This past August, my client Karen* was blind-sided (her words) by a breakup with her long-term lover Paul.*
They had been together for six years and had discussed marriage. But she started to feel him pulling away after a business trip in the summer and even went so far as to accuse him of having an affair. It turns out her instincts were right. Paul is now seeing the other woman and Karen is struggling with the emotional backlash.
While she’s still reeling from the breakup, and still dealing with a variety of uncomfortable emotions (feeling angry, hurt, confused and betrayed), she realizes she still loves him.
She feels there’s something still holding her to him and preventing her from moving on. Her question is whether there’s hope for a reconciliation and specifically what the outcome will be if they do try to make things work again. So Let’s Ask the Tarot:
The following is an actual reading based on a simple 3-card tarot spread. Although an actual tarot reading would involve a much more comprehensive look at the underlying issues, this can be a quick way to get an overall view of a question.
In this case I looked at the three cards as the querent, the situation and the outcome. Here’s the spread:
The deck used for this spread is the Dalí Universal Tarot by Salvador Dali and Juan Llarch, and published by US Games. I love this deck in all its symbolic splendor; it’s out of print and hard to find, but really is worth working with the actual cards if you can get your hands on them!
Now back to the spread:
Karen (the querent) is by depicted here as the Eight of Swords (Ochos de Espadas). While this is not exactly her, it does describe her situation.
The Eight of Swords in many of the traditional decks speaks of being trapped, powerless, blinded by fear, unable to move or to even see that there’s a way out.
Most decks show a figure (woman usually) who is blindfolded and trapped within the confines of 8 swords. I thought it was interesting that Karen used the phrase “blind-sided” when describing her breakup, and then drew this card.
The woman in this rendition is a bit different though: here she seems almost reconciled to her immobility. She’s slumped forward on her seat, perhaps in resignation or grieving. She oblivious to the butterfly perched on her lap or the castle in the air behind her. Instead she bows her head and looks down.
Because I know a little more of Karen’s story, I’m aware that she’s taken an emotional beating. But she’s been harder on herself over what amounted to the ultimate betrayal than she should have been. She’s blamed herself for the loss of her loved-one, and even though this was in no way her fault, she can’t seem to escape that self-imposed prison,
The Eight of Swords in this context is all about a sense of powerlessness brought on by situations that are outside of your (her) control. But it’s impossible to see it that way when you’e busy beating yourself up over it.
The card describing the situation could not be more accurate. The Lovers Card (Los Enamorados) is so often tied to love triangles and third parties (among other things) that I’ve gotten in the habit of expecting that when I see this card.
Paul had been cheating on Karen for quite some time, and when she confronted him he not only “came clean” but also took that opportunity to end their 6-year union.
The lovers card is about “love.” But there’s usually a choice between love and something else. Love and work, love and money, love and happiness; and often love and love (two lovers).
Sometimes this card refers to alternative or unconventional unions. Sometimes it speaks of those that aren’t traditionally accepted by society. biracial or same-sex unions. Polygamous or polyamorous relationships. Whatever the case, there’s still a decision to be made: in these cases it’s more about the choice between bending to status-quo expectations or following one’s heart.
In Karen and Paul’s case though, the love-triangle interpretation works. Paul chose the other woman, leaving Karen feeling sad and uncertain. And wondering what she’d done to deserve it. Or how she could have prevented it. Perhaps this explains the powerlessness and despondency portrayed in the 8 of swords above.
Notice Cupid encircled in a heart between the lovers and the serpent trailing down between them, bisecting the two halves of the card. There is definitely a love aspect to this card. But there’s a “breakup” aspect as well.
The Chariot card as the outcome is a bit of a double-edged sword. In my mind it does say they can come through this — as the Chariot card speaks of perseverance and going after a goal and being triumphant through sheer force and will.
However, there’s also an element of spinning one’s wheels, chasing one’s tail, and moving one step forward and two steps back with this card.
The Chariot is associated with the sign Cancer, which never goes directly after what it wants but rather attacks from all sides. It can “wear down” the opposition or push through any obstacle, but is this really the energy we’d want to equate with a loving union?
It’s one thing to fight for your relationship if you’re doing it side by side. But the Chariot card can be so single minded that the issues that caused them to break up in the first place are pushed aside while they focus on getting back together.
In my experience, the Chariot card also speaks of repeating past mistakes or reverting to past behaviors. In this scenario, that could be the kiss of death for them. So whether he cheats again, or the elephant in the room keeps reappearing due to lost trust, there is definite danger of not ever fully healing from this transgression.
I told Karen that I do absolutely feel they will get back together. But I didn’t get a happily ever after here. I felt that while there was (is) “more to come,” her best bet would be to not only hold back and let that other relationship falter on its own,.but to also go through the motions of moving on herself.
In terms of timing I don’t normally use the cards, I look at natal charts and transits. In their case the transits favor December (late) and also show significant challenges all the way into March… if they can get it back on track by then, I feel they’ve got a better shot of going the distance.
*not their real names
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