Deep diving into a crush’s IG tags with the hopes of striking gold in birthday posts is a crucial step in the dating process for some. If a potential partner’s zodiac sign is low key your primary criteria for getting involved with someone, you’re probably very familiar with this experience. But what happens when, gasp, they’re an Aries, which will never do because you’re a Cancer. Is it on to the next one even if you were most definitely feeling the vibes? Can incompatible zodiac signs work?
If the sun sign lineup is what spells out doom or green light for you, it’s time for a refresh on what it means to be astrologically compatible with someone. “A lot of people really take the pop astrology to heart,” professional astrologer Taryn Bond tells Elite Daily, “Like, ‘Oh, these signs don’t work together...’ but it's super nuanced for several reasons.”
Not only is there so much more to compatibility than sun signs, but incompatible zodiacs might be a better fit than you think. As Erin River Sunday, the lead astrologer at Birthdate Co., previously told Elite Daily, “Sun sign compatibility, or incompatibility, is a very small piece of the overall romantic puzzle and shouldn’t be treated as black and white ... Any two signs of the zodiac can be compatible, and therefore no two are ever completely incompatible.” Each person has an entire birth chart full of signs, planets, aspects, and houses — all of which are taken into account when looking at synastry (astrology-speak for compatibility).
Below, the experts hash out what it means to be incompatible with someone and whether the relationship can still work.
What Does It Mean To Be Astrologically Incompatible?
When astrologers examine compatibility between two charts, they generally begin with aspects. Aspects are a way to describe how the planets are communicating with each other. To put it simply, the harmonious aspects like trines (120 degrees apart, usually the same element) and sextiles (60 degrees apart, two different elements of the same polarity) are commonly dubbed as “compatible” in pop astrology, while harsh aspects like squares (same modality) are seen as “incompatible.”
“Incompatibility basically means that someone's placement or placements form harsh aspects to another person's placements, specifically a square or inconjunct,” Bond explains. “So it's often simplified as saying signs that square or inconjunct each other aren't compatible,” she continues. “Square signs have the same modality, but not the same element or polarity ... Inconjunct signs are signs that don't share modality, polarity, or element.” A lot of people might look at a Pisces and Gemini and say they are incompatible because they square each other (both mutable modalities). Or you might say Gemini and Scorpio will never work because they are inconjunct, so they don’t have a lot in common.
Square and inconjunct are two aspects often associated with incompatibility in astrology because they’re not an effortless pairing. “When you have two people sharing the same modality in a personal placement — sun, moon, or rising — you’re more likely to experience tension,” Miami-based astrologer Valerie Mesa tells Elite Daily, “It’s a battle of wills because you’re both so similar in the way you express yourself.” For example, Aries and Cancer are two cardinal signs that typically are seen as incompatible. “Cardinal likes to initiate things, so two cardinal signs together could feel a bit competitive with each other as opposed to harmonious flow,” Mesa notes.
What Else Determines Compatibility?
While harsh and inconjunct signs are typically what pop astrology calls “incompatible,” there’s an absolute tsunami of things determining compatibility. So it’s really not as simple as having one harsh aspect between two charts. “The whole birth chart is so complex, and you can have one incompatible aspect and then three good ones,” Bond says. “It's also like, which one matters more?” This depends on the chart, the person, and the planets involved. “Basically, compatibility is the overall synergy between two birth charts,” says Bond. “Think of the synergy between them and how they relate to each other.”
For one, there are more planets to look at than the sun. “You could be the same element as someone; for instance, a Sagittarius [sun] and a Leo [sun], which go great together — but then one of you could have a fixed water moon and the other one could have a fixed fire moon, and that’s where there’s going to be friction,” Mesa offers. There are all of these planets doing different things in each person’s chart that may counter or make up for what another is doing.
According to Bond, there are 10 planets astrologers typically work with. “When we're talking about compatibility between people, we actually oftentimes don't emphasize the sun sign as much as we would look at the moon in particular, but also Venus and Mars,” Bond explains. “So if you're just like, ‘Oh, I'm a Pisces, they're a Gemini, it's not gonna work,’ you're missing the bread and butter, the bulk of what actually matters between two people's charts.”
The moon is one of the MVPs in determining compatibility. “We start with the moon because that's basically how the relationship is going to feel,” Bond explains. “We want both partners’ moons, typically speaking, to be supported by the other person's moon in the same element or in the same polarity.”
Other personal planets like Venus and Mars are also major players in relationships. “Mars would be how you take action, how you go after what you want, [and] how you move your life,” Bond says. “It's also the planet of all things to do with sexuality and the physical chemistry between people.” Venus, on the other hand, has a reputation as that soft and gooey planet of romance: It describes your love language and how you give and receive love. “Those are going to come up a lot in synastry charts,” Bond tells Elite Daily.
Mercury is also important because it’s your communication, aka the glue that holds relationships together. “Then if we're really considering things,” Bond says, “we do need to look at the whole chart, the outer planets too, specifically Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto.” Compatibility is really about the overall energy, “because there [are] no two charts that are going to be totally great,” offers Bond.
Additionally, there’s something called out-of-sign aspects, where two planets could be forming a harmonious aspect because of the exact degree they are sitting in, even if the overall signs they’re in aren’t necessarily compatible. Does your brain hurt yet?
