The Astrology of Love in Midlife
By the age of 40, we’re often more capable of authentic and compassionate relating than we were when we were young. We know ourselves better, and we know what suits us in a relationship. But it’s not always straightforward to find a new love or to sustain an existing one.
While individual circumstances vary widely, love in midlife can come under pressure from all sides. Work demands, family needs, and personal development all take up a lot of our time. If we’re single, it can be a challenge to meet someone new; if we’re already in a relationship, it may not survive the midlife passage. We can certainly grow out of relationships, but some partings are regrettable and caused by a failure to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.
This article investigates how the astrological transits and progressions of midlife reflect and affect our love lives and discusses how we can use these phases to transform our relationship experience for the better.
Most of us would rather be happily partnered up than do adulthood alone, yet just when we are most burdened by responsibilities and really need a true companion, there’s often little time or energy for intimate relationship. Whether we are single and looking for love or already partnered, in midlife we may be sandwiched between dependent children and aging parents, at the peak of our professional output and ambition, and also feeling the need to investigate and develop a true sense of self.
New relationships in midlife occur under different circumstances to those begun in youth. Instead of forming a bond in the crucible of learning and play and having endless hours to explore sexual and emotional intimacy, we are frequently too busy to get a good night’s sleep, never mind fall in love. Existing relationships also suffer from the demands of midlife and can crack under the pressure, especially if they fail to support individual development.
At this stage, relationships happen and flourish because we will them into being and continuing, rather than because we are motivated by the biological imperative and romantic longings of youth. A certain pragmatism comes into play, which can be balancing for those of us who were romantic fools when we were young. We must learn to do relationships differently, making the most of the short periods of intimacy we can find and allowing space for each other’s commitments.
Relationships in midlife often face restrictions. They may have to develop slowly because of time pressure, because of the need to allow children to adapt to a new stepparent, or because previous disappointment may have made us reluctant to commit again. Depending on our nature (as described in the natal chart), we find it more or less challenging to accommodate to these various factors.
When the going gets tough, it can be tempting to retreat into solitude. But most couples who stick together or who find good new partnerships agree that, in later middle age and old age, companionship makes a huge difference to quality of life. Just as for many people, life gets easier after the age of 60, so intimate relationships offer up their sweetest fruit at that time.
Astrology and Midlife
As I discussed in a previous TMA article, “Phoenix Rising,”1 midlife refers to the period between the ages of 40 and 60. This central phase of adulthood is described astrologically by a series of major transits. I’m going to focus on the transits that have the most impact on relating, but all the midlife transits could affect your love life, depending on your natal chart. Then, I’m going to talk about Venus in the natal chart and how Venus progressions affect our relationship style and needs.
Table of Midlife Transits
Author’s Note: The aspects discussed in the text below appear in boldface.
Planetary Aspect Approximate Age Aspect Occurs
- Transiting Pluto square natal Pluto 38–42
- Transiting Uranus opposite natal Uranus 40
- Transiting Neptune square natal Neptune 40
- Transiting Saturn opposite natal Saturn 44
- Fourth Jupiter return 48
- Transiting Pluto trine natal Pluto 50–54
- Chiron return 51
- Transiting Uranus trine natal Uranus 54
- Transiting Neptune trine natal Neptune 54
- Second progressed lunar return 54
- Second Saturn return 58–59
- Fifth Jupiter return 60
Love and Midlife Transit
The Uranus Opposition at 40
This aspect can be summed up in one word: freedom! When transiting Uranus opposes natal Uranus, our need to experience liberation is highlighted. If we don’t feel free to develop and express our individuality in our existing relationship, this aspect can trigger a divorce. During this transit, we may be attracted to someone who represents the Uranian archetype in some way and who can help us to integrate the Uranian impetus, but this relationship or attraction may not last beyond the duration of the transit.
The Neptune Square at 40
The Neptune square often occurs at the same time as the Uranus opposition and colludes with it to impel relationship change by stimulating our romantic longing. The dichotomy between fantasy and reality takes center stage in our psychology. If we’re out of balance in either direction, we experience tension as the psyche struggles either to develop a more grounded connection with reality or to open up and integrate information from the imagination.
The Chiron Return at 51
The Chiron return coincides with the median age of menopause in women. (Menopause is defined as being a year following the last menstrual period.) Although andropause (the male version) is not clearly defined and thus does not have a median age, many men go through a significant energetic shift around the age of 50. Men who have previously found commitment difficult now discover that they want stability more than they need freedom. It’s a time of emotional maturing that goes along with a change in hormonal balance.
Women may suffer a loss of self-confidence during menopause, and this can affect their relationships. Thus, women often benefit from taking some time out during this phase. Menopause demands a deep listening to body, mind, and spirit and is a natural opportunity for expanding awareness of self, others, and life in general.
For both genders, the Chiron return can stimulate painful memories and trauma from the past, so this is an excellent time to have counseling or psychotherapy. Past-life issues may also surface at this time. Whether we process these gifts from the inner life as literal or symbolic, facing them and allowing for mindful release of the past can lead to transformative healing.
