Composite Charts vs Synastry Marianne Asks: “Although I read your archives concerning Composite Charts and Synastry, I do not understand which one is best to evaluate a relationship. I assume that the ideal is to have both a good composite chart and good synastry aspects, but it is rarely the case. What if the synastry is OK and the composite aspects very bad, or in the reverse, the composite chart is nice, but the synastry is awful? What is your interpretation if the synastry aspects and the composite aspects are contradictory? Let’s imagine synastry aspects involving strong Saturn ties, which imply stability and a long-term relationship, whereas the composite chart displays a dissonant Uranus (square or opposed to Venus, the Moon or the Sun). Will the relationship be stable or unstable? What if the synastry aspects show close emotional ties (Moon or Venus conjunct Jupiter, etc.), whereas the composite reflects a real problem of intimacy (Moon squared/opposed Saturn, Moon-Uranus aspects?) In one word, what should you trust to evaluate a relationship? Synastry or composite?” Kevin Answers: Marianne, In one word, what should you trust to evaluate a relationship? Neither. It is not possible to look at a person’s natal chart and predict their behavior. We can’t know anything tangible about a person from looking at his or her chart. We can understand them on a symbolic level; we can recognize some of the key patterns and underlying motivations in their life. But what we can’t do is know, just from looking at a chart, who a person is or how they are experiencing their chart, because we have absolute free will. If we can’t tell about an individual from their chart, we certainly can’t make any predictions based on how two individuals are going to relate to each other. Astrology does provide some tools that can help us to understand the potential dynamics of a relationship between two individuals. The problem is that almost no one uses them correctly. Relationships don’t occur between two charts. They occur between two individuals. Each individual is going to have his or her own set of needs, desires, motivations, habits and expectations when it comes to relationships. Before we can even think about evaluating the dynamic between two people, we have to have a very thorough understanding of them as individuals. Once we’ve done that, we can cautiously begin to look at the relationship between their two charts. What we must remember is that just as when looking at a natal chart, each aspect must be interpreted within the context of the individual chart, when looking at synastry or composite aspects, each element has to be interpreted within the context of the two individuals. Does that sound complicated? Good. It should, because it is complicated. Synastry evaluates the compatibility between two individuals. It shows where they connect, how they exchange energy. It shows where they are likely to stimulate each other, and where they are likely to share common ground. Composite charts are, theoretically, the chart of the relationship itself. They are meant to illustrate and illuminate the nature and expression of the relationship as a distinct entity from the two individuals forming the relationship. I’m afraid that I can’t answer most of your questions because most of your questions are based on incorrect assumptions. First, there is simply no such thing as a “good” composite chart or a “good” synastry aspect, nor is there any such thing as an “ideal” when it comes to any facet of astrology. I’m sure you come by these mistaken assumptions honestly. Every single book that I’ve ever read that attempts to interpret synastry aspects is completely worthless. Each and every one without fail assumes that trines and sextiles are “good” and squares and oppositions are “bad.” Trines are comfortable, certainly, but they can also become very boring. Squares can be draining over time, but they’re also the things that provide the greatest spark. And believe me—trines have nothing to do with sexual attraction. Trines are where you’re comfortable lounging around the house together. It’s the squares and oppositions that create the overwhelming need to tear each other’s clothes off. Not to mention the fact that you must consider the individuals along with the synastry aspects. If you have two individuals with nothing but hard aspects in their individual charts, and nothing but trines and sextiles in the synastry, every single book or report is going to gush about how compatible they are. The reality is that they will bore each other to death. Each individual is going to need the tension and conflict in their relationships to support the tension and conflict in their natal chart. The only good books on relationship astrology I’ve ever read are by Stephen Arroyo. I personally base quite a lot of my own approach to compatibility on his work. Astrology, Karma and Transformation and Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements should be require reading for anyone who is interested in the astrology of relationships. It’s also not possible to judge the potential length of a relationship. While it’s true that Saturn aspects between charts is often present in long-term relationships, the same aspects are also often present in relationships that burn out after three dates and a restraining order. And I most certainly wouldn’t associate Uranus’ placement in the composite chart with any fundamental instability in the relationship. A relationship will continue so long as both individuals are committed to the relationship, committed to their own growth as individuals, and so long as they are both learning from each other at the same pace. Ultimately, the questions of “compatibility” are entirely subjective. Now, bearing all of that in mind, when I look at relationships, I almost never even consider the composite chart. I find it of very questionable value, and I’ve yet to find a truly practical application for it. Synastry, on the other hand, when properly applied, is an extremely valuable tool for understanding the dynamics of a relationship. Synastry can help us to see not only where two individuals connect, but also where they are likely to push each other’s buttons—and why. In a counseling situation, when both individuals are asking for help to improve the quality of their relationship, Synastry can help to illustrate how each person perceives and experiences the other. But no matter how valuable a tool Synastry may be, I always go back to the Natal Chart. Everything we need to know about relationships is there. Simply understanding how to identify our safety and our love and affection needs—and the safety and love and affection needs of our partner can create the most powerful transformations in any relationship. Understanding each other’s needs, and learning how to meet them is the key to any successful relationship. When we feel safe and loved, we can handle just about anything else. And when those fundamental needs aren’t being met, it doesn’t matter how well connected we are on other levels. In Appendix A, I walk you through my approach to the astrology of relationships. These are the things that I personally use when I’m working with clients on relationships, and these are the techniques, and the steps that I teach in my relationship classes. The best advice I can offer is never to lose sight of the individual. This applies to any area of natal astrology, be it birth chart interpretations, predictive, or relationship astrology. We are not our charts. We choose how we embody and express their energy, but our charts do not define us, nor do they limit us in any way. Astrology has the potential to empower us—to help us to discover our true potentials. We have absolute free will, and we choose our future each and every moment of each and every day of our lives. Endeavor to choose wisely.