Romance is the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person associated with sexual attraction. It is eros rather than agape, philia, or storge.
In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one’s strong romantic love, or one’s deep and strong emotional desires to connect with another person intimately or romantically. Historically, the term “romance” originates with the medieval ideal of chivalry as set out in its chivalric romance literature.
Humans have a natural inclination to form bonds with one another through social interactions, be it through verbal communication or nonverbal gestures.
The debate over an exact definition of romantic love may be found in literature as well as in the works of psychologists, philosophers, biochemists and other professionals and specialists. Romantic love is a relative term, but generally accepted as a definition that distinguishes moments and situations within intimate relationships to an individual as contributing to a significant relationship connection.
The addition of drama to relationships of close, deep and strong love.
Psychologist Charles Lindholm defined love to be “…an intense attraction that involves the idealization of the other, within an erotic context, with expectation of enduring sometime into the future.”
During the initial stages of a romantic relationship, there is more often more emphasis on emotions—especially those of love, intimacy, compassion, appreciation, and affinity—rather than physical intimacy. Romantic love in the early stages is often characterized by uncertainty, along with emotional anxiety that love may not be returned:
Love is this way: You’re on one side of the edge of a canyon — windy, deep, sunny, steep. Your lover’s on the other. You wave to each other across the divide. You have a parachute. Your lover has a parachute. But the cords to open the parachutes are on the BACK not the front so only your lover can open your parachute for you, and you for your lover. You pause. Are you ready to jump? Will your lover jump too? If you and your lover jump simultaneously, grasp mid-air and yank each other’s cords, you’ll glide sweetly to your getaway island where a candlelight dinner awaits. If one thing goes wrong, a glitch in timing, a puff of wind, the slightest hesitation — you’ll be crushed on the rocks below.
Within an established relationship, romantic love can be defined as a freeing or optimizing of intimacy in a particularly luxurious manner (or the opposite as in the “natural”), or perhaps in greater spirituality, irony, or peril to the romantic relationship.
In culture, arranged marriages and betrothals are customs that may conflict with romance due to the nature of the arrangement. It is possible, however, that strong and close romance and love can exist between the partners in an arranged marriage.
Historians believe that the actual English word “romance” developed from a vernacular dialect within the French language meaning “verse narrative”—referring to the style of speech, writing, and artistic talents within elite classes. The word was originally an adverb of the Latin origin “Romanicus,” meaning “of the Roman style.” The connecting notion is that European medieval vernacular tales were usually about chivalric adventure, not combining the idea of love until late into the seventeenth century.
The word romance has also developed with other meanings in other languages such as the early nineteenth century Spanish and Italian definitions of “adventurous” and “passionate”, sometimes combining the idea of “love affair” or “idealistic quality.”
In primitive societies, tension existed between marriage and the erotic, but this was mostly expressed in taboo regarding the menstrual cycle and birth.
Anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss show that there were complex forms of courtship in ancient as well as contemporary primitive societies. There may not be evidence, however, that members of such societies formed loving relationships distinct from their established customs in a way that would parallel modern romance.
Before the 18th century, many marriages were not arranged, but rather developed out of more or less spontaneous relationships. After the 18th century, illicit relationships took on a more independent role. In bourgeois marriage, illicitness may have become more formidable and likely to cause tension. In Ladies of the Leisure Class, Rutgers University professor Bonnie G. Smith depicts courtship and marriage rituals that may be viewed as oppressive to modern people. She writes “When the young women of the Nord married, they did so without illusions of love and romance. They acted within a framework of concern for the reproduction of bloodlines according to financial, professional, and sometimes political interests.” Subsequent sexual revolution has lessened the conflicts arising out of liberalism, but not eliminated them.
Anthony Giddens, in his book The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Society, states that romantic love introduced the idea of a narrative into an individual’s life. He adds that telling a story was one of the meanings of romance. According to Giddens, the rise of romantic love more or less coincided with the emergence of the novel. It was then that romantic love, associated with freedom and therefore the ideals of romantic love, created the ties between freedom and self-realization.
David R. Shumway, in his book Romance, Intimacy, and The Marriage Crisis, states that the discourse of intimacy emerged in the last third of the 20th century and that this discourse claimed to be able to explain how marriage and other relationships worked. For the discourse of intimacy emotional closeness was much more important than passion. This does not mean by any means that intimacy is to replace romance. On the contrary, intimacy and romance coexist.
The 21st century has seen the growth of globalization and people now live in a world of transformations that affect almost every aspect of our lives, and love has not been the exception. One example of the changes experienced in relationships was explored by Giddens regarding homosexual relationships. According to Giddens since homosexuals were not able to marry they were forced to pioneer more open and negotiated relationships. This kind of relationships then permeated the heterosexual population.
Shumway also states that together with the growth of capitalism the older social relations dissolved, including marriage. Marriage meaning for women changed as they had more socially acceptable alternatives and were less willing to accept unhappy relations and, therefore, divorce rates substantially increased.
The discourse of romance continues to exist today together with intimacy. Shumway states that on the one hand, romance is the part that offers adventure and intense emotions while offering the possibility to find the perfect mate. On the other hand, intimacy offers deep communication, friendship, and long lasting sharing.