It is said that the largely Western concept of romantic love was introduced into Europe by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was a Queen of England during the twelfth century. Queen Eleanor loved stories, poems, and songs about love and presumably employed them to calm her volatile husband, King Henry the Second. Wherever and whenever romantic love may have begun, it was not a common reason for marrying until fairly modern times. Even today, in more "traditional" cultures (e.g., China, India, Iran, and Nigeria), marriage occurs for more pragmatic and familial reasons than merely because two people have fallen in love. Many marriages in these countries are still "arranged," and the bride and groom have little to say about the matter. In more "modern" countries such as England, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden, not only is romantic love a popular concept but also marriage without benefit of clergy is widely practiced (Buss et al., 1990)

Though countries throughout the world have become extensively westernized during the twentieth century, it is still possible to rate cultures on a continuum from traditional to modern in terms of their courtship and marriage practices. For example, Mediterranean countries tend to be more traditional and Scandinavian countries more modern in their dating and mating practices. Not only marital customs but also the qualities that one looks for in a mate vary with the culture. In a cross-cultural study conducted by Buss et al. (1990) of the characteristics valued in a potential mate, chastity showed the greatest variability. Some countries and cultures placed a high value on chastity, whereas others valued it very little. Other characteristics that varied appreciably from country to country in their perceived importance in a mate were intelligence, education, and refinement. There were, however, some cross-cultural similarities as well. For example, women throughout the world tended to place high value on a man's earning potential, whereas men placed greater value on a woman's physical attractiveness.

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