The Knight of Cups and Love as a Class Room

Developing a healthier model for love and romance.

The Tarot suit of Cups is the suit of emotions and particularly of love, the grandest of all of the emotions.  The Knight of Cups shows a Knight riding forth on a quest, his cup extended in front of him.  He’s on a quest of some sort having to do with love, but we can’t see the contents of his cup. 

 Is it full of love that he wants to share with someone else?

Or is it empty and he wants someone to fill it for him?

Kind of a crap shoot, isn’t it?  And it’s pretty much like what we go through when we start a new relationship.  The other person is on his or her best behavior and we can feel quite certain that their armor is buffed to a high polish and their horse has been carefully groomed.  They look mighty good at first glance.  But what’s going on with that cup?  Are they full or are they empty?  Do they have something to share or do they want us to somehow fill up their emptiness?  Or maybe a little bit of both. . .

There is also, of course, the ass end of relationships, where they’ve ended, our hearts have been broken, and we’re recovering and trying to move on.  In the Tarot, that’s represented by the Three of Hearts reversed, showing that our hearts have been pierced with pain but the swords are falling out and the pain is going away.

Oddly, those two phases – the quest for love and the end of love – are very intimately connected in our culture. They’re connected with what we might call the, “til death do us part,” model of love.  The idea is that love is for life, that it’s a permanent, life-time commitment.  

Of course, the divorce statistics tell us – plain and simple – that that’s a bullshit idea.  Most relationships are NOT for life and about fifty percent of them end up in parting.

Still, we cling to that idea that a romantic relationship is for a lifetime. That belief causes us unbelievable amounts of pain when reality rears its’ ugly head and we have to split the sheets with someone we loved.  And then we beat the hell out of ourselves.

What went wrong?

What’s wrong with me?

Am I just totally unloveable?

Louise Hay, in her wonderful book, You Can Heal Your Life ,proposed a different model of love that takes away a lot of the pain, and it’s just a matter of having a different perspective on relationships.  And a different perspective on ourselves.

“Being needy is the best way to find an unhealthy relationship.”  Louise Hay.

That’s a pretty powerful statement when we take the time to think about it because it focuses straight onto the question of why we feel that we need (as opposed to want) a romantic relationship.  What is it that we’re trying to get from the other person?  Why is it that we feel so devastated when we don’t get it?

She suggests a simple exercise:  get out a pen and a pad of paper and make a list of all of the qualities that you want in your lover.  What should he or she be to make you feel fulfilled?  

Compassion?

Tenderness?

Strength?

Humor?

Empathy?

Now flip it around and ask yourself:  how much of those qualities do I have toward myself?  Do I treat myself with compassion?  With tenderness?  Am I strong and reassuring to myself?  Can I see the humor in my life and laugh out loud when it’s just me here?  Do I really have empathy and understanding for my self?  And then start working on building those qualities, in your self.

You get the drift:  the more we have those qualities in our own lives, the less we’ll feel the desperate need to find them in someone else.  And the less devastated we’ll feel when the other person goes away.

The other person going away is also a part of the process.

As I said, the divorce statistics don’t lie.  In our culture, nobody gets married with the idea that it’s for six months or a year, or maybe a three month contract with the option to renew.  It’s for a freaking lifetime.  Til death do us part.  

Which means that if you’re not RIGHT THERE AT MY BEDSIDE WHEN I CROAK at the age of 186, then you didn’t really love me, you bastard!  Uh, huh.

So . . . getting back to reality . . . as Hay said, all relationships eventually end, except for the one that we have with ourselves.  If we can get our heads around that reality and honestly say to ourselves, “I’m going to be with this person for a while,” then love gets a lot easier and relationships, paradoxically, become a lot more meaningful.

Because then we begin to really focus on why we’re with this person for this limited period of time and we don’t take it for granted that we’ve got forever to get it right.  

It also changes the meaning of what it means, “to get it right.”  Getting it right no longer means simple longevity.  It no longer means that our relationship with that person was somehow, “good,” just because we managed to hang in there through decades of not being heard or not being seen or not being loved back or putting up with a rotten sex life.

It shifts the focus to, “why are we here?”  We’re here, as two autonomous, strong, healthy human beings sharing our space, energy and love for this period of time – and that can be a month or sixty years – for a reason.  What lessons are we here to teach each other?  In what ways can we help each other grow?  In what ways can we support each other to evolve?

