The Lover Archetype
The lover archetype is often confused with 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 is intent on having love and knowing love.
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 loving action.
Falling In and Out of Love
The lover archetype constantly asks herself: “Where can I find love?” “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. The feeling of being in love can feel like chasing a feather in a fickle wind. Just when you come to pick it up off the ground, a strong wind gust whisks it away.
The immature lover defines herself as either being in love or out of love. For her love is a noun, a state, a place. She delights in falling in love. She bemoans and despairs over falling out of love. Emotions run her and she has no control. It is an exhilarating, breath-taking ride. This is 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 lover archetype in the shadow experiences physical pain when she is apart from the object of her desire. She attempts to create a constant euphoria by possessing the person she loves. When the other person doesn’t immediately reciprocate her feelings she tumbles into anxiety. The shadow lover isn’t in love, she is in limerence. According to Dr. Dorothy Tennov in her book Love and Limerence, limerence is created and sustained by an equal mix of hope and doubt. The fear of rejection is ever present and this fear is what creates the lover’s intense emotions. The undeveloped lover mistakes these highs and lows for love.
To the shadow lover, love is involuntary and she has no choice when she’ll be “love struck” by Cupid’s arrow. Her life is about chasing the “love drunk” feeling that comes when she is with the person she adores. She does everything her beloved does and forgets herself and her own needs. The lover at the heigh of limerence is “love sick”.
In the shadow, the lover archetype becomes the stalker, the helpless one, the overbearing partner, or the control freak. This is the “anxious attachment” style that Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A talk about in their book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love.
The Evolved Lover Archetype
The mature lover archetype enjoys life regardless of if she has a romantic partner or not. She is available to unexpected spontaneous manifestations of love. She knows how to love herself. As she evolves, the lover archetype lets go of her need for love to come from any particular person or romantic interest. 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 is ready to receive love in its myriad forms. She releases expectations of what love should look 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 make grand romantic gestures to love you. In fact, the love doesn’t need to be romantic at all. The lover in the light sees any form of love as valid, powerful, and true.
A loving act can be a smile from a stranger or an attentive ear from a friend. The talent of the lover is to know love as a moment of joyful resonance shared between any two people regardless of their history or connection.
An enduring remnant of the Romantic Age, is that sagas of true love are continually force fed to the masses. The lover archetype infiltrates our psyche. This idea of soul mates is imprinted by cultural conditioning at a young age. We are told that there must be one person in the world that is a perfect match for us. 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 or scorn at “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 the inspiration and creativity that blossoms forth from the pursuit of it. At the end of her quest, she finds that true love knows no bounds. It always is and ever will be no matter if she is alone or with others.
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”
Explore your relationship with the
“The Lover Archetypes” Online Class
Featuring the Lover, Don Juan, and Femme Fatale
This four-part audio course defines the Lover, Don Juan, and Femme Fatale archetypes. These archetypes are all concerned with affairs of the heart. The Lover shifts from personal to collective to embodied love. The Don Juan shows that the trick to thwarting hypocrisy is being honest and loving. The Femme Fatale confronts abuses of power with the agency of a loving heart.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.