Fealty

fealty
The Accolade, Edmund Leighton, 1901
"Might just as well accede to this inevitability."

We speak of fidelity in marriages, but rarely if ever mention Fealty, a term sharing the same Latin root but which seems so steeped in medieval lore as to be useless to describe any modern phenomenon. The covenant underlying every marriage contract insists upon a form of Fealty, though, a set of tacit understandings delimiting subtly significant aspects of any such union. No formal agreement ever describes these responsibilities, yet failing to fulfill them provides grounds for eternally complicating conditions. Pouting might result. A poorly suppressed rage might even build over time, leaving the infractor feeling puzzled and isolated within the union. The aggrieved party might never find words to express the depth of their disappointment, though it will quite obviously be present. Typically, neither party will discover that this class of shortcoming lies beyond words. No apology ever quite repays the debt incurred when Fealty fails to manifest. Though both parties understand that a sin has been committed, neither will find any way to adequately atone. It should have never happened and can never be undone. These little crimes undermine domestic tranquility more effectively than mid-life drum lessons ever could.

When the spouse asks whether you're driving them to the airport in the predawn hours tomorrow, the canny spouse immediately recognizes an opportunity to demonstrate Fealty to, if not the spouse, then at least to the relationship.
You both might well understand how much you despise slaying that particular dragon, especially at that hour of the night, and especially when the roads are so snowy, but Fealty demands a positive response. The opportunity might be reasonably bid down to a lift to the light rail station or, more impressively, clear down to Union Station where she can catch the airport train, but dismissing this request with the suggestion that she call an Uber or a cab will not swallow well with either of you. Swallow hard, sharpen the sword, and do your lady's bidding. Believe me, every alternative will be worse. Not only will no dragon be slayed that morning, he'll lay waste to a sacred corner of the kingdom, and nobody needs that sort of experience before breakfast.

Doing one's share, even when it doesn't seem any part of a fair distribution of responsibilities, likewise falls under Fealty's aegis. Ten thousand heart-felt "I love yous" can be easily and permanently erased by one day's lax attitude, so do those dishes when it's clearly your turn and, while you're at it, empty the litter box well before needing to be asked. Needing to be asked amounts to at least a three-quarters Fealty violation, and might well produce results equivalent in every way to a full and flagrant violation. It will not do, and never does, to simply space out these responsibilities, for forgetting a Fealty produces the same result as does purposeful violation. The underlying covenant presumes an active and interested union, not one where either party feels the need to drag around the other. Each must maintain their grounds or lose access to the community property. These practices are not a game and cannot be successfully played as if they might be out-smarted. The only smart play lies in attending to the innate intuition informing one what Fealty demands and acquiescing with apparent good humor, if not outright love, for these small-seeming acts amount to the bulk of the actual love making any relationship enjoys.

No, neither of you are actually queen or king, yet the relationship seems to demand a royal respect. There remain some things that one never even thinks of doing when in the presence of their lord or their lady, however old-fashioned such considerations might seem. There will come no time during the duration of even the longest-lasting relationships when these arcane principles will not apply, the only viable alternative being a quiet divorce and a going of separate ways. The civilizing influences these practices bring seem well-worth the short-term inconveniences they impart. One must accept that either one attempts to slay every dragon or each dragon will slay them, for even being slain by a cowardly act of omission forfeits the commission awarded every knight and vassal. One cannot say, "No!" No one in any deeply committed relationship ever earns the right to lord (or even lady) over anyone, for it is the tradition that enforces these obligations. No sword need ever touch any shoulder, no coronation ever need commence, to maintain this condition. Label it divine right or sacred responsibility, it's nonetheless there and present. Might just as well accede to this inevitability.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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