The Lover Archetype


You can learn about your Lover archetype from mythology. One Greek god in particular, Dionysus, exemplifies the Lover’s healthy and shadow aspects.

Lover is a romantic with a soulful earthiness and an unabashed appreciation for life. He is the curious child who closely examines and fiddles with new gadgets. The playful child who lures his friends into new adventures. The quiet child who is fascinated by new colors, sights, tastes, and sensations. The sensitive child who feels deeply and passionately about following his own agenda and pursuing interests that feel meaningful. His pleasure in being who and what he is, and in loving what he loves without needing to prove himself to others, distinguishes him from the other masculine archetypes in that he has a naturally strong lunar aspect that balances his solar energies.

In Alchemy of the Heart, A. Marina Aguilar says of Dionysus:

He is lover, faithful partner, and the other half of the androgyne to Ariadne. . . . Dionysos was considered both virile masculine and feminine. His femininity arises in, and as a response to, the feminine within his own nature. Because he loves the feminine, the feminine deeply responds to him.

The stories about him have three main themes: nature and fertility, experiencing and coming to terms with the emotional extremes of ecstasy and agony, and his connection with, love for, and constant devoted attendance by women. As such the Lover is a disturbing element to religions and individuals who repress the primitive and sensual elements of human nature in favor of reason. This has been a terrible mistake. First because we have lost contact with natural pleasures which are meant to enrich our lives. Second, because the rejected wild man in our psyche has developed into a raging beast just below our awareness. In our time, he is capable of erupting at any moment to wreak terrible destruction. The cultural rejection of his essential nature is the source of much suffering, and—in many sensitive and gifted individuals—madness.

Jung wrote:

The pagan religions met this danger by giving drunken ecstasy a place within their cult. Heraclitus doubtless saw what was at the back of it when he said, ‘But Hades is that same Dionysos in whose honor they go mad and keep the feast of the wine-vat.’ For this very reason orgies were granted religious license, so as to exorcise the danger that threatened from Hades. Our solution, however, has served to throw the gates of hell wide open. C.G. Jung. CW 12, 143.

The unfortunate solution Jung refers to is the cultural and individual repression of the healthy lover. Religion’s severance of him from collective consciousness has contributed to the rampant materialism and epidemics of meaninglessness and depression that plague modern civilizations. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a repressed Lover at the root of all addictions and violence.

To run from your heart’s desires, mask them with denial or intellectualizations, or satisfy them with unhealthy substitutes such as addictions to alcohol, drugs, work or sex, are some hallmarks of the shadow Lover. His characteristics include fickleness, instability, touchiness, moodiness, sensitivity, irresponsibility, inconstancy, intense contradictory emotions such as ecstasy and despair, depression, a strong need to be independent and free, fear of commitment and success, and unwillingness to put serious effort into work he dislikes for the sake of relationships or security.

In youth, your Lover’s passion for perfection and intense stimulation may be extinguished when you discover your partner’s flaws, and you may fall in and out of love with alarming frequency. The same disenchantment may occur with your work. Your love for novelty and change makes it difficult for you to settle down or put serious effort into jobs that are not emotionally satisfying, or that restrain your freedom to pursue new interests and adventures.

Psychologists recognize this shadow Lover in Peter Pan, the eternal boy who refuses to grow up and accept adult responsibilities. He wanders from job to job, partner to partner, adventure to adventure—playing with whomever and whatever promises to deliver the next high, including hallucinogens, mood-altering drugs, and outsider music. His tendency to live by his own rules and leave when he’s bored is exasperating and painful for loved ones. He may be afraid to succeed because that will require him to settle down. By midlife he may experience extreme loneliness beneath his charming facade. He’s missing something and he knows it.

The mythical Narcissus is another type of Lover: far more attached to the imago, (as Harville Hendrix has so aptly named your unconscious mental ideal of your Beloved), and his own feelings than he is to the reality of his partner. He doesn’t want to know or experience partnership with the real person onto whom he projects his Beloved so much as he wants to enjoy the pleasurable feelings that his thoughts and fantasies of him/her bring.

What obstacles do you erect that present you from asking for and enjoying the love and pleasure you need with your partner? With others? With life?

Read more about your Lover archetype in The Soul’s Twins. This copyrighted material is from pp. 144-159.

Image Credits: Dionysus by BeniArtiste, Etsy. Moon Lover, Unknown.

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13 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    “If you look hard enough, you’ll find a repressed Lover at the root of all addictions and violence.” Wow, this statement in your excellent post really caught my attention this morning with my first thoughts being, how true it rings! How “love” can be and is easily transferred onto “other” objects of desire; alcohol, drugs, gambling, religion, career, chocolate, sex, eating disorders, depression, etc. An ever-growing list for sure as many know, one that goes on and on when, if we refuse to take any responsibility for our desires, thus creating huge difficulties.

