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The 7th House
by Dana Gerhardt

Dear April,

Writing about the 7th house of partnership, I don't trust myself. That is why, dear friend, I'm asking you to share my column. Not only are you happily married, you have an expressive 7th house Moon. If anyone can balance my approach, it’s you. You know how I squirm when clients request “relationship readings,” how I try talking them out of chart comparisons (“Tell me--are Jake and I a perfect match?”), and if they're insistent, why I refer them to you. The 7th house raises my guilty secret: I don't believe in soul mates. Searching for that “perfect someone” is (to me) as doomed as hunting down a unicorn or griffin.

SevenYou can see why I don’t trust myself. It’s a risky point of view. Most people call astrologers just to hear some good news about their “soul mate” (as in, “Will the love-of-my-life be arriving soon?”). I worry that my theories here are wrong. But I understand why people look for soul mates. Blame the 7th house. This is where we yearn for, and receive, "the other." It urges us to play duets. We strive to harmonize here, one-on-one, with not just one but a parade of significant others—teachers and counselors, business colleagues and lovers. We can dance with these partners for just a moment, a season, or for all eternity. But through them we step outside ourselves. They provoke us to grow. Through 7th house people we become more whole. That sounds nice, but it’s often painful in practice, for the 7th isn’t just a dance floor. It’s a razor too, scraping the rough edges off our personalities. This is in the horoscope’s design: our 7th house partners stand opposite our 1st house self. That is why the 7th rules “open enemies” as well as our "true loves." (And isn't it unfortunate how many true loves become open enemies in the end.)

So if by soul mate one means that idyllic partner who, just like us, loves anchovy sandwiches and hates The Lord of the Rings, who appreciates fine Italian marble and is undaunted by our moods, who understands us, as no one else can, then to hunt this person down in the house of opposites is a risky proposition. It’s sad we often finish our romantic fairy tales hating our partners for the very reasons we were drawn to them in the first place.

But why should this be so?

Mirror OneIt starts with the Ascendant, our first mask or rising sign. Here’s the persona that worked best for us in our earliest environment. It represents but a fraction of our full potential, yet it draws a useful boundary (“I’m the kind of person who does this and would never do that.”). As we crafted this story about ourselves, we had to do something with the rejected qualities that didn't fit our Ascendant myth. We gave them to the 7th house, to meet up with at a later date. This sets up our deep longing to retrieve what was unconsciously tossed away. When people wander on our stage carrying those potentials we repressed, what a mysterious and potent attraction we feel. Yet as we get to know them better, they grow strangely less desirable. Our entrenched resistance has emerged. Walk through any mall and you’ll hear the endless bickering of rising signs with their 7th house cusps.

Mr. Taurus Rising was once intrigued by his lover’s mystery and depth (the forbidden fruits of Scorpio); now he’s frightened by that brooding dark intensity. Ms. Capricorn Rising’s heart flutters at the nurturing sensitivity of her Cancerian prince, until before her eyes he transforms into a needy, childish frog. Alas—the poor men who’ve been with me! My Virgo rising finds Pisces irresistible; I’ve been drawn to poets, spiritual seekers, and musicians. We move in together and, Presto Change-o! Mr. Perfect is suddenly a lousy dreamer—chaotic, impractical, and vague. If you look at the charts of any two people in partnership, you’ll find each holds a prominent echo of the other’s 7th house planets or sign. That’s the hook. But I confess: this is where my interest in chart comparisons ends. I could care less whether Jake’s Venus trines Sue’s Mars. It’s the natal chart that mostly makes and breaks relationships. Here are our rose-colored glasses… and the paper bag pulled over our heads. Jake may be a lovely man, but if Sue can’t get past her own projections, their love affair is doomed.

