Want to know what love is? You wouldn’t be the first.
And it certainly isn’t just fools who fall in love – it seems Cupid’s arrow can strike indiscriminately and without warning.
Love can be intoxicating, devastating and every feeling in between. It has fascinated artists, poets and, of course, romantics for centuries. So what actually causes us to fall in love, and how has our view of this heart-fluttering four-letter word changed through history?
2.The invention of love
While people have fallen in love and, ahem, got together since the beginning of time, not all civilisations viewed love in the same way. Click on the labels to find out more.
3. It breaks your heart
In modern relationships, marriage retains its place as the culmination of romantic love. But in the past, marriage was often an entirely separate institution, governed by more practical concerns such as land, money and power.
Today, love is generally viewed as more important than marriage – it may be the main motivator behind a wedding, but a loving couple may not marry at all. We’re told what to expect from romance, and that romance is the greatest aim of our lives, in everything from films to pop music and magazines.
In fact, in 2008 a team of psychologists at Heriot Watt University found that "romcoms" could be blamed for promoting unrealistic expectations and oversimplifying relationships, making it difficult for their die-hard fans to be happy in less than perfect relationships.
So it may be that we need to get real and consider that our idealised notion of romantic love could actually be the biggest enemy of long-term relationships.
Laura Ashe is a historian of English medieval literature, history and culture.
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