Throughout history, love has been symbolized as more of a literary longing than a recognized normality. Love is an emotion that has evolved over time, in a sense. Love hasn’t always been attributed to the same feelings and scenarios that we think of in modern day. What exactly, and why exactly, do we perceive this emotion the way we do now? It’s kind of shocking, if you think about it. How we are brought up to witness what we claim as love is far from what it’s been for most of our history.
It, at one point not too long ago, was forced. It was something literally arranged. Something that we felt in a knowing sense rather than a romantic one.
It’s madness, really. Romantic love is not an ancient relic or social construct from long ago. Most historical societies, as recognized through works of traditional recollection, didn’t experience love as modern western society experiences it today. The formation of families were never witnessed in a loving relationship turning to fruition with engagement and cohabitation. It was something based on the formality of marriage, often arranged. People were not allowed to choose who they were going to marry, with romantic adventures being nonexistent up until in the very least the early 1800s.
Love as we know it didn’t exist in the form of sexual liberation and the freedom to marry whoever we felt most “in love” with. Love was arranged at best, used for family heritage and ethical correspondence. To a working class, love was what produced economic stability and labor. To a ruling class, love was what produced alliances and treaties. It wasn’t romance, it was life.
Literature has always been a bit of a social continuation when it comes to the influence on the topic of love. Think back to the ancient Greeks, who’s model of the “perfect sense of love” was Penelope, the faithful life who waited years, turning down countless lovers and suitors while waiting for her husband to return from home. It wasn’t necessarily out of “love”, but of “loyalty” that the wife held close to her heart.
Love wasn’t like it used to be throughout our history. It wasn’t something out of sexual desire and longing, it was something that lasted for two lifetimes. Oftentimes, widows would be represented as “Mrs” even if they weren’t forced to remarry. They were still, in a social sense, obligated to be a wife amongst unmarried.
In a sense, society has loosened up to our definition of love. First came the French, then the Italians, and it continued to spread until “love” dominated the western world in a sense that it had never been able to before. With the liberation of women came the passion that we witness in our aspects of appreciating love and what a romantic endeavor ‘should be’.
With the introduction of modern American culture in the 1920s and the legislative approval to give women the right to vote came the foundations of women’s rights soon to come. Now, just shy of 100 years later, a woman has a very large chance of taking the Presidency. Thus, we realize the change in gender roles — with the feminine form history is so used to becoming more and more obsolete with each passing day.
This fact leads us to believe that in a social sense, the change in our perspective of women allowed for “love” to swap from the biblical and ancient sense that male figures “desired” and allowed to a more equal playing field of what we now view as love.
One of the greatest things to happen to our modern conception of love is the consideration towards homosexual individuals, expanding the broadening definition of what we perceive as love to those who history has not appreciated for centuries in our very own cultures.
Perhaps it will change further, within the next hundred years or so evolving to a new sense that we wouldn’t accept or believe in today. Perhaps it will revert back, if more traditionalist conservative values are placed into our society. We can surely predict the future by placing values we believe in today.