A good rule of thumb is that any individual who provokes us into a strong emotional response, who affects us, has unwittingly invited a shadow dance with our 7th house. Keep your wits. Hold your complaints at arm’s length and study them. Let them send you on a scavenger hunt for those very qualities inside yourself. Of course this spoils the fun of righteous indignation. But it’s worth the effort. You can actually do something about your deeper misery—being internally out of balance. Left to my own devices, I see nothing Pisces-like in me. I’m Virgo--analytical, organized, efficient. But through my partner’s sundry imperfections, I gain a mirror into the parts of myself I hide. Imagine this: I’ve discovered I can be forgetful, deceitful, and escapist too! Accepting my partner now gets a little easier. What’s more, embracing my darker Pisces side allows the positive one to emerge. I become more relaxed, more present, more at peace. Perhaps my partner, Robert, is my soul mate after all—if by “soul mate” we mean those people who patiently provoke us… into mating with the forgotten fullness of our souls.

Mirror TwoThe 7th house holds many stories. Another is told by its ruling planet. Its placement suggests a central or recurring theme in one’s relationships. Someone with the 7th house ruler in the 10th of career might find her calling in her marriage, start a business with her partner, or go it solo, being married to her life’s work. My Descendant is ruled by a Libra Neptune in the 2nd house of money. I tend to make my financial relationships personal, and my personal relationships financial. This is as romantic as I ever got about marriage: "Darling, we can save money together and buy a house!" And on that dream two of my long-term relationships spun and then dissolved. Neptune has been quite the trickster: it’s raised my income as if by magic, but it’s dissolved my partners’ funds. All three have traveled to the verge of bankruptcy.

Money was the central fact in my parent’s relationship: they argued about it constantly. Dad let money slip through his fingers; mom had a green thumb to make it grow. Only recently did I notice my 7th house cusp lies trapped within six opposing planets in my parents' charts. There I've always been, a small fish, stuck in that long net those two fishing trawlers dropped in my unconscious sea. Aren't we all subject to the power of our marriage myth? By "marriage myth" I mean that story of our parents' pairing. Those early gods in our unconscious kingdom held as much sway as Zeus and Hera ever did. We can decode the Ascendant by looking at the story of our birth. Perhaps we can unravel the Descendant’s mysteries by looking at our marriage myth.

Here's my parents' story: Neither claims to have known happiness in love. They married and divorced each other twice. My father left my mother when I was eight; she left him when I was fourteen. They stayed together after that, buying homes together, sometimes living together, in a cranky business partnership that recently meant living in separate homes in the same town. Never did I plan to repeat their unhappiness, but my relationships have been mostly cranky too. They ended at intervals that echoed my parents’, the first after eight years, the second after fourteen. As happened with my mother, my mate left me the first time, I left him the second. Now I’m in an “LAT” relationship, what my friend suggests the Europeans do, “living apart together.” She says it like it’s trendy and continental, but I know better: it’s exactly what my parents did in their later years. Yikes.

Thank goodness there’s more to the 7th than marriage alone. Interestingly, this is the one house on which modern and traditional astrologers wholly agree. Both assign it to relationships, though in horary astrology, the 7th can describe any old “other” we might be curious about. One such “other” important to my self-employed clients is potential customers. Rarely do astrologers talk about developing a clientele as a 7th house matter. It's typically seen as a 10th house marketing challenge. But isn’t this a relationship issue too? Over the years I’ve heard a number of unsuccessful astrologers complain that it’s their potential clients who are to blame: "This screwed-up town won't support a decent astrologer!" (Note the emotion. Could a projection be at play?) What do you think, April, after starting your own practice fresh, in three towns in a little over three years?

My first year as an astrologer was a lonely one. If the phone rang once in six weeks, it was a busy month. My daily visit to the PO Box was just to catch that once-a-month query should it arrive that day. I was advertising, perhaps in the wrong places, but in retrospect, I think the real problem was with my 7th house: I wasn’t ready for these relationships! Above ground I was begging for clients; below ground I was terrified. What could they possibly want from me?! Whatever it was, I knew I couldn’t give it to them. My resistance was stronger than my desire. It’s the same when an astrologer suggests new love is on the horizon and the client returns a year later complaining no one ever showed. I know it sounds like a convenient rationale for the failed prediction; nonetheless, it’s a pretty safe bet: this person had a “Keep Out!” sign on their 7th house.