The Progressed Lunar Return at 54+
Ideally, the second progressed lunar return coincides with the final stages of the withdrawal of the mother projection. Which is to say, by the age of 54, we have completed our psychological differentiation from our mother and can now see her as a person in her own right. If this development has occurred, then intimate relationships stand a good chance of going very well; one of the most problematic areas in intimacy occurs when we unconsciously project our mother onto the partner, whether positively or negatively.
How well we can give and receive is highlighted under this progression. We project not only our individual mother issues but also the mythic or archetypal mother onto our partner and also onto our own mother, wanting them to always be ready to help us in whatever way we desire and becoming critical of them for even momentary negligence.
The second progressed lunar return can thus invoke a resolution of entitlement issues and any tendency to make unreasonable demands and to have narcissistic and infantile expectations of how others will care for us. Conversely, if we were cut off from our own mother too young, we may have developed a stoic shell that gets in the way of true intimacy. This progression gives us the chance to heal and open up to nurturing in the present.
The Second Saturn Return at 58–59
The second Saturn return marks the completion of maturity. By now, we understand life and its demands and rhythms well enough to be able to relax into what is. If we can do this without repressing our creativity and inspiration and while maintaining healthy and realistic desires for future developments, we find ourselves at a peak experience of living fully, still being productive, and generously offering our skills and wisdom to the collective.
Just as the second lunar return offered the possibility of liberation from the maternal projection, the second Saturn return does the same with the paternal projection (archetypally and literally). How we act in the world is influenced by our early experience of the father (and the mother, if she was active and authoritative outside the home), and we introject this experience of worldly reality at an early age. By our late 50s, we’re able to relate to the world on our own terms, and we have found ways to be ourselves in matters of work, money, and community. This is the stage when many people become elders, expressing newfound authenticity in some outward way through politics, religion, or other types of community involvement.
Venus in Midlife
How we operate sexually and romantically is both innate and learned. Areas that have been difficult for us in this arena can be transformed in midlife. The playing field shifts: Our appearance changes, we are attracted more by character than by the surface, our values are deeper and more authentically held, hormone levels decrease, and sexual needs alter. We develop greater intrapsychic balance: If we’ve been submissive and passive in the past, we may find the ability to assert ourselves, and if we’ve had difficulty with the emotional realm, this now becomes more accessible. (Traditionally, this manifests as women becoming more assertive in midlife, and men developing deeper feeling capacity, but in these days of paradigm-shifting gender attributes, such categories are no longer universally applicable.)
Venus in the natal chart represents your emotional needs, how you relate to loved ones and friends, and how you are likely to behave in romantic and social relationships. It influences how you like to appear, your aesthetic tastes, your romantic sensibilities, and your artistic tendencies.
The Progressed Venus
In his book, When Stars Collide, 2 Paul Westran shows how the progressed Venus influences attraction and commitment in the synastry between two charts. His research got me thinking about changes in sign of the progressed Venus and how this influences our relationship life and our emotional style.
Venus in the natal chart will usually progress two signs by the time you turn 50. (Check with your ephemeris or with a professional astrologer to see where Venus has progressed to in your chart.) This two-sign shift is in harmony with the natal Venus, supporting new relationships with mates with whom we are truly compatible and also supporting resolution of difficulties in existing relationships.
Your progressed Venus may currently be one, two, or three signs away from natal Venus, depending on your age, whether you have Venus right at the beginning or end of a sign, or if Venus was retrograde at your birth or shortly thereafter. The examples below are for the most common Venus shift in midlife, that of two signs forward. If that doesn’t apply in your case, use this guide to help you think through how your natal and progressed Venuses combine to describe the arc of your relationship journey.
A progressed planet doesn’t change your nature, as astrology describes it. Venus in Aries is always Venus in Aries — you’ll always be passionate, tend to initiate in love, and have to deal with your own self-centeredness. But when Venus progresses into another sign, you get an overlay of the new sign, and this can affect you deeply, broadening your nature and experience.
Venus in Aries progresses into Gemini by midlife, helping you to communicate better and become less self-centered. You may also be inclined to be engaged in two relationships at once.
Venus in Taurus progresses into Cancer, so the natural Taurean love of stability now centers on home and family — big time. It’s all too easy to put on weight, but you can gain great satisfaction from cooking and gardening and a deep sense of nesting.
Venus in Gemini progresses into Leo. You express your relational abilities through a glittering social life. In intimate relationships, you become more passionate and perhaps even possessive.
Venus in Cancer progresses into Virgo. The natural tendency of Cancer to nurture now offers the possibility of genuine unconditional love, as you find wisdom in the role of giver.
Venus in Leo progresses into Libra. Your innate warmth expresses itself more gently. Self-centeredness and a love of drama soften into a desire for true harmony with others.
Venus in Virgo progresses into Scorpio. These are often the late bloomers in relationship. The celibate flavor of Venus in Virgo becomes generative and passionate in midlife, but still devoted and true.
Venus in Libra progresses into Sagittarius. Harmony and dissembling become less interesting to you than truth and openness. You may be drawn to couples work.
