Dear Margo: Three of Wands

When reading tarot cards, I sometimes come across people who need more help than I can offer: Margo Howard’s advice

Three of Wands

Dear Margo: I have an odd question. I am self-trained to read tarot cards. I believe they have helped me become more intuitive, but mostly I find that the symbols help me think through problems logically and present possible solutions. Those beliefs aside, I’ve started to offer my readings as a business, and I always make sure my clients know I’m offering them as “entertainment only,” even if I personally strive to also provide helpful, practical and friendly advice — kind of like someone we both know.

Well, ever since I started offering readings to the public as a business, I’ve turned down several opportunities from people who seemed to be — I don’t know how else to put it — “disturbed.” One individual claimed to be hearing the voice of Satan, and another was telling me how much he wanted to die because his girlfriend left him. I was alarmed by these contacts and felt helpless, knowing that neither I nor my cards could address their underlying difficulties.

Is there any free or inexpensive training program I could take to help redirect them? Something like the kind of training people who volunteer to work for crisis hotlines might receive? –Entertainer, not Psychiatrist

Dear Ent: I suppose I will hear from all the tarot card readers, but I agree that what you do is entertainment. Your concern for disturbed people is admirable. You have one of two choices, as I see it. You can save your readings for parties and actually train to become one of the many types of counselors, or when you get a client who seems genuinely troubled, you might say, “I am not equipped, through my cards, to deal with your problem, and I suggest you seek a mental health professional.” This advice may be defensively received, but that is not your problem. –Margo, beneficially

Having a Family Should Not Be a Taboo Subject When Dating

Dear Margo: I’ve been dating a wonderful man for nine months. We enjoy a variety of activities and generally have a lot of fun together. However, as I approach my 31st birthday, I find myself thinking in terms of the big picture. I’ve always thought I would like to have children, but I would prefer not to have them close to my 40s. Although my boyfriend has never specifically stated that he does or does not want children, we have some differences — approaches to managing money, for one, and I like to travel, while he does not.

I have been in a few serious relationships in the past, but he has only had one previous partner, and from what little bits he has told me, it ended very badly. To date, he has not been able to say the “L” word, and from what I understand, this may be a lingering effect of his past relationship. I’m not sure what to do. I feel ready to start thinking about settling down and having children in the near future, but I have no idea whether my boyfriend will be at that point anytime soon. Should I “go with the flow” for now and enjoy what we have, or discuss my thoughts? Maybe he’ll never get to the same page. –Stuck

Dear Stuck: I have a hunch your fella is suffering from the burns of his previous (and only) love affair. I also think the absence of discussion about children is odd. Why don’t you ask him what his thoughts are? As for your differences (i.e., money and travel), those are pretty major items when considering making a life together — presuming you are not the only one doing the considering. My instinct tells me this man would be a reclamation project, but the only way to find out is to TALK. –Margo, investigatively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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36 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: Money, Sex & Kids are the three reasons for divorce. As Margo said talk about them & then decide whether the differences are acceptable. The hardest thing I ever did was walk away from a great guy who decided he didn’t want more children. In hind sight, it was the smartest thing I ever did. I found an awesome guy with whom I am hypercompatible. Find ways to segue into conversations about these topics.
    There is something to be said about being an “older” mom. You get to have more couples time while you are healthy & financially better off. We adopted twins at 33 then had babies at 34 & 37. Traveled a lot prior. Also, most of the moms in my socioecoedu group are my age.

  2. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I would guess tarot cards will attract many unusual people. Personally, I would never do it because I would obsess about the results. 🙂 As a reader, I would be afraid some fruit loop would blame me & come after me later. Working in the medical field, one learns how many dysfunctional people (& families) are out there. Be careful.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      For more concrete advice, you might contact your local mental health department & ask for advice. They may even give you contact numbers & information to have available for these folks. I would also guess there is some sort of Natl Tarot Card Readers Assn or blogs, which would give you pointers.

  3. avatar August Miller says:

    LW2 has only been dating her boyfriend for 9 months.  Isn’t that a little early to be considering settling down?  Does she realize that when she has children, the travelling she enjoys will happen less?

