The Lover Archetype
True to her tendency for fluidity, the lover archetype often merges into other archetypes such as the hedonist, the goddesses (especially Aphrodite), the mother, the artist, the caregiver, the fool, and the Don Juan. This makes it difficult to determine if you are under her influence or if you should look elsewhere for insight. The biggest difference between the lover archetype and all other archetypes is her lack of agenda in loving. She seeks love for the sake of love. The lover archetype goes about getting and giving love without an endgame of pleasure, power or prestige.
The lover archetype feels rather than strategizes. She is like the wind, blowing this way then that. The lover delights in emotion for the pure sake of emotion. She forsakes reason, casting it off at all costs.
In the late 18th Century and first half of the 19th Century, a movement arose throughout the western world called “Romanticism”. In rough terms, the Romantic Period prized beautiful things in art and nature that give rise to emotion. This movement is commonly accepted as a response to the coincidental Age of Enlightenment that held reason and intellect above all else. Enlightenment honored thought, order and structure. Romanticism adored improvisation, intuition and spontaneity. All of these are broad generalizations, of course, but hopefully suffice to give you an idea of what Romanticism was about.
The lover archetype was aflame during the Romantic Era. With her heart open wide, she inspired countless painters, writers, philosophers and poets to abandon themselves to the world by falling deeply in love with it. This love didn’t exclude painful experiences, but embraced all aspects of the intensity of humanity, nature and spirituality.
The Romantic Period is a reminder that the lover archetype is not just about one-to-one or sexual relationships. The lover archetype intertwines with humanity, the arts, expression, nature, and the cosmos. For her one person or one relationship cannot sum up the whole of the act of love.
Falling In and Out of Love
Of all the emotions, love is the feeling that is sought out most ardently by the lover archetype. She’s constantly asking herself: “How can I love more?” “Who or what else is there to love?” “What is in the way of love?” and “How can I feel more love?”
In the initial stages of growth, the lover archetype understands love as desire. It is a passionate mood that comes and goes. It is the climax of the heart’s power unleashed. Loving can feel like chasing a kite without a string in a fickle wind. Just when you come up to it to pick it up off the ground, a strong gust whisks it away.
The immature lover defines herself as in love or out of love. She delights in falling in love. She bemoans and despairs over falling out of love. She’s entirely caught up in the emotion moment to moment. Emotions run her and she has no control. It is an exhilarating, breath-taking ride. This is unbridled passion and reckless abandon, which can be both a gift and a curse. The lover archetype is moody, selfish and melodramatic in the shadow. In the light aspect, the characteristics of a lover are spontaneity, generosity and magnetism.
The Obsessive Lover
The developing lover realizes the roller-coaster she’s been on and tries to take control of the reigns. She attempts to create a constant source of love by tethering the object of her desire. She does this via obsession. She never lets her treasured one of out her sight. She does everything he or she does. She forgets herself and her own needs. She becomes insatiable.
In the shadow, the lover archetype becomes the stalker, the helpless one, the overbearing partner, or the control freak. Fatal attraction becomes a reality. The lover archetype in this phase believes that if she controls the person she holds dear that love is her captive. But, like a cloud, love always floats free. Love always changes form.
The Evolved Lover Archetype
The mature lover archetype stays present in her life regardless of if she feels loved or loving. She remains available to new and spontaneous manifestations of love. She knows how to love herself. The lover archetype in her more evolved state is not attached to love coming from any one particular source or person over another. This is what the light aspect of the lover archetype looks like.
In her power, the lover archetype gives herself fully over to love. Instead of handing herself off to another person or situation, she abandons herself to the act of being loving. She also contains a readiness to receive love in its myriad forms. Early on, she had expectations of what love looked like. The idea that someone only loves you when they buy you flowers is a narrow view of love. The other person doesn’t have to be interested in what you are to love you too.
The lover archetype in her fullest has let go of any preconceived notions of what a loving act is. She’s stopped being the expert in romance. She is ready to be surprised and educated by love. She can be as easily seduced by a sunset as by a serenade.
Soul Mates and True Love
As an enduring remnant of the Romantic Age, saga after saga of true love is continually force fed to the masses. The lover archetype infiltrates our psyche. This idea of soul mates accompanies children from birth. There must be one person in the world that is a perfect match. When soul mates find each other then happily ever after will come. The lover archetype has her way with everyone regardless of whether they swoon over or scorn at the idea of true love. Everyone dialogues with this aspect of human nature.
The lover archetype carries the torch for the ideal of true love, knowing in her heart that it is not the idea itself that is necessary but the inspiration and creativity that blossoms forth from the pursuit of it.
In closing I give you a quote from one of our most beloved romantic comedies, one of the best of the lover archetype examples, The Princess Bride:
“I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm…
There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection.
My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you… darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love”
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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Archetypal Consultant through Caroline Myss’s CMED Institute, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as sources of guidance and healing. Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of symbolism and archetypes easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.