The Lover is the experience of intimacy with another human being who can hurt us at a very deep level.
Archetypes are recurrent symbols that offer spiritual advice to men and women as we travel the journey of life. This is the first in a 12-part series, in which this ancient wisdom is made relevant both to ecumenical (book) religions and to the non-spiritual as well through real life examples and everyday application.
While I highly encourage a spiritual path, as it feeds the soul, this wisdom will resonate regardless because it is within our bones and sinew as men. Twelve is a very significant number in spiritual circles. There are 12 months, 12 signs of the Zodiac, Jesus had 12 disciples, 12 indicates a complete cycle.
As we complete our cycle through the archetypes, we will experience the ancient wisdom offered to us around manhood. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, curious, confused, trans, married, unattached, looking, or fearful, this wisdom has the power to meet you where you are and help you experience the slice of divine that is you, as a man.
The Core of this Archetype
Core ideas: Conquest, sex, intimacy, and surrender
Yue Lao (Chinese) commonly referred to as the “old man under the moon” and ties together couples who are destined to be married with a red string.
Eros (Greek) god of love and sexual desire.
Bes (Egyptian) god music, dance, and sexual pleasure.
The Lover speaks: Intimacy is like a tide where we push and we pull, but like the tide and the shore, they are linked and inseparable. Relationships are the tide in our lives; we remain as they come in and out, pushing and pulling against us with love and acceptance.
The archetype of the Lover is a powerful one because at the core The Lover is the experience of intimacy with another human being who can hurt us at a very deep level. In the space of trust and deep pain, Love thrives abundantly in our lives if we let it. The intimate dignity of finding a lover and the stages of love before sex dominate this archetype.
The idea within is simple: intimacy. If you are willing to let your body be free with your partner, then your mind and soul must also be free in order to achieve true intimacy and connection that serves not only the body but also the soul. Although it is tempting, as men, to only give the body in the moment of sex, if you really are intoxicated by someone, whether for a night or for a lifetime, you must give that love your full attention. That is the fundamental lesson of The Lover.
Our souls thrive with intimacy, and intimate relations help us to live longer, more productive lives. Many people, when they think of this archetype or look at the popular tarot card, think it has to do with marriage and sex only. The Lover is much deeper because his ability to be intimate informs his entire world view and causes all of his relationships as father, brother, son, and friend to be deeper and more fulfilling both for himself and for others.
The Lover in Your Relationship with Your Partner
Too often in relationships, we only exist as the people who are within the context of that relationship. Who are we when we are not boyfriend, husband, or lover? If you find yourself jumping from relationship to relationship or struggling in your marriage because your partner says you are distant or they can’t be close to you, the difficulty is within yourself and learning to be more intimate. That is where the Lover archetype can help.
The Lover is full of desire, ready to be intimate and ready for the possibilities of the unique love that he wishes to have with his partner. Love is an exploration, and you need to know that you are ready to take the journey by first assuring you love yourself. You are loved because you have an intimate relationship with yourself and nurture yourself. That nurturing process elevates you to be a better and safer lover.
Love begins at home in the place of your heart. When the going gets tough–when your partner is mad at you or you are struggling in your relationship–you can call upon the archetype of the Lover to help you forgive the situation (including yourself) and keep loving. This can also help you through breakups or divorce. If you can, in experiencing an end of a relationship, return to a place of deep intimacy with yourself, that will help you resolve the feelings of guilt, bitterness, and pain. It will take time, but there is space for love after the end of love. You will be fully prepared for love in the future, and it will be rich.
The Lover in Your Relationship with Friends and Family
Just as we must be vulnerable in our intimacy with our partner, this idea extends to our friends and family. For those with more eclectic family backgrounds, this can be difficult. Often there are years of distrust, painful memories, or just baggage along with that. However, not to worry, this archetype helps you shift that.
