This article was originally published on the first version of this website in 2016. It has received some minor editing for mistakes or to update some of the language.
Who doesn’t love love? The Lovers card is a great addition to any reading involving romance as it often indicates true love, partnership, and fulfillment of romantic relationships. But what do you do if the card comes up reversed? Or what if it comes up in an odd location? What if your reading isn’t even about romance and relationships at all? The Lovers is one of those cards that can easily throw a wrench into any good reading if you aren’t prepared to work with it and what it symbolizes beyond the surface meanings.
As with most of the tarot, and especially the major arcana, The Lovers has a lot of potential interpretations. The most obvious reading is to look at it as a representation of lovers and romantic relationships, just like the name says. If you are doing a reading about love and romance, this may be the best direction to go with this card. Keep it simple, sweetheart! In this context, The Lovers can be a great omen representing fidelity, true love, satisfaction, fulfillment, and great sex – any and all of those things we associate with our best romantic relationships.
But how about if this card comes up reversed? Does this mean this relationship is not the one for you? Not necessarily. I tend to read reversed cards as though the reversal has literally turned the traditional card “on its head!” Is there something that is keeping you from reaching true and lasting fulfillment in your relationship? It could mean that this isn’t the best fit relationship for you, but it could also mean that this relationship has the potential to be for your best good, but something is standing in the way. Are you holding on to baggage from a past relationship? Is your partner? Communication is important in all aspects of our lives, but especially in romantic relationships – if there is something that needs to be said that isn’t, it can prevent all the ooey gooey goodness of The Lovers card from manifesting your life. So spit it out already – you’ll be glad you did! Of course, if your partner is really not a good fit for you, all the communication in the world won’t fix that, and a reversed Lovers card may be telling you to honor the love and commitment you put into that relationship, honor your emotions, and move on. It’s best to look at the context provided by the rest of the spread and, most importantly, listen to your heart!
Of course, sometimes The Lovers card shows up in readings that have nothing to do with romance or love relationships. Let’s say you have concerns about your job, and The Lovers just happens to show up in the reading. Does this mean an office romance is in your future? It might, but don’t rush into it and get slapped with a sexual harassment suit! Think about what The Lovers represents: two individuals coming together in harmony. This can be true of the workplace as well. Do you have a big task you are working on and you’re feeling overwhelmed? The Lovers may be telling you that it’s time to ask for help: sometimes another perspective can kickstart a stalled project, and it’s always nice to have someone to share the workload!
Maybe you are having conflict with someone in the office; The Lovers may be asking you to “get over it” for the greater good of your workplace and start focusing on mending fences so that everyone can feel more comfortable and fulfilled in the office. If you are considering a career change, The Lovers may be asking you whether or not what you do is making you feel fulfilled and happy. If not, it may be time to move on to something that makes you feel joyful and fulfilled to go to work! If you are happy but you have an opportunity for more money, The Lovers may be saying that you need to look beyond the financial: is this new opportunity going to make you feel fulfilled, will it harmonize with your values and ethics, or will more stress and disquiet come along with the new raise? If a new opportunity would be more fulfilling AND give you more money, then The Lovers may be staring you in the face saying, “What the heck are you waiting for?!”
As a queer person myself, it’s important to remember that we live in a world that is finally starting to recognize the great diversity that exists in romantic and sexual expression, sexual and gender identity, and ways of constructing relationships. When reading, I try to use gender-inclusive language until we’ve established whether or not my client has a significant other and what gender that person (and my client as well!) identify as. This can be a difficult thing for people to get used to; English is a gendered language and using pronouns is a natural part of speech that we rarely think about. Trying to stay neutral or asking questions of your client can help avoid unintentional hurt feelings or a creating a distance between you and your client.
The Lovers card traditionally depicts a man and a woman (though this is not always the case), but it can also relate to a balance between masculine and feminine, aggressive and passive qualities. Are you and your partner fighting a lot, both trying to get in the last word so the fight just keeps going and going? The Lovers might be saying that it’s time for both of you to tap into your nurturing, compassionate sides. For a trans client, the appearance of The Lovers, especially in a reversed position or in a position related to their emotional state, may indicate that they are struggling with their identity, trying to find the words to communicate their identity to those they love, or having trouble reconciling the body they were born with and the person they know themselves to be. It’s important to approach these instances from a place of love and compassion, and with a willingness to learn: just as our client is seeking insight into their situation, we can learn more about our practice (and ourselves) by experiencing different viewpoints and how they can interact with traditional tarot readings.
There are some decks that switch up The Lovers card in interesting ways. One deck that I have in my collection is the Cosmic Tribe Tarot, and it includes 3 Lovers cards: one featuring a man and a woman, one with two men, and one with two women. You can choose which card you want to have in the deck at any given time, which can be useful for reading for people who’ve identified to you their sexual orientation or who you know pretty well, or you can do what I do and just leave all three cards in the deck – is there really such a thing as too much love?!
I think all of these cards can be useful in a reading, even for regular ol’ straight folks! If you’re reading for a straight man and you get the lovers card featuring two men, is he maybe focusing too much of his energies on his “bromantic” pursuits? Is he playing into traditional masculine roles and not communicating? It might be telling him it’s time to tone down the testosterone and be a little more vulnerable! If more than one Lovers card shows up in a reading, it could indicate infidelity, or it could indicate that the client is torn between two great passions: maybe two potential lovers, maybe a lover and a job, or two potential paths to take on some new adventure.
And though The Lovers card symbolizes a pairing of two individuals, it’s important to remember that not everyone is or desires to be monogamous. A reversed Lovers could indicate that your client is struggling with the confines of monogamy, or is looking for a non-monogamous relationship but doesn’t know how to approach this with their partner. It could mean that their partner has opened a conversation about non-monogamy and your client is feeling hurt or conflicted. It could be that your partner is already happily involved in a non-monogamous relationship, but one of their partners is feeling neglected or is dealing with some jealousy, and may need a little more time and attention at this point. It’s important to remember that the interpretations of The Lovers can be as varied and as complex as the relationships of the real people who come to your table asking for a reading!
Everyone needs love in their life, regardless of what form it takes. By opening yourself up to a wider range of interpretations, and by being opening to talking about what these interpretations might mean for your particular clients, is going to help you grow your relationship with The Lovers card. There is a world of feelings and emotions waiting behind that card, and it’s up to you and your clients what areas of that world you’re going to explore!
Chris M. Stoner, Miss Jaye's "civilian persona," has been reading and studying tarot for 30 years and reading for clients for about half that. They are available for readings by appointment at The Reading Room inside Willow Life Yoga in Grand Forks, ND.