On relationships: Lucius on trial

Everyone was out of sight but one, by Lucius’ side now was Aulus. They lived in the same direction so they joined for a walk. 
Arriving at Aulus’ house they hadn’t said much to each other. Lucius was enjoying the midnight breeze but Aulus had more of a concerned look on his face and so Lucius took this as an opportunity to have some of his wine that he had saved from Gavius’ house.

  • Aulus, I noticed you didn’t open your bottle at Gavius’ house, would you perhaps like to share it over a conversation over your concerns?
  • Of course. There are quite a few questions that have been troubling me about your concept of a relationship.
  • Then it’s decided!

They entered the house and took seat in front of an open fireplace. Aulus opened the bottle and served some wine for both of them.

  • Ask me then Aulus; I’m at your service.
  • Where do I start really?
  • Wherever you feel like. As long as you’re providing me with wine I’m perfectly happy to oblige with answers.
  • I’ll start with the expression of love; do you honestly believe that everyone is capable of expressing themselves without the aid of their loved one?
  • Yes.
  • You’ll have to acknowledge that not everyone can express themselves through poetry like Gavius, the flute like Cassius or dance like Claudia. Not all people can express themselves through the arts.
  • I do acknowledge that.
  • How do expect them to express love without any guiding at all from their partners?
  • I’m not advocating for the arts, though I think of them as a superior way of expressing love. What I’m saying is that in courtship you’ve already been introduced to your partners’ way of expressing her or himself. But of course perhaps you don’t enjoy it or even appreciate it. If that is the case then that person is not the one you should be with.
  • What of me then? I can’t do any of the arts nor do I posses any specific ability of expressing myself that stands out.
  • Could I challenge you on that?
  • Go ahead.
  • Could a woman fall in love with you without you doing something, somehow to actually display your affections for her?
  • Yes, but like most people I’d present my feelings through rhetoric, perhaps a glorious speech.
  • Is that enough you think? If rhetoric now is a vessel that can be used by anyone to display his or her affections, don’t you think that your manifestation of your love is somewhat untrustworthy or at the very least quite weak?
  • Yes, but of course I would reinforce my words with actions that…
  • Aah, actions! And where do those specific actions come from?
  • From the things I think she might enjoy.
  • So while courting her, you take actions you think she might enjoy, reinforcing your former presentation of your feelings. Ultimately your actions become the real way of showing her your feelings. Am I right?
  • Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to distinguish myself from the others who are courting her.
  • Great! Now then Aulus, we have to be considerate of the others intelligence and understand that they too would consider courting her by taking actions that she would perhaps enjoy, so how then do you distinguish yourself?
  • I’m not really sure.
  • What do you mean you’re not sure? How do you rise from the crowds, Aulus, if several gentlemen are courting perhaps you’re the love of your life?
  • I don’t know.
  • Ha-ha-ha, so among the dozens trying to court possibly the love of your life, you’re telling me that you wouldn’t know how to distinguish yourself from them? That’s quite a shame my friend.
  • I WOULD SHOW HER MY CHARACTER AND HOPE THAT SHE’D APPRECIATE IT OKAY?!
  • Ha-ha-ha, THAT’S IT! You seem a bit drunk but now we’re talking! And of course those actions used to show her your true character and your love would and distinguish yourself from everyone else. And that’s what I then would consider your way of expression that is unique.
  • Don’t laugh, that was quite cruel of you. You didn’t have to prove your point that way but I get it now. How do I know how to express myself?
  • That is not my responsibility my dear friend. No one can claim knowing you and your feelings better than you, so you’re the one in charge of finding the answer to that one. I can’t dictate over the right way for an individual to express something that will in the end be the reason why they’re chosen or not by the one they’re courting.
  • That’s quite the responsibility we have then, thank you for putting that burden upon my shoulders.
  • My pleasure, continue with your inquiring and more wine please.
  • I heard you suggest that one can take pleasure in sharing his world with the other and that it is what we do when courting each other.
  • I did.
  • How about the things we normally wouldn’t do, the things we don’t even like doing, how come those are a necessary parts of courtship?
  • They aren’t.
  • What? What do you mean they aren’t? How come everyone does it then?
  • That is the exact reason why it is unnecessary in the end. Don’t get me wrong, manners and chivalry are important as a social code but you confessed just now that only by revealing your true character through your actions could you rise above the amount of men trying to court your love. With that in mind, is there any sensible reason for courting her by doing what all the other men does then?
  • I guess there is none.
  • And I guess your concerns don’t end there.
  • No, there’s more.
  • Then please.
  • What exactly did mean by ones own world?
  • That’s an easy one. It’s your character, your habits, your friends, your hobbies, your music, you behaviour, your family, your work, and your studies, simply everything that gives rise to your way of life and your attitude towards life.
  • All right. Then don’t you find it impossible to remain the way you are if you want to engage in a relationship?
  • Be more specific if you may.
