I have found the Lunar Nodes indispensable in synastry and all relational considerations. There needs to be the right kinds of compatibility aspects involving the Nodes, at least in one person's chart, to indicate a future for the relationship. Otherwise the person is delaying the inevitable.
My wife's North Node at 7CAP50 is sextile mine at 10PIS08, and is near enough my Moon 12CAP08 to serve as a bonding point to create a sense of future. It is enough to overcome challenges represented by my Uranus 5LIB32 square her N.Node. But then her N.Node is trine my Sun,Saturn at 6,11° Taurus. Sometimes a wide conjunction is understood better when looking in the declinations where you may find a parallel between the two bodies is even tighter. Sometimes a parallel along the Nodal axis is found even when the planets are nowhere near conjunct in longitude, because that's how declinations work.
Parallel and contra-parallel aspects of declination serve to only confirm the importance of Lunar Node connections between two charts. For example, my wife's (true) N.Node at 23S13 declination is parallel my IC (4th cusp) at 22S49, and my N.Node at 7S46 is widely parallel her Uranus 6S54.
I do see the Nodes in the context of reincarnation, which is how I prefer to think of it, rather just karma. Unless an astrologer has given more personal study to karma and has developed awareness from direct encounters with personal karmic matters, I don't think it is worth attempting to include the concept in interpretation, at least not verbally directly to the chart holder.
I think it is best to understand the Nodes in the context of soul development, which is not on a temporal human time schedule and does not come with 'shoulds', but is at the guidance and direction of the person in question. Over time you can definitely see patterns, whether in your own synastry connections with others, or with patterns in others' relationships. You can see a person during a difficult relational period keep dating or attracting persons with whom the nodal synastry shows will be a short-term or frustrating relationship. Often the pattern there will point back to a lesson or theme evident in the person's birth chart.
Thanks, kannon. I agree with all that you said. In fact, I just recently started incorporating declinations into nodal studies and it's been fascinating! (But also "duh," we should have been doing this from the beginning!)
I also share the same view of looking at nodes in terms of soul development, and for me, it's not from a strictly karmic point of view. My evolutionary perspective is thus not aligned with karma, nor the idea of "bad versus good," "past versus future," etc. I think of them in terms of the whole axis, which is a balancing act, like any other axis. And we each have unique gifts or challenges along that axis which can be discovered through the natal and through synastry with others. This is where I often find that a lot of peop!e approach node/synastry interpretations in a far too one-dimensional way....it's more than just reading an aspect at face value.
However, it doesn't bother me when others intrerpret the nodes differently, or take a more hardline approach, such as the karmic schools of thought. Whatever works for someone is fine with me, just like religion, lifestyle, choice of dress. Karma or no karma, it doesn't matter. When you get down to it, we're all talking about the same thing anyway.
(NOTE TO EVERYONE: I would really like this thread to be open to all schools of thought regarding the nodes, without causing others to feel compelled to defend themselves or explain why one school of thought is better than another. Let's all make a commitment to share our ideas or experiences without pointing out why one perspective is less valuable than another. Open-hearted sharing is the purpose here.)
Kannon, I also agree with the significance of the nodes in key learning points/relationships in our lives.... again, so fascinating. But very, very prevalent if one looks back at their history.
So let's keep it coming, people. Let's hear about those relationships, what it felt like when you met, and what happened.
Thanks to all for supporting the discussion!! This is the best way to learn.