Level One: Res nullius
Res nullius is a concept in Property Law which literally means “nobody’s thing”. Yes. That’s right. At the start, at level one, you are a free person. You can mingle with everyone, and you don’t owe anyone any explanation why you got home late last night or did not text for 24 hours. You are a strong and independent person; you are res nullius! You can endlessly swipe right, find your matches, date a little, and end up being alone because you are too picky. Why? Because you know what you deserve, and you are just not yet ready to be appropriated or to be owned. You remain to be res nullius.
One way to become res nullius is when you are abandoned (res derelictae). That’s when someone once owned you (no, not slavery, but in a romantic way), but subsequently decided to abandon you. That hurts, but that is perhaps the first level of love – to know that you are a free person again, to feel empowered of that gained independence, and to tell yourself that the world is yours to conquer. Who knows? That abandonment may actually lead to something greater, to a happier destiny. Being res nullius is definitely no cause of despair.
Moreover, do not worry that you are single. Res nullius is never a conclusive and permanent state. It is temporary and transitory. You get to move from one status to another. Just as partnerships do not last forever, just as states do not last forever, your being alone in this world should not last for long. We all have reasonable opportunities to move to the second level.
Level Two: Sui generis
The second level of love is being sui generis. You become one of your own kind; you are a class of your own; you are unique and incomparable. Oh, how sweet to the ears to be told that you are one of a kind, that you are his or her only love, that you are irreplaceable.
There is no need to feel insecure over your flaws because it is your entirety that makes you unique. Embrace both your positive and negative traits, and you are off to becoming your full self, with no inhibitions, with no fear for tomorrow. You stop thinking about your past, for your mind is prospective in nature. You won’t falter from any judgment rendered by other people, for their judgments are not binding for they have no jurisdiction over you. They can’t have any effect on you whatsoever because whatever they say is unenforceable against you. Only the person who can see your wonderful uniqueness, your status in law and in general as a sui generis person, your circumstance that must be dealt with exacting circumspectness, deserve your love.
You are an organized chaos and, at the same time, a chaotic order, and that what makes you sui generis. You must be appreciated according to the facts and features attendant in your life and person. Just as each case is unique, you are also unique; you cannot be on “all fours” with another person. Stare decisis will not apply to you because you will not be shackled by precedents; you shall move on and create your own destiny. You must be recognized as a person of value and esteem, of reputable character, and the second level of love is when someone just does that.
Level Three: Pacta sunt servanda
Entering into a relationship is a decision more than a mere burst of emotion. It is not just the heart that must be followed, but the brain likewise should make a rational and conscious move. This is when your special someone start to enter into an agreement – mutual, consensual, perfected, binding, and hopefully, perpetual.
Pacta sunt servanda is an international law and civil law concept which literally translates to “agreements must be kept”. Every treaty or contract in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith. This is pacta sunt servanda. Your love now has the force and effect of law. It binds you. It is subject to your mutual compliance. It demands your loyalty and dedication. This is when you start to enter into a relationship and make efforts to fulfill your obligation to your partner. The degree of care must be observed, which is, of course, beyond the extraordinary diligence. There must be no delay (mora) and negligence (culpa), and moreover, there must be no fraud (dolo). All of these must be complied in good faith.
You start offering yourself to another person, you give that the other person may give; you do that the other person may likewise do. Sealing your treaty with a kiss, you have reciprocally bound yourself to each other’s spell, and in the absence of any fundamental change in circumstances, each of you remain to be for each other. We hope rebus sic stantibus will not apply real soon.
Level Four: Delectus personae
What keeps you going in a relationship? Entering into a relationship is a conscious, one-time choice, but staying in a relationship is another matter. It is a continuing commitment, an engagement that requires time and effort, and moreover, trust and confidence.
This is the fourth level of love: delectus personae. Delectus personae literally means “choice of the person”. It is a principle in partnership (and in corporation law, particularly for closed corporations) that a partner has the right to exercise his choice or preference in choosing his partner. Of course, the selection is based on trust and confidence, such that no person is compelled to become a partner of another unless such person accepts another to be their partner. This acceptance is ultimately based on whether you trust or feel confident towards another person. In order to become one’s partner, the other person must have trust and confidence over your character, capacity, and personality – your entirety.
The beauty of delectus personae is that a person does not have to be perfect to become your partner. All that is asked by the provisions of the Civil Code is that you must have trust and confidence over the person to whom you’ll share your heart and your life. A healthy relationship is indeed one where both parties have faith with each other; it is one where you just feel at ease with the presence of the other.
It is damaging to be always in doubt. You can never have peace of mind without the proper reliance. Eventually, relationships may crumble because of lack of trust. It becomes an endless investigation, perhaps longer than the constitutional precept of speedy disposition of cases will allow. Paranoia will set in because, perhaps, at one point in time, you will be served written interrogatories or be cross-examined. This should not be the case. In order to build a lasting relationship, you must follow the principle of delectus personae.
Level Five: Uberrimae fides
The final level, the ultimate showing of love is perhaps the principle of uberrimae fides. Delectus personae takes your perception of others – it asks you the question whether you trust your special someone. However, is it enough that your special someone does good things, remains loyal and true, and that makes you trust that person? No. That is one-sided. Love is selfless, and it is not a one-person play. It is a two-person act (or a three-or-more-person act, for polyamorous relationships), and it involves not just the other person proving that he or she is worthy of your trust and confidence, but you, as well, willfully giving your best for the strength of your relationship.
Uberrimae fides (or fidei) is a Latin term which means “utmost good faith”. A romantic relationship is an uberrimae fidei contract, for it requires the most abundant good faith, a perfect level of candor, and nothing but absolute honesty. This is a principle commonly used in Insurance Law because insurance contracts are said to be characterized with uberrimae fides. Accordingly, there must be absence of any concealment or fraud, however slight, because the presence of concealment or fraud, whether intentional or unintentional, entitles the other party to rescission.
Uberrimae fides entails that you take an active role in your relationship. In getting out of the status of being res nullius, in accepting your entire self knowing that you are sui generis, in keeping with your promises in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda, and in maintaining trust and confidence in accordance with the principle of delectus personae, you need to stay faithful and true, perfectly, absolutely, and you have to give it your all. This is selflessness. This is unconditional. This is with all your heart’s willingness and your mind’s desires. This is when forever is finally attainable; no force majeure can break your relationship. This is the fifth and final level of love: uberrimae fides. #