Relationship Archetypes: A Mirror for Our Inner Development

/ Photo by DerrickT /

Relationships are at the top of the charts as the primary concern of a lifetime. Practically every day I talk with someone in a reading about a relationship they’re in currently or a relationship they’d like to be in. This includes family relationships, business partnerships, friendships, and lovers.

The types of relationships we are in reveals something about ourselves. This includes choosing to be alone – how we relate to ourselves in solitude. Every relationship reflects what we are working on, what needs healing, and what is important to us. Relationships are the consummate self-made workshop for working on oneself.

I find in readings that people will often complain about their relationship, and dwell on what the other person was doing wrong in the relationship. A relationship serves as a mirror for our inner development. Whatever we witness our partner doing in the relationship also reflects a pattern in ourselves.

I’ve noticed some common relationship archetypes in my reading practice. I’ve listed a few here, including the tendencies of each, the shadow side (hidden aspects), and opportunities for self-integration or potentials for healing. The shadow side will not always be present in the relationship, but it’s useful as a checkpoint for self-questioning and awareness. Please let me remind you that these are not absolutes, but merely guideposts for creating more balanced relationships.

The Workaholic or Perfectionist
Tendencies: Very active with little private time or down time, driven especially in work and career matters. Ambitious.
Shadow side: Empty activity, afraid of being alone, emotionally distant, identity linked heavily to level of success. Need for approval. Hidden angers, especially towards the father. Alcoholism and/or drug use in early family environment.
Potential for healing: Seek companionship, develop creative hobbies that are rewards in themselves, make time for rest and recreation, regular physical exercise releases anger. Receive touch through massage therapies. Examine family relationships.

The Solitary One
Tendencies: May prefer being single, independent nature, likes living alone, finds relationships perpetually unsatisfying and short-term.
Shadow side: Fears intimacy, closeness associated with deep hurt originating in early family dynamics, sibling rivalries, possibly sexual invasiveness by a sibling or relative; sexual fears. Alcoholism in family circle.
Potential for healing: Examine one’s sexuality, safety and trust important in relationships – develop relationships gradually.

The Mother Teresa
Tendencies: Relates to people primarily through service occupations like social work, healing work, etc. Time is devoted to others.
Shadow side: Wounded in previous relationships, smothered or experienced loss of identity in relationships, especially parental relationships. Parent’s needs came first. Martyrdom.
Potential for healing: Release oneself from taking care of others, give attention to one’s own needs, set solid boundaries in relationships. Do it for yourself.

The Third Wheel
Tendencies: Attracts relationships where there is a third party. Infidelities.
Shadow side: Always feels left out or cast out, one or both parents emotionally unavailable in early family environment, had to compete with parents for basic love and attention. Parents were emotionally divided in their own relationship and couldn’t express it, infidelities occurred, and the cycle continues on in their children’s lives. Emotional reciprocity lacking in family relationships leads to relationships as adults feeling one-sided.
Potential for healing: Develop healthy family ties where there is a sense of belonging, community relationships important too. Emotional honesty in relationships crucial, practice expressing one’s emotional needs to loved ones. Cultivate trust.

The Socialite
Tendencies: Enjoys parties and large group gatherings, gregarious, highly creative, festive nature, social skills, energetic, sexual, gifted, theatrical.
Shadow side: Afraid of closeness, alcohol and drug dependencies, desperate need to be loved, hidden hostilities towards the opposite sex, boredom, blocked creativity.
Potential for healing: Seek creative outlets, develop unconditional sources of love and nurturance through nature and animals, focus on gifts and talents with commitment and discipline. Harness sexual energy through sexual awareness and fulfillment of creativity.

As I said before, these are not absolutes. They are not labels to stick on our partners or ourselves. This list is for self-awareness. Do you see these qualities in yourself? If you see these qualities in your husband/wife/co-worker/fill-in-the blank, what are they reflecting back to you about your own nature? Do you see the shadow qualities as well as the positives? Are you working on how to acknowledge those shadow tendencies while balancing them? Those questions sometimes make us squirm – and that’s a good sign. It means we’re doing real work!

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