    • avatar Kriss says:

      for me 9 months would be too early to be thinking about a lifetime together but it wouldn’t be too early to rule someone out.  I think 9 months is enough time to see incompatibilities that wouldn’t work for me over a lifetime and I think that’s what this LW is seeing but she’s still trying to figure out a way to “make it work”.

      • avatar CatA says:

        Kriss, you nailed it. 9 months is enough time for a couple to see if they blend well.  But it’s also enough time for a mature man to express some form of commitment to a shared future.  Either he loves you or he doesn’t.  Maybe he does, and is afraid of stating this because his last love took advantage of him.  So get him into an honest discussion about it.  However, after the issue of basic affection, the issue that is bigger than that of children, at least initially, is money.  If you can’t come to a common denominator with him on earning, spending and saving, there’s no use considering having kids with this guy.  The bundles of joy will only add more stress to a shaky foundation.  If he hasn’t come out with any indicators on his own by now, it may mean he prefers the relationship you presently have, without comitting to a shared future and family.  And, in Kriss’ words, you, alone, won’t be able to “make it work.”  As Margo said, honest discussion is called for and the realization that it may be time to move on to someone who more closely shares your relationship goals.  Good luck to LW2.

    • avatar Gerri Lynn says:

      I met and married my 2nd husband within two months. We’ve been happily married coming up on six years now. There’s no set time for dating to marriage. Nine months may be enough, and may not be.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        LW1: Margo is dead on with her advice.

        LW2: This isn’t a race. But by the same token—if your BF hasn’t told you he loves you after nine months together, you might want to reevaluate whether this is the relationship for you. While you shouldn’t force someone to play catchup—you certainly don’t want to sit around and wait forever either. This guy apparently has some trust issues about love and commitment, so give it some more time—say three months—and wait to see if you get some feedback about that first. If the outlook is positive, then proceed with your plans for the future. If not, then you can decide what to do next.

      • avatar Debbie Ciaravino says:

        I met and married my ex-husband in 3 months. We were married for 8 years before he left me for his girlfriend, he had cheated on me for the last 3 years of our marriage. So, although there is no set time for dating and marriage, happiness doesn’t last forever for everyone.
        LW #2, you need to KNOW the man before you consider having kids with him. Margo is right, this takes a conversation. From your letter, it doesn’t seem he tells you much personal informaiton, so if you want to know if there is a future, you’re going to have to ask. Please learn from my mistake and DO NOT wait until you are married with a child to find out who he really is.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Yeah…I’d be *very* careful. If you’re willing to take on actual training to help disturbed people, that’s admirable. But you’re also in danger of possibly being physically attacked. Are you doing these readings from your home? I’ve also read Tarot in the past, which also gave me a lot of personal insights and etc.; but (to each their own) I wouldn’t presume to read the cards for others — even for entertainment. You’re not a professional psychologist nor therapist/counselor, as you know. Frankly I’d stop providing this “service,” even as entertainment.  At the least, you could begin carefully screening clients. I formerly had a Gothic novel book review blog, which itself attracted some “troubled” people; and while I feel for them, I wouldn’t want to be in-person dealing with them! Your safety and well-being comes first. You might be seeing only the tip of the iceberg in this…

  5. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Regarding the issue of children, you’d better talk with your boyfriend about this NOW. I have the impression you’re deliberately avoiding addressing the issue with him, out of fear that you won’t like what you hear. You’re still young enough to find Mr. Right and have children; don’t delay! The clock doesn’t slow down nor pause for anyone…

  6. avatar Carolyn Schmahl says:

    Yes, tell the disturbed satan-worshipper that he needs professional help. The defensive response just might become her problem.

