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Romantic love is a form of love that is often regarded as different from mere needs driven by sexual desire, or lust. Romantic love generally involves a mix of emotional and sexual desire, as opposed to Platonic love. There is often, initially, more emphasis on the emotions than on physical pleasure.
Romantic love can be returned or unrequited. In the former case the mutual expressions of love can lead to marriage or to the establishment of a permanent relationship, which in most cases will include passionate sexual love. Where the love is one-sided (unrequited) damage to the esteem and/or the psychological welfare of the spurned lover can result.
One aspect of romantic love is the randomness of the encounters which lead to love. It may be for this reason that some in Western society have historically emphasized romantic love far more than other cultures in which arranged marriages are the rule. However, the globalization of Western culture has spread Western ideas about love and romance.
Romantic love became a recognized passion in the Middle Ages, when in some cases insurmountable barriers of morality or convention separated the lovers. The effect of physical attraction and impossibility of intimacy resulted in an excessive regard of the beloved as extremely precious. Winning the love, or at least the attention, of the beloved, motivated great efforts of many kinds, such as poetry, song or feats of arms.
Properties of romantic love purported by Western culture that might or might not appear elsewhere include:
- It must take you by surprise (the result of a random encounter).
- It cannot be easily controlled.
- It is not overtly (initially at least) predicated on a desire for sex as a physical act.
- If requited it may be the basis for a lifelong commitment.
- It is the highest form of self-fulfillment.
- Biological attraction
- Florence Nightingale Effect
- Idealization of romantic love
- Interpersonal chemistry
- Personal relationship
- Romantic friendship
- The Four Loves
- Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World. Pantheon Books, 1956.
- Francesco Alberoni, Falling in love, New York, Random House, 1983.
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