I began attracting more clients once I made a key decision: I told myself I would only deal with the type of people I’d like as friends. Perhaps this simply took the edge off my terror, but in truth, this is exactly who showed up. Over the years I noticed another curious phenomenon: most of the charts showed that my clients were highly intuitive. This is of course a Pisces quality (ie, my 7th house). The 7th suggests the kind of people we’ll attract; what’s more, it tells the purpose of our meeting. I gradually adjusted my practice to tease out what my intuitive clients already knew. Together we explore their feelings, unconscious symbols, and their rich imaginations. In other words, we have a Pisces tea party! I provide the cups. They’re the ones who bring the tea.

But enough of my 7th house stories. Now it's time for yours!

Fondly, Dana

Dear Dana,

Ok, I confess—I love the 7th house! Your wonderful hypothesis notwithstanding—and I can certainly appreciate the theory—my 7th house doesn't seem to be the repository of my least-loved traits. Philosopher, clown, know-it-all: certainly, I am my Sagittarius Ascendant. Journalist, gossip, communicator: I claim the traits of my Gemini Descendant, even as I am happy to have found them in my nearest and dearest.

Mirror OneI was, however, intrigued by your concept of the 7th house "marriage myth" and its impact on our expectations of marriage; it provided a wealth of insight when applied to my own chart. Mercury rules my 7th, and third house/Mercury/Gemini concerns (communication, letters, even cars) figure prominently in my myth. I have only a handful of memories of my parents together, because my father died when I was young. But I remember the sound of their voices from their bedroom down the hall, soothing me to sleep as they rehashed the day—voices, that sweetest of Gemini lullabies!—and the two of them sitting at the kitchen table, chatting and laughing easily with one other. One summer my mother took my siblings and me on vacation, while Dad stayed behind to get the crops in. Many years later I ran across a bundle of letters he wrote to her while we were away—beautiful, sensitive, funny letters. The kind you write to your best friend. My Gemini Descendant expectation: The person you marry should be your best friend and confidant. My relationship with my husband was founded over long chats over coffee. In fact, all the important relationships in my life can be traced back to a common Gemini source: conversation.

But there is, ultimately, a tragic ending (my 7th house Moon squares Pluto) to my myth. One day Zeus topples off a cloud (or dies in a car accident, in the case of my dad), leaving Hera without her best friend. What do you do with a script like that, when you're young and impressionable? I opted for a series of romantic relationships with built-in expiration dates. "Oh, he'll be leaving to go off to jail." "He's a zillion years old, he'll die long before me." I could plan on the leaving, you see? I felt a sense of control (there's that Moon/Pluto again). And my romantic projection—loosely based on my parents' situation—was that you only open up to someone when you're sure they're going to leave you.

When I did eventually find my best friend and confidant, I was immediately in a bind: I didn't want to live without him, but on the other hand, he lacked a clearly-defined expiration date! I was terrified by the lack of control. To be happily married I had to get past my fear of being left, and learn to trust and love someone whose estimated time of departure is not well-defined.

As for how all this relates to clients—how would I know, this crummy town won't support a decent astrologer! (Hyuck hyuck). Oh hell, Dana, I don't know. I sort of subscribe to the "read everybody" school of astrology—a dragnet approach. Works well when you move a lot. I figure, if I see enough people, by sheer dint of numbers I'll end up with a clientele. And a varied one, at that—gotta keep that Gemini Moon happy!

Whereas your position—to only have clients whom you'd want as friends—sounds wise and perfect for you. A Pisces Descendant has only one speed in relationship: total immersion. It's lovely, but exhausting, I'm sure. So you're wise to be discerning (helpful Virgo Ascendant!) about your clientele, because you honor the fact that each consultation subtly changes your cosmic DNA in some profound fashion. Each of your consultations is a beautiful, soulful, artistic little gem—sound Piscean? Whereas for my Gemini Descendant, each consultation is an opportunity to play Barbara Walters—"Let's talk about you!" I just find people incredibly interesting. I like to hear their stories, and then tell their stories back to them in a way that, hopefully, helps them get some perspective on their situation. But I don't necessarily become one with them.

