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How not to ruin your relationship during Mercury Retrograde

Stefanie Weiss is the author of Surviving Saturn’s Return: Overcoming the Most Tumultuous Time of Your Life (Contemporary Books), Fate of Your Date: Divination for Dating, Mating & Relating (Chronicle Books) and Spirit Animals: Unlocking...

How to avoid a communication breakdown when Mercury is in retrograde

You may already know the Mercury Retrograde drill — back up your data because your tech is likely to fail, and fail hard. Phones will drop and cases will crack. Itineraries will be re-routed. Flights will be delayed. Commutes will be extra frustrating because of construction. The TSA line will be ridiculously long. Just about everything will be a cause of consternation.

Sometimes it feels like Mercury is always in retrograde. Because retrogrades last about three weeks, with a 10-day “shadow” phase before and after, it might seem like we’re always starting or ending one. The truth is that it happens about three times a year (but in 2016, we’re getting four).

Mercury, like the Greek Hermes, was considered by the Romans to be a messenger of the Gods. Genderless and winged, Mercury is known for its swiftness. As the planet closest to Earth, our relationship to Mercury is deep and direct. In astrology, Mercury is the planet in charge of travel, communication and the mind. It rules the way you think and process information — which is to say it rules everything.

When Mercury goes into retrograde, it’s not really moving backwards — it’s just slowed down enough in its orbit to appear that way from our perspective on Earth. This change in our perception is powerful enough to have enormous consequences for our consciousness, and to set everything into a bit of chaos for the duration of the retrograde.

But what you may not know is how all of that can also affect your relationships. When communication breaks down, everything breaks down. Just as Mercury leaves that email hanging out in your outbox unsent, it can confuse your conversations with the lover next to you in the bed. It’s true that electronic communication — text messages, IMs, voicemails, emails and re-tweets — are likelier fodder for retrograde-esque chaos. However, even in-person exchanges are in Mercury’s crosshairs.

There are a few common communication snafus during retrograde — you say one thing and your partner hears another. Your partner says something totally innocuous, but you hear something accusatory. You gently ask your partner to do something normal, like take out the garbage, and they hear, “You’re a horrible person!” The subtext of our conversations is mangled when Mercury is retrograde — we fail to say what we mean or to mean what we say.

But a practical fix is really all you need right now. Simply aim to be more careful about what you say and how you say it. Don’t take it for granted that your partner knows you and knows what you really mean — assume he/she has no clue. Be extra clear, direct, forthright and honest when you’re confused. Try to avoid the most potent, emotionally fraught discussions until after Mercury has gone direct, if at all possible. This is healthy not just because it’ll save you from having to explain yourself five times — but because you’ll understand your own mind better once Mercury is at his best pace.

If you simply must have that talk, and have it now, do yourself a favor and don’t do it by text or email. Wait until you can look each other in the eye, see each other’s expressions, and hear each other’s vocal nuances, without having to read between the lines. You can totally prepare for this talk in advance by writing out your own feelings – a bit of journaling might just help you to achieve an insight you’d ordinarily miss.

Mercury retrograde survival cheat sheet: 

  • Relationships that start during Mercury Retrograde aren’t always doomed to failure. But do expect a kind of course-correction after Mercury has gone direct. Something you believed about your potential paramour is bound to shift.
  • This is probably the worst possible time to break up by text. Even if you’re just done, do the courtesy of at least a phone call.
  • What you think is a funny aside, a gentle moment of teasing, can be easily misinterpreted now. Use emojis liberally to make sure it’s clear that you’re joking.
  • When sexting, check to make sure you’ve got the right recipient at least a few times. Don’t let Mercury Retrograde be the time you accidentally send a picture of your boobs to your boss.
  • Don’t believe rumors — if someone tells you something that your current partner, or even your ex, might have done, do your own due diligence before you blow up.

What few people understand about Mercury Retrograde is that for all the annoying bumps, delays and misunderstandings, it can actually make your relationship closer. If you hew to the practical, listen more carefully, stay calm and search for insight instead of instigating, your connection can only get deeper. Sometimes it takes a massive blowup to understand your partner’s triggers and complexes — Mercury Retro can help to bring those issues to the surface. On the flipside, digging into that deeper layer can show you if you’re with the wrong person — and even if that’s an uncomfortable truth — it’s one you need to know.

The next Mercury Retrograde begins on April 28 and ends on May 22 — but we’re already in the shadow phase.

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