Popularization of love
The conception of romantic love was popularized in Western culture by the concept of courtly love. Chevaliers, or knights in the Middle Ages, engaged in what were usually non-physical and non-marital relationships with women of nobility whom they served. These relations were highly elaborate and ritualized in a complexity that was steeped in a framework of tradition, which stemmed from theories of etiquette derived out of chivalry as a moral code of conduct.
Courtly love and the notion of the domain were often the subjects of troubadours, and could be typically found in artistic endeavors such as lyrical narratives and poetic prose of the time. Since marriage was commonly nothing more than a formal arrangement, courtly love sometimes permitted expressions of emotional closeness that may have been lacking from the union between husband and wife. In terms of courtly love, "lovers" did not necessarily refer to those engaging in sexual acts, but rather, to the act of caring and to emotional intimacy.
The bond between a knight and his Lady, or the woman of typically high stature of whom he served, may have escalated psychologically but seldom ever physically. For knighthood during the Middle Ages, the intrinsic importance of a code of conduct was in large part as a value system of rules codified as a guide to aid a knight in his capacity as the champion of the downtrodden, but especially in his service to the Lord.
In the context of dutiful service to a woman of high social standing, ethics designated as a code were effectively established as an institution to provide a firm moral foundation by which to combat the idea that unfit attentions and affections were to ever be tolerated as "a secret game of trysts" behind closed doors. Therefore, a knight trained in the substance of "chivalry" was instructed, with especial emphasis, to serve a lady most honorably, with a purity of heart and mind. To that end, he committed himself to the welfare of both Lord and Lady with unwavering discipline and devotion, while at the same time, presuming to uphold core principles outlined in the code by the religion by which he followed
Religious meditations upon the Virgin Mary were partially responsible for the development of chivalry as an ethic and lifestyle: the concept of the honor of a lady and knightly devotion to her, coupled with an obligatory respect for all women, factored prominently as central to the very identity of medieval knighthood. As knights were increasingly emulated, eventual changes were reflected in the inner-workings of feudal society. Members of the aristocracy were schooled in the principles of chivalry, which facilitated important changes in attitudes regarding the value of women.
Behaviorally, a knight was to regard himself towards a lady with a transcendence of premeditated thought—his virtue ingrained within his character. A chevalier was to conduct himself always graciously, bestowing upon her the utmost courtesy and attentiveness. He was to echo shades of this to all women, regardless of class, age, or status. Over time, the concept of chivalry and the notion of the courtly gentleman became synonymous with the idea of how love and romance should exist between the sexes. Through the timeless popularization in art and literature of tales of knights and princesses, kings and queens, a formative and long-standing (sub)consciousness helped to shape relationships between men and women.
De amore or The Art of Courtly Love, as it is known in English, was written in the 12th century. The text is widely misread as permissive of extramarital affairs. However, it is useful to differentiate the physical from without romantic love as separate and apart from courtly love when interpreting such topics as: "Marriage is no real excuse for not loving", "He who is not jealous cannot love", "No one can be bound by a double love", and "When made public love rarely endures"
Some believe that romantic love evolved independently in multiple cultures. For example, in an article presented by Henry Grunebaum, he argues "therapists mistakenly believe that romantic love is a phenomenon unique to Western cultures and first expressed by the troubadours of the Middle Ages."
The more current and Western traditional terminology meaning "court as lover" or the general idea of "romantic love" is believed to have originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, primarily from that of the French culture. This idea is what has spurred the connection between the words "romantic" and "lover", thus coining English phrases for romantic love such as "loving as the Romans do". The precise origins of such a connection are unknown, however. Although the word "romance" or the equivalents thereof may not have the same connotation in other cultures, the general idea of "romantic love" appears to have crossed cultures and been accepted as a concept at one point in time or another.