  • You said that it’s possible to not change anything in your own world and still have a relationship. Is that really possible? Aren’t there things about you that you should change or at least things that should not be shared at all?
  • Of course there are. There are quite the amounts of things that I’m sure you couldn’t enjoy in the world of a woman but they contribute to her happiness, and the same would go for your world. Certain things can only be shared with your friends or your family and if they contribute to your or her wellbeing then to ask of each other to change those things is cruelty at it’s purest.
  • How about more personal stuff that perhaps you’re not very proud of yourself.
  • Sounds like the question Cassius asked. I know you were suppose to do the questioning, would mind if we switch roles for a minute or two?
  • Please.
  • Well then. Tell me Aulus, Are you satisfied with the man you are right now or do you feel like improving yourself is one of your ambitions?
  • I do wish to improve the man I am, yes.
  • Do you know the exact way you want to improve or do you consider that there are several ways of improving the man you are? Not meaning that there are several different faults but several different ways of simply being better.
  • Yes, I guess there are plenty of men that are good men even though they differ from each other.
  • Now then, don’t you think you’re more likely to actually manage your personal flaws if you have someone wonderful to do it for?
  • Weren’t you against any changes at all?
  • No I’m not. The only changes I reject are those imposed by your partner. The changes I suggest you do are the changes that you’d do happily if only you had the inspiration or the encouragement to do so, an inspiration which neither friends nor family can provide you with.
  • But wait, agreeing to sacrifice certain things we really like, isn’t that a way to prove and show our love?
  • If you consider sacrificing the things held dearly by you as a way to prove your love then I must ask you to what extent you’re willing to do that kind of thing?
  • I don’t know. I’m not really sure where I would’ve drawn the line.
  • Aren’t you setting yourself up for the exact same situation Gavius referred to; that in order to make your love happy you sacrifice things you hold and at some point you find yourself resenting her for making you give up things even though it might have been your own idea in the beginning.
  • You’re making it sound like no matter the change, as long as it is to something good in your life it’s harmful.
  • You’re overexerting. If it’s change you’re more than happy to do, an idea out of your own mind, something you’re willing do without any form of regret even though you might slightly miss it then be my guest. Just as long as you don’t think that your sacrifice justifies a demand for her to do the same, you’re likely to end up in a dispute on who’s giving up the most if you do so and that doesn’t bode well for your relationship.
  • I see, but to be more specific. What of my mistresses and lovers? Certainly as a celibate they’re not harmful to my life rather than something that contribute my joy, how can I maintain such a lifestyle and in a relationship, isn’t that madness?
  • Aah, love and its expressions.
  • Don’t wonder of the subject, respond!
  • Oh but I will. You mind if I do so by asking a few questions about you and your lovers?
  • Sure.
  • Thank you. Your lovers and mistresses, is it purely physical pleasure or do you imagine there is any emotional content to your behaviour with them?
  • No, there’s no such thing as emotions with my mistresses. It’s strictly physical.
  • Let’s take a kiss then. Would you say that there’s a difference between a kiss that is purely for physical pleasure and one that has emotional content to it?
  • Yes I would.
  • Which one feels better or perhaps gives a higher quality pleasure?
  • The one with emotional content.
  • Why Aulus?
  • Because it simply feels better kissing someone you have feelings for, the way you kiss is different in many ways; the rhythm, the intensity, the passion, the touch, the hold, the presence.
  • Are you saying that a kiss is one of the ways to express your emotions then? Otherwise the kiss would be exactly the same, right?
  • I have to say so, yes.
  • Would you look at that! Now, would you then say that a kiss, the nature of it, is a physical way to express your emotions for someone you love and not solely for physical pleasure if you do have a relationship?
  • I would agree with that.
  • So, dear Aulus. If you agree with me on the act itself, being an expression of love when you’re in a committed relationship, why then would you even contemplate expressing your feelings for your love with someone else rather than the one you actually love? It doesn’t make any sense, does it?
  • No it does not. Only a fool perhaps wouldn’t acknowledge the difference.
  • Or one that is not in love but chooses to engage in the relationship anyway. The same goes for other ways to express love; if you’re in a relationship then those ways are meant for the one you love and her only.
  • Indeed.
  • And I assume there are more questions, am I wrong?
  • Ha-ha, not so far Lucius.
  • Then pour some more wine and let’s continue Aulus!
  • Your scenario seems quite troublesome when it comes to finding a woman fit for a relationship.
  • Now there’s a delightful point, explain yourself.
  • You’re saying that one can’t complain on the bad features a woman might have so you’re either forcing one to accept everything about her or to look all over the world for the one and only woman that fits us perfectly, one is ridiculous and the other even more ridiculous.
  • Quick question, do you dictate on what features on a woman are good or bad? What is bad for you might be good for another man.
  • No but you have to admit that there are things which a woman too would recognize as bad. How do ask of them to change those behaviours?
  • Most certainly there are. Now, you remember that you too have bad habits, right?
