feeling that a woman jumps into bed with everyone on the first date, he might keep her around a while, but he’ll still be on the prowl for someone more elusive. 

Unless a man is manipulative or narcissistic, they want the thrill of the chase.  Narcissists, manipulators, and players, however, love moving fast to get their hooks into others.  

Quendrith Johnson: What should women know to put the “man” in manage?

Kim Saeed: The era of the submissive, quiet, martyr-type woman is coming to an end.  

Generally, the only men who still want that in a mate are either uber-religious or manipulative. 

Women need to show up as high value, not only for others, but for themselves, too.  

What this means is to stop turning the other cheek all the time and accepting unacceptable behaviors. 

For example, the man who constantly shows up late and devalues your time.  Or, maybe they’re on their phone the whole evening while you’re out to dinner.  They need to know there will be consequences if this behavior continues.

There’s no need to go off the rails about it, but do get the point across in a non-confrontational way.  If the unwanted behaviors continue, be willing to walk away and mean it.   We are not obligated to keep space in our lives for people who are unthoughtful or entitled.  Allowing men, or anyone else, to continue overstepping boundaries is a recipe for an unhappy life.

Quendrith Johnson: When your relationship is a car/plane/train wreck, how to exit the vehicle safely?

Kim Saeed: This really depends on the individual you’re in relationship with.  

Normal people will generally be understanding if you want to end your relationship for whatever reason.  They may be hurt or disappointed, but they will respect your wishes. 

Narcissists and manipulators, however, usually cause great chaos.  

They will typically get very angry, highly insulted, and possibly violent. 

In this case, you will need to use extra measures.  A restraining order might even be required.  If you suspect your partner falls into this category, do not try to communicate with them in your usual manner.  In this case, you’ll want to keep your plans to leave to yourself and exit the relationship as quietly as possible.   If chaos ensues, get the police involved, if necessary. 

If you share children, however, you’ll need to contact an attorney who’s familiar with the laws of your state to help you.

Quendrith Johnson: What’s the best love story you’ve ever heard – from real life, the movies, or your own invention?

Kim Saeed: I love a good love story as much as the next person.  

One of my favorites of all time is the movie, “The Lover” with Jane March and Tony Ka Fai Leung.  It’s the age-old story of forbidden, yet inescapable romance.  When I first watched it in my early 20’s, I was completely smitten with both of the main characters.  I watched it over and over, even buying the VHS.  But, as I grew older and moved around, I lost it.  

My next favorite is “Nights in Rodanthe” starring Diane Lane. 

It truly plays into the ultimate fantasy of what true love could be like.

Diane Lane, who lives out fantasies for us, and in real life is a doll.

I won’t give away any details for those who haven’t seen it but suffice it to say that I loved the movie so much, I vacationed next to the famous Inn at Rodanthe in the Outer Banks.  

In fact, I was supposed to stay there last year, but they put in on the market to sell, so I had to move to a different rental. 

Quendrith Johnson: Why do we lose our own identity in most love stories?

Kim Saeed: I believe we lose our identities in most love stories because we want real life to be like what we see on the silver screen (or read in a novel). 

Most of us want someone to truly love and accept us for who we are, without any of the disappointment that goes into most relationships.  We want a companion, a lover, a friend.  Someone who sees the real ‘us’ and remains devoted and love-struck.  

And during those few hours of watching a movie or reading a novel, that’s what we get to experience because the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality and something we imagine.   We truly become part of the story.

Quendrith Johnson: How come Summer Love is a thing?

Kim Saeed: I think most of us have experienced ‘Summer Love’ at some point in our lives.  But, what really makes it so memorable is the neuroscience of it.  

Summer love is exciting, a temporary escape from routines. You go off to a different land, or just a faraway beach, and you see someone who seems like everything you’ve ever fantasized about. 

Most love starts with a tone of intrusive thinking. 

We replay the sweet compliments or funny jokes. We dream about the other person, spend our time fantasizing about what they are wearing, obsess over what plans they may have tonight. 

We don’t know the other person well enough, so we spend a lot of time trying to fill in those mysterious gaps.

The neuroscience behind falling in love shows that we experience all those teenage physical symptoms. Sweaty palms, stammering speech, increased heart rate, restless nights. That’s because the brain releases a surge of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine during the initial stages of attraction.

However, this phase only lasts about three months before things begin to stabilize and we start seeing the other person in a more realistic view.  It’s about that time that we have to go back to our normal routines, so Summer Love often makes the object of our desire seem like ‘the one that got away’, when in reality, they’re just a normal person like everyone else.

Quendrith Johnson: What’s the best public figure example of true love right now?

Kim Saeed: Wow, that one is tough to answer because social media, or the media in general, isn’t the best gauge for what peoples’ lives are really like.  

However, if I ignore that tidbit, I’d say perhaps the best public figure example of true love right now, in my opinion, is Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks.  

Hanks and Wilson are the whole package.

They’ve been together about 31 years and you never hear of any real scandals or faux pas between the two.   They seem to really enjoy one another’s’ company, supporting that true love does exist.

Quendrith Johnson: Is True Love ever true, or is love all about reception at its core, the illusion of two being one?

Kim Saeed: While I believe it’s possible that two people can be deeply bonded and share a true affinity for one another, I don’t think it’s feasible or even healthy for two people to “be one.” 

The concept of ‘two being one’ has caused a lot of heartache for the human race.  

Because it implies that we should give up our individuality, which is never a good idea.

Does it exist?  

Maybe, probably… but it’s extremely rare that two can ‘be one’ and maintain the relationship in a healthy manner.

Beyond that, we are entering a new paradigm as it relates to relationships.  

