Major transits at Midlife

By now, most of us have heard of the Saturn Return, the cosmic Quinceañera that marks our official debut as a bonafide adult. It’s at this time, 28-29 years, that we pass a significant threshold that helps to structure our adult years. Maturation experiences during the Saturn Return often include getting married, getting divorced, starting a family, graduating from school, embarking on a career and so forth.

Yet not much attention is paid to the equally dramatic transits that occur through the mid 30’s to early 40’s. There are three events that work to deepen our sense of self as we continue our heroic individuation process.  They are:

  • Pluto square Pluto—37 to 43 years
  • Neptune square Neptune—40 to 43 years
  • Uranus opposition—Early 40’s (varies on year born)


Different generations will go through these transits at different times. For example, previous generations went through them later in age.

Also, the outer planets are in retrograde motion for much of the year. They move forward, then move back a few degrees, and then forward again. This means that most of the time, we will have three exact passes of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus to our natal Pluto, Neptune and Uranus.  These passes usually play out as disruption, grappling and integration.

Let’s look at these outer transits one by one in the order they usually occur.

Pluto Square Pluto
Theme Song: I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (or Cake)

As Lord of the Underworld, Pluto will often bring up issues we’ve been suppressing or have kept hidden even from ourselves. These issues arise from the depths accompanied by strong emotions such as the rage, fear, passion or powerlessness that have kept them in place. The Pluto cycle is one of transformation and rebirth. Pieces of ourselves that we’ve ignored up until now begin to demand our attention. This time can be very disruptive if we’ve lived our lives mostly for others or to fulfill societal exceptions while keeping a tight tourniquet around our own dreams, desires and healing.

Pluto can manifest as someone or something who takes us down into our own underworld. Manipulation, power struggles and deceit are commonplace during this time. Yet, in the end, Pluto wants us to own our own power and recognize our true drives and motivations. Along with the catalytic transits of Neptune and Uranus, Pluto takes us through a transformative process. Oftentimes, our lives—what we do, who we’re with and who we are—are unrecognizable on the other side of these transits.

Neptune square Neptune
Theme Song: Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads

During this 1.5-2 year transit, we question our goals. Are we really interested in pursuing the life we were so invested in our early 30’s?  Many of us will look at the dreams we fervently believed in and feel disillusioned by our current reality. Maybe the kids never came or the ones we have don’t like us very much. Maybe our partner ran away with the Spoon. Maybe our jobs let us down some way. A fog can set in that we can’t really put our finger on, but we simply feel off.

It can be easy during this time to fall into some Neptunian traps such as escapism, martyrdom and over-idealization. One of the higher expressions of Neptune is spiritualization and surrender. At this time, many turn to meditation, spirituality and life affirming friendships to accept the present moment for what it is.

Uranus opposition
Theme Song: Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen

Meanwhile, during the Neptunian fog of discontent, many will also be experiencing their Uranus opposition. This revitalizing transit ushers in a time of reinvention and opportunity to do what is truly meaningful to you. Feelings of restlessness are common now. More than ever before, people will take risks and try new things outside of their comfort zone. The fleetingness of time is keenly felt now. The question becomes “If not now, when?”  The mantra embraced is “You only regret the things you didn’t do.”

Healthy experimentation is advised. But it’s wise to remember that these feelings are temporary and if someone blows up their life at this time, they’ll be picking up the scraps come the sobering Saturn opposition that occurs around 43-44 years.

On the other hand, the zeal, vitality and risk-taking that Uranus offers can help us step out of limiting life structures like a sleepwalk job, zombie marriage, or aversion-to-commitment we’ve definitely outgrown but haven’t been able to break free of.

Know thyself

Life gives us ever increasing invitations to know ourselves, heed our calling, and embrace joy. Some of our most transformative and revolutionary years occur between 37-44 as we accept these invitations. When we succeed, after 45, we move into some of the most powerful and creatively productive years of our lives.