  7. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: At one time I used to give Tarot card readings. I never charged for them, I would only use a basic spread called a Celtic Cross (this is refers only to the shape of the spread, or pattern of the layout of the cards, and has no religious significance), would only allow “yes” or “no” questions, which I would not allow the “seeker” to reveal to me, and I never, under any circumstances, interpreted readings beyond the basic or original meaning of the cards (the Rider-Waite deck has the least distorted and “New Age”-influenced images, and is sort of a gold standard for the English speaking Western World) and how their position in the spread and relationship to each other indicated an answer. I also never, ever gave anyone messages of death, doom or destruction (some cards have negative implications, true, but neither the Devil, nor Death, indicate imminent danger or despair). Just an affirmative or a negative to the unknown question.

    I also happen to know that the Tarot deck I use (not the Rider-Waite, but very simple) was produced in a printing factory, by regular people doing a job, on good quality card-stock, packaged with an ISBN code, and purchased by me, in a store, with tax applied. It is not a unique item by any means. I do give accurate readings, even without knowing the questions…but that is due to intuition, a skill/ability developed out of a need to survive in an extremely hostile environment among unpredictable people while a very young child. I “read” people, situations, and environments far too well.

    Why the background? Because I am a skeptic who stopped doing readings because far too many people lost their wig during them…even though I carefully explained the meaning of each and every card, their relationship to each other, and that this wasn’t Magic, or the occult, or anything paranormal. A perfect example: a friend asked me to do a reading for her, and I acquiesced. A normal reading, and the Death card shows in a position indicating a major change in her life. She who absolutely knows better, begins a dramatic scene, convinced that her times has come, and tragedy is upon her. I stopped the reading, looked her straight in the eye (this, a 44-year-old woman who loathed children, chain smoked three packs a day, was living with a jobless man with six children he wasn’t supporting by 4 different women…the “relationship” was 2 months old) and asked, “Are you pregnant?”. She was. She didn’t die, or even suffer any particular risk having the baby. But…she decided that I was a witch. O, joy. Several months later, her sister asked for a reading…and although the reading was very dissimilar, she went spooky on me too. I said, “You too?”. Yes, she was, and she wigged out as well. After a few other people did the same, although for different reasons…I quit.

    Most of these people were NOT psychotic, or strange in the sense that one might expect. Several of them were just normal folks, and two were even fundie Christian (yep, Tarot for Jesus). LW1’s suicidal young man is a very sad case…and I would have steered him, if at all possible, to professional help. The I-hear-Satan-calling person may have been schizophrenic…or he may have been one of those who erroneously associates all things even mildly metaphysical with…well…the Devil. Some people think that’s pretty groovy. Some people get Goth-Gothic-Punk-Renaissance-New Age-Gaia-Druidism-Norse-Tarot-Satanism all mixed up in their heads. Some people are just morons.

    So, to LW1, my practical, and probably unwanted advice. If you wish to continue giving readings in exchange for money, I would do so in a controlled setting, such as setting up at parties or events. I would legitimately go into business, as in having a tax ID, so that you have protection (and be aware that you can never offer a chance to alter the future, affect a cure, create a romance, etc., for further payment, as this constitutes fraud) against people who might sue for wrongly interpreted results (by them) causing them to bring harm to themselves or others, and against those who might choose to harm you. Tarot reading is big business for some people, as are reading palms, tea leaves, i ching, consulting crystals, scrying, etc.. Hell, people even claim to be able to tell one’s future by turning over one card…on eBay…and some of the more “complex, complete and accurate” readings by Real! Psychics! are pricey indeed. At the Texas Renaissance Festival, people line up for readings of various sorts, and we have numerous Psychic Readings venues all over Houston. An awful lot of people depend on them, even base their entire lives on them.

    But, personally, if you are intuitive, and you care about people as much as you seem to, I’d stop charging for Tarot readings and try a more direct, less subjective approach to helping others. If they’re coming to you, and paying for a reading, this indicates that they’re really not hearing your disclaimer that the cards are all about entertainment alone. I think that you will be much happier in the long run.

  8. avatar Briana Baran says:

    By the way, I realize that poor LW1 opened an enormous can of worms by mentioning the person claiming to be hearing good Old Scratch whispering in his (I am not being sexist) ear. The Major Arcana of the Tarot does indeed include the 15th card (XV) The Devil, the original deck representation was of the Garden God Pan, and the more commonly found image of a Satan or Satyr-like Devil figure does not represent Evil in the Judeo/Christian/Islamic sense, but rather a bondage to the material, and earthly pursuits. Reversed, it can represent a person who is too bound by propriety and asceticsim, and takes no pleasure in life.

