Dear Vicki: My partner Cam and I have been together for five years. We’ve seen each other through college graduations, lost jobs, new jobs, multiple apartment moves, you name it. We both take our careers seriously (me as an investment banker, Cam as a sous chef), but I think I drive myself more than he does. Anyway, his family is having a first-ever extended family reunion next month (probably 100 people or so) and he’s excited to go. I, on the other hand, would rather take a pass. It will involve out of state travel, a day away from work, and spending lots of time with people I’ve never met. Of course, I know the right thing to do is to go with Cam, and that’s what he wants, but it seems like a colossal waste of time for me. Work is particularly busy right now and I can think of a dozen things I’d rather do with free time, especially catch up on projects at work. I wouldn’t expect him to go to my family reunion (if we even had one), so how can I explain to him that I think he should go enjoy his family on his own? Signed: Busy in Bentonville
Dear Busy: Unless they have a lot of Fire energy, few people look forward to spending time with a crowd of strangers. Fire energy loves the excitement of connecting with new people, especially in a fun surrounding, and you clearly are not a primary Fire personality. Given that you mention some aspect of work five times in your letter, I suspect you are a Wood personality; career success and getting ahead really matter to Wood people. Also, Woods like predictability in their life and environments, so a large gathering of strangers will seem chaotic to a Wood. It’s no surprise you would rather take a pass. However, being in a committed relationship means that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do for the sake of your partner, so let’s see if this might be one of those times.
Given that the family reunion is important to Cam, and his profession involves a love of food, it’s a pretty easy guess that he has a lot of Earth energy. Earth people not only love food, they love family and deep, long-term connections. In fact, weaving people together in a web of strong connection brings great joy to Earths. His family is important to him, and you are important to him, so sharing the reunion with you will likely be pretty important to Cam. But I think there’s more to consider here than just whether you go to the reunion or not. I think it’s important to step back and take stock of the dynamics in your relationship with Cam and how your refusal to go with him might impact your connection.
In the Five Elements model, your Wood energy and his Earth energy relate via the Controlling Cycle, with your Wood controlling his Earth. Usually, the impact of Controlling Cycle energy is pretty much what one might expect: one element impacts another element in a way that pulls them back from the brink of excess. You can think of a metal ax chopping back overgrown wood, fire melting too rigid metal, etc. But as I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, Controlling Cycle relationships that involve Earth are a bit different. Wood doesn’t decrease Earth energy, it stabilizes it. In nature, trees help anchor the earth and prevent mudslides and erosion. In your relationship with Cam, you likely have a similar stabilizing effect on him and over the five years you have been together, he has probably come to depend on that. So you not being there will affect him in this subtle way, which could impact his enjoyment of the event. But there is a greater issue here that I think needs to be explored, and that’s the difference in how you and Cam perceive family.
People with a lot of Earth not only enjoy family connections, they need family connections. The fact that most of his family lives out of state suggests that for the past five years you have been Cam’s primary family. For Cam, this reunion is probably less about going to an event and enjoying people and more about sharing an important experience with his primary family, which is you. Shared experiences are major cornerstones of relationship stability, and this is especially true for Earths. It’s part of that “weaving together” I mentioned earlier. Could Cam go and have a good time without you? Yes, of course. But when he comes home from the weekend away, even if he tells you all about it, the two of you will not have had the shared experience of the event, and the opportunity of a significant bonding experience from Cam’s perspective will have been lost forever. This may sound like a small thing to you as a Wood, but it is a big thing to an Earth.
Bottom line? If this relationship is one that you think has the potential to go the distance, I suggest you consider attending the reunion. It’s a perfect opportunity to show Cam’s family that you are a wonderful partner for him. It’s a perfect opportunity to show Cam that he matters enough to give your time and attention to something he values. And it’s a perfect opportunity for you to place someone else’s happiness over your own, which is sometimes what it takes to make a relationship work. The good news for you as a Wood is that you can be very outgoing and congenial when you want to be. Think of the reunion as an assignment you have taken on at work and put the same amount of energy into it as you would anything at work. You will be trading one weekend away for the opportunity to take your relationship to a deeper level in the eyes of your Earth partner for whom family is everything. And that has to be worth it. Blessings to you!