    Personally, repression played a major role in my life throughout my twenties, creating much havoc and many years of depression, until I finally took my sexuality and desires seriously. Fast forward to today and I would like to think that these long dark years served me well in removing many obstacles from being loved but I do wonder what barriers, as Rumi so exquisitely writes, are still in place when I read such wisdom “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Yes, I think the repression of love is the root of all our suffering. Love is life-giving. It attracts us forward toward wholeness and healing. The lack of it pulls us backward into immaturity, intolerance, escapism, hopelessness, and hatred. Those who hate must suffer most of all. Those who find a way to answer love’s call must be the most fortunate of all.

      Which brings me to the thing that’s uppermost in my mind today: your father’s death this afternoon and the exquisite poem you posted for him titled, Goodbye Dear Father, Follow Her Light. For those who are interested, you can read it here: Knowing a bit about the suffering you’ve endured, I find it extraordinary that your heart can feel such love and your pen write about it on the day of his soul’s passing. You are a living testament to the power of love.

      I am so very sorry for your loss. May you be surrounded and protected by love today and in the difficult weeks to come.

      Love, Jeanie

      1. Thank you so much Jeanie for your truly beautiful reply. I wrote this short poem in about twenty minutes yesterday, and now that I’m re-reading your post I’m so pleased that I didn’t hold back from love or Dionysus, with his light and dark aspects. For this duality lives in me, in all of us. It lived in my father too and although I witnessed more of his dark side, oh my goodness, when he stepped into the light, he shone! Love and light, Deborah.

        1. I can’t believe it only took you 20 minutes to write that poem. I wondered about that. Yes, Dionysus lives in all of us. I’m so glad you saw your father’s light side too. As you above all people know, of course, experiencing a father’s love, even though flawed, is critical to a daugher’s self-esteem. Remembering my father’s expressions of love for me still warms my heart and strengthens my soul.

  2. Was in the middle of a lengthy reply Jeanie and then I lost it – no doubt because of being on my phone. Will respond tomorrow!

      1. Thanks Jeanie for this illuminating post. Yes, Dionysus has been been hijacked by reason uber alles. Not there is no place for Logos or reason but when one is hijacked by it, it leaves repression & destruction in its place. Dionysus clearly had a blend of masculine and feminine energies. I suppose any extreme graphically shows the consequences. At the same time I remember the saying ‘excess leads to wisdom’ – so maybe there’s a place for excess so that we see it for what it is … and take necessary steps for restraint eg excess materialism can show us that it is a momentary panacea for a hunger we refuse to acknowledge is our soul calling.

        I wish I could remember what I wrote yesterday or the day before that I lost because of being on my phone. I commented on the Peter Pan archetype, the eternal puer aeturnus archetype describing a man who remains an adolescent throughout his life. I wonder sometimes if I don’t retain some of that, the puella … likewise the Narcissus archetype. I seem to be able to recognise it in others which makes me think/feel that if I recognise it, it means that I own some of it too. So I would do well to re-cognise this … ie think about it differently, use that knowledge vis a vis me constructively …

        But, all in all, repression of Love is, I firmly hold to be true, the basis of all addiction.

        Thank you again Jeanie.

        1. Hi Susan,

          I’ve never heard the saying ‘excess leads to wisdom’ but there’s a lot of wisdom in your interpretation of it! Certainly the last three years of obsessing over The Soul’s Twins and neglecting just about everything else in my life showed me how my soul becomes depleted of energy and inspiration when she is neglected. I’m paying more more attention to her now with Tarot, dreams, resting, reading and playing, and feel Dionysus stirring more each day.

          I suspect many or maybe even most of us retain traces of the puer/puella who just wants to remain innocent and free of responsibility and striving in the maternal womb of childhood. Narcissus too. We all contain all the archetypal energies, but we don’t have complexes about all of them. Just the ones that keep showing up in our dream images, relationships, and repetitive behavior for whatever reasons. Personality? Parental conditioning? Childhood trauma…etc, etc. So I guess our job is, as you say, to recognize and own whatever forces are moving in us at any given moment. Just naming them seems to have a balancing effect.

          Thank you for writing, Susan.


          1. Thanks for your lovely reply Jeanie. Your saying about we don’t necessarily have complexes about them all, but naming archetypal energies is effectively balancing. Don’t ask me why I’ve just remembered the saying – the way to wisdom is through excess.

  3. Powerful words, as always, dear Jeanie. It shows your knowledge about this puzzle of all time: Love!
    As a young boy, I have been falling in love so often that I decided never to fall in love again in my puberty. I kept staying cool until I knew my Amina side and her strength. By the way, I have never lost in love head over heels, but since I know my feminine, I know love.

    1. It’s apparent to me that you know love. It shows through your many thoughtful posts and kind words to your friends. Thank you for being my friend. Jeanie

  4. Jean, I haven’t read this yet, but just by eyeballing it I can tell it is beautifully written and fascinating. I look forward to taking it in!

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