Someone asked me what I thought about using astrology as a compass for romantic compatibility.
Fair question, I think. No matter what you think of the pseudoscience, horoscopes are published in most newspapers, and a significant number of people consult astrology-based information regularly for personal guidance or simple entertainment.
Astrology involves several beliefs, and at the core of those beliefs is the idea that there is a relationship between astronomical activity—the position of the sun, the moon, stars and other planets in our solar system in relation to the earth—and earthly events or human personality and behavior.
For me, there are two distinct questions to deal with:
- Is astrology real?
- How significant is behavioral and personality compatibility to relationship success?
Is Astrology Real?
Obviously, astrology is real. It’s a thing people study, practice and discuss. It’s real. But that’s not what I meant.
Better questions might be: Does astrology have scientific or spiritual merit, and should people take seriously the information astrologers offer? Does heeding astrological advice result in good things happening? Does ignoring or smiting it result in something bad?
I have, personally, never believed that the position of planets and stars could somehow be used to predict events.
Like, the love and financial advice people read in horoscopes.
It seems reasonable to conclude that if humans had discovered any type of connection between our astrological signs and romantic or financial success, we would all be rabid astrology practitioners in 2017.
Instead, most people have mountains of credit card debt and are statistical coin-flips to succeed in a romantic partnership, even after promising to love each other forever in front of a bunch of witnesses, and sharing homes, bank accounts, and children.
Perhaps I’m oversimplifying.
NOTE: For the TL;DR folk, the most important thing I want to share in this post is this guide to understanding the 10 Core Differences in Ways of Maintaining Emotional Stability, because understanding how your specific type matches with your partner’s specific type could be the difference between you two having a great marriage or a life-altering divorce.
I have always found there to be an interesting observable relationship between astrological signs and personality.
In my experience, true or not, it has always seemed as if astrology’s universally agreed-upon personality traits matched up with what I knew to be true about people born within the corresponding date ranges.
But guess what? Almost everyone—no matter what sign they are—thinks that, too.
It’s called the Forer effect (or Barnum effect).
Psychologist Bertram Forer conducted an experiment in which all participants took an individual personality assessment, and then later were given a list of personality traits tailored to their results. The students were asked to rate the accuracy of their customized personality report afterward, and the students collectively rated them a 4.26 on a scale of 0-5.
Forer had taken statements from a newsstand astrology book and given every student the exact same list, regardless of their astrological sign or personality test results.
The Forer effect essentially says that because the statements are so vague, people are able to apply their own meaning to each, making them “personal” to each individual.
Through scientific testing of astrology has been done through the years, and has found it to have no known scientific validity. The idea that the movement and positions of planets and stars could affect human behavior and earthly events defies everything science tells us about the laws of physics and biology.
Of course, scientists can only identify about 5 percent of “stuff” in existence (the other 95 percent is made up of dark energy and dark matter, which no one knows anything about), so maybe scientists can go eat a fat one.
I don’t pretend to know anything, for sure. I just ask a lot of questions and try unsuccessfully to not be a dick to people.
Does Human Behavior and Compatibility Influence Our Relationship Success?
I’m not a doctor or anything, but: Ssshhhyeah, it does.
And the irony is that most people believe they are dating or marrying someone they are “compatible” with.
Totally makes sense, too. Think about who people tend to date and marry. It’s pretty much always people “like us.”
We usually meet people who believe what we believe (same faith or belief system).
We usually meet people who live or work where we live or work.
We usually meet people with similar educational experiences (lots of people marry fellow students from high school or college/university).
We usually meet people with the same friends.
We usually meet people with the same hobbies and interests.
I think it makes sense that people believe that someone coming from any of those groups would be “compatible.”
Sometimes, they’re happily (and accidentally) right.
Often, they’re tragically (but also accidentally) wrong.
Thinking That Emotional = Weak Earned Me My Divorce
Maybe because I’m a guy who likes football, beer, women and other “guy stuff,” and grew up in a pretty traditional and conservative small-town culture, I—like many men—rejected human emotion as something relevant.
In guy terms, if you’re emotional, you’re just a weak, crying bitch. Who probably listens to boy bands and drinks a bunch of Diet Sierra Mist and white zin.
If you cry, you’re weak.
If you let your emotions control you, you’re weak.
If you let your emotions override your logic, you’re weak.
If you’re emotional in any way, about anything, you’re weak.
And I took that into marriage with me. All that false bravado, acting like I was all tough and manly and my wife was some weak-ass crier whenever things got hard.
Because crying = weak, and not-crying = strong, I thought I was clearly demonstrating the coolness, strength, smarts, and emotional steadiness to decide what was best in a given moment where my sad wife and I might have disagreed.
I can’t remember details of any of these moments, but I’m pretty sure I was being an inauthentic douchebag most of the time, peacocking with false bravado like I was tougher or smarter or better in any way than someone with the courage to let the tears fall.
Between the two of us, I was the only one pretending. I was the one actually weak and afraid.
Human emotion is significant—whether or not it’s convenient to admit.
Emotion is the No. 1 influence on our consumer buying decisions—cars we buy or lease, brands we support, advertisements we respond to, homes we purchase or rent.
Emotion moves us in certain directions professionally, in determining where we geographically want to live, in whether we have children or pets, in where our kids go to school and the activities we involve them in.
Emotion heavily influences all aspects of our personal belief systems.
The Part That Really Matters
So, in addition to me (and near as I can tell, many other guys) not respecting the significance and importance of human emotion, I think most people don’t think enough about the various ways in which different humans process emotion.
Almost everyone reading this will know their astrological sign, but won’t have the first clue how their biological nervous systems and life experiences have shaped them into some combination of the 10 ways humans manage emotions.
Not unlike Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, or the lessons imparted by visual metaphors such as Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, these Core Differences in Ways of Maintaining Emotional Stability were identified by Dr. Brent Atkinson, the principle architect of Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy.
This strikes me as one of the most significant things I have ever seen to help two people better understand one another and incrementally improve, rather than incrementally destroy, their relationship.
It’s not an overstatement to say it can save you.
And I’ll try to wrap this up as succinctly as I know how.
What astrologists and those who follow astrology are trying to do is make it simple for certain types of people to pair up with other certain types of people, because well-matched people have happier lives, stay married, and have rewarding family and social lives.
They are attempting to do so via a connection between planets and stuff, and things we do and feel here on earth.
Maybe it’s all super-legit. Maybe it’s all total nonsense.
I’m not sure it matters or that I care very much.
Because while sharing values and vigilantly enforcing/respecting personal boundaries is critical to effective matchmaking, I believe humanity (namely men) identifying the significance of emotion on our personal lives and then applying intelligent matchmaking and behavioral responses to our individual emotional makeup profiles would have the same profound effect on love and relationships as horoscopes that were never wrong.
We forget sometimes, but love is not about finding the perfect partner so much as BEING the perfect partner.
We forget sometimes that love is not always a feeling. Love is a choice. And marriage is about committing each and every day to love regardless of how we feel about it.
Do feelings matter? Everyone gets to decide for themselves.
But, if your partner feels unloved every day, and feeling unloved significantly impacts her or him, do feelings matter EVEN IF they don’t matter to you?
Sometimes, the purest act of love is demonstrating care and compassion for those we profess to love even when their interests or opinions clash with ours.
Sometimes—no matter how insignificant they might seem to us—things have to matter just because they matter to them.
A lesson learned too late.
So, thank God there’s tomorrow.