They Weathered the Crisis, but Their Relationship is Failing

Dear Vicki: Last September, my husband and I were in a serious car accident. We both survived and have recovered completely, but for six or seven months, life was a blur of hospitals, medicines, doctors appointments, and physical therapy. Initially, we seemed closer than ever. My husband Frank managed all the little details of the appointments, pharmaceuticals, live-in care, etc. for both of us. I didn’t have to worry about anything except keeping our hope alive and trying to stay optimistic. It all worked great, too, until we got back to “normal” the beginning of summer. Now, Frank seems preoccupied with his work and barely notices me, and I have to admit I’m feeling pretty depressed about everything. When we do interact, we disagree and fight. How could we have made it through the tough times and now be falling apart? Signed: Down in Denver

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Dear Down in Denver: It’s not uncommon to tough it out during a crisis and then fall apart afterward. It’s very instinctive to focus all of our resources on survival, but that leaves us depleted when the crisis passes. This certainly happened for you and Frank, not only physically, but also emotionally. You pulled together when you had to, made it though, and now are each retreating within yourselves to rebuild your resources. The good news is that each of you will likely build your stamina and zest for life back to pre-accident levels by the first anniversary of the accident. That happens automatically when we take care of ourselves and give ourselves time to heal. The concerning news is that healing after a trauma is not necessarily automatic for a relationship. You may need to help it along, so let’s look at what can be done to get you and Frank back to your pre-accident connection.

You don’t mention where you think you and Frank fall within the Five Elements model, but you have given us some excellent clues. The fact that Frank was good at managing all the details of your respective recoveries suggests that he has a lot of Metal energy in his personality. Metal people are excellent with detail; organizing minutia actually makes them happy. Your gift to the joint recovery process was optimism and hope. These are natural places to go for someone with a lot of Water energy in their personality. We also see your primary elements manifesting in out of balance ways after the crisis abated. When unbalanced, Metals can become unreasonably focused on work and dismiss anything unrelated, and Waters can easily become depressed.

You and Frank have a Metal/Water relationship, which also tells us a lot about you. In the Five Elements model, Metal and Water relate via the Nurturing Cycle, with Metal feeding Water. You don’t mention how long you and Frank have been married, but you’ve probably had a stable connection for some time because your relationship needs will be similar. Neither Metal nor Water need a lot of “togetherness” time in a marriage: Metal will want alone time to study and synthesize great ideas of the past and write them down. Water will want alone time to imagine new ideas and express them through words, art, music, etc. This means Metal and Water are usually comfortably happy together in a relationship. But the crisis that was the accident changed all that for you.

The panic that surrounds crisis and sudden changes sits in the Fire element. And while neither of you are primary Fire people, we all have all five elements in our make-up, so the accident activated the Fire in each of you and brought it front and center. Interestingly, Fire relates to both your Water and Frank’s Metal via the Controlling Cycle: Water controls Fire, and Fire controls Metal. That means that your response to the out of control Fire energy around you was to ramp up your Water to keep the Fire in check. This likely depleted your Water, which is why you ended up depressed. Frank’s response to the out of control Fire was to flee. He buried himself in work and tried to ignore the Fire that was zapping and depleting his Metal. So while you both healed physically, the end result is that your primary elemental energies – the energies that give you your personalities – were both depleted. The problem for both of you was too much Fire energy, a problem that will be exacerbated in the summer because that is Fire’s peak season. But it is a problem that can be solved.

In the Five Elements model, to keep the whole balanced, a state of too much Fire will call forth more Water to balance out the Fire. You did your best to manage the Fire with your personal Water energy, but in a life-threatening situation, one person can rarely manage the Fire energy of crisis. What you and Frank need now is to use outside forces to calm down the excess Fire energy lingering from your accident. This means surrounding yourselves with Water.

First, please make sure that you and Frank are drinking enough water. It sounds silly, but it will help calm the crisis energy. Then, I strongly encourage you and Frank to spend time together in and near water. Go to a lake, the ocean, a river, whatever body of water is nearest to you and hang out there. A lot. A week would be fantastic, but if you can’t manage more time off, go as frequently as you can. Also, place tabletop water fountains in the main rooms of your house and keep them running 24/7 for a while. Spend time this summer in pools. And remember to drink water.

This influx of Water energy will calm the residual Fire energy from the crisis. When this happens, Frank’s Metal energy will increase because there isn’t too much Fire energy controlling it and he should become more like his pre-accident self. As his Metal increases, it will move around the Nurturing Cycle to increase your Water. Of course, all this extra Water energy will not only be decreasing the Fire energy, but also serving to increase your personal Water, as well, which should help get you back to your pre-accident self. And it goes without saying that if this doesn’t help by the end of the summer, please seek outside counseling for your relationship.

It is such a gift that you and Frank physically weathered the crisis of the accident. I truly believe that a good dose of Water energy this summer – be it lake, ocean, or standing in the rain – will help your relationship survive the accident, as well. Blessings to you!

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