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Healthy Ego Boundaries

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When the Strength card comes up in Tarot readings, and if the person seeking an answer is concerned about a relationship, the diagnosis is usually pretty clear – ‘Take care or you could be facing ego problems within your relationship!’

Such an answer is not immediately understandable or acceptable to the person receiving advice. Why should Strength speak of ego problems when the other connotations of the card are so positive? It shows that one has the necessary mental, physical and emotional strength to tackle any problems life may dish out.So why should ‘ego problems with a partner’ be tacked along as a rider? The truth is that Strength is a card that, like several others in a Tarot reading, has to be understood in paradox, as much as in the literal sense. What it is trying to get home to the person who draws it in a reading is this, ‘When you are so strong, use your strength gently and well. Don’t alienate people by your harsh commands. Win them over with your soft requests.’

In the commonly used, classic Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the card shows a woman dressed in long white robes gently closing the jaws of a lion. The beast is not reacting violently to her, in fact, he appears to be tame! Above her bent head, the woman has the symbol of infinite cosmic energy in the form of the horizontal eight or lemniscate.

In intimate relationships, the shifting equation of our emotions for our partner is a delicate balance that can be upset by many things. Trust, acceptance, understanding, consideration, all these are the pillars that make relationships stronger, while stubbornness, silence, suspicion and sulking can serve to be the quicksand under the pillars, eroding their ability to keep the relationship intact. To maintain the balance of feeling and affection for our partner and our own self-respect and happiness is a mighty task, requiring ever greater maturity from us. When we understand that the marriage is greater than the individuals who stay within it, we become capable of such maturity. Unfortunately, in the troubled years of marriage when both partners are youthful, and comparatively insecure, it is difficult to understand this.

Thus, a woman may start with high expectations of her husband. That he should provide her company, understand her moods and needs and so on. When he fails to meet these expectations due to career preoccupations or any other reason, she may retreat into a wounded state, where salvaging her pride is the only thing that is important. Where she once sought his company, she now wants to prove that she can do without him!

Alternately, a man may find that his remarks are misunderstood, and so may stop communicating. Or he may sense the unspoken disapproval of his wife to his actions and behaviour, and rather than taking the trouble to find out how he can win back her approval, he begins to project an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.

Neither of the scenarios above is exclusive to either sex, nor is one sex superior to another in avoiding the ego conflict. The clash of individual wills produces ego conflicts in a marriage, till an inner realization happens that says ‘What we have together is more important than my being proved right, or being given more importance, or whatever.’ This realization, when it comes, may bring with it a subtle softening, so that we are prepared to show our partner our soft and vulnerable side once more that says, ‘I need you in my life. Nothing I do makes any sense unless you are there to share it with me.’

It is usually at this moment that the beast of animosity in our partner’s heart melts and becomes tame! The infinite cosmic energy of the universe, in short, the kind and benevolent ways of God and Nature, come to our assistance when we prepare to let go of our rigid adherence to an idea of individual superiority. The Strength card is proved right yet again.

Keep ego expectations small and manageable to taste the real sweetness of marital companionship.

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