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romantic lovean intensity and idealization of a love relationship, in which the other is imbued with extraordinary virtue, beauty etc., so that the relationship overrides all other considerations, including material ones. Conceptions of romantic love arose partly as a justification of extramarital sexual relations in contexts in which marital relationships were determined largely by economic considerations or by related expediencies. More generally, they are associated with the rise of more individualistic familial relationship, which, in Western Europe and elsewhere, replaced earlier patterns of values and relationships, such as arranged marriages. While rarely realized fully, the idea remains an element in the conceptions of companionate marriage, individualistic criteria in the choice of marriage and/or sexual partners, and the expectations attached to MARRIAGE in most modern societies, and can be a source of both heightened gratification and a sense of personal fulfilment or of disappointment and disruption in relationships. See also CONFLUENT LOVE, INTIMACY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000