Bond says to think of the zodiac like a round table, each sign taking up 30 degrees. “So [for] someone with their sun in Aries at 29 degrees, but another person with their sun in Capricorn at one degree, you would say, ‘Oh, Aries and Capricorns aren't compatible.’ But when we look at the birth chart, they're actually forming a close trine, which is an easy aspect,” Bond explains. On paper, it could look like an incompatible aspect, but when you look closer, you might just have a sneaky little trine in the midst.
If you want to get really deep into zodiac compatibility, you’d look at the houses. “Houses definitely have a very strong role in synastry as well,” Bond tells Elite Daily. As each of the 12 astrological houses denotes a specific area of life, some in particular can be huge indicators of a lasting relationship.
“Some of the ones that are typically considered to be strong houses are the first house and the fourth house, [which] can be really good for compatibility,” Bond offers. If someone has planets in your first house, they might make you feel more confident or give you an energy boost to go out into the world. A person with planets in your fourth house would feel like home to you: You’d feel naturally comfortable with them.
“We look to the fifth house, the house of romance and dating, for someone you would have strong physical chemistry with as well as someone you would just have fun with,” Bond continues. The seventh house is the big boss on the subject, as it’s the house of relationships. This type of synastry often describes someone you feel a desire to start a long-term partnership with and plan a future with. Then there’s the deep AF eighth house, which essentially will feel like someone you want to merge souls with.
Other Key Points In The Chart
There are additional markers of compatibility to look for within the charts that go beyond planets. “You can look for indicators of ‘our paths were supposed to cross,’ and that's something we totally look at different placements for,” Bond tells Elite Daily.
For one, there are the north and south nodes, which are mathematically calculated points in the sky that are said to indicate your past life and your destiny in this life, respectively. “If someone has a planet in the same sign or even right on your south node, that could be said to relate to potential past life connections and soul ties that are still strong,” Bond explains. If it’s the north node, she says it could represent someone you were supposed to meet and you’re helping each other toward your “ultimate soul goals.”
There’s also the asteroid Juno to check out. Juno is said to represent marriage and long-term partnerships. “Juno connections to the north or south node can indicate someone who might have a deep familiarity ... That can be a strong marriage indicator as well,” says Bond. Any significant aspects to Juno between charts is kind of a big deal in astrology.
Another spot on the chart is called the vertex, which is typically located somewhere between the fifth and eighth houses on a chart. The vertex represents the direction that you’re heading toward “on a very tangible, ground level” as opposed to a spiritual one, according to Bond. “If someone has placements there on your vertex,” she continues, “you could say, ‘Oh wow, my life is heading literally towards this person, like they're right in my path.’”
Can Incompatible Zodiac Signs Work?
So what does it mean if you’re in an astrologically “incompatible” relationship? Well, seeing as there are about 20 billion things to look at in synastry, there’s no such thing as a 100% compatible or incompatible pairing. To get the full picture, you have to study the entirety of your chart, their chart, and how they mesh together.
And as much as the moon is emphasized, you don’t have to have a rainbow cocktail of perfect trines and sextiles happening there (or with any planet) in order for a relationship to work. “If there is a relationship between someone who has the same sun sign as your moon, then that's often said to actually make up for your moon sign not being well aspected,” Bond explains, adding there are many ways the moon can be supported.
Say your moons are technically incompatible: One is emotional Cancer and one is objective Aquarius. At a glance, you might be thinking that poor Cancer is going to get their tender heart broken by unbothered Aquarius. But the Cancer moon person could be an Aquarius sun. And even if the sun-moon synastry isn’t there, guess what? The relationship is still salvageable.
For example, the Cancer moon person could have Aquarius in their fourth house — and boom. Compatibility saved (potentially, depending on the whole chart). As Alice Bell, British Vogue astrologer and host of Astrology and You podcast puts it, “When someone’s moon falls in the fourth house of your chart, they just feel very at home, you feel like they’re an extension of your family or your home, [and] it’s so easy to be relaxed and open emotionally around them.” Plus, the moon and the fourth house both represent the home, so you’ll be in sync when it comes to things like moving or starting a family. So don’t run away from someone based on planets and signs, because houses matter — big time.
Say you have some harsh aspects. Those are tense, right? Though there is friction, this can actually be a good thing and is what Bell typically sees with couples. “There’s more of a dynamic, a lot of growth going on in the relationship,” she previously told Elite Daily. Though you will need to make a conscious effort when navigating your differences, ideally, you do want a mix of the harder stuff between your charts. It’s all about balance.
Bond concurs, “In theory, if a relationship is too comfortable and neither person is growing — there are no squares, there are no hard aspects, [and] the charts are really harmonious — that can be a form of stagnation that actually ends up hurting both people,” she notes.
So, can incompatible zodiac signs work? “Absolutely,” Mesa says. “Whether or not you are astrologically incompatible with someone, if you are willing to put in the work, and you do the work, and you’re patient with each other and yourself, I do very much believe that it is possible.” That’s how you learn from each other and grow.
Taryn Bond, professional tropical astrologer practicing synthesis of evolutionary, modern, traditional, and intuitive techniques rooted in a humanistic, soul-based astrological approach
Valerie Mesa, professional astrologer, soul coach, and writer