Dear Vicki: I’m a nurse and have studied the Five Elements for some time, but have never used them in my relationships. I’ve been trying it out with my family, but I’ve hit on a point of confusion. I’m pretty sure I’m a Wood and I grew up with a Metal brother who drove me crazy. Not only was he older, but I understand now that his Metal was the control to my Wood. We get along better as adults, but he’s still prone to arguing with me (which shouldn’t be surprising – he’s a successful trial attorney). My husband is a Metal, too, but we rarely argue; I find him supportive and loving, and so do his patients (he’s a pediatrician). Why is my relationship to these two Metals in my life so different? Signed, Wondering Wood
Dear Wondering Wood: This is a great question! First, let’s get some basics out of the way. While I’m sure you love both of your Metal men, it’s a familial love with your brother and a romantic love with your husband. Years of family dynamics can set a tone for sibling relationships that perpetuates conflict. And the hormones involved with romantic relationships often help keep harmony. This means that your marriage will probably have a bit of an edge in the “getting along” department versus your relationship with your brother. It’s not going to make a huge difference in how your Wood relates to their Metal, but it is worth noting.
That said, the biggest factor in the difference between the relationships you have with your two Metal guys is their secondary elements. Our secondary elements absolutely effect how our primary elements expresses, so that means two Metal guys can come off quite differently depending on their secondaries.
As a trial attorney, I think you’re right that your brother’s primary element is Metal since that would make it easier for him to work with the minutiae of the law. But to be an assertive and successful arguer, which good trail attorneys usually are, your brother’s secondary element is likely Wood. That means that not only would his Metal control your Wood, but his Wood probably competes with your Wood at some level. And since Wood doesn’t like to compete and lose, I suspect there might have been some lively fights between the two of you growing up, and may still be now.
On the other hand, as a pediatrician, your husband probably has a strong secondary Earth. His primary Metal would have been important in getting through med school, but it’s his Earth that guarantees he will excel at working with children. And since you are a nurse, you probably have a strong secondary Earth, too. That means that your relationship dynamics with your husband probably come more from your joint secondary Earths and less from Metal /Wood control issues. Another plus for you and your husband is that you’re both in the medical profession, which means you appreciate and understand each other’s work life.
The bottom line is that it’s highly likely that everyone’s secondary elements have made your marriage a match made in heaven while adding tension to your relationship with your brother. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have unpleasant relationships with your brother forever. Yes, a loving connection between a Wood/Earth and a Metal/Wood might not seem likely at first, but there are aspects of this connection that can be positive. Your Earth feeds his your brother’s Metal via the Nurturing Cycle, and Earth likes this; it feels natural. So if you approach your brother less from your Wood and more from your Earth, you might find the relationship shifting to a kinder, gentler version of itself. Not only does Earth feed Metal, but family sits in Earth, so bringing more of that to your interactions with your brother will emphasize his Earth (wherever it is in his energy) and familial connections.
One word of caution: You will want to avoid your Earth reaching out to your brother’s Wood. If you do, that could take you right back to feeling controlled since his Wood relates to your Earth the same way his Metal relates to your Wood (both are Controlling Cycle relationships). The best approach with your brother is going to be keeping your caring and compassionate Earth connecting to his rational and reasonable Metal. And an easy way to stay with Metal instead of his Wood is to focus on family and the past. Metals love the past; Woods love the future.
I truly believe that you can create a better relationship with your brother by emphasizing your Earth when you’re around him. And when you do, it’s very likely that you’ll have great relationships with both of your Metal men!