    There are a lot of misguided idiots who think that they are worshiping Satan by donning black (and not bathing frequently enough), inverted crosses, and five-pointed stars, inverted or otherwise (neither is a symbol of the Christian devil…not pentacles or pentagrams), and getting really bad tattoos. If they ran into instances of actual Satanism, they would run screaming home to their basements and garages. Pretending is one thing, but reality is quite different. Actual Satanism is a blend of a psychological disorder in which a person cannot experience sexual pleasure without committing an act of blasphemy (and these can go far beyond stretching the envelope into the realms of Why?…Just…why?) and the twisting of religious ritual to further these needs. It isn’t for losers with neck beards and plumber’s crack…these are mentally ill people…and they are surprisingly few in number. True Satanistic crimes are rare.

    Also, the reason that delusional people so frequently claim to hear the voice of Satan, or hallucinate the Devil, is frame of reference. If one is Christian, and a paranoid or delusional schizophrenic, or bi-polar I and suffering a psychotic break, or under the influence of mind altering substances…and one is not terribly creative or imaginative, one will hallucinate the Tempter or Evil Influence that one is familiar with…either by smell, sight or sound (or even touch and taste). Hence, hearing the voice of Satan, or seeing him, or smelling sulfur and brimstone.

    So, please…Tarot has nothing to do with Satanism, or Devil Worship. I had to say it. I just had to. Most things New Age, or alternative, do not. And my own personal repertoire of hallucinatory fun has never included Old Scratch. Unfortunately for me, I am far too imaginative for mere devils…

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      aw, you were humming right along there and then you threw out

      “Actual Satanism is a blend of a psychological disorder in which a person cannot experience sexual pleasure without committing an act of blasphemy”

      which is just absolute, total nonsense.

      don’t devalue an entertainingly silly post with “facts.” Just stick to the stream-of-consciousness life-experience thing. it’s better.

      (“Satanism is a group of religions that is composed of a diverse number of ideological and philosophical beliefs and social phenomena. Their shared feature include symbolic association with, admiration for the character of, and even veneration for Satan or similar rebellious, promethean, and liberating figures.”)

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Chuck, all I can say to you, with a certain degree of exasperation and amusement, is have at it. You get your jollies out of being a condescending social retard and intellectual moron whenever I post something you disagree with, and since you apparently have a teenage boy’s poor impulse control in this matter, knock yourself out. I hope that you move out of your mommy’s garage someday…so that she can get a life.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Girls—you’re both pretty.*

          *(I only say this because Chuck agreed with me once, like six weeks ago).

  9. avatar Drew Smith says:

    Regarding Taboo,

    For a relationship to succeed, a couple must have two of the following and be able to compromise on the third. Common value system, shared interests, compatibility in the bedroom. This is a little absolute, but still a good framework for sizing up your relationship.

    Agree with Margo, TALK, it is the only way to know if you have or can achieve the right mix.

  10. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I read Tarot when I was younger and I was told I was quite good but it was merely entertainment for people who happened to be at dinner or at a party and of course whenever I was invited there was also this “and do bring the cards.” So I did.  It was fun.  “Have Tarot Cards. Will Travel.”  But I had people who would come to my home for readings.  I stopped reading because I became aware that I was feeling “fuzzy around the edges” because the people I was reading for were “fuzzy around the edges.”  The term “get a life” comes to mind.

    They are a wonderful meditative tool I suppose but then I have found a tree can be as well. Sitting under a magnificent oak tree allows me to think for myself.  Feeble as it is with age I have found my brain is far more “prescient” than anything else.

    I had a similar experience with regard to astrological readings for a few I read for – if you can’t think for yourself dear, how am I supposed to?  Again, “get a life.”

