Oracle of Ybor: I moved back to Tampa to try and make it work with an ex who cheated on me

It's time to be honest with yourself, lovelorn.

click to enlarge The Eight of Swords is a card for feeling depressed and trapped, seemingly without a way out. - PHOTO VIA ADOBE
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The Eight of Swords is a card for feeling depressed and trapped, seemingly without a way out.
Dear Oracle, I recently returned to Tampa with the hopes of reuniting with my ex-partner. I left them after I found out they had an affair. (We are separated but not divorced.) However, after a year in another state and reflecting on our lives together, I realize much I love and miss them. We constantly talked and texted and even told each other that we loved each other. I told them part of the reason I was returning to Tampa was to get back together. Their reaction is they send me mixed messages. For example, they will say if we are going to get back together, we have to start over like we were dating. We have done several date-like things together. Then they’ll say, “but if I want to date someone else, I will.” I am very confused. I find myself at their home almost every weekend, grilling, cleaning the cars and house, taking care of the lawn, and hanging out with them. Will we get back together?—Lovelorn

Cards for the relationship now: Three of Wands reversed, Death, Eight of Swords
Cards for the asker: Temperance reversed, Strength reversed, Page of Pentacles reversed

Dear Lovelorn, once, a philosophy professor of mine said that love exists in a moment when we see a person and picture a future with them. That future could be 15 minutes down the road and involve fewer clothes, or it could be 50 years ahead and involve grandbabies. But that exciting moment of potential is a place where love can grow.

The Three of Wands is a card like that. It’s a card about looking back at what you’ve done with pride but still feeling excited about what’s around the corner. In this spread, the Three of Wands is reversed. While there is a fondness for what came before, that potential feels stuck. When your marriage ended, you lost not only the relationship as it was in the present but also that future. That is a very devastating loss, and I’m so sorry you went through that.

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It doesn’t surprise me that the Death card came after the Three of Wands. I’ve written multiple times about Death in this column and its contradictory meaning of both ending and beginning. Sometimes death is necessary so that rebirth can happen. To begin a relationship again with your ex can certainly be a rebirth—but only if you acknowledge the death of your marriage first.

I don’t know if you and your ex have talked about your relationship ending. Not the “why” or “how” of it, but the fact that it has ended. What has that meant for you? What has that meant for them? Be honest.

When you write that your ex is sending mixed signals, I wonder if you have had open and honest conversations about what you both really want moving forward.

You mention that your partner asked that you two start over again with dating. This part isn’t unusual—plenty of couples try this to get back to the basics—but then you describe what you do for your ex every weekend: you clean their house and cars, you grill, you take care of the lawn.

This is very kind, but in my own experience, I’ve never had someone I just started dating clean my house for me unprompted. That’s something a live-in partner does. It seems like you’re willing to fill in the role of married partner again, but your ex is not wanting or willing to join you in that role.

Your ex did have an affair and has signaled to you that they are not looking for monogamy at this time. If they want to date someone else, they can. While the logic extends that you could also date someone else, it doesn’t seem like you want to.

If you were to move forward with your ex, they might suggest an open marriage. Would you be all right with this solution? Some people are naturally drawn to polygamous relationships; some are not. One is not more of the “right way” to be in a relationship than the other, but it is crucial for both (or all) parties to agree. “Poly under duress” rarely works out.

"In my own experience, I’ve never had someone I just started dating clean my house for me unprompted.

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There can be times when we’re in love with someone, and they cannot be with us fully. They might be married or uninterested in dating exclusively or have some other reason, and out of love for them, we convince ourselves that having a piece of them is better than nothing.

In a way, Lovelorn, I think that is the offer your ex is giving you. And I think you’re miserable with that. The Eight of Swords is a card for feeling depressed and trapped, seemingly without a way out. The image on my card is two swords on a rock and six swords below it. It looks like a fence, but it’s an illusion: you can scoot out if you try.

You aren’t trapped, Lovelorn, despite it feeling like such.

I think you and your ex need to speak openly about what you want, what you envision as a future, what you need out of a partnership, and what you are unwilling to let go of. Remember that a compromise is something both parties are willing to work with, not something that leaves one person happy and the other gutted. If your ex is open to it, couple’s counseling might be helpful.

Right now, Lovelorn, your three cards of action are all reversed. It might be hard to face them, but they are necessary. First, with Temperance, you’ll need to be realistic with your hopes and truly listen to what your partner says they can give you. Whatever happens, you will need strength. If you move forward, you will need to be strong in rebuilding that trust. If your partner cannot give you what you need, you need to have the strength to walk away. The Page of Pentacles is someone who works hard to sow seeds for the future. They believe that change is going to come.

Whatever that future is—with your ex, with someone else, or on your own—I hope that you’re able to see those seeds bloom and that whatever happens in this life, you feel enchanted by the possibility of what comes next.

Thank you for trusting me with your question.