Dear Vicki: Cal and I met when we were in law school. He was smart and funny. I was more serious, but somehow we clicked. We married right out of law school and life was fast-paced and passionate. We worked hard, but I could always count on Cal’s teasing and humor to keep me connected. My sister understands the Five Elements and told me that Cal’s a Fire and I’m a Metal, which makes him good for me. And for a year or two, she was right. He went into trial law and I took the corporate route. But two years ago, right after our daughter was born, Cal won a large and high visibility case and things changed. He worked later, played harder, and has been around less and less. I’ve left my firm and am trying to make a good home for the three of us, but he’s hardly ever here, which isn’t the right way to run a marriage. And when he is home, we fight and there’s no passion left. I finally confronted him last month and he admitted that there’s someone else who, as he puts it, is more fun than I am. I still love him and I want Alma to have a full-time father. Can the five elements help? Signed: Jilted in Jersey
Dear Jilted: This is a complicated situation, as you no doubt know. I do think there are actions you can take that will help, but first let’s be clear what is happening.
When you and Cal met in law school, I suspect your sister was correct: you were a Metal and Cal was a Fire. But Fires lack the structure usually required to succeed in law school, so Cal has to have a strong secondary in either Wood or Metal. His choice of trial law suggests that his secondary is Wood. That means getting ahead, defending the underdog, and winning will all matter greatly to him. And now that he’s become visibly successful, it will matter even more. So while he’s a primary Fire, it’s likely that he’s stepped more into his Wood these days. And as you’ve seen, that Fire/Wood combination can make for an excellent, and usually very successful, trail attorney.
The fact that you had a child so soon after law school suggests that while your primary is Metal, which helped you in law school, you have a strong secondary Earth. And even though family and home will matter to you, I think you’re still acting from a place of Metal, especially given your comment about the “right” way to run a marriage. That’s a Metal approach and could be one reason you and Cal are fighting so much these days. Your Metal desire to play by the rules will feel restrictive to his Wood (Metal controls Wood).
It’s important to note that you and Cal have always had some form of a Controlling Cycle relationship. In law school, Cal’s Fire controlled your Metal and helped keep you balanced enough to enjoy the playfulness of his Fire. In fact, that was probably a significant part of the attraction between you and Cal. Fire and Metal are polar opposites when it comes to structure. Metal is the most structured element of the five; Fire is the least. Fire really has no structure – it’s just heat made visible. A Fire/Metal relationship is often very stable because Metals need help staying loose and Fires need help creating structure.
Now, however, it’s likely your Metal is controlling Cal’s Wood in a way that doesn’t work for him. Plus, having a family probably feels somewhat restrictive to both his Wood desire to work the hours necessary for success and his Fire desire to have fun. And for you, with a child in your life, you no longer need the help of Cal’s Fire to stay flexible; I’m sure the demands of a two-year-old do that quite well. It’s also likely that the Earth you are using a lot of these days doesn’t appreciate the controlling energy of Cal’s Wood. So does this mean your relationship with Cal is doomed? Not necessarily. It does mean that you and Cal need to have a serious talk. But planning it for the appropriate time and place will matter.
Where things stand now, it probably isn’t wise to talk to Cal from your Metal perspective of what is “right” in a marriage because his Wood will probably perceive your Metal as too controlling and refuse to cooperate. And really, it isn’t Cal’s Wood that’s creating the problem. The root of what’s currently going on for the two of you sits in Cal’s Fire which, given his wild success, is probably in a state of excess. That means the things that matter to Fires, like parties, celebrating wins, and attention, will be even more important to Cal these days. And if you, a Metal/Earth who takes family responsibilities seriously, don’t want to party with him, the poor boundaries that accompany excess Fire have allowed him to find someone else who will. So here’s what I suggest.
First, I strongly encourage you to enlist the support of a marriage counselor. Regardless of how things go with Cal, having someone in your corner is always important. Second, I suggest that you arrange a time to talk to Cal about the future of your relationship (his Wood will appreciate discussing the future). However, I suggest that you don’t talk about this at home. Instead, if you can arrange childcare for Alma, plan a weekend getaway for you and Cal. The adventure of this will probably appeal to his Fire, but please make the getaway to a place in the country near water. A lake, the shore, anywhere that will provide the Water energy needed to balance Cal’s Fire (Water controls Fire). Less Fire in Cal will make it easier for your Metal to stay strong and help his Wood see what his behaviors are doing to his family. And being in the country near nature will help build whatever amount of Earth he has. Loyalty sits in Earth and the more he can find of that right now, the better.
Hopefully, he will agree to attend counseling with you. As that process unfolds, keeping subtle Water energy around the house will help. Things like blue walls, blue bed sheets, and tabletop fountains are good, as is encouraging him to eat salads, raw vegetables, and fresh fruit (cooling foods that help address excess Fire). In truth, the combined Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal energies you and Cal bring to your relationship indicate that you can have a balanced, stable, and loving family life. I deeply hope that you are able to make this work and also bring Fire’s passion back to your marriage.