By Danièle Cybulskie
In the twelfth century, courtly love was all the rage with the French nobility. To participate in this trendiest of trends, though, you actually needed to know the rules. Enter Andreas Capellanus, author of The Art of Courtly Love, a book heavily based on Ovid, but with the definite thumbprint of its author. Although he is a capellanus (“chaplain”), Andreas is as interested in the ins and outs of love and sex as any editor at Cosmopolitan, and is full of scandalous tales (like that time he barely stopped himself from having sex with a beautiful nun) and helpful advice. There is so much about this book that is worthy of mention, but for today, here are five ways to know if your courtly lover is just not that into you anymore (all quotations are from John Jay Parry’s translation).
1. She avoids you.
Andreas says, “If you see that your loved one is missing all sorts of opportunities to meet you or is putting false obstacles in your path, you cannot hope long to enjoy her love” (p.157). If she’s missing your feast because she has to wash her hair, chances are she’s just not that into you.
2. He asks for too many gifts.
When it comes to gifts, Andreas has many firm rules. It’s okay to accept some (specific) gifts from your lover, but you should only accept money if you are in urgent need. Otherwise, you’re not a true lover. Gifts, Andreas says, are a good test, because although someone who asks for gifts “may pretend that he is in love … he is a long way from having the affection of a lover; what he wants is not to love, but to enjoy the wealth of somebody else” (p.159). Beware twelfth-century gold-diggers at all costs.
3. She spends too much time on personal grooming.
This is a tricky one, says Andreas, because she could be prettying herself up for you: “If you find that she is paying more attention to the care of her person than she had been doing, either her love for you is growing or she is interested in the love of someone else” (p.158). Don’t jump to conclusions. If you want to find out for sure, just use “the greatest care and subtlety” (p.158) and pretend to be in love with someone else for a while. If she’s jealous, you’re good.
4. She tries to hide from your messenger.
This is the twelfth-century version of using call display, and it’s a solid sign that your love affair is doomed, according to Andreas. He says, “if she tries to hide from your faithful messenger, there is no doubt that she has turned you adrift in the mighty waves and that her love for you is only feigned” (p.157). (Now you know how to answer you friends when they ask you about that girl who won’t return your calls.) Andreas says that if she’s not sending you messages, or if her messenger “is becoming a stranger to you” (p.158), it’s pretty much over.
5. She’s unenthusiastic in the bedroom.
Andreas doesn’t shy away from talking about sex, but he uses the code word “solace” for propriety’s sake (no one can accuse him of being smutty). When it comes to solace with your lady, pay close attention. For example, “if you find her, for no reason at all, growing half-hearted about giving you the usual solaces, you may see that her faith is wavering” (p. 157); likewise, “if you find her less ready than usual to grant or to seek solaces, you may know that your love will not last much longer” (p.157). Ladies need good solace, too, so if she’s not seeking solace with you, she may be seeking solace with somebody else. This may hurt to hear, but “if at the very moment of delight when she is offering you her sweet solaces the act is more wearisome to her than usual, or if you see that your solaces bore her, you need not doubt that she has no love for you” (p.158). Trust Andreas: the key to a good relationship is solace, so if the solace is boring, the relationship is probably already over.
When it comes to relationship advice, who better to trust than a twelfth-century churchman? For more helpful advice on love and solace, check out the rest of The Art of Courtly Love.
You can follow Danièle Cybulskie on Twitter @5MinMedievalist