This question came in a number of different ways from different readers, so I thought I should answer it while Saturn is fresh on our minds. We’ve had an extensive examination of Saturn’s place in synastry, both as ruler of the 10th house (see the MC/IC part one) and as partner to the Moon (see Saturn as a Relationship Planet (part one).
Question: You seem to take a less hard line view of Saturn in relationships. Do you interpret the aspects the same way? All I’ve seen are negative descriptions of Saturn aspects in synastry.
I take a less hard line view of Saturn all the way around. Saturn is something we can work with and understand. Working with Saturn is always productive. He hurts, but its a good hurt, and good for us once we come to terms with it. Uranus, Neptune, Pluto–those are the buggers. They do act as Gods of Change, as Howard Sassportas called them. They can be impersonal, harsh, bleak, irrational and merciless, and even when they’re good to us, we have a hard time staying on our feet when they enter our lives. They can smack us broadside, which seems to be their raison d’etre in synastry. They send messages through others that knock us down and alter our view of the world, and we never see it coming. Whatever rewards we get from working with them are a long time materializing, and often subtle. It takes Chiron to make sense of that outer planet understanding and translate it back through Saturn so that we can turn what we learn into something real. (See the piece on Chiron and The Hole in the World).
Our negative view of Saturn goes back to our view of him as a mindless authority. This is a rather adolescent view of the way Saturn operates. I liken Saturn’s development to the way we learn to live with others. At first, when we’re little, Mum and Dad do things for us. We don’t really pay attention to what needs doing, we’re in our own little world. As we get older, we may have responsibilities around the house, but we often resent them, either because we’re trying to be independent and we don’t want to be a part of the family structure, or because we’d rather stay in our own little world (or both). Then we get out in the world and we live alone and we do whatever we want, but the trash piles up in the kitchen and no one washes our underpants and eventually, no one wants to be with us except the roaches. Basically, Saturn teaches us that we have to wash our own metaphysical underpants, because no one else is going to do it . Some of us resist Saturn and live in squalor, but most of us find that too painful and find ourselves tidying up of our own volition. When we have roommates and partners, we learn that what we do affects others, and that we need to be responsible for our own actions. Saturn in synastry is the roommate that reminds us to go to the laundry, or the fumigators will be coming. But someone with a healthy Saturn will help us do it, and not belittle us in the process.
In synastry, Saturn can be stern, but it can also be very loving and supportive (Saturn’s exaltation in Libra). If everyone’s Saturn was in a good place, we would take Saturn’s constructive advice and encouragement and find a way to fulfill whatever it is we lack. Saturn to the Moon would gently teach us to provide for our emotional sustenance. Saturn to Venus would encourage us to support and nurture what we love. Saturn/Mars would help us be productive and constructive. Unfortunately, Saturn goes wrong in synastry when the Saturn person doesn’t have a healthy relationship to Saturn. If Saturn is dislocated from the Moon, if Saturn represents mindless authority, if Saturn resulted in a repressed and oppressed parental influence, if Saturn resents having to grow up, then that Saturn is not going to be kind to my planets. That Saturn is going to project all of its awful issues and insecurities onto my poor planets, which may not deserve that kind of treatment.
Saturn/Saturn aspects can be particularly binding, and particularly difficult. A conjunction, if the two are the same age, can result in the partners representing the Saturn issues for one another (it’s you, not me, that’s the problem). Saturn squares have a hard time understanding one another’s goals and obligations. They’re pulling in different directions. Oppositions occur with a 14 or 15 year age difference. This can result in one Saturn acting as mentor for the younger partner, particularly in the houses the Saturns fall in. The younger partner may also teach the older a few things, or create responsibilities and challenges in the house it resides in. Opposing Saturns fall on one another’s polarity points, and there are usually specific lessons to be learned from the relationship, which may not last beyond the time that’s needed for those lessons to be learned. Transiting Saturn squares to the opposition will be particularly rough, but any planet squaring opposing Saturns needs to be noted. Whenever Saturns are in aspect, squares from planets sometimes bookend the relationship’s beginning and ending, and Saturn itself (in partnership with the progressed Moon) will have a story to tell.
I never look at Saturn in a synastry until I’ve thoroughly exhausted the natal Saturns. If the partner’s Saturn is kind and mature and responsible, then that square to the Moon between charts is not going to be so problematic.