Grow up in a popculture-rich society inundated by Hollywood rom-coms, sappy love songs and mass market paperbacks, and you will inevitably swallow part or whole of a prepackaged set of assumptions about the ideal relationship. The rite of passage into true adulthood involves popping the bubble and learning to approach partnership with realistic expectations and halfway decent communication skills.
Boil down marriage, and what you have is a social contract. Libra and the Seventh House concern not only partnership but contractual agreements. Marriage is a piece of paper — you don’t have to be in love, you just have to be above a certain age and opposite in gender from your spouse. When you add religion, you get certain vows by which you promise to abide. The institution of marriage offers legal rights and some social cachet.
Libra is an Air sign, and this element concerns the mental realm. Although Libra is ruled by the planet Venus, goddess of love, this sign approaches love via the intellect. Libra and the Seventh House relate to the script or frame by which we understand the nature of partnership.
What are you agreeing to when you commit to someone?
There are two types of agreements — what’s on paper and what you explicitly (or implicitly) agree to behind closed doors.
Monogamy is often encoded in the law. In some states in the U.S., there are criminal penalties ranging from a ten dollar fine to two years imprisonment (and possibly even a life sentence) for committing adultery. In the U.S. military, one can get court-martialled for cheating on one’s spouse. According to wikipedia, “in jurisdictions where adultery is not itself a criminal offense, it may still have legal consequences, particularly in divorce cases. For example it may constitute grounds for divorce, it may be a factor to consider in a property settlement, it may affect the status of children, the custody of children, etc. Moreover, adultery may result in social ostracism.”
When you agree to get married, you are legally agreeing to be sexually faithful to your spouse. But, of course, many couples take their relationship into their own hands. You might get legally married but decide to have an open relationship. But even if you’re polyamorous, rules are still necessary to make this arrangement work. Some examples: Your spouse is #1, and you will end any secondary relationships if they threaten your primary one. You commit to being radically honest about all manner of fantasies and emotions (including jealousy, insecurity and possessiveness). You must wear protection with everyone but your spouse. It doesn’t matter what you agree to — in order to make an alternative arrangement work, there needs to be an explicit understanding. Even in BDSM relationships, there are strict rules to ensure the safety of all participants. No wonder that Saturn — planet of rules and strict boundaries — is exalted in this sign!
Things get fuzzy when you get into implicit agreements. For example, a married guy hits on you, and you remind him he’s got a wife. He says, “We have an understanding.” What does that mean? Did his wife specifically say, “Do what you want, just don’t tell me about it”?
What are your expectations in a relationship?
We crave order, because life is so chaotic. A mental model of a relationship can help us feel secure. But what if you and your partner have different ideas about the relationship?
So many problems arise because both parties have different expectations of their partner. Does your husband expect you to have sex with him twice a week, or to consult with him about making expenditures above $100? Do you feel that it’s not OK for your wife to talk about your marriage problems with a best friend or therapist? Is your partner allowed to have a close friend of the opposite gender who’s not gay? If so, do you and your spouse make these expectations clear? And what if your partner says, “I didn’t agree to this when we decided to commit”?
Most conversations that last through the night are about clarifying your positions on aspects of the relationship that have, until now, remained unspoken. We often don’t broach specific topics out of fear that we will lose our partner if we stand up for ourselves or demand something from them. And sometimes after these talks, you simply agree to disagree, decide you’ll try to find a middle ground, or just accept that there’s a major incompatibility. You somehow learn to live with it, because you’d rather be in the relationship than not.
Compromise, sacrifice, surrender
We all have a unique image of the perfect relationship, and therefore enter a real one with a set of expectations. Our partner enters the relationship with an often different set of expectations. Success depends on finding some overlap between the two, like in a Venn diagram. However, that means that each partner has expectations that remain unfulfilled in the relationship. We learn that one person cannot be everything to us, and look to friends and even professionals to meet some of these needs. But what if your unfulfilled need is one that is supposed to met only by your partner? You might have a higher sex drive, or have kinks that your lover does not want to indulge.
Is this where the Pisces archetype kicks in? To remain sexually faithful, do you sacrifice a part of your sexual fulfillment, or retreat into fantasy? The same could be said for romance. If you crave flowers and chocolate but your husband is not expressive in that way, do you turn to Harlequin romance novels to get your fix? Neptune is the modern ruler of Pisces and the higher octave of Venus. This planet can steer you towards escapism, or simple acceptance of what is. Aligning with Neptune can mean coming to peace with the fact that not all of your desires will be fulfilled, and that it is delusional to expect otherwise. You develop an attitude of Zen-like “is-ness” about your partnership. Through mindfulness, you dispassionately observe your grasping mind, which tries to meld your spouse into an all powerful being who will be mother, father, lover, and friend, anticipating your needs before you are aware of them.
You learn that expectation is a product of the mind, and that you can see your lover as the Beloved by just being with them as they are.
Disclaimer: The mention of zodiac signs above does not refer to Sun sign expressions, but rather archetypes which are shared by everyone. Don’t personalize it.