On April 8, the universe will put on a rare celestial spectacle when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, creating a total solar eclipse and sending parts of North America into 100% darkness. It’s a widely anticipated event for astronomers and space enthusiasts, but can the eclipse also affect and teach us about our own romantic relationships? 

Solar eclipses have captivated human imaginations for millennia, so the idea that they could bear some weight on our relationships and our lives as a whole isn’t exactly new. In ancient Mesopotamia, eclipses were often seen as omens, believed to foretell significant events such as the death of a ruler or the downfall of a kingdom. In ancient Chinese culture, it was believed that solar eclipses occurred when a celestial dragon devoured the sun. 

Today, many view eclipses as symbols of transformation and change, balance and harmony, unity and connection, and reflection and introspection – all of which can tie into our interpersonal relationships. 

Even those who are skeptical of an eclipse’s ability to affect our moods and relationships can probably, at the very least, see a parallel between a solar eclipse’s behavior and common dynamics between couples.

In the spirit of the upcoming total solar eclipse, we spoke to two very different professionals – a licensed marriage and family therapist who shared her insight on getting through metaphorical darkness in a relationship, and an astrologer.

Illuminating love’s darker moments

Just as the moon temporarily blocks the sun during an eclipse, relationship issues can cast a shadow over our lives. In fact, singer Bonnie Tyler was trying to convey exactly that in her 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” 

But do the “shadows” cast in our relationships have to lead to breakup or divorce? Not every time. Sometimes the darkness of a relationship is temporary, just like the darkness caused by an eclipse. 

Barbara Jo Koehnemann, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Tennessee, has seen couples move past their own darkness and into the light time and again.

“The hope is that couples can learn how to communicate in a way that reconnects them every time they’re disconnected. Each person should accept who they are and who their partner is, and not try to make the other person be someone they aren’t,” she said. 

With the right mindset and dedication, couples can even move past some of life’s darkest moments. 

“Some couples are able to get through major events like betrayal and emerge stronger, but it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, and it’s painful, but it’s absolutely possible,” Koehnemann said. 

It’s worth nothing, however, that just as solar eclipses are temporary, relationships can be too. But even relationships that don’t last forever can be valuable to our lives, according to Koehnemann. 

“The goal is to learn from every relationship we are connected to. Sometimes you just have to go through what you go through and get what you get – and sometimes that process includes divorce.” 

Koehnemann said it’s also okay to enter into a relationship with no intention of marrying the other person (this should be great news for the growing number of Americans who are choosing not to say “I do”). 

“It’s all about the ability to know who you are and what you want and express that to the other person in a way that is open, honest, conscious, and intentional,” she said.

Koehnemann thoughtfully summed up the parallel between eclipses and relationships like this: “Love connection is like our connection to the sun. A source of warmth and light and energy. When we are disconnected, we feel unsafe, unsettled. Dark. Fearful. That is our longing for reconnection. After several rainy days, the sun finally appears and people head outdoors to soak and bask in the light.” 

Silhouette lover holding hand background of the horoscope concept.
The impact that each person and each relationship will feel as a result of the solar eclipse and Mercury Retrograde depends on their individual circumstances, such as their zodiac sign. (Shutterstock / chairoij)

Solar eclipse + Mercury Retrograde = relationship woes?

Khristian Jackson, an astrologer based in Vermont (and whose small town of 20,000 people is in the path of totality), spoke to us about the eclipse from a celestial point of view. 

“Eclipses can disrupt our routines and trigger unexpected changes in direction. It brings in something new and gives illumination to areas in our lives. It can allow us to find where we may need more balance and may bring back old opportunities, so it’s good to be aware and pay attention to the synchronicities around this time,” she said.

Notably, Jackson explained that solar eclipses are about closing out old cycles. This could, of course, mean ending relationships in which there are cycles of abuse or poor communication, or any pattern that isn’t healthy.

“Since this eclipse is happening at the same time as Mercury retrograde, we’re going to see a lot of closing out of generational cycles and patterns that no longer serve us,” she said. 

If you’re wondering what Mercury retrograde is, it’s an astrological phenomenon that occurs when the planet Mercury appears to move backward in its orbit as observed from Earth. Although Mercury isn’t actually moving backward, its apparent retrograde motion happens due to the relative positions and speeds of Mercury and Earth as they orbit the sun. The current retrograde began on April 1 and will continue until April 25.

“You’re actually going to want to pay more attention to Mercury retrograde because it’s taking place for a lot longer than the (total) eclipse, which will only last about four minutes.” 

The impact that each person and each relationship will feel as a result of the cosmic combination will depend a lot on their individual circumstances, such as their zodiac sign and where they are spiritually. 

“If you’re a person who doesn’t ever want to go to therapy, do shadow work, or deal with issues that you’ve had for a long time, then you’re probably going to feel this a lot harder than somebody who knows their triggers and works on themselves every day.”

It’s also possible that someone who is largely unaffected by the eclipse and Mercury retrograde (shout-out to Pisces) ends up having a negative experience because their partner is more vulnerable to its effects. Jackson said that Leos will be most affected because they’re ruled by the sun.  

Jackson also says that individuals and couples should be prepared for miscommunication taking place during this time, which can lead to conflict.

“Think more deeply about how you assert your needs and communicate your honest truth. If you and your partners (both romantic and platonic) have experienced communication issues in the past, now is the time to address them.” 

Anyone in the early stages of a divorce should also avoid signing any contracts until after Mercury retrograde is over, because people are likely to act impulsively and regret those decisions later. 

“The impact on relationships won’t be bad for everyone, but we’re going to see a lot of changes because each individual person is going to be experiencing this in a different way. It’s going to affect us individually and as a collective whole, as well as our partnerships, friendships, and family relationships,” Jackson said.