Traditionally The Lovers, the 6th Major Arcana, represent choices, not only of a romantic nature but also of a life altering nature, and the coming together of opposites, polarities and opposition, the feminine and the masculine. It represents the principle of relatedness and choice. The Lovers is often seen to represent choices and paths we take in life. It can also symbolize romantic partnership and alliances.
The Lovers often represent making a decision between choices, selecting a path and committing to it, and the connection between the divine and the human. The choices reflected in The Lovers are not easy choices, they are matters of life-long impact. Once we start down that path, it will difficult to change course. It’s not as easy as just backtracking.
“Reversed: One part of you is cooperating with another part of you. You may hold some beliefs and attitudes that don’t always work smoothly together. Here, you are finding a way to bring them together and have them support each other – you may realize that you can be both fat and beautiful.
Negative: Two of more incompatible elements or individuals are coming together. You may be trying to forcefully create and impossible relationship between factors or people whose goals and interests do not mesh. They really can’t be expected to cooperate with each other.” – Gail Fairfield
A line from the Steven Stills song “Love the One You’re With” ran through my head when I saw this card – “if you can’t be with the one you love, honey love the one you’re with”. I’m not really sure why because it doesn’t really remind me of this card but sometimes my thought processes are confusing even to me.
The Dante Lovers card shows a male offering a bouquet of flowers to a woman. She is clasping her arms in front of her chest and appears to be coyly considering her options. A dark cloaked figure hovers above the man – is this an aspect of his personality that she cannot see or a rival for her hand? Overhead a cherub flies with a scroll and quill. Do these two figures represent choices being offered to the woman? If so, her hair is obscuring part of her face – perhaps she is not seeing things so clearly. Is the cherub an observer or guide? I get the sense the cherub is waiting to record the decision the woman makes but will not intervene.
The Fenestra Lovers card shows a similar scene – a man and woman are sitting nude amidst a flourishing garden. An angel hovers in the sky above their heads and a green snake is wound around the tree nearest the woman. Once again the angel seems to be an observer but not a guide.
Both these cards speak to me of free will and the gift humans have been given to self-determination. Regardless of your religious orientation, people have the choice to obey the word of their Divine Creator/Great Spirit/God, etc. We have the power and intelligence to alter our course in life, for better or for worse. We often see this ability put to use when it comes to romantic relationships or partnerships. Many of us claim that love drives us to do “crazy” things. Here in the US we tend to look askance at arranged marriages. We don’t feel we should be limited in any way – whether it is race, creed, or sex. The expression “the heart wants what it wants” is often used to justify all kinds of behavior.
However, we often find that these relationships we pursue with such passion and intensity are unhealthy for us. The take us further and further away from our highest self and our connection to the Divine. I’m not referring to people who willingly engage in what most of us might feel uncomfortable trying such as polyamory or S&M, those are choices made by adults who want to explore different aspects of their sexuality. I’m referring to people who agree to participate in behaviors they dislike in order to make a partner happy. Women who agree to swap partners in an effort to keep their husband happy. Men and women who accept abuse from a partner because they love him or her.
There are also people who refuse to accept the consequences of the choices they have made. The adulterers who cannot accept they have responsibilities to their partner and families and decide to go seek adulation or affection from someone else. They made their decisions of their own free will but are now seeking to break free and use immature methods to do so.
Okay, so what does all of this have to do with The Lovers reversed? I think it encompasses all of these aspects as well as people who prefer to avoid making any decisions or at least trying to avoid the consequences such decisions inevitably bring. Many “adults” today seem to try to push responsibility for their behaviors and choices off onto other factors (“I’m addicted”) or other people (“She trapped me into marriage”). It’s just sad and shows how easy it is to fall prey to that inner demon that wants to lead us astray by promising we can do whatever we want and not be accountable.
In my life, The Lovers is about accepting that where I am right now is the result of the choices and decisions I’ve made. I have learned to blend my needs and desires with my husbands (or at least accept that it’s sometimes just not possible). I’ve learned about compromise and being a better person. It’s not always easy and I’m sure it would be more fun to find someone who knows almost nothing about me and enjoy the flirting and the thrill of the chase, but at the end of the day what would that say about me? I don’t want to be that person who can just walk away from my commitments because I don’t like them anymore.
Making choices entails consequences. The Lovers reversed is about accepting those consequences even when they are challenging or don’t lead to the anticipated outcomes. As harsh as it sounds, the expression “You’ve made your bed now lie in it” fits my view of this card today. That doesn’t mean it has to be an uncomfortable bed, simply that you shouldn’t try to switch beds just because this one is a bit itchy today.