Relationship help from the I Ching
by Hilary Barrett

Everyone has difficulties in their most important relationships. Problems in love cannot be set aside and forgotten – they are ever-present, and can threaten to devour your whole existence. Perhaps more than in any other area of life, relationships are full of unanswered questions.

What do I really mean to him?
What would it be like to live together?
How can I help?
Where does our relationship go from here?

The I Ching can answer your questions.

The I Ching is like a kind, wise friend. It is the ideal counselor, but it can tell you things no counselor could ever know. The insights it offers you can be life-changing. Like any good counselor, though, it won’t take away your freedom of choice by telling you what to do.

The early stages of a relationship can seem to drown you in confusion: even if you are navigating the torrents of your own emotions successfully, your partner’s feelings are uncharted waters! What is really going on under the surface? Women are rather more likely than men to be faced with this question, simply because many men find it virtually impossible to put their feelings into words. The I Ching can give you insight into how things really are, enabling you to act with sensitivity and strength.

Of course, couples don’t just live happily ever after. Relationships are always changing, and new challenges constantly emerge: even when you feel you are coming to understand your partner, this doesn’t always mean you know how to help them, or your relationship. The I Ching can help to put you in control of awkward situations, telling you when to expect difficulty, what would make things better (or worse!), when it is best to speak out and when to keep a low profile. It can help to resolve crises and, more importantly, it can show you how to avoid a crisis in the first place.

Hillary and Bill Clinton

As your relationship develops, there will be major turning points along the way. At such times, it can help to ask the I Ching for an image of where you’re headed. To give you an example of how this can work, I asked about what was until recently America’s ‘First Marriage’: Hillary and Bill Clinton. Where do they go from here?

The I Ching replied with Hexagram 13, People in Harmony, in the context of Hexagram 53, Gradual Development. Overall, this suggests a harmonious marriage between very compatible partners, moving quite gracefully and strongly into a new stage.

Hexagram 13 begins: ‘People in harmony in the countryside.’ It means that they have moved away from the political centre of things (the city, in ancient China), and their partnership is now a practical, co-operative one, but no longer so concerned with great political power. It will be good for them to ‘cross the great river’ --- to embark confidently on this new phase of their lives, embracing the change, and to have persistence and constancy. They will also need to be very clear about what belongs where --- what (and whom) it is and isn’t appropriate for each of them to get involved with. This is a real departure from their recent past (!), and it can mean a far more positive phase for their relationship, moving from a period of very poor communication to one of much greater closeness.

At the heart of the relationship, representing its potential for growth or destruction, is a strong female figure. Hillary’s force of character can be strongly innovative and creative in their marriage --- but it can also prove destabilizing. What emerges from this potential depends on both partners!

The I Ching gives two ‘moving lines’, pinpointing the forces at work in the relationship. Interestingly, the two lines are both yang (predominantly active, a traditionally masculine role), and in the context of this hexagram do not affect one another. Clearly husband and wife are unusually equal and independent.

The first line --- showing where the new phase begins --- is set in the context of Hexagram 33, Retiring, which comes about because ‘you cannot stay in your place forever’. The relevance of this is pretty clear! ‘People in harmony going out of the gate. Nothing wrong.’ The Clintons are crossing a threshold, moving into the open and away from the claustrophobia of the White House and its demands. This line is obviously controlled by Bill’s situation, but it affects the two of them, as they move out together.

Another interesting context for this line is given by the inner Pattern of Change, Hexagram 57, Gentle Influence --- describing how someone can keep a low profile and still exert influence through gentle support. This is Bill’s role in their transformation.

The other moving line is the fourth, marking their re-entry into public life. ‘Bestriding the city battlements, nowhere can there be an attack. Good fortune.’ There are double meanings in this line --- if you’re busy manning the battlements, not only can you not be attacked, but you can’t attack other people. This brings good fortune as a sort of damage-limitation exercise, rather like Clinton’s admission (a few days after this reading was done) that he had lied after all in the Lewinsky affair (surprise!). This means that he can’t practice law for a while, but protects him from further prosecution.

This incident reflects a deeper pattern that is likely to recur in future. It is Hillary who will be ‘bestriding the city battlements’ in her new role as senator. The walls defend her position, and her independence, but they also define and restrict her political role. For both of them, this new clarity means good fortune.

The context for this line is Hexagram 37, People in the Home. It describes a stable family structure --- or any group of people living and working together --- where the woman’s constancy and dependability is crucial. This is a protective space, one to retreat to when you have been injured by the hostility of the outside world. Bill is ‘Retiring’, his wife is now the more obviously influential figure. The outer Pattern of Change suggests their relations with the outer world, and naturally is more closely associated with Hillary now. It is Hexagram 51, Thunder, the Arousing: dramatic new beginnings, inspiration and upheaval.

I have never before known a reading about a relationship to refer so much to the way the couple relates to the outside world. But perhaps this is not so surprising!

The context for all of this is Hexagram 53, Gradual Development. It describes a slow but irresistible advance --- as symbolized by a traditional Chinese engagement!! After a quarter of a century of marriage, the Clintons are still moving towards a greater unity. The only risk is that they will try to rush the process --- which can be very slow --- and get into deep waters.

‘The woman reaches her rightful place. Good fortune.’ In the traditional reading of this hexagram, the rightful place means marriage. But there could be other views! Maybe the new balance in the Clintons’ relationship will prove more stable and beneficial for both of them. But this is only a beginning: ‘You cannot just come to a standstill. Accept this, and you can make use of Gradual Development. Gradual Development means striving to make progress.’

Copyright 2000 H.J.Barrett.

About the author
I have been learning from the I Ching for many years now, and recently founded Clarity, a guaranteed I Ching consultation service whose mission is to make the I Ching’s help and insight readily and simply available to all who need it. Email: . Our web site is: . To reach us, click here Clarity.

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