Misunderstandings about synastry abound in astrological lore.
Now that Saturn is in the process of transiting out of Libra, the time has come to sum up what we’ve learned during this sojourn through the relationship sign. In the past week, I have heard of three Librans who have recently ended long-term relationships.
With Saturn going into Scorpio, it’s my belief we will have the opportunity to gain clarity about what we truly want and need in relationship, but that does not mean we will all be ready for a long-term relationship.
I think much of the misunderstanding about love, relationship, and compatibility in astrology comes from taking certain too literally.
If you’ve read a lot of astrological wisdom, or even a little bit, you’ve been told that trines are ‘easy,’ sextiles have the reputation of being ‘opportunities,’ and everyone should be avoiding squares in synastry. Oppositions are even worse—or better, depending upon who you read.
The only traditional idea I still entirely agree with is that conjunctions are powerful. Yes, they are, and close conjunctions in synastry, as far as I can tell, are an indicator, not of automatic compatibility, but of the likelihood that the two people involved really do need to be together to accomplish something—whether for a day or a lifetime is another issue, however.
I will explain, in brief, why relationships too often don’t work. This analysis points to the overall issue I think we should be considering, instead of what we’ve been taught to think about synastry, which is that instead of comparing angles and aspects, we should be asking “what do these signs, these charts, these people, have in common? Where are they different? To what extent are their differences good for each other to learn from?”
In other words, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because you see a bunch of squares in the synastry, instead ask, “What do I need to learn from the way this person is, the way he behaves, that is different—and therefore irritating?” It is entirely possible that this person’s strange ways, diabolically different from yours, will teach you something you need to know about yourself, therefore expanding your way of being in the world.
A frequent misunderstanding is that if two planets are in square, they are automatically bad and should be thought of as inherently ‘evil’ and to be avoided. In contrast, we are taught to seek out trine relationships, because it’s much easier to get along with someone who does things just like you. To a large extent, of course, someone just like you will be a lot easier to get along with, it’s true. Think about it: you won’t have to do all that much work to be in a relationship with someone whose Sun trines yours. You both come from a similar understanding of how the world works.
You also won’t grow very much, either.
Instead, try looking at it this way: Squared planets don’t work very well together not because they are automatically ‘bad’, but because the greatest likelihood is the two people are entirely different in ways they will each have to struggle to understand about the other.
The two people spend a lot of time together trying to explain themselves to the other. This can be very tiring, but if you give it enough time, and keep trying, you will learn a lot. Ideally, what you will learn will be tolerance, which we pay a lot of lip service to, but don’t necessarily practice.
Oppositions in synastry are also fraught with emotion for many astrologers. It would be nice if astrologers would learn to focus on the ways in which oppositional planets indicate the similarities between the couple, since oppositions indicate different sides of the same coin. Opposite signs usually have more in common, ironically, than do trined signs, and the reason for that, it seems to me, is that we look for compatibility in the wrong place.
We’ve been taught to think of synastry like this: the elements must be the same, or, if they’re not, they must be complementary, for the relationship to work. This presupposes that similar elements are, automatically, compatible, that only they are similar enough to understand one another, and more importantly, to be sympathetic to our partner’s concerns.
I contend that two Water-sign planets are no more compatible than are an Air planet in square to Fire. I think we’ve been taught to give far too much weight to the idea that compatibility exists at this more superficial level (and here I am not referring to Sun signs; I am referring instead to the compatibility we’ve been taught exists between elements).
It’s been my experience that true compatibility, the kind most people really want, where the two people stay together over a long period of time, and are loving and faithful, etc., stems from an entirely different formula, and it’s not one that can be seen simply by comparing aspects and angles between the charts.
First, you must assess each chart on its own, each character on its own, to determine the extent to which this individual is capable of being in a long-term relationship. Do you see a serious person, one who is capable of loving you? You won’t see that from the aspects made between your charts. I cannot stress enough how important it is not to fall for someone who is inherently incapable of being in love in the first place. Take a very careful look at the other person, their character (not just their chart) before giving them your heart. That’s step one to determining compatibility.
Step two requires understanding where true compatibility comes from. Largely, compatibility comes from timing, the timing of finding someone who is ready, willing, and able to make sacrifices and changes to accommodate you in his or her life. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled who are deep in the midst of giving their love to someone undeserving. To look at the synastry, you’d believe they were “made for each other,” when in fact, one person is incredibly selfish and childish, the other a martyr or self-abnegating to the point of self-destruction.
So the answer to compatibility is not in the synastry; it begins with the individual. Only then do we look at the synastry.
Why are squares and oppositions seemingly so difficult? Because you are not ready to adapt to someone else’s very different . That’s all it is. It is not more complicated than that. A square between your personal planet and theirs is not sufficient information to end a relationship, or to feel hesitant about beginning one; nor is the trine an automatic green light to get involved.
Compatibility ultimately comes more from where the person is in their maturity and level of development, meaning that if you are an Aries, you could be just as compatible with a Virgo as with a fire sign person, IF you share a similar worldview and are willing to work at the differences between you. The fact is that every single relationship deals with differences; there is no relationship that doesn’t have at least one very ugly aspect between them.
When dealing with these very ugly aspects, the Ugly Duckling Aspect, let’s call it, I used to wonder how in the world the couple survived? You find out, over time, that traditionally ‘difficult’ aspects point to ways in which the two people are required to reach for maturity; traditionally ‘easy’ aspects are overlooked. The most amazingly incompatible people (from a traditional astrological perspective) form entirely workable relationships because they are each getting something they need. That’s the key to relationship success and longevity: give and get something you need, rather than something you think you need, or, more likely, have been taught you must want.
Compatibility, ultimately, stems from appreciating the simple fact that other people are not you; you have not been cloned. Squared Suns can appreciate each other for what the other has that they don’t, for example.
The shyer Cancer Sun can appreciate an Aries Sun’s strength and raw courage, while a hot-headed Taurus Sun can appreciate his Aquarius partner’s cool-headed rationality. There will be times that these squares annoy each other, of course.
Being annoyed by your partner happens with trined planets too, though. The perspicacious Scorpio, sharp-tongued and in an ill-humour, will offend sensitive Cancer. Taurus’ inability to throw anything away will drive Virgo over the bend. Sagittarius’ desire to see the world on her own will make Leo feel ignored.
Are these trines compatible? In that moment, hell no. The key to compatibility is not the similar element; the key to compatibility is appreciation of, and tolerance for, the differences between them.
Perhaps the most obvious truth about compatibility is that by looking at the qualities and characteristics of the sign itself, you will learn more about who is actually compatible than by comparing elements. Would you say that a harsh-tongued Capricorn or Scorpio is actually compatible with a Pisces who doesn’t know how to stand up for herself? I suspect not.
Encouraging longevity in any relationship relies on each person’s ability to adapt to the other’s needs. If neither person is willing or able to adapt and change, then is it going to matter if their planets are sextile or trine? No. It will not. And yet love can move mountains and be miraculously inventive when the two people are sufficiently motivated, and you might be surprised how often that happens for people who otherwise have seemingly dismal synastry.
As Saturn ends its transit through Libra, look around carefully and notice how authentic is the face you’re showing your partner? All is well in relationships until the masks come off; it’s only when you are real that you are in danger of losing the other.
No other transit is more poignant when it comes to the loss of one’s primary relationship than Saturn through Libra, but no other transit will be more personally challenging to our limited ideas of relating than Saturn through Scorpio.
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