Astrology can teach us much about our relationships with others if we spend some time getting to know the symbolic language on a more intimate level. Usually when people speak of astrological compatibility they are speaking of their sun signs only. What you will often hear is "I am a Leo and I usually do not get along with Scorpios" or "I am a Virgo and Pisces people really drive me crazy." What's missing here, of course, is an understanding of what it is about other people that really challenges us on a defect level
To get a clearer understanding of astrological compatibility it's necessary to delve into two facets of astrology: the elements and the aspects. The elements we use in astrology are fire, water, air and earth. Each astrological sign falls into one of these categories. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are the fire signs which are usually associated with our ability to perceive on an intuitive level. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are water signs which relate to the emotional aspects of our being. Libra, Aquarius and Gemini are all air signs and correspond to the mental or intellectual plane. And finally, Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo are the earth signs and relate to the physical or sense qualities we possess.
The aspects are the interrelationships or dynamics that exist between the elements. The aspects determine the relative ease or "dis-ease" in which the elements will operate. For example, in Figure 1 I have laid out the elements in their natural relationships. As you can see fire and air and water and earth oppose each other (180 degrees apart). In addition each element is squared (in a 90 degree relationship) with each of the other elements. These two relationships, the opposition and square are the most challenging of the aspects between the elements. Does this mean then that if you happen to be an Aries (a fire sign) that every earth, water and air sign you meet will be a challenge to you in some way? Fortunately not!
In Figures 2, 3 and 4, I've laid out three diagrams of how the signs aspect or interrelate with each other. To interpret these examples all you do is find your birth sign and compare that with the other signs on your particular diagram. Using the Aries birth, for example, you would find that your relationships with Cancer, Libra and Capricorn would be challenging. The other water, air and earth signs in the remaining diagrams would not be as challenging and, in most cases, would be pretty smooth going.
This is because as an Aries you would be in positive aspect (trine) with the other fire signals and positive aspect (sextile) with the other air signs outside of your diagram. Similarly, if you are a Taurus you will find it more challenging to be around Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and easier to be around the other earth signs and water signs outside of your own diagram.
To demonstrate how these principals operate in a relationship I'd like to share with you the dynamics of a couple I worked with a few years ago. She was a Scorpio with five of her ten planets in that sign and he was a Taurus with the same amount of planets in Taurus. As you can see from the diagram Taurus and Scorpio are opposite each other and their was a classic example of the opposition relationship. In this kind of relationship, which is quite common, (remember the old adage, opposites attract?) The couple often draws the opposite to them for the purpose of healing and becoming whole. What happens many times though, is that the couple ends up spending most of their time making the other person's reality wrong!
In this case she was the emotionally expressive one in the relationship and tended to be kind of "spacey" and quite ungrounded in her body. He was the epitome of the "classic" rational "I do not believe it without I see it" type of guy. He was not interested or capable at the time of "being with" her deep, emotional material and she was not able to see the positive aspects of his earthy qualities. This is not to say that the opposition relationship will not work. It is just more challenging as it requires that both partners honor and accept the gift that their partner is offering them. It also takes great discipline to consciously develop the parts of ourselves that may be over developed in our partner so that we do not need them to be whole ourselves.
The square relationship is also quite common and I call it the "growth through confrontation" relationship. The crux of this relationship is that each partner challenges the other to keep growing often through confrontation and conflict! In the square relationship it often sees that the couple undermines and thwarts the best intentions of each other. The positive side of this type of relationship is that that it provides a lot of energy and motivation to break out of old ways of relating. The only problem is that it can be very painful for all of those involved. Neverheless, for those that are really committed to growing both individually and as a couple and who like a lot of fireworks in their relationship, the square relationship can be quite dynamic and can produce a lot of breakthroughs.
The conjunct relationship, or relationships that share the same sign, are the most rare and probably the most challenging. Since each partner is similar in many ways there is a compelling pull to merge with the other and to blur the boundaries that give rise to individuality. Objectivity tend to get thrown out the window and it becomes very challenging for the couple to distinguish where they stand in relation to each other. The reward of this balancing act is a relationship that reflects a singleness of purpose, and an intensity that provides motivation for accomplishing a lot together.
Interestingly enough the "easy" relationships, the trine relationship (both partners in the same element) and the sextile relationship (fire with any air outside one's own diagram, or water with any earth element outside one's own diagram) are not as common as the more challenging relationships We've been discussing. Maybe this accounts for the high divorce rate that exists in this country! Perhaps we choose the challenging relationships to move beyond what familiar patterns of relationship have been. Since one of the gifts of being in relationship is the opportunity to grow both individually and in relation to others maybe we need that extra challenge to really motivate us to change and grow.