When I first started reading tarot cards for others, I was surprised that all the inquiries seemed to fall into two camps: work and love. I suppose it was naive of me to be surprised, but consider that I’d only been reading for myself for many years. I suppose I hadn’t given much thought to what other people would ask, although if I had gone back to my readings for myself the bulk of them of course dealt with work and love, too.
I mentioned my observation to one of my dear friends and life mentors who is about 35 years older than I am and also an ex-professional astrologer (so has lots of experience reading for others) and her response was, “Shell! What else is there?!”
Touchè. What else is there, really? It’s tongue in cheek, but the truth of the matter is that as a reader, I’ve observed a great deal about the myriad ways that people approach interpersonal and romantic relationships, and the infinite variety of unique hopes and wishes that people harbor. Despite all this diversity, one common thread unites us all, and it’s so simple and obvious it feels silly to even state it: we all want to be accepted and loved.
People who feel accepted and loved and satisfied in their current partnerships don’t often turn to the tarot for relationship advice. We turn to the cards like we’d turn to confide in a friend, or like we’d open a self-help book for ideas, or like we might take a walk in nature to clear our heads, when it feels like things just aren’t going right. Tarot is simply one more way that we can tap into our personal creative resources, to poke and prod around in those areas to try to bring forth new insights and new approaches. I feel that tarot cards can help us bring our unconscious motivations into our conscious awareness, and that makes it an empowering practice.
A theme that I encounter disproportionately in my readings (and the majority of reading clients are women, in my personal experience) are women who are looking for their partner to commit, or change. We turn to the cards to find out the hows and whys of our partner’s resistance. We often focus so much on trying to get to the bottom of what the other person thinks or wants—in the hopes of matching that or meeting that or changing that—sometimes we forget the most important person in the equation: ourselves and our needs and wants.
Tarot is a useful tool to help you connect deeply to the important factor that needs to be considered BEFORE you ask “Why isn’t my partner giving me what I need?” — that important factor being “What do I need to honor and respect in myself?”
Improving your conscious connection to your own personal values, emotions, and needs, can help you to live in alignment with these as you make the conscious choice to embark on a relationship with someone, or as you consciously readjust expectations in your current relationship.
As I often do, I’ll use myself as a guinea pig here. I think practical examples help us all to take these ideas out of the realm of mere theory and see how we can apply them in real life, and see how tarot cards can be used as a narrative-generating machine to help us to examine ideas that we may not normally have the time or chance to think about.
A few areas where I’ve seen (in both my own experiences and in reading for others) that we tend to hold ourselves back from aligning with what we truly need and desire, in romantic relationships, are: not being authentic/being ourselves; not asking honestly and truthfully for what we really want; and not accepting ourselves and therefore trying to change to suit another, even when that might not match with the partner we want to be with. These themes are what tend to create incompatibility issues where one partner feels they need to push the other or change the other. Sometimes we want love and partnership so much in our lives, that we ignore “red flags” or we make compromises in areas that we really shouldn’t, just to avoid being alone.
So in my spread, keeping these thoughts in mind, I decided to pose these questions:
1) What do I need to be more honest about and face truthfully, when it comes to my romantic relationships?
2) What is a core value or trait that is important for me to not compromise on?
3) How will I know when I am in a situation that is authentic for me?
Often we’ll get an “a-ha” feeling of recognition with the cards, because we already know what they are showing us, we just haven’t had the opportunity to look it straight in the face as happens when the cards are down on the table staring back up at us in full color.
The 2 of Swords, folks, is my Achilles’ heel when it comes to romantic relationships, so I could only sort of smile when I saw it come up in the first position about what I’m not facing or being entirely truthful about. My very real learning experience as I move forward in my personal path is about finding a healthy balance (two) between how much to open myself to potential partners, and how much to protect myself. The woman on the 2 of Swords is closed off, and she holds those two large swords boldly across her chest, as if to say, get too close and you’ll get hurt, or, try to hurt me and I’ll hurt you back!
