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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Formal Rules For LOVE? by Linda Broday

Love is all around us. We write about it, we engage in it, and we search for it desperately if we don't have it. We fall into deep depression when we lose it. Love can make us crazy.
Is it possible that early rules for courtly love written down in the 12th century formed the basic characteristics for relationships that we have today?

Some experts certainly believe so.

There is evidence that the “Treatise on Love” written by Andreas Capellanus defined for the first time the intricate relationships between men and women. Capellanus’ work lays down the building blocks of romantic behavior in a sense.

Bet you didn’t know that the ideas and beliefs about love and romance we have today originated in Medieval courts of French, German and English knights and ladies, kings and queens.

Though some principles have changed somewhat over time, for the most part the fabric of courtly love has remained the same. The hearts of the characters in our romance books revolve around these rules. We see them used over and over in novels, movies, TV shows and even in music.

(But not only do our characters use the Rules of Courtly Love. We all use them in one way or another in our personal relationships whether we know it or not.)

The ideas that resonate are that good character is an essential quality of lovers. Heroes and heroines must be worthy of each other and their love must show it. They have an intense desire to impress and please each other. Sound familiar? We read stories about characters who practice this behavior. And we show these things in our personal relationships. They are timeless themes. True love cannot be bought. It comes from the heart out of grace and a selfless desire to please our mates. We ask nothing except that we are loved in return.

Capellanus believed, and I agree, that love taken by force isn’t love at all. He also felt that fidelity was the key to happiness and fulfillment. Men and women, and certainly characters in romance novels, are totally miserable as they work toward the relationships they want. They can’t sleep, eat, or keep their minds off their love interest. It consumes them.

Here are 10 of Capellanus’ 31 Rules of Love:

He who does not feel jealousy is not capable of loving.

No one can love two people at the same time. (Some people seem to do so.)

Whatever a lover takes against his lover’s will has no savor.

It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.

A true lover does not desire the passionate embraces of anyone else but his beloved.

Love easily obtained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.

On suddenly catching sight of his beloved, the heart of the lover begins to palpitate.

A man tormented by the thought of love eats and sleeps very little.

Love can deny nothing to love.

A true lover is continually and without interruption obsessed by the image of his beloved.

* * * * * *

So, I’m just curious. Did men and women know these things long before Andreas Capellanus came along? I’m sure they must’ve. After all, Adam loved Eve with all his heart, even though she ate that durn apple. Maybe they just didn’t know how to put these thoughts into words. Maybe it took one man sitting down and really pondering about love and how it felt to express what others had in their hearts.

Do you find it strange that the rules written down centuries ago by some old geezer have such bearing on love and romance today? Or are we following the natural course of life as it was meant and shouldn’t examine it too closely? Or do you think romance in movies and novels is portrayed accurately?


  1. I remember my dad telling me that love was a state of mind, and not the heart. So, I guess that meant you could love anyone you set your mind to love. I'm thinking he must have really set his mind to love my mom because their love for each other was so obvious.
    I think courtship is the fun part of love. The long haul takes more work. I don't know that all the rules passed down for centuries apply all the time. At first a couple may very well be obsessed with each other, unable to focus, eat, or sleep, but it changes over time. Love settles into a comfortable understanding and acceptance. We become a caring partnership. Some of the rules still apply after marriage, like fidelity, but not all of them. I don't think you can really make rules for love; it's in our DNA and nature.
    Nothing quite matches the exhilaration of the beginnings of love where you're crazy, sleep deprived and hungry, but can you imagine if that went on for the rest of your life?
    A very fun blog today, Linda. I enjoyed reading it.

    1. Hi Sarah, I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. I tend to go with the theory that love is something that defies explanation. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and sometimes it jumps on us and nearly knocks us down. And sometimes love just needs a chance to grow. From history we hear stories about forced marriages or marriage for convenience and how the people really do grow to love each other over time. Anyway, it's really fascinating to me,.

  2. Oh what a fun, interesting post, Linda! LOVE IT!

    I didn't know about this old geezer who sat down and wrote these "rules" down for us to read. But it seems most of them are very accurate!

    I'm sure everyone can remember when they first fell in love and the "effects" of it--not sleeping, not eating, heart beating fast just at the very thought of the there anything at all in this world like TEENAGE love? LOL

    Yet, one of the love scenes that sticks with me through the years is the end of The Age of Innocence, when everything unfolds to the point where the hero can have the heroine that he has loved for so long, but does he rush up to her now that he can AT LAST have her? No. He sits on the park bench and savors the thought.

    A love scene I just find laughable now? Titanic--where Rose is on the piece of wreckage and won't move her fat butt over to let Jack up on there with her. I know, I know. Supposedly, it wouldn't have floated with both of them, so he was left to freeze in the water with her leaning over him saying, "I'll never let go, Jack..." (well, at least not until the rescue boats come...)

    One of my favorite love scenes is the one in Gone With the Wind, when Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs and shuts the bedroom door. The next morning, she's sitting up in bed, humming, quite pleased with herself. I think how DARING that was for the times. I remember my mom watching that movie with me--no matter how many times we'd see it, she'd say, "Well, there she is, looking like the cat who ate the bowl of cream..." LOLLOL

    So many great ways to think of love scenes in film and books. And it helps us in our writing to draw on all these. Food for thought today, Linda! I love it!


    1. Cheryl,

      "Titanic" didn't um... float my boat (so-to-speak - I know, *groan*). I didn't 'bond' with the H&h. GWTW's love scene was/is one of the best.

      My favorite understated love scene, and by far the hottest on-screen kiss, is in Last of the Mohicans. Wow! Just, wow!