When you create a rich inner life through meditation or spiritual practice, you can start to approach even the most distasteful of people with love. This does not mean that you need to invite them over for beer and BBQ all the time. It just means that you can approach the situation from a place of love. To those who have the privilege of being a true friend, “one before whom you may think aloud,” as Emerson said, The Lover asks us to trust them with our hurts, secrets, pain, and problems.
An interesting study was recently conducted in which close friendships among boy and girls between 12 and 17 were tracked. Boys reported at least one close friend with whom they talked about personal problems and stories with when they were 12. By the time they turned 15, those friendships had disappeared and they reported spending more time alone and feeling a need to be “self-reliant.”
To bring this into personal experience we all know about the man in our lives who used to be around until he found a partner and then, as if by magic, he was never to be found again. The Lover asks us to stay engaged with our friends. Not only can we not rely only our partner for all our emotional or psychological needs, but keeping a healthy social life is important to our overall health. Maintaining that life and maintaining it at a deep loving level with at least one other man is as important as brushing your teeth.
There are 4 keys to unlocking the joys that this archetype holds.
1. Be open to it
This is a very sex-positive perspective. Through sex meditation, transcendence is possible. Sexual energy is very powerful. However, there is a great deal more to love than just sex, and that is what the Lover is about. Men are not nearly as simple minded sexually as society would have us believe.
In order to achieve true intimacy in your romantic relationships, you have to do the one thing men have the hardest thing doing and that is being emotionally vulnerable. This is important because when you are emotionally available it improves your physical health as well as all your relationships. Now, this is no edict to wear your heart on your sleeve, but it means that when you’ve found someone special, be confident enough to know who the real you is and be ready to reveal him in all its perfection and imperfection.
2. Learn about yourself
The best way to experience intimate love at a deep level is to know yourself and trust yourself. Intimacy starts at home. Socrates said that the unexamined life is a wasted one. This edict is helpful in many areas of our lives. When you have a rich an deep inner life, that gives you the ability to be intimate with others because then you are not sacrificing “everything” just to be with someone, have friends, or experience quality relationships.
When you are in a relationship where you are asked to sacrifice all of yourself, that relationship is saddled with the fear of extinction. You know this feeling as, “What will I do without them?” But if you can grow an inner life through meditation, walking alone, spiritual practice, even playing music or service work, then when you engage with a lover, the threat of extinction is less because you will continue to exist with a fullness of your being regardless of the course that relationship may take. I am not saying that those feelings of loss will not exist, because they will, but they will be far lessened than if you have no inner life. Your resilience to the shifting sands of relationships will be greater.
3. Accept yourself
The Lover is also about self-acceptance, which extends not only from the physical but to the mental. The world can be a hard place, and less mindful men can get their heads filled with negative self-talk. Many of these terms and ideas are usually categorized as purely female “problems”, or with psychology, which often drives men away. Men suffer from negative self-talk and messages, too. Its okay to acknowledge that and to sit with it.
The Lover teaches us that we can’t fully enter into the joy of Love without first loving the man in the mirror. It may sound old and cliche, but it rings true because it is wisdom that will create a space for true love to enter your life.
Love is a kind of surrender. No defense can withstand love. In sex, men surrender their bodies fully to the experience and the sensation of joining with another human being. That kind of full, bodily surrender can inform the rest of a man’s life. The Lover does not hold back. He does not hesitate. He surrenders to all the feelings that come with love at a core level.
When you surrender, you are ceding your power to resist and placing it the hands of another. Whether friend or partner, this surrendering allows the walls to come down and allows the fulfillment that comes from true intimacy (sexual or emotional) to flood your life. It may be scary at first. After all, those emotional walls are there for a reason, but if you can overcome that fear to the other side the rewards can be sweet.
The Bottom Line
Love is a powerful emotion. That makes this archetype all the more powerful. When you can open yourself and surrender to love first within and then around yourself, the power of this archetype is then available to you at a level that you will understand more and more as the years pass. Learn to love yourself, learn to love others, and deepen into this powerful archetype.
Image credit: Gianni Dominici/flickr