I relearned from Giuseppe Mazzotta that the idea of romantic love as we know it now is a medieval idea. It is neither from the Greeks nor the Romans.
When I learned of courtly love in college, I was gladdened in heart. I also knew the dangers of courtly love as well. And I kept it buried deep down. Yet at the same time, I learned about courtly love, it finally made sense of my name. My name means courtyard, which I found odd and boring most of my life. At times I was even embarrassed by my name for almost two decades. But this revelation of medieval courtly love made me really like my name quite a lot. For I am romantic at heart.
Now, romantic love is incredible. So incredible it is near madness. It is like a drug. Falling in love is one of the most exciting experiences in this life. (Of course there are others as well.) But our Western culture is obsessed with the ideals of romantic love. So much that our feelings will take over. Even if married, dating someone, in a serious relationship, our feelings may dictate to us that a new love will be more exciting. One may be overtaken by their passions.
In medieval times, all kinds of courtly drama took place. Adulteries, jealousies, pain, misery, melancholy. Jealousy causes great anxiety. The worst feeling is the being betrayed. Because of this idea of courtly love, we have become highly anxious about our romantic lives.
(Don’t get me wrong. Romance is wonderful. Again, in its right order).
Poems were written about the ideals of romantic Love. Love was worshipped. Love is still worshipped. Dante wrote about this extensively. He was caught up in the ideals of romantic, courtly love himself. Francesca in the circle of the lustful in Hell is the epitome of this romantic love. She reads the tale of Lancelot and even reads lines of Dante’s poetry (with a man who is not her husband) and the reading ends and she falls in love with Paolo. They are both killed by her husband. They eternally are blown around by wind in Hell. Their passions never at rest. Memory the only thing tormenting them. How things used to be. That passionate embrace, never to happen again.
Romantic love in pursuit and commitment that will lead to being with that one in marriage is the best way for a relationship. No one is hurt in this way. Chastity until marriage is the way some will follow as well. This is wise. Then romance, the medieval idea of lavishing love toward the beloved is right and true and good.
Secondary loves cannot save us. Only one love saves us. In right order, in their correct place, this is where love works best. To the good of the other. Not in selfish pursuit.
All loves under Divine Love–the God who is Love.