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Two of Cups Reversed Meaning – Smith-Waite Centennial

There's some confusion out there about the Two of Cups versus The Lovers card. Many tarot fans, and even plenty of tarot readers, view The Lovers as the best card to come up in a love reading. However, as we've seen here on our Card of the Day blog, The Lovers card is more about extreme dedication—oath-taking, and all of the intensity and peril that kind of commitment entails. 

Traditionally, The Lovers card is more about marriage—the public, formal swearing to take someone forever in partnership, without the possibility of divorce. And then in the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition of more contemporary tarot decks, the card depicts Adam and Eve with the Serpent and the Burning Bush. It emphasizes high stakes and the commitment side of passion more clearly for modern audiences, who understand marriage as less permanent and perhaps less intense.

And so, despite what you might think from looking at the names of these tarot cards alone, the Two of Cups is actually more about interpersonal love itself than The Lovers. As you may recall, Cups are the suit of deep emotions, relationships, and affection. These energies are affiliated with the water element. The Two of Cups represents an intense love between two people from a deep and private angle—rather than from a perspective of social or legal commitment.

Let's dive deeper into the symbols and meanings of this card below. Then, we'll explain what the Two of Cups means in reverse for today's free reading.

Two of Cups Rider-Waite tarot card pictured in reverse on a blue-black background with a dried rose. Detailed card description in the body text of this post.

The Two of Cups card in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

In our trusty edition of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, we see in the Two of Cups card two figures facing each other in front of a background of rolling green hills and clear, blue sky. One figure wears a white dress with a sky-blue tabard overtop. Red slippers peep out beneath the gem of their gown. Meanwhile, the other figure wears a fine floral tunic and yellow yellings with boots. Both figures wear the trappings of nature, joy, and bounty in their hair. The first one has a crown of laurel leaves on their brow. And the second figure has a garland of red flowers.

Of course, each figure is holding a Cup, in the form of two immense golden chalices. The two characters are toasting one another while looking deeply into each other's eyes. And above where their two Cups meet in celebration of their love, two snakes intertwine to form a Caduceus. This symbol is affiliated with Mercury, the guardian planet of communication. Above the rod and snakes is a crimson Chimera, evoking a sense of both danger and immortality. Combined, the two arcane symbols in this tarot card suggest the profoundly powerful yet volatile interpersonal connection that love represents.

The Two of Cups figures are completely in sync. And they're entirely consumed by one another. Interestingly, like The Lovers card, the Two of Cups highlights both the positives and the negatives of romantic communion—just from very different angles. The Lovers reminds us that committing ourselves to another person or a cause can mean serious consequences, and it asks us not to pledge our heart to anything or anyone lightly. Meanwhile, the Two of Cups shows that love has the power to bring two people together on a deeply emotional level. It shows that forming an alliance can mean both bliss and intense pain because of the extreme vulnerability of this connection.

So what does the Two of Cups mean in reverse?

Given our philosophy on how to read tarot card reversals, the Two of Cups in reverse suggests that you're witnessing this kind of connection from the outside. Are you seeing two people in your own life who have fallen into the depths of love? Of course, by virtue of the Cups suit itself, one or both of these people must have been very close to you. You can think of this card's appearance as meaning that you're feeling like a third wheel lately. Except that this feeling is on a very deep level, and not just in terms of boredom or awkwardness!

It can be very hard when the power of love reshapes your social circle. Love can sometimes forge a more intense connection between two people in your life than what you have with either of them. Whether you depend emotionally on one or both parties here, you might feel that a source of emotional fulfilment and connection in your life is less available to you now. This shift can evoke jealousy or regret. And that makes sense! It's a tough place to be in.

Processing your feelings of being left behind

If you find yourself in this position, the Two of Cups reversed is your invitation to take on the Cups suit's energy and process your emotions more deeply. Try to work out exactly what you're feeling. Start by simply naming the emotions that come up when you think of this partnership. Can you approach these feelings from a place of compassionate self-care? Today's card suggests that you may be repressing these emotions because of guilt or fear of confronting scary emotions. See if you can offer yourself the same empathy and understanding you would offer a close friend in your position.

The next takeaway from today's reading is to tell the friend or loved one in this partnership how you're feeling. (Or tell both people, if you're close to both of them.) The goal here is definitely not to reproach or reprimand anybody. Instead, take the time to work on understanding your feelings first. And then see if you can express these emotions without hostility. Cups remind you that it's scary to be vulnerable. But they assure you as well that, when it comes to your relationships with other people and sharing your deepest feelings, sensitivity and thoughtfulness are the keys to surmounting obstacles. This emotional self-care work can help you become closer to the people you care about.

Your feelings are valid. But so is your dear one's relationship with someone else. So how can you honour them both today? Everyone's feelings should be seen and protected. Today, imagine explaining how you feel with a goal of mutual understanding—instead of changed behaviour.

S.M.