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Apparently it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Especially if you hook up later with your old flame.

Old flames burn the hottest, says Nancy Kalish, a Sacramento State University psychology professor who has been studying long-lost lovers.People who years later rekindle romances with lost loves often experience the most intense emotional satisfaction of their lives, she said.

And most of those in renewed love relationships become permanent partners, despite separations of decades, changes in appearance and even years of marriage to others.

"These people are romantic and they are risk-takers. They talk about finding their soul mates, they talk about finding the love of their lives," Kalish said.

Kalish calls her preliminary, informal study the Lost Love Project.

She developed a questionnaire and solicited replies from second-time-around couples through conventional media, computer networks and elsewhere. So far, she has comments from more than 60 people, ranging from 20 to 83 years of age.

Of those who did rekindle an earlier romance, nearly two-thirds remained together, she said.

Some of her subjects were childhood friends and enjoyed companionship as playmates, or had spent their early school years together.

As they grew older, friendship turned to love. Even after separation, the memory remained intense, she said.

In other cases, a first love occurred during the happiest period of a person's life. Later, after experiencing disappointments, people hope to regain the earlier happiness.

Psychologist Joyce Brothers, without commenting on the research itself, noted that the traits people find attractive in others are formed at an early age.