“The Stoics actually both say that the wise man will experience love, and they define love itself as the effort to make a friendship from the semblance of beauty. Which love, if there is any in the world without disquietude, without longing, without anxiety, without sighing, then so be it! For it is free from all lust.” – Cicero
Love is made difficult throughout history, and perhaps more in modernity than in previous eras, because not only are unsolicited expectations thrust upon another unknowing individual and are later expressed as premeditated resentments, but also because some individuals forget, consciously skip, or are unaware of the first critical step to loving others is to love the self first. The power to love another human being reaches its capacity potential from self-derived and self-aimed love.
Balanced love is beautiful, positive, and infinitely giving. Mature love is secure. It builds its foundation on character and virtue such as honesty, temperance, and justice. Neither parties worry about unfaithfulness nor fear loneliness. They are not subservient to one another, rather they respect one another. The exclusivity of the relationship does not create dependence, given that both individuals understand the importance of deriving independent happiness alone first before sharing a life with another. They are marvelous apart as individuals, and they are complemented together. As individuals they do not seek to possess one another, rather they seek to transcend an idea into something greater whether to conduct virtuous action or represent symbols for strength, cohesion, compassion, or beyond. If one decided to leave the relationship, neither would be negatively affected. Hence, the reason behind their flourishing relationship is due to their individual self-mastery. Love for another should not disrupt mental serenity, intellectual clarity, and capacity for happiness. Thus, love should not stifle, but rather nurture. Beloveds assist in building one another, since they understand the act is not zero-sum in that by elevating one does not translate into reducing the other’s value and contribution to the relationship and to the world. Goals expand farther beyond the beloveds in order to encompass their surrounding communities. Mature love is not a need nor is it needy, but rather it is an understanding of gaining faster and possibly even greater transcendence through consistently aiding in the growth of two souls. The focus is never narrow, but rather global along with the understanding to love is to love in a healthy state of mind.
The negative associations poets, authors, musicians, and other artists portray in their works relate to the madness, sense of powerlessness, and relinquishment of the independent self towards serving another, which are based upon thoughts fueled by emotion versus reason and logic. Oftentimes, the problems that arise in a romantic love relationship are a result of attempting to overlook the first part of the equation, which is to love oneself first. Other kinds of social relationships are not replacements for the necessary relationship one must have with oneself. Additional kinds of relationships are capable of resulting in greater or added joy and happiness. However, by themselves other kinds of relationships are not sufficient for an individual to acquire joy and happiness. On the contrary, knowing, accepting, developing, and loving oneself is necessary in order to understand loving others. Dating or marrying an individual as a hopeful wish to patch an ever greater and deeper self-derived fear, sadness, worry, or anger is not the most reasonable. As the stoics claimed, passion and not feelings should be rejected for their irrationality such as “appetite, pleasure, fear, and distress”, which include “sexual desire, jealousy, hesitancy, malice, and pity” (Stephens). If the internal growth and the time necessary for introspection is overlooked, then time, which is finite, spent in an unexamined relationship is traded-off from the possibility of experiencing other invigorating life events, explorations, and pursuits on your own, with family, friends, colleagues, and other loved ones.
The idea to seek love from a beloved despite not loving thyself fully poses difficulty. How can an individual demand acceptance from an initial stranger and not make the same demand upon the self who has never represented a stranger to the individual in the first place? You must date yourself first and forever hopefully, if intentional enough, in order to always seek new understandings of the ever evolving self. In other words, become familiar and comfortable with yourself. Allowing another individual to extract realizations in regards to who you are as a person and partner is not the most reasonable method. Rather than rely on others to discover who you are, consider self-reliance and self-discovery as first-lines of action. As humans, we are highly dynamic beings. We change; we grow wiser. Rather than rush at the ideas of joining another individual in a romantic relationship, question the reasons behind the pursuit and desire. Parse the reasoning to the bare bones to gain greater understanding and consequently gain greater depth to being in the world.
Stephens, William O. “Epictetus on How the Stoic Sage Loves.” Creighton University, 1996. Web. February 16, 2016.