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Heads Up: This Mercury Retrograde Will Challenge Your Relationships

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

Well, it’s happening again: everyone’s favorite celestial scapegoat. Starting today, Mercury retrograde is back with a vengeance.

But before you start blaming every stubbed toe and sloppy text message on Mercury retrograde, let’s take a moment to clarify what this notorious astrological transit is all about. Swift-moving Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is named after the Roman messenger god of commerce. Mercury represents communication, travel, technology, and transportation … so it should come as no surprise that, from an astrological perspective, we rely pretty heavily on this planet.

Three to four times each year, Mercury goes through a three-week long retrograde cycle when the planet appears to stop, pivot, and move backward in the sky. You know when you’re on a train and you pass a train on another track that’s moving at a different speed? The way that other train appears to move backward is exactly what is happening from our perspective on Earth: When orbits align, the planets in our solar system appear to shift their direction. Similarly, the retrograde period itself challenges our POV and implores us to look at life from a totally different vantage. And in the case of speedy Mercury, that can feel a bit … messy.

So when is the next Mercury retrograde?

On September 9 at 11:38 p.m. ET. Mercury will begin its retrograde motion in Libra (the air sign symbolized by the scales of balance, representing partnership, harmony, and justice) and continue until September 23, when it shifts into Virgo (the earth sign associated with systems, organization, and structure) through October 2.

But wait, there’s more! Many astrologers (present company included) consider the “shadow phases” (sometimes referred to as “retroshade”) as part of the Mercury retrograde cycle. The shadow phases come before and after the retrograde dates with the “pre-shadow” period revealing what will be challenged and the “post-shadow” period smoothing out any retrograde-riddled changes. So if you’ve been feeling weird, it may be because Mercury entered its pre-shadow phase all the way back on August 21 and won’t emerge from its post-shadow phase until October 17. So, all things considered, the impacts of Mercury retrograde are actually experienced for approximately two months. Oop!

What should I expect this time around?

Since this Mercury retrograde begins in Libra, don’t be surprised if your closest bonds — including romantic relationships, business partnerships, and even your existing contracts — go through shifts over the next few weeks. Exes may come out of the woodwork (this is a common occurrence during every Mercury retrograde, but still). Resist the temptation to respond. Expect to spend the end of the month focusing on rebuilding whatever has been challenged during this retrograde cycle once Mercury shifts into Virgo on September 23.

Is there anything I can do?

Yes: Don’t freak out. Remember, retrograde is a normal part of the planetary flow. Rather than think of this period as doom and gloom, focus on other R-words like “rest,” “reflection,” and “recalibration.” When the planet of communication moves backward, you’ll have the opportunity to look at your dynamics through a totally different perspective. What sort of change can that ignite? Can you have some otherwise difficult conversations? Or finally move forward with commitment? Or closure? Or much-needed change? Good luck out there.

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This Mercury Retrograde Will Challenge Your Relationships