The 7th house in astrology is often called the house of relationship, but should probably be called the house of projection.
Or, my preferred technical term, the house of ‘it’s not me, it’s you.’
The 7th house represents all kinds of one-on-one relationships. Spouses, besties, project collaborators and close parent relationships all show up here. Even your worst enemy is a 7th house partner, someone who’s teamed up with you to reflect back all the qualities of yourself you most dislike.
Some astrologers read the 7th house as belonging to those key people who move through your life, like a view you’re passively watching go by. Under this way of reading the chart, astrological events in your 7th house only happen to you by virtue of your relationship to that other person. Transiting Saturn moving through your 7th house might indicate your best friend is going through a rough time and that, while that stress affects you, you have little control over whether your friend stops talking to you as a result.
That perspective ignores that these sorts of relationships are not events; they are processes that depend on our voluntary participation. We make relationships start by paying attention to the other person, and keep them going by participating. We giggle at the joke of the guy who comes into our work to buy a coke and we end up in a multi-year, gif-sharing friendship. We keep the fires of hatred burning with our neighbor by assuming she left her stinking garbage out just to ruin your day.
Your 7th house can explain why you’ve dated so many space cadets who won’t wash their dishes, or why you choose the kind of friends who ghost when crisis hits.
Look close enough at your 7th house and you may discover that the space cadet and ghoster are exaggerated parts of your own secret desire to chill and be free.
At its most troublesome, the 7th house, and its front door, the descendant, can be a fun house mirror of our shadow-selves. At its best, the 7th shows a side of ourselves we express readily and comfortably on a one-on-one level.
The descendant lies exactly opposite its more famous twin, the ascendant, or rising. (To find your descendant sign, look across a zodiac wheel from your rising sign.) Where the rising sign represents the stuff we strut, the descendant’s sign is the stuff we disown, those traits we consider alien to our natures. But we’re wrong, in the extreme. Our descendant belongs to us as much as our ascendant does. (As enough relationship experience will eventually teach us.)
A Libra rising person, for instance, feels expected to be nice. It comes naturally to him to look to other’s comfort first, and to seek out buddies to handle life’s anxious challenges. He believes the rude, self-centeredness – and bravery – of his Aries descendant have nothing to do with him. At least he believes that when he’s a teenager and young adult. But as anyone who’s been tight with a ‘nice’ guy knows, his anger has to escape somewhere. Usually, it will land on whoever’s closest.
The descendant is a pretty good description of who we’re attracted to.
That Libra rising guy will be drawn to versions of his Aries descendant: girlfriends who box, boyfriends with megaphones, ambitious types, selfish and maybe violent ones, firebrands and friends and partners who get him into trouble.
By teaming up with an opinionated, bossy Arian, rational Libra rising finds himself in situations he’d otherwise hesitate or compromise himself safely away from. Following the lead of his Arian collaborators, Libra rising leaps off cliffs, plays chicken, goes to protests and gets arrested, and is thrilled (or scared, or dismayed) to discover this new side of himself.
By hanging out with selfish jerks (the worst exaggeration of Aries energy), Libra rising is forced to fight back. Libra rising can make selfish demands, yell, and still feel like ‘the nice one’ compared to a loud and aggro partner. His 7th house girlfriend may the only one who notices that actually nice Libra rising can be kind of an asshole.
Relationships get easier when we recognize ourselves in the 7th house mirror’s reflection.
Once Libra rising sees his capacity for selfishness and anger– as well as his own courage and sexual interests– he won’t need partners to force him into huge fights. The guy who talks over him on their first date will seem less sexy and smart, and more like a jerk. And the guy who texts him back to see how he’s feeling will seem less like a pushover and more like potential boyfriend material.
We’re attracted to our descendant (and the qualities of planets in our 7th house) for a good reason.
We need relationships to hold up a mirror to our (full) selves. The bossy Leo rising person will always most easily be her chill, laid back Aquarian self when she’s around her best friends. It’s when those relationships get hairy that it’s helpful to understand which of the relationship’s baggage really does belong to you.
Image credits: Jarrod via nappy.co and Frida Aguilar Estrada via Unsplash