An Augustan poet and a friend of Virgil, Sextus Propertius came to prominence as a result of his love elegies, which are the source of this proverb regarding love.
Propertius’s Elegies largely concern his tormented affair with an older woman, referred to as Cynthia. Her exact identity is unknown; it has been though she was either a courtesan or perhaps a married woman.
Cynthia’s inconsistencies eventually exhausted the poet. Propertius describes journeying to free himself of love’s ‘burden’ and his efforts to recover from the effects of spending too much time with her.
‘Endless presence reduces the man who’s always around’
Yet he mourns her absence, and her distance from him inflames his passions, even after her death.
Intimate relationships are a mix of the needs for either proximity or space. People want to feel understood and appreciated, and to experience physical closeness. They do not want to fell overwhelmed by neediness or suffocated by another inability to be alone.
It is pleasant to be considered a couple, less so when one’s individuality is lost. The truth of this ancient adage, therefore, is only partial. Whether absence kindles or quenches depends on the degree of love involved.