Project Much?


There's almost no use trying to simplify the concept of relationship compatibility. Each of us looks for something different in a relationship, and, for many of us, what we look for changes over time.

Forget the fact we can't even assume the sex of partner any given individual is attracted to. (Some people, for instance, like both.) We certainly can't expect everyone to hunger for the same white-picket fantasy marriage, with one masculine partner who works to support and protect the family and an equally feminine one who provides domestic care and emotional nurturance. Some of us crave huge amounts independence in relationships, preferring not to live with partners or leaving open possibilities for connections with other lovers. Others want total union, partnerships that encompass all areas of life, not only romantic togetherness but professional collaboration and a single set of friends.

Last week, I began a prolonged discussion of astrology and relationships in connection with this month's transit of the Sun through Libra, the sign of one-on-one partnership. As I mentioned then, we must remember that we are more than just our Sun signs—indeed we are each a complex interaction of multiple astrological forces at work, as represented by our birthcharts—if we hope to understand what makes certain mates more appropriate for us than others.

This notion is further complicated by the simple fact that, regardless of what our chart says about where our planets are, we exercise free will to decide with whom to spend our time. And while our astrological profile may influence the types of folks who attract us, so too does our personal lived history—our family background, any past loves and/or broken hearts, the kind of advice and encouragement our friends provide. Every experience we live builds upon those already lived.

I needn't be an expert in psychology to point out that we draw relationships with people onto whom we can project our unresolved issues and, hopefully, grow past our previous limitations. We engage more fully with our own internal conflicts by externalizing them, setting up the other person (unconsciously or not) to play the role of one of these combatant viewpoints—the one we're less comfortable with, envy or dismiss in ourselves—while we play out the other.

If we had a chilly relationship with our mother, we might end up seeking a partner to care for us in "maternal" ways, with soup when we're sick and backrubs when we have nightmares and lots of unconditional love and affection. If we're uncomfortable with asserting our needs, we could find someone who communicates well and helps to draw us out of our shells of bashful nicety or someone who streamrolls us with a brash and domineering personality.

In each situation, we can use relationships to bring compromise and closure to old issues, so we can learn and move on to something new, or we can use them to continue playing out already-played-out dynamics in an infinite Groundhog Day-like loop.

Astrology works similarly with the psychological idea of projection, particularly with regards to the issue of relationships.

As stated before, each of us is mirrored by our birthchart, a sophisticated snapshot of where the planets were at the time and place of our birth. In a birthchart, we see the Sun, the Moon and the other planets, archetypal symbols situated in various zodiac signs and making angles to one another, and a complete circle of twelve houses representing different arenas of life in which the planets play out their dramas. For those on a path to self-understanding, our lives are spent in learning to acknowledge and embrace all these different elements in our charts and in ourselves—some of which come into sharp conflict with each other—so that we know and own our beings completely. Every one of us has every one of the twelve zodiac signs somewhere in our charts, in some house and/or associated with some planet. We all possess qualities of all the signs. We are all whole in ourselves. We simply need help from others to discover this.

And that's how relationships work, astrologically speaking. We meet people who exude the energies of certain signs at certain times in our lives.

One individual's birthchart might, for instance, contain an opposition (a 180-degree angle) between a Moon in Gemini and a Mars in Sagittarius. Subconsciously he associates more closely with the Gemini side, exploring the world through persistent mental curiosity and dabbling in a multitude of interests and situations without specializing in any. He's liable, then, to fall hard for a Sagittarian who forces him to align himself philosophically with one belief system or another. Inside, he has a conflict between an emotional need to experiment with different personas (Gemini Moon) and a drive toward assimilating his knowledge into a coherent set of values (Mars in Sag).

There could be some very emotionally charged confrontations as he dramatizes his Moon-Mars conflict with his Sag partner, forcing her to voice his own suppressed desire to produce higher meaning out of the myriad details. If the relationship is productive, he eventually finds a compromise that will balance both sides of his personality—and his needs with her needs—so that he is more fully integrated than before. Or the conflict continues until one party has had enough, at which point the relationship ends and our individual meets someone else—someone who challenges him in a new way or, quite likely, another Sagittarian type who pushes the same buttons and offers the same lesson to learn, a pattern repeated until he gets it right.

It's this repetition of astrological patterns in the partners we draw that clues us into the parts of ourselves requiring work. Oftentimes, we find similar situations presenting themselves over and over again until we push ourselves into a new form of consciousness. During the year and a half I spent in New York, it seemed that everyone I met and connected with was a Sagittarian. This made perfect sense, as my time there was predominantly spent on developing responsible work and health habits, and Sag shows up in my chart in the sixth house, which deals with such issues. Later, back in San Francisco, I found myself surrounded by casual acquaintances with Leos. Different time, different place, different lessons.

As this lunar cycle, initiated last week with the New Moon in Libra, waxes into its full light, we might consider taking a hard look at the kinds of relationships we draw, to notice if there are patterns in the types of people and situations we find around us. Astrology can help us locate these patterns and determine what parts of our own personalities are potentially being triggered by such repetitions. Ultimately, relationships are here to help us become more fully ourselves, not to fill our voids from the outside in. Until we accept full responsibility for our own wholeness, we continue to elicit similar reactions from similar people in similar relationships indefinitely. And indefinitely, you'd better believe, is a really long time.