‘Never think,’ wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘that there is more in life than can be packed into childhood.’ We might say, with more accuracy for Cancer, that there is not more in life than can’t be packed into Mother. And here you have the greatest strength and also the greatest weakness of the Cancer man in love relationships. This man is tied, one way or another – in love or in hate, and often in both – to Mother.
It may sound simplistic to say that all Cancer men are mother-bound. But it would come close to the truth. Remember what we said about the myths connected with Cancer? And in particular the myth of the Great Mother? Well, there is a test that confronts every Cancer man, and he runs up against it sooner or later in life. Our world being what it is, with so little attention paid to people’s inner lives and motivations, most Cancer men take the latter road.
If you think about it, you’ll see it’s natural. Cancer is a sign of feeling and of deep emotional needs and often dependency. It clings. It doesn’t like to stand alone. In childhood, this need for attachment and warmth will naturally focus on the mother. The trouble is once adult, Cancer men are often still looking for that nurturing, protecting woman who will always forgive them, always understand them, care for them, shelter them. You might say, why not? But Cancer, which is a feminine sign, gels oddly with the masculine psyche. In each man’s consciousness, buried deep within him, is the myth of the Hero. How can a hero keep running back to Mummy for comfort and understanding? Psychology postulates that the mother-son tie is one of the most difficult things a man must contend with in life. If he doesn’t deal with it – as many Cancer men don’t – then his relationships will suffer for it.
There is usually a scenario which follows this theme, and which is pretty common in Cancer marriages. For one thing, Cancer men usually marry young. That is, if they aren’t mother-haters. The mother-haters usually marry very late, if at all. They don’t know they hate their mothers. They’re afraid of women – hence the lack of commitment. But this is a distorted kind of Cancer, a Cancer on the run from his own emotional dependency. You can see a lot of those running about with extra-hard shells on, never really letting you see the vulnerable person underneath. If you probe, they snap at you like good crabs.
The more open Cancer man will, then, usually have a family by the time he’s twenty-five. Because of their gentleness, they make excellent fathers, so long as they’re not jealous of the mothering their own children receive. But later on, in the thirties or perhaps forties, the pattern that Cancer sets tends to go awry. He will usually be attracted to a strong woman – one of those capable types, often intellectual, who either overtly or subtly must carry the emotional strength for the relationship. His moodiness, changeability, snappishness, fears – all must be understood and coddled. But it is natural for any adolescent boy to kick butt against mother. It’s part of the growing-up process. Eventually Cancer must too, because he’s a man. You can imagine what happens then. Who gets kicked? Well, the surrogate mother, of course. If that happens to you, it’s not pleasant. Although Cancer is not a divorce-prone sign – after all, marriage is a form of security, isn’t it? – Cancer men can be wanderers par excellence. They always come back again. But the question is whether you want them when they do.
This is a sign with a lot of in-built conflict for a man. For one thing, the sensitivity and imagination don’t mix well with society’s macho expectations of men. Did I hear you say times have changed, women are liberated, etc.? Maybe in London, Amsterdam, New York. But most of the rest of the world lies between. Sophisticated, cosmopolitan cities excluded, it’s still a little difficult for a moody, sensitive, introverted, imaginative man to get away with being himself. He must learn camouflage. Cancer’s two most common camouflages, as we have seen, are the hard shell and the ‘good drinking companion’ jolly extrovert face. But these things take their toll on the person inside, unless he’s pretty confident himself. How many people you know are that?
For another thing, the mother problem isn’t an easy one to solve. Motherhood is both sacred and profane; it is both a biological fact, with little glamour attached, and an archetypal experience. To toe the line between the berating woman – and the maternal side of woman – and overglamorizing it so your mother can do no wrong, is a hard task. To live within the shadow of the Mother, so in touch with the forces of the currents that wash the shores of ordinary life, is a great and harrowing task psychologically for a Cancer man. Most would rather not even think about it. But the deep creativity of this sign cannot really emerge without some understanding of its myth and its task. The Cancer man is never an easy lover or husband. For one thing, he’s too complex, and defies the stereotyped image of the masculine with which our society is imbued. For another, he’s evasive and indirect, and the deeper the feeling or the problem, the less likely you are to hear about it. He can be sulky and crabby one moment, effusively sentimental and affectionate the next. But most of all he has feeling, he’s alive. Curious about just about everything, he will rarely be rigidly intellectual, but will more likely store what interests him in his extraordinarily attentive memory and draw it out to tell an anecdote or illustrate a point.
Donald Sutherland is a typical Cancerian actor. He is notorious for disliking interviews, for his evasiveness, his versatility, his moodiness. Yet he is extremely masculine, in his own fashion. Not the Burt Reynolds type, maybe. But the loveliest quality in the Cancer man is tenderness and gentleness. They are short-changed these days. Invest your trust, and you draw it out. Who wants Burt Reynolds, anyway?
From the book “Astrology for Lovers,” written by Liz Green.