"Do you want to look at any specific relationship?" I ask my clients. They inevitably turn sheepish: "Well, it's just a small crush, but..." they stammer, or "We've only started seeing each other, but, umm, I am curious about someone if there's time."
As a tarot reader, I've heard a lot about love. When it comes to matters of the heart, most feel like they have no clue, yet assume everyone else has it all figured out. Well, no one has it figured out! Romantic love requires vulnerability, honesty and self-reflection. Intimacy delivers high highs at the risk of excruciating heartbreak. Not even wild success can cure loneliness or prevent love gone wrong.
In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a list of seven love lessons I've learned as a tarot reader:
Great chemistry is not compatibility. If physical attraction is the sole Velcro, that's not a lasting bond. You also need some common values, interests and lifestyle choices. There's nothing wrong with pleasure! Hooking up with a hottie you feel intensely drawn toward can teach you things. However, trouble arises if one person wants a "solid" relationship and the other just wants a between-meal snack. It's OK to admit, "We connect splendidly in some ways, but we're walking different paths."
How Will I Know?
Two-and-a-half months of in-person dating is the average to know if you really click. By then, you have a basic feel for their message-response rate, too. If your text goes unanswered, you can discern whether they're: a) enjoying necessary alone time b) genuinely busy or c) actively avoiding — or straight ghosting — you. It's normal to feel ooey-gooey in love at 2.5 months. However, if you're approaching month No. 4 and remain painfully unsure, that's not a good sign. And if, after many months, someone keeps finding ways to express that they're *shrug emoji* ambivalent about you, that's not good, either. You deserve to feel chosen and valued.
Dressing Room Rule
When trying on clothes, we tell ourselves, "These pants fit a little weird, and the waist itches. But they'll stretch out eventually." Yet garment flaws usually get more annoying outside the dressing room. Similarly, when we notice troubling characteristics in a person we like, we want to believe they'll improve over time. That's delusional. In the relationship tarot spread I created, one card placement represents "what you can change about yourself to improve the relationship" because — listen up —you cannot change anyone else. You can express preferences and make requests, but a person has to want to change and then prove they've changed. No amount of therapy or self-help books can make someone choose loving actions.
Policy of Truth
The quickest way to destroy intimacy is dishonesty. George Eliot wrote, "What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?" Yup. Even "little" lies corrode a union. If a partner claims, "I didn't tell you the truth because I knew you'd overreact!" (read: show emotion), that's an eye-roll of an excuse. People lie to protect their image, not to help you. Truth may involve initial discomfort, but it brings lovers closer.
Most relationship troubles I hear about could be solved with brave communication. Even if you're casually dating, check in with each other about expectations, boundaries and desires. Not just once — again and again! There's a disturbing dating phenomenon where people make specific (but fake) future plans in order to create the illusion of commitment. Don't do that. While you don't owe anyone an essay on why you want to stop seeing them, a simple, "Hey, I'm just not feeling it," is better than a Houdini vanishing act.
On a serious note: Intimate partner violence rarely starts with physical abuse; it usually begins with emotional abuse. If a partner frequently puts you down and says, "I'm joking" or "You're too sensitive!" — or if they refuse to admit when they're wrong — those are red flags. You should be allowed to express opinions, disagree and change your mind without fear. Emotional abuse is real, and its effects can be as traumatic as being hit. Abuse isn't an anger problem, it's about control and power. If you feel unsafe, get out.
The Lovers Card
When clients draw the Lovers card, they assume it's about romance. But the Lovers is a card about choice and honoring your desires. I've seen too many people stay in miserable situations because they worry, "My partner will be disappointed! What will my family think? We just signed a lease!" Your heart is yours. When you trust your true passions to guide you, the universe has a way of sending along something better. ♦
Elissa Ball is a comic, poet, and former Seattle Weekly columnist. She lives in Spokane, reads tarot cards at Chosen Vintage, and is the author of three books.