Yes, true love exists, but it’s not nearly as common as people like to think it is.  

Love doesn’t always equal compatibility, nor does it mean that people are meant to stay together for a lifetime.  

I believe people can have more than one true love in their lifetime.  

Since we are always growing and evolving as human beings, the person we are in love with in our 20’s probably won’t be a good match for us in our 40’s. 

Probably the best time for a true, authentic, fulfilling relationship is when we’ve reached the autumn of our lives, and we have the opportunity to explore the meaning of true love.  

There’s no more need for fronting; the things that used to embarrass us are no longer an issue, and we know more about the things that really matter as opposed to the superficial things we were obsessed with in our younger years. 

As far as I’m concerned, there are few things as sweet as an adorable older couple. 

The ones whose eyes light up when they see the object of their affection, who still hold hands, who write each other love notes as opposed to sending meaningless emojis over a cell phone.   Who are determined to make the last of their years the best of their years.  

That’s true love.  I hope we all get to experience that.  

Thanks to the brilliant Kim Saeed of for the nine ways to love and live better. She has moved so many hearts with her wise expertise, and books, including “Survivor Secrets” out recently on Amazon.

Now, go find your own Summer Love, and let us know how it goes this Fall.

[Rita Wilson has a new album out usually, discover her music (besides the video above) at]

# # #

5 Things Only True Love Can Teach You - The Psychology of Love

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Close people act as a catalyst for change in our lives. Your partner inevitably influences you. After a certain period of living together, your opinions begin to coincide, you begin to experience many things in a similar way. And the support you get from each other only strengthens the bond. nine0003

You've probably heard the phrase, "You bring out the best in me." Well, it's true. True love is about bringing out the best in the two of you and developing it.

1. True love makes you a happier person

When you fall in love, you realize that you have never felt so happy before. If this is an ordinary hobby, and not true love, you really feel happy, but only at first. Soon this feeling evaporates and you are stuck in a relationship trying to figure out what is wrong with you. However, along with true love, you also find long-term happiness. Your whole life becomes happier. nine0003

2. You become more positive

Everything around you becomes brighter. You understand that all the bad things that happened to you happened for a reason. Overcoming them was stepping stones to meeting your special someone. When you truly love, you are always able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

3. You become more patient

If the relationship is not healthy, you will constantly lose patience, feel irritated and lash out at others. nine0003

If there is true love in your life, then your patience does not have to go through great tests, so you behave more patiently with other people.

4. You understand that you are satisfied with life

True love brings true satisfaction. If you are happy with life, you understand how lucky you are and how unhappy those people who have not yet met their love. You learn to be humble towards them and eventually become a truly generous person. You have something that many others do not, so you give more to others. nine0003

5. You no longer worry about the little things

If a person is satisfied with his life, he understands that there is no point in destroying something so perfect because of the little things. Those things that bothered you in a past life or in a relationship with a former partner cease to matter.

True love helps you become a better person and a better partner. Look for her, she is really worth it, even if there are unsuccessful attempts and negative experiences on the way to her.

Source: Kluber

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Love and affection. What is the difference? nine0001

We very often confuse banal affection and love. Attachment and love are superficially very similar, but their essence is different.

In fact, attachment is the complete opposite of love, because behind the external signs of love it hides pride, envy and hatred, since it is based on the desire for possession.

Yes, attachment is based on the desire for possession, so it is nothing more than the desire to enjoy the object of one's love on a gross (body) and subtle level (communication ... etc.)

Love is unconditional self-giving, and if even the most insignificant condition remains in the mind, it means that in these relations I am more important than the one I love. I am put in the center, which means that the other is just a means to achieve one's own happiness. This means that the dominant feeling in these relationships will not be love, but exploitation. Therefore, between the words attachment and exploitation, you can put an equal sign.

True love is like death, you have to give yourself completely to the service of your object of love, which is why people are afraid of true love. nine0003

But even after realizing that attachment has not brought real bliss, a person does not try to change it for real unconditional love, but simply changes his partner. And this really gives a feeling of being in love for a while, since falling in love accompanies not only love, but also affection. But after a while, the suffering returns, and again it is necessary to look for a new object for conducting another selfish experiment on it. And until a person understands the difference between the soul and the body, he will be afraid of death, which means he will be afraid of unconditional love. With death, only our mortal body dies. Love also brings death to the subtle body, our dear mind. nine0003

In short, in order to conquer death, one must learn to love, and love is based on self-giving, not attachment. Thus, the struggle with attachments leads to victory over death. In love, we don't just give away body, mind and ego. In love we give even our mind, that's why love is so much like madness. Therefore, believers and lovers are so annoying to a simple man in the street. But the one who has completely surrendered to a worthy partner enters a state of complete calm, since his whole life is now based not on his own egoism, but on complete trust. nine0003

Love requires complete surrender to the object of love, and attachment tries to subdue this object, to make it be mine and only mine. Therefore, unselfish love brings life in itself, and attachment brings death in itself. Therefore, if after the stage of falling in love the stage of selfless love does not come, then the partners simply kill each other. In a word, there is so much love in this world that turns into attachment, but so little true love, since no one teaches selflessness. nine0003

Love also relieves a person of fear, because fear is the fear of losing something. And the fear of losing is a symptom of growing attachment. Instead of loving, we begin to follow the object of love, and if he decides to leave us, then it is easier for us to kill him than to let him go. Instead of love, mutual jealousy develops in the family, which is characterized by suspicion and vindictiveness. So the object of love turns into a thing, because it is easier to possess a thing than a living person. And when love finally fails, a person gradually begins to love things more than people. In a society where there is no true love, everyone loves things.

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