All about archetypes: The Lover(s)

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In this blog series, I’m exploring the link between Jungian archetypes and the major arcana of the tarot deck. To read more about it, check out my introduction article, which provides context for my thoughts, a tiny bit of background on Jungian archetypes and tarot, and information about the first archetype pairing, The Innocent (Jung) and The Fool (tarot.) Today we’re talking about The Lover archetype.

The Lover archetype

Let’s begin with one of Jung’s twelve archetypes, The Lover. The Lover is a person (or persons) who experiences, well, love. They seek togetherness, stability, sensuality, pleasure, fun, passion, and fulfillment through love. Instantly, you may be picturing the lead in a romantic comedy, someone who is seeking partnership with the character known as the “love interest.” The love interest may also occur to you as someone who embodies this archetype. You’d be right; this character absolutely is modeled on the archetype of The Lover. However, romantic comedies aren’t the only works that feature this archetype. In fact, The Lover isn’t always seeking romantic love. Think of Samwise Gamgee in Lord of The Rings. This character is so devoted to his friend that he is willing to quite literally follow him to the ends of the earth. Also think of your typical Christmas movie, which tend to center the love of family. 

If you’re familiar with tarot, I’m sure you can guess which major arcana I’m pairing with this Jungian archetype. It is, of course, The Lovers. In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, The Lovers features two naked figures. In this deck, the figures are male and female, but other more modern decks, like this excellent queer tarot deck, may feature same-sex pairings. In the Rider-Waite deck, the two figures stand beneath an angel. The fertile landscape that surrounds them is reminiscent of Eden, complete with an apple tree and a snake. There is also a tree of flame, representing passion, and a mountain in the background.

When The Lovers appears to you in a reading, it is thought to represent your connections and meaningful relationships. The figure’s nakedness reflects the vulnerability required to build and maintain these connections. It can also be interpreted to be about choice (what are the values you want to build your connections and relationships on?) communication, and unification. For example, if you are in conflict with a friend or a family member and draw The Lovers during a reading, it may be a sign that you need to work to end the conflict and unify what are currently two opposing forces. This call to create wholeness or unity could even mean that there are disparate things within yourself that need to be unified; for example, how do you bring your values and choices together?

How do incorporate The Lover archetype into my storytelling?

If you’re writing a story with a strong romantic storyline, be it a romance, romantic comedy, or any other genre with a significant romantic subplot, it will likely feel natural to include The Lover archetype into your story. Maybe your main character is pursuing a romantic relationship with a specific character, and their motivation is to build that connection and “get the girl” as it were. Maybe The Lover is your character’s life partner, who supports them through their journey and arc through the story and the conflict that arises as part of it.

Including The Lover archetype as a side character is often thought of a good way to round out or humanize characters who are otherwise rough on the surface. How many action movies have you seen where the main character is a total badass but loves their partner deeply, and their partner is equally dedicated to them? Think of tough, strong, and independent Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn 99 and how much softer she gets when she is paired with a loving partner, a dedicated friend, or even a puppy. When this rough around the edges character is paired with The Lover archetype, the viewers are automatically able to see a different side of her, preventing her from coming across as unrealistic or one dimensional.

A word of caution: it is sometimes tempting to humanize men by giving them a wife or girlfriend (often embodying The Lover) and then kill or harm them in some way. Using a woman’s pain or death to give a man motivation, depth, or a “tragic backstory” is trope that’s been around for a long time, and although there are many ancient elements of storytelling that still resonate today, this particular one can come across as lazy, misogynistic, or thoughtless. Think carefully about utilizing this trope and try to make sure that you aren’t causing the women in your story pain for the sole purpose of building up the men. While all storytellers are welcome to write whatever they please, thoughtful storytelling requires reflecting on not just intention but impact, and this trope often has a different impact than the creator envisioned, because it doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it’s part of a greater, societal pattern.

If you aren’t writing anything with a romantic plotline, you may think you don’t have space in your story to incorporate The Lover. However, as I said before, this character doesn’t have to desire romantic or sensual connections in order to embody this archetype. The dedicated best friend is an excellent example of utilizing The Lover without focusing on romantic or sexual relationships. The Lover often crops up in my own work as a lifelong friend who would do anything for my main character, or even a devoted sibling who comes along for all of my character’s adventures. The nakedness of the figures on The Lovers tarot card may feel inherently sexual, but remember that before Adam and Eve ate the apple, they didn’t think that there was anything shameful or sexual about their nakedness. The nakedness of the figures represents vulnerability, not sexuality, and vulnerability is necessary for any close relationship.

You may find as you’re developing your main character that their arc is centered around finding love, even if that love isn’t what they expected; love of family (chosen or biological,) friends, and even community are all strong motivations and goals for a main character, even if the story never touches on romantic love or sensuality. If love is a theme in your story, it may serve you well to see if you can utilize The Lover archetype.

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi


Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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