    2. Kaye! Get out of my head, you rat. LAST OF THE MOHICANS is one of my favorite big-screen love stories. The music, the plot, the performances, THAT KISS... **sigh**

    3. Cheryl, these rules really do kinda hit the nail on the head as far fetched as it seems. They are things people in love certainly adhere to. But, I'm wondering....did this guy not have anything to do but sit around thinking about this and watching people who were in love? Seems a bit creepy in a way. He needed to get a life. Or....if he drew from his own experiences, he must've really had a love life.

      Loved Gone With the Wind and the Last of the Mohicans. Great stories and excellent movies.

      Waving at Kaye and Kathleen!! Good discussion. Valid points.

  3. Linda,
    Fascinating and it doesn't surprise me that someone would write down the 'rules'. It seems to be human nature to study ourselves and write down what we observe, and distill it down to ;sound bites'. Having said the above, it is the template we use, especially in the early stages of courtship/love. I saw almost every love story and movie in the excerpt you posted.

    What a fun post and great outline for the next story. The key...adding enough uniqueness to not have a cookie cutter story. Thank you for adding to the history of what we writers do. Smile Doris

    1. Hi Doris.....I'm so glad you enjoyed my post. These rules really do lay it all out in black and white and give us an excellent template for writing romance. What was true back then is still true today. Love it seems is timeless.

  4. Hi Linda, I lost these rules! And I adore the courtly aspect of love. Everything seems so "coarse" today. xoxo enjoyed the post.

    1. Hi Tanya, You're right. There did use to be a lot of flair, more refinement, almost an elegant approach to love. A period of courting has completely gone by the wayside. But, I liked the courting and slowly getting to know the other person. People today are in too big a rush to hop into bed. As a result, lovemaking means so much less than it used to. In fact, it means almost nothing, certainly not commitment.

  5. Great post! Those thoughts were perhaps put into words in earlier times, but it seems that mostly legal and religious writings written by men are what have survived. On the other hand, there are plenty of traditions involving romantic love that have come down through the mythology and folk tales of earlier times.
    Capellanus’s ten points are not necessarily the stuff of real, everlasting relationships even if it is the stuff of the kind of romance about which we like to write. If we each look at those around us who have divorced, we know that is true. It is important for a couple to make an effort to keep the romance in marriage, but lasting love needs a stronger foundation, one built on commitment, loyalty and trust—hence the fidelity issue.
    In the Old Testament, many stories dealt with God’s commands that marriage be made among acceptable lineage, even if it meant marrying total strangers. In the development of English law, the foundation of law in the United States, two of the five basic types of breach of contract issues dealt with land and property, and marriage betrothals—often because the two were connected. Falling in love may be a part of human nature and has been with us all along. However, other considerations too often took precedent when it came to forming families: status, wealth, property, linage, political connections among the men and social standing among both men and women.
    Then there was the desire of many parents to see their daughters married to a solid man acceptable in their society and capable of supporting her and her children rather than allowing, in the name of love, their immature female offspring to run off with some silver-tongued devil who would dump her for someone new when she found herself pregnant and/or he grew tired of her.
    In the past when choices were more limited by society, for too many women, especially, it didn’t matter what man captured her heart. Because they had even fewer choices than men, many women often found themselves married to a man who made their flesh crawl instead of tingle. No wonder there were so many women who regarded sex as a distasteful duty to be endured. If lucky, they may have found themselves in a friendship or business-like relationship with their spouse. When it came to love and longing, they had to content themselves with the love they had for their children.
    And, isn’t all this a great basis of conflict we can use in many of our romance novels?

    1. Hi Robyn! Thank you for coming by to comment. Yes, we can certainly find plenty of useful conflict for the characters in our stories. I think some people are in love with love, not with the person. They simply thrive on the thrill of being in love. I've known a few men who jumped from partner to partner looking for that "high" that love gave them. As soon as it wore off they were looking for someone else. Love was like an addiction. And like you said, down through history women had little choice a lot of times in finding a mate. Their parents arranged it all and many, many times it was distasteful and miserable.

  6. Linda,

    As I read your post, I was reminded of the movie, Shakespeare in Love, and the scene in which Viola is presented at court for Queen Elizabeth's approval to become Lord Wessex's wife.

    The queen said, "Playwrights teach us nothing about love. They make it pretty, they make it comical, or they make it lust, but they cannot make it true... Fifty pounds! A very worthy sum on a very worthy question. Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?"

    And then, of course, we have the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet play out, and wasn't THAT a happy ending. 0_o

    However, I think the point is well taken that the reality of love is not necessarily the same as the idea of love. (This harkens to Sarah's comment about love being a state of mind.)

    But, I call myself a hopelessly hopeful romantic, which is why I write romances and not 'reality fiction'.

    Thanks for a thoughtful read.

    1. Hi Kaye, I, too, am a hopeless romantic. I like the intricate dance that lovers do, the little games they play as they travel the road toward lasting commitment and love. It's kinda like sword fighting. A feint, a thrust, a backing away, coming together and at last surrendering. Very beautiful.

  7. Linda, I so enjoy "thought-y" reads, and this post certainly fills that bill. I'd never run across Capellanus's rules of love before, but they do seem to fit the characters and structure in romance novels, don't they? Like Sarah, I wonder if some of those things are wired into our DNA. Or are they products of society's influence? Wish fulfillment? Unattainable ideal? Romantic notion?

    Really, really interesting post today, my friend. Thank you! :-)

    1. Hi Kathleen, I'm glad I could provide some things to ponder. we all need to have something niggling in our brain that makes us crazy. What's more fun than thinking about love and romance and the price of a ticket on the train. Take care, dear friend.

  8. Linda, Thanks for such a great post. It's so interesting to see all those points we weave into our stories and all the things we wish for in our lives listed out by a man who lived long before Harlequin published their first book. :)