The Invention of Romantic Love

 

I read a fascinating book in college called Love in the Western World that said that romantic love was invented in the 1200s by the Troubadours.  You remember the Troubadours, wearing those sexy little puff pants, walking around playing lutes, singing about their Lady love. They’d elevate a woman onto a pedestal and long ceaselessly for her; the whole point of chivalrous love being that it was never consummated. It was a sexist day and age, so it was all about a man adoring a woman, and the point was to idealize the beloved but never come down to earth for love’s trials and tribulations.

What’s really fascinating, more so even than the fact that romantic love didn’t exist before that time, was that the people who invented it, the Cathars, were actually singing to God, not a woman. They were an ecstatic bhakti sort of cult, singing hymns to God in a near-sexual frenzy. They were persecuted for their beliefs and mode of worship (they were later burned alive) so they hid their passion by pretending their songs were about a woman instead of God.

So the whole notion of romantic love was a lie. It was a cover up for a yearning that is spiritual, not a desire for a human person. It was created to point towards something that’s actually not achievable on the physical plane. Romantic love wasn’t intended to end up in what we would today consider a relationship. Instead it was about pining — the essence of romantic love is that you’re in pain longing for this perfect person who doesn’t exist and you can’t have.

We celebrate romantic love; we want romantic love; I personally love the fantasy of romantic love. Everybody has had moments of perfect romantic love, right? And how long did they last?  Hours, days, you can do it for years if the person is not available. If the person has rejected you, you can fantasize about them for years. It was never meant to be anything tangible, or of the real world.

Osho once said that your all your romantic love affairs will be thwarted so that you’ll keep searching for what you’re really seeking: Divine Love.

© 2017 Catherine Auman  This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Tantric Dating: Bringing Love and Awareness to the Dating Process 

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Catherine Auman is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in transpersonal psychology, also known as spiritual psychology.

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