A romantic mood brought on by Spring.
Perhaps the most famous couple of the Middle Ages – Peter Abelard was one of the leading scholars of 12th century, and Heloise d’Argenteuil was his gifted student. They began a secret and intense sexual relationship that led to Heloise becoming pregnant – they would have a son named Astrolabe.
“Would that thy love, beloved, had less trust in me, that it might be more anxious!”
― Héloïse d’Argenteuil, The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse
Peter convinced her that they should marry, but she only agreed to a secret one in order that his career would not be damaged. However, in a sad turn of events, Heloise’s uncle got a group of men to attack Abelard, where they castrated him. Peter would then go on to become a monk, and Heloise a nun, but would continue to write to each other. It is likely that they are buried together at the Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Juliet: “You kiss by the book.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
There are still societies whose policies result in rigid attitudes of intellectual, theological and sexual repression. The love story of Abelard and Heloise, the courage and passion of its protagonists, has much to teach humanity about our own understanding of religious tolerance, sexual equality and intellectual freedom.
Autumn Song or Chanson d’automne is a famous poem by Paul Verlaine; one of the best known in the French language. It was published in Verlaine’s first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866.
Les sanglots longs
Blessent mon cœur
It translates as: “The long sobs / Of the violins / Of Autumn / Wound my heart / With a monotonous / Languor.”
The poem earned its place in history during World War II. In preparation for Operation Overlord, the British had signalled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of Chanson d’Automne were to indicate the start of D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l’automne”, meant that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks.
These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944.
The next set of lines, “Blessent mon coeur / d’une langueur / monotone”, meant that the main operation would start within 48 hours and that the French resistance should begin sabotage operations especially on the French railroad system.
These lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15 – the rest is history.
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For many years, the intensely passionate friendships between women in the Victorian era went unexplored as a form of female same-sex desire. However, many exchanges among women in romantic friendships reveal that passion, love, intimacy, and quite likely sex did occur in these relationships.
Romantic friendships ranged from: “the supportive love of sisters, through the enthusiasms of adolescent girls, to sensual avowals of love by mature women”.
Often, women in romantic friendships would write ardent love letters to each other, expressing their devotion and admiration for one another.
A similar phenomenon took place among school-aged girls in a behaviour termed “smashing.” This describes the sending of flowers, gifts, notes, and other items to a girl one wanted to become intense friends with. Often, poems and locks of hair were exchanged, and when the two girls finally became inseparable, they were said to be smashed.
Another expression of female same-sex desire included what Vicinus calls, the “occasional lover of women.” These “free women” chose a highly varied sexuality, one that vacillated between women and men. Regularly, their appearance might signal an erotic interest in women, while at other times they might take on male lovers when playing the role of mistress, courtesan, or prostitute. However, they were also the first to be seen as a social problem by the vice and moral reformers, because of their gender deviance and their possible influence on male political leaders.
Taken together, these examples encompass a wide range of female same-sex desires, and should be seen less as distinct types of women, but rather as embodying general themes from the 19th century.
We cannot possibly detail or know all the articulations of same-sex desire among women, but we can point to patterns and cultural scripts visible during this time. These women formed loving and passionate relationships with other women during a period when their behaviour was increasingly becoming pathologized. In a very real way, they are images of early lesbian desire, as well as highly courageous and often unrecognised women.
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An involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction for another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated.
In simple terms, limerence is a state of mind when you know that you like someone but yet at the same time, you cannot describe it as love.
Standard attachment theory emphasises that many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption, and the renewal of attachment relationships.
It has therefore been suggested that the state of limerence is the conscious experience of sexual incentive motivation during attachment formation.
Courtship is the period in a couple’s relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. In courtship, a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement or other such agreement. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval. Traditionally, in the case of a formal engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively ‘court’ or ‘woo’ a female, thus encouraging her interest in him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage. In the western world, this concept of gender roles in courtship is changing, or has changed, in many societies.
While the so-called date is fairly casual in most European-influenced cultures, in some traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with very specific formal rules.
In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited. In Japan, there is a such type of courtship called Omiai, with similar practices called Xiangqin in the Greater China Area.
Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after a few dates.
Courtship in the Philippines is one known complex form of courtship. Unlike what is regularly seen in other societies, it takes a far more subdued and indirect approach. It is complex in that it involves stages, and it is considered normal for courtship to last a year or longer. It is common to see the male showing off by sending love letters and love poems, singing romantic songs and buying gifts for the female. The parents are also seen as part of the courtship practice, as their approval is commonly needed before courtship may begin, or before the female gives the male an answer to his advances.
In more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages, where partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interests, which in such cultures may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences.
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The theory characterizes love within the context of interpersonal relationships by three different components:
- Intimacy – Which encompasses feelings of closeness, connectedness.
- Passion – Which encompasses drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation.
- Commitment – Which encompasses, in the short term, the decision to remain with another, and in the long term, the shared achievements and plans made with that other.
The ‘amount’ of love one experiences depends on the absolute strength of these three components; the ‘type’ of love one experiences depends on their strengths relative to each other. Different stages and types of love can be explained as different combinations of these three elements; for example, the relative emphasis of each component changes over time as an adult romantic relationship develops. A relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or three elements.
The three components, pictorially labelled on the vertices of a triangle, interact with each other and with the actions they produce and with the actions that produce them so as to form seven different kinds of love experiences – non-love is not represented. The size of the triangle functions to represent the ‘amount’ of love – the bigger the triangle the greater the love. The shape of the triangle functions to represent the ‘type’ of love, which may vary over the course of the relationship:
Liking and friendship in this case is not used in a trivial sense. This intimate liking characterizes true friendships, in which a person feels a warmth, and a closeness with another but not intense passion or long-term commitment.
Infatuated love is pure passion. Romantic relationships often start out as infatuated love and become romantic love as intimacy develops over time. However, without developing intimacy or commitment, infatuated love may disappear suddenly.
Empty love is characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion. Sometimes, a stronger love deteriorates into empty love. In cultures in which arranged marriages are common, relationships often begin as empty love and develop into one of the other forms with the passing of time.
Romantic love bonds individuals emotionally through intimacy and physically through passionate arousal.
Companionate love is an intimate, non-passionate type of love that is stronger than friendship because of the element of long-term commitment. Sexual desire is not an element of companionate love. This type of love is often found in marriages in which the passion has gone out of the relationship but a deep affection and commitment remain. The love ideally shared between family members is a form of companionate love, as is the love between close friends who have a platonic but strong friendship.
Fatuous love can be exemplified by a whirlwind courtship and marriage in which a commitment is motivated largely by passion without the stabilizing influence of intimacy. A relationship, however, whereby an individual party agrees to sexual favours purely out of commitment issues, or is pressured or forced into sexual acts does not comprise fatuous love, and instead tends more to empty love.
Consummate love is the complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship toward which people strive. Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the so-called perfect couple. These couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they cannot imagine themselves happy over the long-term with anyone else, they overcome their few difficulties gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with one other. However, psychologists caution that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. Without expression, even the greatest of loves can die. Thus, consummate love may not be permanent. If passion is lost over time, it may change into companionate love.