    I believe in everything. And nothing. Except the hoodoo within. That I know. Why I believe in god. And didn’t need anything to find god. Just found god sitting under a magnificent oak tree many years ago. Remembering something a guru who told me to beware the gods and gurus told me.

    As for dealing with the psychos I will offer the same advice I offer other stalking victims – if you don’t want to dance with a psycho, don’t provide a dance floor!  Same applies to readings. And everything else in life.  If you feel the need to deal with psychos, you either need a psychiatrist or you need to become one.

    And with that I will go back to my chart to determine which hours of which days next week to avoid human interaction as Mars makes its annual pass at my natal Venus and Venus in Aries becomes Venom in Aries.  This week not a good portent of what is to follow.

    I know, I know. But, well, you know, once a year, something does happen.  And the nun becomes Atilla. Which I suppose is why an astrologer nicknamed me Atilla the Nun.  And maybe I’m nuts but once a year now, after I took note of the annual event , I at least have wonderful moments under a magnificent oak tree. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      And I should add that the latest magnificent oak tree is outside my bedroom window.  Greets me when I wake up every morning and keeps me company during the day while I sit at my desk.  Was walking by it every day going back and forth to court with the landlord from hell. One day I noticed the “For Rent” sign at the complex next to the park,  I stopped. And, well, here I am.  The hoodoo as I call it.  Had no money really to move at the time. The owner said “just jmove” afrter he read the original “agreed judgement” and realized the attorney for the landlord from hell was lying to him.  This one the landlord from heaven although we have our moments when I get two months behind on the rent.  A nice Muslim who taught me the reality of Muslims.  And has allowed me to enjoy the magnificent oak tree.

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        I believe I know what city you are living in, though I would never mention it. If I am correct, indeed, there are some absolutely magnificent oak trees there. Hope you are well dear.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          There are a lot of magnificent oak trees. The ones that have escaped the bulldozers of the developers.  Many are well over 100 years old. And so should be considered historic on that basis. Our mayor who I didn’t vote for and never will got an “Historic Preservation Ordinance” passed last year.. By hook and by crook as they say. Unfortunately it didn’t include the historic oak trees.  Or any trees. I guess some believe trees take up too much space they can make a profit off of. And that trees belong in parks. 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I am occasionally tempted to take my battered Kia out on a warm, pleasant evening, seek out a jogging Yuppie, and collect them for my wonderful oak tree. It’s the least I can do for the magnificent being, and there’s always the bonus of getting to keep any electronics that…survive the encounter. Or feeding, if you will.

      I have never attended a Satanic ritual. I am an equal-opportunity iconoclast. I also know my abnormal psychology and my religion, be it alternative, mainstream or totally other. I have to question why, precisely, flagrant toads accuse people of lying in posts…I don’t do that. What would be the point, especially when I use my name? I’ve spent most of my life, since I was a child of eight (I will soon turn 52) studying, researching, and considering the question of the man-made phenomenon that is religion, in all of its aspects. And my fascination with psychology, and delving into the mind began when I was 16, and have continued ever since. The two are inextricably bound together, carefully cultivated toxically-barbed brambles that have ensnared society for millennia.

      As for woo-woo, I have a cynical skeptic’s open-mind (not as contradictory as it sounds, as it keeps me very safe from a certain sort of individual who I choose to avoid…rather like Ebola, or bubonic plague, or herpes). I won’t discuss it further on an open forum like this. Too many people suffering from terminal cranial-rectal inversion.

  11. avatar crystalclear says:

    Letter 2:   I believe a couple knows almost immediately if they belong together.   I don’t think you should have to suppress questions or be cautious approaching a subject.   If a couple is experiencing that then it is obvious (I would think) that they aren’t long term partners.   Chemistry happens quickly and although I don’t agree that you should fall into bed on the first date I do believe that those thoughts are in your head when you meet that special person.

    I’ve witnessed women dating someone for three years still afraid to bring up children and money.  Guess what?   The relationship won’t go anywhere and if you force it you’ll end up miserable and divorced.   Love is suppose to “feel good.”   You shouldn’t have to work at it on your own in the beginning either.   Sometimes I feel some women are so desperate to have a boyfriend that they work too hard to make it what they think it should be.    My response is that when you meet the right person for you you know it!    It doesn’t take 9 months or 3 years.  