  • Yes.
  • And you agreed that you were more than willing to handle them if you had the inspiration and the encouragement to do so, especially if it’s someone wonderful enough to deserve better the man you are now?
  • Yes.
  • Why can’t you then be a man good enough for her to do the same then? Rather then make demands or complaints, be her inspiration to change her misfortunate habits because just like you are aware of yours, I think that she too would be aware of hers. But I should add that if she does have behaviours or habits that make her happy and you can’t appreciate or at the very least accept them without complaints then I’d suggest that you should leave her alone; she’s not for you.
  • What about her rumour?
  • Rumour?
  • Yes. The things people say about her and her behaviour.
  • Don’t be foolish Aulus. You agreed that a person could change if there’s a good enough reason; perhaps you’re the good enough reason for her to become someone worthy of praise. You shouldn’t deny her that chance.
  • You’re avoiding the real question though. By doing what you suggest you end doing the exact same thing, it’s just that you have to find someone with minor bad habits so you can easily manage them so that she becomes perfect in the end. There is no difference.
  • You’re not thinking through it properly dear Aulus. Earlier you agreed that there are several ways of being a good man, did you not?
  • Yes I did.
  • Should you then deny a woman the same ability of being good if several different ways?
  • No, I shouldn’t.
  • And therefore I ask you to enjoy the exploring of whomever you might meet; she’s wonderful in her own way. Perhaps even more than the imaginary one you have in your head, the one you call your ideal. And yet there are more questions, I can tell by that look in your eyes.
  • You know me far too well Lucius.
  • As long as you’re providing wine you’re welcome with more questions.
  • Let’s pour some more than. Now, so far you’ve answered most questions quite well but there’s one question still.
  • And there’s more wine still.
  • Marriage. You’ve convinced me on regular relationships when you still live apart and courtship. How do keep your worlds apart when you actually live together?
  • Remember I said that courtship is introducing worlds, relationships is sharing them?
  • Yes.
  • What do think I’d say about living together then?
  • I don’t know. You answer!
  • You drunk. Anyway. Living together does not only mean that you can share and enjoy each other worlds, it means that you’ve managed to form common ambitions and goals.
  • Wait now, these common ambitions. Where do you suggest they take place?
  • Your different worlds perhaps?
  • How do you have common goals while living in different worlds?
  • I’m not quite sure myself actually. I’d suggest that it’s something that happens when you’ve explored enough in her world to recognize certain goals she has matches yours. Remember that a relationship is not solely something you should engage in once you feel complete as a person; it’s something you should engage in with the anticipation that you’ll grow as a person. You’re likely to grow together and through that inspire in each other similar goals.
  • I…don’t get it.
  • Have some more wine and I’ll try again. As you grow as a couple and shares your worlds with one another, it is inarguably true that you’ll cause changes and growth in each other’s worlds. Those changes and that growth will be highly inspired by the other if you enjoyed his or her world. You got that?
  • Yes but don’t you end up with common worlds?
  • No, it’s important to keep them apart in order for you both to enjoy some of the features that can’t be shared with the other. You simply end up with two different worlds that happen to shares similar traits in many ways and those traits are the ones that eventually give rise to common goals, common ambitions and common dreams.
  • Aah, it’s all clear now.
  • Do you still question my concept then?
  • No. It’s clear that you’ll have answers for any of my questions concerning relationships and you’ve managed to persuade me to it. I’d like to ask you about love and it’s nature. Though your thoughts on relationships and what they are for are admirable, one should note that it is dependent on love being some kind of flower with the ability to bloom anywhere in the world, don’t agree Lucius?
  • I’d love to answer but sadly the hour is late, wine-bottle is finished and my head is spinning. I should head home and rest. Good night Aulus! I’m glad I could clear your concerns.
  • Good night Lucius! Though you managed to slip away now, next time I’ll make sure to have many bottles of wine so I can keep you here even longer, you can bet on it!

They shared one last laugh together and then waved each other off.

While walking home, Lucius started thinking about his concept once more; what kind of love does this really require? Certainly not everyone can agree on the nature of love. Love not being selfish would perhaps come in conflict with a suggestion that a relationship is something that is more for ones personal growth then the mutual sacrifice for the pleasure of both. Do we have to accept love as something selfish in order to have a sensible relationship?
Besides, what kind of couple can actually manage to accept each other without complaints nor demands when it’s so much easier to notice flaws in others then on oneself? Am I simply chasing after some ideal myself even though I criticized my friends for doing the same thing? Perhaps the real world doesn’t work that way? NO! Chasing after an ideal relationship so both can be happy is very different from demanding changes on a person just so that I myself can be content in our relationship. If it’s for the both of us then it is an ideal worth striving for, worth arguing for, worth fighting for, perhaps love isn’t selfish after all.

© Ami Fidèle

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