Dear Vicki: I need help with my marriage. Sam and I have been married for 22 years and have two daughters in college. Five years ago we started our own business and it has been very stressful trying to grow it to profitability. There’s been lots of fighting, arguing, and aloneness these last few years, but never much making up. Starting this business seems to have highlighted our problems and I’m not sure what to do. I’m just learning about the Five Elements, but I think I’m primarily Earth. I also see a fair amount of Wood in me, and some Water. Sam is Metal; very, very Metal. He works all the time and never wants to focus on us. I don’t have enough Fire to lure him away from work or his obsession with structure and schedules, but I think he had some Fire once. When we met, we had so much fun and used to laugh a lot; it was something I loved about him. What do I need to focus on to help my marriage? Build my Wood? I’m so tired of not being supported. I know I need to reconnect with the female relationships I let slide once we started our business, but I’d like to help my marriage, too. What can I do? Signed: Feeling Alone
Dear Feeling Alone: Running a family business is a lot like having another child; it can take everything you have to make it successful. My husband and I ran a business together for several years, so I totally understand what you are going through. As you have found, the business can become the primary focus of everything you do, leaving little time to keep up with other relationships. Sadly, this also means there is less time to do what is necessary to help keep a marriage strong.
At a very intuitive level, you have grasped what needs to be done: you need to help yourself first, then you can help your marriage. As an Earth, strong and lasting connections are of utmost importance to you. Family is everything, certainly more important than business success. Your Wood will want the personal accomplishment, of course, but your primary Earth will care much more about the connections you have with family and close friends. But for Sam as a Metal, business success will matter as much as, if not more than, marriage and family. Unlike Woods, who see success as a reflection of their value as a person, Metals see success as an indication that they are wise and understand the ways of the world. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Also, Woods see the future and believe they have all the time in the world. With that comes the belief that if this business isn’t successful, perhaps the next one will be. Metals, who sit at the end of the Five Elements cycle, see the past and know that they are quite literally running out of time. Structuring that time is a Metal’s way of assuring the time is used wisely. Sam may perceive this business as his only chance to prove himself, so will put his all into it. And remember, unlike Earth, Metals are just fine alone. In fact, many Metals prefer being alone. But if they are going to be with anyone, they will usually partner with an Earth. And that is the silver lining in your situation.
First and foremost, you need to get your Earth back to a healthy level. Because you and Sam relate on the Nurturing Cycle, and it is your Earth that feeds his Metal, you are probably pretty depleted. In fact, feeling alone is a clear sign that Earth is depleted. And that’s not surprising. Close connections feed Earth, but right now most of your close relationships aren’t in your life anymore. Your husband has become more of a business partner, your children are grown and moving into lives of their own, and you don’t have time for your girlfriends anymore. Your Earth is underfed. But to help this, the last thing you want right now is to build your Wood. I can understand why you might think more Wood would help. It certainly can stand toe-to-toe with Metal in the structure arena. But in a face-off between Wood and Metal, Metal will always win because Metal and Wood relate on the Controlling Cycle with Metal controlling Wood. The even greater concern in building your Wood is that what you need is to replenish your Earth, but Earth and Wood also relate on the Controlling Cycle. This means that more Wood will only further deplete your Earth.
The focus needs to be on building your Earth, but how you do that will be key. If you just engage in any and all activities you know feed your Earth, that Earth will turn around and feed Sam’s Metal, which he clearly doesn’t need. This apparent dilemma can be solved by building your Earth using the element designed to feed Earth, which is Fire. And the added benefit of building your Fire to feed your Earth is that Fire controls Metal. You mentioned that you don’t have enough Fire to lure Sam away from work and schedules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your Fire to the point that it feeds your Earth and softens him. The fact that you think he has Fire as his secondary element will be a great help, too. A key aspect of Fire is the desire to connect in a quick and fun way. His secondary Fire may be almost out (the fact that his Metal is so strong indicates his own Fire hasn’t been available to control it), but Fire will burst back into flames when faced with another Fire. And you can be that Fire!
Remember that we have all five elements in our make-up, so you do have Fire, you just need to get in touch with it and bring it to the front. You can do that is many ways, including wearing red whenever you can, especially around Sam. Bring more red into your environment, too. Perhaps you could paint a wall of your office red (or burgundy if pure red seems too bright). It’s getting colder here in the northern hemisphere, so if you have any fireplaces in your home or office, keep a gentle fire burning in them (this will also help counter the effect winter has on Fire; winter is Water energy and Water controls Fire). You can also burn candles. Buy an inexpensive oil diffuser and use rosemary or lavender oil in it for the home and office. If you and Sam like spicy foods, this would be the perfect time to enjoy them. Spicy food can help build Fire. Wearing garnet or ruby jewelry on your skin 24/7 will also help build your Fire. And finally, the hallmark of Fire is fun; during the holiday season, please plan some fun events for your family and “lure” Sam into attending.
I know you are depleted, but I think you will find that building your Fire to feed your Earth will not only help soften Sam’s Metal but also remind him of the fun his Fire used to have when you were first married. Just because an element isn’t expressing in someone doesn’t mean it’s gone. In Sam’s case, his Fire just hasn’t been allowed out to play in a long time. But it’s there, waiting for the opportunity. Building your own Fire will not only feed your depleted Earth, it will also help ignite Sam’s long-forgotten flames. Then your joint Fires can soften his Metal obsession with structure and schedules. I wish you all the best!