    I knew immediately that I had found my soul mate and we are blissfully happy and very respectful of each other all the time.   If he has a personal problem then I feel like it is also my problem.   We help each other figure things out by being good listeners.   He’s my best friend and he makes me happy today the same way he did years ago when we first met and then married four months later.   We discussed money, children and our life goals right up front.

    Be patient, ladies, and do not try to force a relationship.   Step outside the box you’ve placed around your requirements for that perfect man because chances are you won’t find him.   Some of the most wonderful and adorable men are the exact opposite of what we think will rock our world.  

    Don’t waste time with someone who isn’t “into” you.   Total waste of time.

    • avatar Amy says:

      I agree with most of that, but not with the “dream man” – I found mine. 🙂 He’s got everything on my list and then some. <3 Going on one year together and no end in sight.

    • avatar Lindsey M says:

      I definitely think this is one path up the mountain, crystalclear. It worked for you, but I wouldn’t be so quick to say it’s the only path up the mountain. Some people are primed to fall in love and when they meet that person, it just happens as it did with you. Others follow a different path — they grow into each other more. I think a strong similar value system and perspective on life and goals/longterm desires (like kids) is necessary, but the rest is up for grabs.

      My grandmother once described her marriage like two giant rocks at sea pounding and rubbing against each other. Over time, they wore each other down in the right places and fit like one unit. But it took a lot of that grinding and rubbing against each other to get that tight fit. Some start out fitting surprisingly well (and have to work not to lose that), others have to work more at finding that fit. Finding someone that wants to work at it now that’s the key to me.

  12. avatar Amy says:

    For the love of bacon – NINE months in and he won’t say “I love you”? Are you that naive? Get out and find a real man who’s not an emotional wreck over one girl in his past he’s clearly not over. Not to mention his total inability to communicate. The writing’s on the wall, hun. It sucks…it really does, but if you stay with him you’re only setting yourself up for a very, very lonely lifetime.

  13. avatar impska says:

    LW2: I’m not usually one to set a time limit on relationships, but come on – this one is ridiculous. She claims she’s experienced, with multiple long-term relationships, and yet she doesn’t realize that nine months is way too long to have not discussed the general topics of kids, marriage and love? These kinds of things should come up in the first couple of months, not in the “I love you, marry me and make babies with me,” sense, necessarily, but in the sense of, “Have you ever been in love?” “What are your thoughts on marriage?” and “Do you want children?” You should also have a fairly good idea where they see themselves in a year, two years, five or ten years, because it’s strange for people not to discuss their career goals, family goals, hopes and dreams.

    If you’re still essentially strangers after a couple of months of dating, then you have failed utterly at communication during the “getting to know you” stage of your relationship. When you’re dating someone, you both should be excited to talk to each other, connect on a deeper level, etc. If that doesn’t happen early, then run away, stop wasting your time.

  14. avatar crystalclear says:

    Yes, RUN towards reality with a smile on your face!   You’ll never know who you’ll meet along the way.

  15. avatar Shannon R says:

    To LW 2, my advice is to get out now.  You have already been with this man 9 months and have never discussed kids or a future?  And you are in your 30’s?  Not a good sign.  Also, the money management and aversion to travel are two big red flags.  If you love to travel and he will never leave town you are looking at a marriage where you are either traveling places on your own or staying home and resenting him because you are never going to experience the places you hoped to.  And if he can’t handle his finances, don’t worry about travel, because you won’t be able to afford it anyway.  You want someone who is financially stable and able to plan for the future.  Let’s say you have kids around 35, you will be looking at college tuitions and preparing for retirement within 10 years of each other.  Just something to think about.  I recently got out of a relationship with someone similar to this.  He could handle his finances but had no desire to experience anything or live anywhere other than his little hometown.  The more I thought of that life as my future the more I realized that was not what I wanted.  Think of what YOU want from your life and whether or not your current boyfriend compliments those plans or hinders them.  There’s your answer.

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