In other words, the relationship becomes a life lesson.  And when we’ve learned that lesson, class is over, we graduated, time to move on to another lesson.

There’s nothing inherently sad about that.  We’ve just been taught that it’s sad.  If we view the relationship as a life lesson, then we can be grateful to our ex-partners for what they taught us and for allowing us to teach them, and move on with gratitude and love in our hearts.

It ain’t easy.  The beliefs that love relationships are supposed to be permanent, that we’ve somehow failed if they aren’t, and that we should just go right back out and do the same stupid thing again, are so deeply ingrained in our culture that it takes a lot of conscious effort to pull out of them.

As Hay says, though, relationships ending is NORMAL AND NATURAL.  We don’t need to put up with a worn out relationship just to avoid the pain of the parting.  We’ve learned what we were supposed to learn.

I love her affirmation for ending relationships, which I shall keep near me in the future:  I bless you with love and I release you – you are free and I am free.

Yes.

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The Judgement Card – Lay It Down and Shut the Door

To my mind, Judgement is a lot creepier looking card than the Death card.  Coffins bobbing around in the sea while gray corpses pop out of them like zombies.  Of course, the Angel with the Trumpet hovers overhead calling them back to life and that’s nice but it’s still a disturbing card on the face of it.

Despite that, it’s still a hopeful card because it’s the card of endings and where there are endings there can be beginnings.  Judgement isn’t just about endings, though; it’s about the end of long cycles that occur in our lives. Often it shows up in our readings as a sign that we can finally lay our burdens down.

We all have seasons and cycles in our lives, though we frequently fail to recognize them as distinct and separate chapters.  Some of the more obvious cycles are birth through adolescence, puberty through adulthood, perhaps going to college or doing a hitch in the military after high school.  Our children growing up and moving out on their own. These are all periods of time that stand apart in our memories and experiences as being unique times in our lives.

And Judgement is about the ends of these cycles.  It’s about the personal judgements that we make about these periods of time, what they meant to us, and how we performed in dealing with them.

To use another common example, think of marriage or partnership as a cycle in our lives.  We meet someone, we fall in love, we decide that he or she is the person with whom we want to spend our lives.  The relationship may last for many years or just a few. Sooner or later, though, whether as a result of, “until death do us part,” or a divorce/separation, that bonding with another, that cycle of our lives, will be over.

And when it’s over, we have to make a judgement about it.  How did I do? Could I have done more? Could I have loved more or shown more feelings or compassion?

A divorce is probably a pretty good example of that process.  Unless you accidentally married a psychopath or an angel, the odds are that BOTH parties contributed to the divorce.  Both parties might have tried to be a little more caring or supportive or understanding or sensual or whatever the missing ingredients were that caused it all to fall apart.

Even if you’re actually an incredibly good, loving person you may have contributed to the divorce just by marrying an asshole to begin with.  The question is, “What did I do in this cycle that was good, bad, or indifferent?”

So Judgement is about the ends of these cycles in our lives and about the judgements we have to make when the cycles end.  And they’re not judgements about the other party or circumstances – they’re judgements about ourselves and our own behaviors.  With those judgements come – hopefully – growth. It can be something as simple as, “I’m a really good, loving person so why do I keep getting involved with assholes?”  Or as complex as, “I was really abused as a child so how do I learn how to really love and trust people?” The judgements are always geared toward being and doing better.

The second element in Judgement, though, is laying that burden down and starting a new phase and that’s where many of us trip ourselves up.  We need to be able to firmly close the door on that chapter of our lives and say, “That’s over. Time to move on.”

Taking the time to make thorough judgements about ourselves and about our behavior is the key to doing that.  We don’t just leave a marriage or experience a death or fight our ways through serious illnesses and then go on with life as as the Walking Wounded.  We take a good long look at ourselves and we thoroughly decide, “I did the best I could.”

Or, “I could have done better.”

Or, “I need to work on being a better person/listener/partner/lover and here’s how I’m going to do that.”

And, once we can honestly say to ourselves that we’ve learned the lessons we were supposed to learn, we forgive (or congratulate) ourselves and MOVE ON.  We don’t whip ourselves over not doing enough or continue to live in the past. We shut the door firmly and step out into our new world.

It’s over.

And it’s beginning.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, Kindle edition available dirt cheap on Amazon.