I guess if I'm honest, my interactions with clients are the ultimate "built-in expiration date" relationships. ("They'll be leaving in 90 minutes. It's ok to open up.") In applying my "marriage myth" to this other kind of 7th house relationship, it's easy for me to see why I occasionally find myself in power struggles with clients, usually over the issue of time. I can't stand it when people are late, don't show up, don't send payments on time. I feel a lack of control, and the ensuing power struggles serve to remind me that in order to let others impact me, I have to get past the safety barrier of expiration dates and make peace with powerlessness.

There is a time-honored astrological chestnut that claims that the 7th house describes the kind of partners we'll have, and I don't discount that. But it seems to me there is another dimension to the 7th house: namely, that it's a portrait of what others encounter when they enter into close partnership or enmity with us—the kind of relationship environment we provide for others.

For instance, although you focus on the fierce emotional pragmatism of your Virgo Ascendant, Dana, I don't experience you that way. I can see you that way—that is, if I observe your personality, I can see the meticulous, down-to-earth side of your nature--but that is not the side of you I experience in relating with you. What I feel, in stepping into your Piscean 7th house, is Timelessness. In relating to you, lovely friend, I step into a garden of fun, imagining, free associating, and—wonderfully, gloriously—wasting time. It's like a wonderful mini-vacation having a long chat with you, or reading one of your letters. It's play. And this is an often forgotten aspect of the Pisces experience—living ecstatically in the moment. Enjoying the process.

Once someone enters our 7th house (whether as spouse, business partner, or mortal foe), they experience a side of us which is often very different from the initial, welcome-mat Ascendant version of our personality. In sifting with us through the rubble of our rejected dreams, impulses, and personality traits, and mirroring us back to ourselves through our own 7th house, our partners are like Peter Pan's Wendy, sewing Peter's shadow back on: they "sew" the shadow (7th house) self back onto our personality (Ascendant) and make us whole again.

I see the Descendant as a screen through which all the other issues we bring to a relationship must pass. Having rounded up potential relationship candidates, we "interview" them and, based on our Descendant expectations, promote a select few to our 7th house. Perhaps we even charge a gate fee, expecting our partners to act out one or more planets in our own 7th as their price of admission. In the end, does this mean we choose a succession of partners with whom we enact the same relationship patterns over and over again? Maybe. Or maybe we learn to make peace with the Descendant qualities we find.

Saturn's natural exaltation in the 7th house implies that we're responsible for creating the 7th house environment that we want. But it's frustrating to keep running into the same blockages time and time again on the way to formulating satisfying relationships! It's maddening to feel that no matter how hard you try to change, you're doomed to repeat the same old unsuccessful relationship patterns. And the last thing we want to hear when we're frustrated and maddened is that we alone are responsible for changing an unsatisfactory situation. Instead of being empowered by that perspective, and accepting the challenge of reconciling with our shadow self, we insist that others validate our conviction that the universe is picking on us!

My 7th house Moon has made me a life-time student of relationships, and has placed me in the role of astrological "Dear Abby" more times than I can count. Even so, Dana, I by no means have a definitive "take" on the 7th house. But I feel, and I think you would agree, that it minimizes the 7th to call it simply the house of "finding others"; just as legitimately, it is the house of finding ourselves through their eyes. But if you think the 7th house was a toughie... wait 'til you tackle the eighth house in your next column!

Yours, April

April Elliott Kent is an astrologer, writer, and website designer in San Diego, California. Along with readings by phone and in person, April offers customized reports based on her astrological specialties, wedding date electionals and natal eclipse cycles. April's writing has appeared in The Mountain Astrologer and Wholistic Astrologer magazines, and she is a contributor to Llewellyn's 2005 Moon Sign Book.


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