Venus in Scorpio progresses into Capricorn. Any tendency to infidelity, which was encouraged by the progressed flavor of Sagittarius but always went against the emotional grain, now dies out as commitment and stability become paramount.
Venus in Sagittarius progresses into Aquarius. The nuclear family feels limited, and you want to live in a commune or explore the country in a RV. You may consider having multiple partners or some kind of extended family setup.
Venus in Capricorn progresses into Pisces, awakening the sense of romance. Venus in Capricorn often has a traditional marriage with clearly defined roles. Either this morphs into a genuine romance or you leave to find a deeper connection.
Venus in Aquarius progresses into Aries. Time on your own is precious now, and you may rethink what relationship and partnership mean to you. Perhaps being together but living apart is a real option at this stage. However you organize your domestic scene, independence is important.
Venus in Pisces progresses into Taurus. Love comes down to earth. You accept the frailties of human nature and ease off your desire to fulfill your romantic dreams.
An Example of Midlife Transformation
Here’s an example taken from my practice, showing how relationship experience can be transformed at midlife, aided by transits and progressions.
“Claire” (not her real name) was an entertainment journalist with a glamorous career and a string of relationships that never made it to full commitment. An attractive, witty, and kind woman, she had a wide circle of friends but an unsuccessful love life. She had had an unstable childhood with an absent father and tended to be drawn to unavailable men. Her last relationship had hurt her deeply; she had found herself in love with a man who treated her with cool neglect.
Her chart shows challenges in the area of intimacy. The Moon and Pluto are both angular and in a tight square, describing a hard journey breaking free from the mother and the mother’s issues. Chiron natally conjoins Mars, squaring Saturn which is conjunct the South Node, a tough combination that shows, among other things, pain and frustration experienced through difficulties with men.
Venus at birth was positioned right at the end of Libra, so it progressed through Scorpio for her emotionally turbulent childhood and through Sagittarius between the ages of 25 and 49; in that phase, she was fancy-free and enjoyed her work as a journalist for a major publication, which included a lot of travel. At the age of 50, Venus progressed into Capricorn, and Claire began to crave a more settled emotional life. However, she was immediately embroiled in the Chiron return, which was understandably hard for her, bringing up the pain of the Chiron–Mars conjunction, the related Saturn–South Node conjunction, and the Moon–Pluto square (Pluto trines Chiron–Mars while the Moon quincunxes them). The most painful relationship of her life occurred during this phase, and in the final days of this relationship, she first began working with me.
At the time, she was in a great deal of distress. It was easy to see how this was reflected in the chart. She had met this man the year before, when both Mars and Chiron were transiting over natal Chiron–Mars, a double whammy guaranteed to stimulate the original wound of her father’s defection. But I could see that Pluto was just waiting in the wings and that, over the next few years, it would also transit over the same points. So, deep transformation was possible. The natal chart also suggested eventual success, with natal Venus dignified in Libra, conjunct Mercury, and closely trine Jupiter. While this combination well described Claire’s sociable career and many friendships, it also promised harmony in relationship with a generous man, probably from another country. Jupiter is angular, being conjunct the IC, suggesting the chance of a happy home life once the Moon–Pluto issue is integrated. I thought this could happen by the time of the second progressed lunar return.
Venus rules the 7th house, where the Moon resides, exalted in Taurus; this placement showed that, despite the avid sociability of her chart, emotional fulfillment is found through one-on-one intimacy. It showed me that Claire probably had more talent for intimate relationship than she was currently aware of and that, under the right circumstances, she could be happy in love, although it is likely that the partner would not always be easy.
And indeed, three years later, when the Pluto transit to Mars was still in effect and as the progressed lunar return was applying to exact, she met Luke, with whom she has been happily in relationship ever since. And yes, he is a big-hearted, emotionally volatile man from another country, just as the astrology predicted. This time around, though, there is strong mutual compatibility, and Claire is well able to cope with the occasional difficulties of the relationship.
Deep-seated psychological blocks can dissolve in midlife. Stay optimistic! If you or a client has a longstanding relationship issue, look for useful upcoming transits and progressions. Certain transits offer powerful opportunities for resolution and transformation, especially when astrological analysis is combined with personal development work, such as psychotherapy. For example, a difficult mother complex can be resolved by conscious application before and during the progressed lunar return. Father issues are best dealt with before and during the second Saturn return. The progressed Venus offers information about what you need in relationship now, not what you needed when you were 25.
Understanding the phase of midlife that you and your clients are undergoing and comprehending individual transits within this larger picture gives us much-needed grounding during this time of psychological and physical transformation. And not only does this open us up to deeper personal happiness: One crucial aspect of becoming an elder is being able to model loving kindness and relationship wisdom for younger people.
References and Notes
1. Lara Owen, “Phoenix Rising: Menopause and Other Midlife Transformations,” in The Mountain Astrologer, Aug./Sept. 2006, page 57.
2. Paul Westran, When Stars Collide: why we love who we love and when we love them, O Books, 2006.
About the Author
Lara Owen is recognised internationally for her pioneering work on menstrual awareness and education. She is the author of six books, including the groundbreaking and acclaimed Her Blood Is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation.
See also The Astrology of Mid-Life Crisis