The Ultimate Guide On Mercury Retrograde And How It Can Affect Your Relationships

You've probably heard about Mercury being in retrograde before (and if you're anything like us, you may even have blamed your mood changes or bad days on it), but ... well, what the heck actually is it? You don't have to be an astrologer to know that Mercury being in retrograde is a throwaway term we use when something doesn't exactly go to plan. It's all over social media, TV, and movies, to the point where so many of us blame things going wrong on Mercury being in retrograde, without actually having a clue what the poor planet has actually even done. Sorry, Mercury.

But if you're curious to find out exactly what it means when someone utters that all-too-common phrase about the smallest planet in the solar system, look no further! This is your ultimate guide to the astrological phenomenon and a breakdown of exactly what happens and what it can mean for your relationships.

What it means when Mercury is in retrograde

So. Here it is. The technical meaning of Mercury being in retrograde. The saying actually refers to times when the planet (which is the one closest to the sun) appears to orbit the sun backwards. Of course, it's not really going backwards — the whole thing is just an optical illusion — but it looks that way because it only takes the planet 88 days to fully orbit the sun. 

Earth, by comparison, takes around 365 days to orbit the sun (that's how we get a year and leap years), so it sometimes looks to us on the surface of the planet like Mercury is going in the wrong direction. It's pretty similar to a phenomenon you may have seen before. Ever been in a car or train that's moving at a different speed to the one next to you, so it can be hard to work out who's actually moving in which direction? Yep, it's pretty much that. But in space.

That's why Mercury often gets blamed for things going wrong here on Earth. Some mystic believers and astrologers think the illusion has some kind of influence on what happens on our planet and believe it to be a bad omen. When the planet appears to be moving backwards, against the natural order, it is often blamed for times in our lives when things feel like they are moving backwards, or just not working out the way we wanted. 

Mercury retrograde happens more than you think

So, how long does Mercury retrograde actually last, and when does it happen? Well, the planet going into retrograde probably happens more often than you might think. Though many people mistakenly believe it's only once a year that we have to be aware of things not going our way because of the planet closest to the sun, the planet actually goes into retrograde three or four times each year and the phenomenon lasts about three weeks each time!

It's a little like Easter, which happens around the same time annually, but with exact dates that differ slightly each year. In 2023, for example, there are only four times Mercury is set to go into retrograde — with two of those crossing over multiple years. According to the almanac, Mercury already went into retrograde once this year, from December 28, 2022, to January 18, 2023. The dates to make sure you're on your toes for things to potentially take a turn range from April 21 to May 14, August 23 to September 14, and then December 13 going into January 1, 2024.

Mercury can be in retroshade too!

Yep. Not only can Mercury find itself in retrograde, but it can also be in something dubbed retroshade. And, no, that doesn't mean it's throwing out sassy jabs in a throwback manner. Astrologer and tarot card reader Lisa Stardust explained the term to Today, saying that when Mercury is in retroshade, it's either coming out of a retrograde or heading into a new one. There are usually around two or three weeks both before and after Mercury's time in retrograde where it's thought the planet doesn't have as much of an effect on what's going on back here on Earth.

You can use these few days to prepare for what may be coming your way, and (hopefully!) minimize the effects of retrograde by getting yourself prepared and in a better headspace. Astrologer Leslie Benson recommends trying things like daily meditation, which you can also make use of during Mercury's retrograde stint if you know you could have a challenging time coming your way (per Insider). 

Plenty of things on Earth could be affected

The reason we look to Mercury for signs on how well things may (or may not) be going in our lives is because, in astrology, Mercury is considered to be pretty powerful. It's actually believed to be the ruler of communication — so it's no wonder people think things don't tend to go so well during the retrograde days. After all, communication is the key to all things good — particularly our relationships! That's why you may find yourself falling out with people more during these times, as misunderstandings and accidental upsets can be rife. It's also thought that the planet has a connection to a few other important things like travel, which means it can possibly also affect things as big as vacations or as small as getting to work on time.

"Think of Mercury as the 'brain' planet and think of it being a bit 'addled' when Mercury is in retrograde. It's like we are all speaking different languages," moonologer Yasmin Boland explained to Soul & Spirit. "There are mixed messages and cross-communications. Errors do abound. Travel plans, especially, can go awry, as can anything to do with writing, publishing, computers and transport."

Some star signs are more susceptible to Mercury retrograde than others

Believe it or not, but there are some star signs that are more susceptible to the effects of Mercury going into retrograde than others. No matter what your zodiac sign, you may just see the effects of the astrological spectacle on your relationships, but if you're a Sagittarius, Pisces, Virgo, or Gemini, you may feel it that little bit more year after year. As astrologer Guadalupe Terrones told ILY, those signs appear to be the most vulnerable, as well as the star sign the retrograde occurs in and it's opposite. "These particular signs, especially if it's a rising sign, are best inclined not to start a brand new relationship during Mercury Retrograde because it will likely not blossom in the way that they would hope," Terrones noted.

Astrologist Leslie Benson also shed some light on those who could have a heightened experience because of the mischievous Mercury. Benson explained to Insider, "If someone has an otherwise strongly placed Mercury in their birth chart, or their sun sign falls under the rulership of Mercury — either Gemini Sun or Virgo Sun — they may be more in touch with the Mercurial energies, as well."