At the same time, she’s blindfolded. She isn’t seeing clearly, or even perhaps at all, for that matter. I often like to pose the question to clients when this card comes up: “What are you refusing to look at or acknowledge? What do you not want to see here?” It is similar to the woman on the 8 of Swords, and yet in that situation, the woman is in a self-imposed prison and doesn’t seem to realize or want to acknowledge it, even though she could just walk away. Here, on the other hand, the woman is quite actively blocking herself and isolating herself from others, in a mentally defensive move against a perceived threat, but the blindfold highlights wanting to stay in the dark about something.
Swords are the suit of the mind, thoughts, mental images, “what if” scenarios that we construct on an intellectual level. All of this defensive blocking is more of an intellectual exercise, and while it does have its place, often when we see this card come up in readings, it’s highlighting for us the need to let down our guard a bit, or at least examine how the defensive posture is helping or hurting the situation. The cards here are telling me to get really clear about how available I really am for a relationship, and how open I really am, and how truthful I’m being with myself about my openness versus holding back. Also, the body of water behind the woman suggests that she has turned her back on her true, feeling nature, her inner knowing and intuitive impulses. So, the cards are also telling me to turn around and get in touch with my deep, heart-level longings and truths, rather than what my head tells me I should do in order to protect myself. Strategy can play a role in relationships, but only up to a certain point, and in fact we’ll see more of that concept in the third card of this sequence.
The second card is rather clear-cut for me: I absolutely cannot tolerate hidden deception in relationships. It’s a core value that is of utmost importance to me, so in my relationships I have to make sure I don’t compromise on that value, and make sure that I have the basics in place that will allow me not only to trust the person that I’m with, but also that the person is open with me about themselves and what they’re “up to” in terms of wanting to be with me. This person in the 7 of Swords is trying to get away with something, almost trying to “have his cake and eat it too,” really a card of taking advantage of the situation, a sort of “crime of opportunity.” The cards here are highlighting that a core value I cannot compromise on, is that the person I am with has to be absolutely upfront with me, no sneaking around, no trying to get away with a little something extra on the side, no taking me for granted or intentionally taking advantage because I’m simply “there” for the taking. While this card is commonly one I see when a partner is cheating (I normally wouldn’t assign such a blunt meaning to a particular card but in my experience it comes up over and over when there’s a situation like that), I like to apply it to the overall idea of honesty versus deception in relationships. This card is the polar opposite of a relationship where both partners share equally who they are and what they want, where they’re equally exposed: here one partner is getting the upper hand and taking a risk in doing so, hoping to get away with it. So, here the advice is “Don’t accept less than full disclosure from your partner” and a willingness to open up and share, because it’s of core importance to me as a value in a fulfilling relationship.
The final card tells me that I’ll know it’s authentic when I feel as if I’ve let go and allowed things to run their course without my control. In fact, as I think many of us do at times, I try hard to control my reactions, feelings, and “moves” in terms of relationship, in order to strategically avoid heartbreak, mess, drama, etc. Of course inevitably all this maneuvering generally ends up getting me exactly where I tried to avoid. So here the Wheel of Fortune reminds me that life is essentially beyond our control, and that the only thing that’s constant is change and movement. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, but like they say about the weather in Michigan, “If you don’t like it, wait a minute and it’ll change.” I’ll know that I’m in a situation that’s authentic for me when I finally accept and get comfortable with the idea that relationships are not black and white, but constantly changing and in flux. When I finally allow myself to be carried along by the events of the relationship without trying to manipulate the wheel itself, I’ll know that I’ve allowed myself to let down those two swords and take off the blindfold.
You can try this exercise for yourself, by posing the three questions above and drawing three tarot cards randomly from your deck. Or, if you don’t have your own tarot deck, you can go to this website where a random 3-card spread will be generated for you. First, use your own impressions of the images to construct the story and answer the questions. Then, you can also use internet resources like Biddy Tarot, Keen, or Learn Tarot to help you interpret the cards. The process itself of searching for answers often sparks insights that help you arrive at useful conclusions and ideas.