The Lovers card is not just about love and sexuality; it has several meanings which are all related to the duality expressed in the image of the card. The image of the two lovers holding hands or intertwined is a powerful symbol for the harmonious union of two beings, but it also stands for the necessity of proper choice, and some interesting concepts about the relationship of our conscious minds to whatever power brings these lovers together. It should be apparent that, in our culture which has so many words and definitions for the simple emotion of love, the image of love as expressed in the Tarot can have so many meanings.
The Lovers is predominantly a card of the emotions, and it often portrays love that is divinely blessed, either by Cupid, an angel, or by God Himself. This seems to imply that nothing but good can come of this union, though with such a dualistic card there is always the potential for a sad conclusion, despite the best of beginnings. After all, love is like a flame because it can ignite the blaze of passion, but also because it can consume and destroy if used carelessly. Love is a wonderful thing, but profane or unrequited love has the power to tear families and lives apart. The Lovers has within it the potential for such love and we must always be cautious of it.
Air is the element which rules the Lovers, and we should therefore expect the majority of its meanings to be associated with the spirit and the mind. The notion of choice between positive and negative is first depicted on this card with the old symbology of a man deciding between two lovers. Such a moral crossroads is often shown by the Lovers card, which now tells us to consider all consequences before acting. The situation could be as simple as a fork in the road with two paths to choose between, or a much more complicated decision by which all of our strongest beliefs and ideals will be tested. In times of such difficult choice we clearly need high guidance.
The final meaning of the Lovers is perhaps best illustrated by the image of the card in the Rider-Waite deck, and some of its variants. This image shows the man looking at the woman, who in turn looks at the divine figure above them both. The man cannot see the angel, and he must trust the woman to see it for him. Likewise, the conscious mind (the man) cannot directly access Higher Powers (the angel), whatever you believe those are. The unconscious (the woman) must be the bridge between the physical and spiritual planes. This symbology also shows the true power of love; as discussed on the Ten of Cups, through love we can get a glimpse of Heaven.
Often, the Lovers will refer to a relationship when it appears in a reading, and when it does, that relationship will be a perfect expression of the love between two people. This will almost always be a sexual relationship, though not necessarily. You must always keep in mind, though, the potential for conflict despite happy beginnings. Love is a flame that must not be left unattended; it must be fueled and allowed to burn for as long and as brightly as possible. If not a physical pairing of man and woman, the Lovers can also show the integration of two conflicting parts of yourself, the masculine and the feminine. Through the combination, greater wisdom is revealed.
Finally, this card carries the meaning of choice, usually on the moral or ethical plane. The most familiar instance of such a choice, sadly, is the choice between your spouse and someone else with whom you have fallen in love. Alternatively, it could be between two possible partners, both of whom you love, but only one of whom would be best for you. Look inside, and turn to your unconscious for inspiration. Through it you can access the wisdom needed to make this choice properly, and for the good of all involved. Trust the counsel of your Inner Voice, and once you have made your decision, do not rescind it no matter how much opposition you face.