Why Relationships Fail—Astrologically Speaking
Keeping the romance in a long-term relationship challenges just about everyone at some point. Dr. Jennifer Freed, goop’s resident psychological astrologer, and author of the book PeaceQ, has us re-thinking romance in light of ancient planetary wisdom: Long-term relationships, she explains, are unduly complicated by our modern expectations of coupledom, which collapse the goals of distinct astrological houses (romance, marriage, and family) into one, placing unrealistic pressure on ourselves and our partners. Freed’s fresh take on the balancing act necessary to keep passion alive is both inspiring and validating: It ain’t always easy, but it can be fun.
Astrological Insights on Love and Marriage
People call me from all over the world, asking for help rekindling romance in a long-term relationship, or for reassurance that they are not horrible people for wanting to end a long-term relationship/marriage because it lacks passion.
Long-term relationships are tasked with maintaining common interests and clear communications, deepening emotional intimacy and security, and sustaining romantic ardor. For many people, the complex balance of these tasks proves stressful or unrealistic. They want to know: Am I messing up my relationship, or is this relationship wrong for me? Is something wrong with me, or with my relationship?
Why, so often, does the romance we crave fade over time in a well-functioning marriage? Why is it that sometimes, the hottest romantic connections fail to turn into substantial relationships? How come the lust and longing that often mark the start of love relationships turn into less sparkly, comfortable friendships in a long-term union? Why is it so hard to juggle the roles of family, love, and commitment? Why do so many women and men seek romance outside of marriage?
Astrologically speaking, romance has never been linked to creating a family, or with sustaining intimate one-to-one contracts. Romance has a sector all its own; marriage and family have their own “houses”—so these areas of experience are not astrologically related. We can learn much from these distinctions, which are based on thousands of years of astrological observation and interpretation.
The romance sector in the astrological houses is ruled by the sun and associated with the sign of Leo. The fire of passion here is tied to the upwelling of creativity and self-expression. It is about adoration, admiration, and affection. When we are “in love,” we are basically in a bubble of a positive narcissistic reflection. We feel aglow, lit up, and shining as our most idealized selves. We float on air above the rubble of our imperfections and petty complaints.
During a romantic courtship, we are our most attractive and most innocent selves. We return to a childlike state of wonder where everything we do or say—or that our beloved does or says—has a magical quality. Romance necessitates a suspension of reality in favor of an undiscriminating ardor that glosses over concerns and highlights possibilities. To maintain a romance over time, people need to let go of the mundane and escape to timeless wonder. After the first two years of any relationship, incredible willpower is required to resist the lull of repetition, and to reinvent the stardust of romance.
According to the ancients, the house of marriage is about social harmony, balance, and reciprocity. This sector is ruled by Venus in the sign of Libra. Partnerships are about the balance of give and take; this is why the traditional balance of male provider and female nurturer was such a successful model for so long. Marriage, in this case, is about complementary roles, a more dispassionate aesthetic, and the scales of responsibility.
Marriage contracts have more to do with diplomacy, peacekeeping, and sociability than passion. The ancients realized that for any relationship contract to persevere, folks would need to negotiate frequently and be interested in a win-win scenario. All the happy couples I know have figured out a way to share the daily and the visionary goals of the relationship in an equitable and reasonable way. These couples have worked out a spoken and unspoken code about who does what and how it gets done without a lot of quibbling or scorekeeping. Marriages often fall into trouble when one person is the over-functioner and the other is the under-functioner. There is a critical imbalance between the partners; one feels roiling resentment and the other feels nastily nagged. Marriages that shine over time also include the sociable talent of a great humorous repartee, and the ability to share friends and interests that elevate the strengths of both parties.
Family has a special section all to itself in astrology, and is ruled by the moon in the sign of Cancer. This house is defined by nurturing, protecting, and emotional vulnerability. Family is seen as a bond held together by the parental instincts to take care of others and provide a safe space for children to develop and grow. Families that thrive feel a close emotional connection maintained by a consistent attunement to each other’s needs.
When we grow up knowing that our caregivers understand us, and we can depend on them, then we are most confident and secure. If we are in families where the parents are immature themselves and are emotionally unstable, we feel wobbly inside and have difficulty finding a stable footing in our own relationships and lives. When we have family standards, values, and rituals that create reliable emotional scaffolding, we learn that the world, too, is a home to us. If our families are filled with disorder and dysfunction, we tend to approach the outside world with more trepidation and defensiveness. Thus, in astrological terms, family is a place for shelter, tenderness, and the security of survival, both practically and emotionally; a place for loyal, persistent, and trustworthy kinship.
The Juggling Act
When we realize that we have collapsed all these three distinct categories into a singular expectation of a successful marriage, we can see why so many people are feeling inadequate or disappointed. Helping people realize that family, romance, and contractual relationships are different entities requiring unique skill sets can ease the burden of expectation, and can guide people to explore the necessities of each area of life with more clarity.
It is also useful to identify our areas of strength, and use those talents to buoy the areas in which we have more difficulty. For example: If I have more natural inclinations to be romantic but have less skill dealing with the complex and complicated needs of family members, I can employ my desire to elevate and treasure my beloved into patience for all the shenanigans of their extended family. On the other hand, if I am a graceful homemaker and host but lack the unbridled imagination of the adventurous-amorous, I can pour myself into nurturing my partner when family is around and consider all the ways little intentional gestures of flirtation and flattery can spice up our family occasions.
We all need to be merciful, patient, and kind to ourselves when we drop one of the juggling balls of relating. On the days where we miraculously blend romance, family, and marriage in a symphony of fulfillment, we are exceptionally graced, embodying a pinnacle of temporary balance. Mostly we are all longing for and working for that symmetry, and that is our noble quest!
Jennifer Freed, Ph.D. is a psychological astrologer and author of the book PeaceQ. She has been teaching and consulting world-wide for over thirty years. To set up a consultation with Freed, email her at: [email protected] Freed is also the cofounder/director of the teen program AHA! which specializes in transforming schools and communities by focusing on peace-building peer-led initiatives.