Be patient during the astrological phenomenon

If you're a firm believer that Mercury being in retrograde can have a detrimental effect on your life down here on Earth, there are a few things you can do to try and reduce the effect of the phenomenon. Almanac recommends trying to have a whole lot of patience, flexibility, and understanding during those periods, while also making sure you're really on top of things and super organized when it comes to traveling to make sure all runs smoothly. 

Hey, anyone who's ever been on vacation with someone else will know that it's not always the most stress-free experience at the best of times, never mind when it feels like Mercury is against you! By taking a bit of a step back and thinking before speaking, you may just save your relationships from crumbling under Mercury's figurative shadow.

If you're in a relationship, Astrologer Emily Ridout warned Reader's Digest that you should look out for changes in how your partner speaks to you and adapt. "You might realize your partner communicates in a very direct way and tells the facts, and you communicate in a very feeling-centered, roundabout way. Sometimes there's a mistake where they don't hear your message or you take theirs as being too harsh," she claimed, doubling down on how important being patient and understanding really is to keep your romance from crumbling. "Take this time and use it to make the relationship stronger," Ridout added.

Look after yourself in retrograde weeks

One of the best things you can do to keep life under control during those pesky weeks when Mercury is in retrograde is to focus on yourself and take things a little easier. "Treat yourself to the occasional pamper, drink plenty of water, and eat lots of fresh fruit and veg. Though, the most important thing is to adopt a positive attitude," said astrologist Sara Denny to Soul & Spirit, suggesting it's important to stay close with your nearest and dearest to keep your relationships strong (remember they're probably dealing with Mercury, too!) 

"Daily affirmations and my loved ones help me focus. Staying in a fit spiritual condition is vital: filling the heart up leaves no room to spit venom. There's nothing like a walk to step away from the chaos, rebalance our inner calm, and kick-start our coping mechanisms once again," Denny added. After all, keeping ourselves healthy is one of the best ways you can make sure you're in top form — particularly when there's a high chance of some miscommunication.

You may also want to use this time to help yourself do a little inner work to move on from things keeping you stuck in the past, which may mean cutting off a romance or friendship. "Mercury Retrograde is about clarifying your mind's understanding of situations in the past in order to move forward. It's a beautiful time to seek closure of past relationships," Guadalupe Terrones told ILY.

Try not to forge new connections

It may be easier said than done, but during the times Mercury is in retrograde, you may want to avoid trying too many new things. Psychic Medium Robert Lee told Soul & Spirit he makes a point of avoiding new things around those times, while also making use of a few rituals to try and fend off any bad effects the phenomenon could have on his daily life. "I burn lavender incense daily in my living room and I light my Himalayan salt lamps. I use Himalayan bath salts in the shower to wash away any negative energy," he shared. "I carry a tiger's eye to protect me from other people's energy when outside my home."

If you have no choice but to dive into a new romance, just remember to keep communication clear and concise and put in that extra effort to be flexible and understanding. Guadalupe Terrones told ILY the most susceptible star signs should probably steer most clear of new romance, though. "These particular signs, especially if it's a rising sign, are best inclined not to start a brand new relationship during Mercury Retrograde because it will likely not blossom in the way that they would hope."

International Healer Daisy Foss recommended to Lux Nomade that people stay away from any exes during this time, while those in relationships should be prepared for old arguments to re-emerge. That's when you need to be extra open and honest with your partner.

Use your time to reflect

Emily Ridout explained that the Mercury retrograde months are an ideal time to have a look back at things and work out if there's anything in your life you might like to change. That means it could potentially be a good time to initiate the practice of re-evaluating who you let in your friendship group.

"We're so busy panicking because we want to move forward that we forget about the importance of reflection. Maybe the way we've been moving forward is not the most optimal way," Ridout told Reader's Digest. Using some extra time to think about things could also be a great way to combat the notion that Mercury in retrograde can cause miscommunication. After all, if you're thinking twice about things before you say them, you're more likely not to accidentally end up offending someone or saying the wrong thing.

It's also a good time to reflect on anything you may have put off in a relationship that you'd like to get clarification on. "Mercury retrograde is very much about dealing with what's been unresolved," astrologer Guadalupe Terrones explained to ILY. Fellow astrologer Valerie Mesa noted that it's the optimal time to "[revisit] conversations that were normally swept under the rug."

Mercury retrograde is not all bad news

Although Mercury being in retrograde usually has negative connotations, there are actually many ways to turn it into a plus for yourself and your relationships. As Leslie Benson told Insider, the concept encourages us to look inwards, which means we may actually be able to do a whole lot of important work on ourselves — and, subsequently, our relationships. As they say, you've got to love yourself before you can love someone else. 

"It promotes self-reflection and slowing down to reorient and re-prioritize. This can have a positive effect on our relationships, if and when we endeavor to take it as an opportunity to love ourselves more fully, and improve the relationship we have with ourselves," Benson shared. "Holding ourselves in loving kindness and positive regard, helps us relate to others in the same way, with a lot less of our own fear or pain getting in the way."

Astrologer Noush Joon also pointed out to My Imperfect Life that some of the things that come your way during this time could be sent to help you better yourself — it all comes down to how you view things and what you choose to get out of them. "Maybe it's trying to show you or teach you that something needs to be fixed," they shared. See, we told you it wasn't all bad!