Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m pretty sure that my best friend’s boyfriend is cheating on her. Bev and I have been besties since grade school. She’s sweet and kind, loves people and animals, and is studying to be a nurse. She and Jake (who spends more time skiing or playing ball than studying for the college business classes we share) have been together for a year and she’s convinced he’s “the one.” The problem is that lately I’ve seen Jake hanging with Ellie, the “hot” girl from our high school class, a lot. I’ve hinted at it to Bev, but she just smiles and says they’re old friends. They certainly look like more than friends to me, which really makes me angry! So what do I do? I want to shake Bev and tell her she deserves better than Jake. Why can’t she see it? Signed: Loyal Friend
Dear Loyal Friend: Bev is very lucky to have a friend like you. And as her friend, you are definitely in a difficult place. The relationship between Bev and Jake is private; it’s really no body’s business but theirs how they handle it. That said, it does sound like Bev believes it’s a monogamous relationship and Jake may have different ideas. The other issue at stake is your relationship with Bev. You do risk looking like you’re butting in if you pursue this too strongly. The last thing anyone in love wants to hear is that their best friend thinks their boyfriend is a jerk. So, you need to tread lightly here. But treading lightly doesn’t mean doing nothing, so let’s take a look at the relationship dynamics at play between you, Bev, and Jake and see what might make sense.
Your description of Bev indicates that she is clearly an Earth personality. Earths are usually sweet and kind, they usually do love people and animals, and they make wonderful nurses (and friends). You and Jake, on the other hand, both sound like Wood personalities. Your anger over Jake’s potential betrayal of your friend is characteristically Wood. Jake’s interest in Ellie, the popular girl from high school, is also characteristic of a Wood. Being important matters to Woods and they often borrow their importance from the people with whom they associate. Dating the hot girl could definitely make Jake feel good about himself. Finally, Woods are frequently drawn to business as an occupation – hard work can create significant personal success – so it makes sense as a career path for both you and Jake.
Bev relates to Jake (and you) on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model. But as we’ve said before, Controlling Cycle relationships with Earth people are different than with the other elemental personalities. Wood people do not decrease or minimize Earth people. Instead, they help stabilize them just as trees on a hill help stabilize the earth. Bev may appreciate both you and Jake for your abilities to provide structure and order in her life. In her relationship with Jake, that could translate to a feeling of being taken care of, which can be a gift to an Earth person because they’re usually the ones taking care of everyone else.
You ask why Bev can’t see Jake’s behavior as cheating and there are several possibilities. First, it might not be cheating; he and Ellie could be old friends, although if your observations are accurate (check yourself on this) it wouldn’t explain the behavior you’ve witnessed between them that suggests more than friendship. Second, and most likely, is that Ellie can’t see Jake’s cheating behavior because Earth people tend to see the best in people. The hallmark emotion for Earths is the ability to bring compassion to every situation and relationship. And yes, this tendency toward compassion will often be at their own expense. Think of the nurse who works an extra shift because her patients need her. Or the teacher who stays up late grading papers so her students receive feedback as soon as possible. Or even the business executive who starts a charitable organization to help the poor and destitute. This later example would likely be someone with a primary Wood personality but a strong Earth secondary. (How our secondary elements affect our primary personalities was covered here in a series of blogs during the first half of 2017). As an Earth person, Ellie probably focuses on Jake’s strengths and compassionately ignores his weaknesses. But as a Wood person, you will easily see the weaknesses in a fellow Wood, especially if you believe Jake is being unfair to Ellie (Wood personalities highly value fairness).
So what can you do? It goes without saying that you must resist the very real Wood temptation to fix this problem yourself. Wood people are great at trying to protect someone they think is being wronged, but do not challenge Jake regarding what you perceive to be his cheating behavior. First, it is not your business. Second, although unlikely, his connection with Ellie could be plutonic. Third, and most importantly, if Bev finds out she could interpret your actions as trying to break up her relationship with Jake, which could jeopardize yours and Bev’s friendship. Instead, the best way to approach this is to speak directly with Bev about your concerns. No more hinting, just gentle straight talk from a dear friend.
If Jake is cheating on Bev, it’s best for her to find out from a loving, caring friend than from someone who makes a cutting comment. And it is certainly better than stumbling on it herself. But when you share your information with Bev, do not challenge her about Jake or try to make her see him as the jerk you think he is. It will likely backfire on you. Earth people are very loyal, so if she thinks you are picking on Jake, she will immediately rise to his defense. Instead, begin by telling her how much she means to you, that you care deeply for her, and that you would never want her to be hurt. Then in a calm, non-accusing way (not necessarily easy for Wood people), share what you have observed between Jake and Ellie. It will be up to Bev how she takes what you have to say. I suspect she will ponder the information for a while and then speak with Jake. Earths are caring and compassionate, but unless they are really out of balance, they are rarely doormats.
What you share could herald the end of Bev and Jake’s relationship, so make sure you are there for her if that happens. Deep, long-term relationships are of utmost importance to Earths, so ending a relationship is exceedingly hard and wounds them deeply. Bev will probably need and appreciate your support, but offer it in a neutral fashion. Gloating or copping an “I told you so” attitude might be tempting – Woods like to be right – but it will only make things worse for Bev. Be there for her, listen to her, offer possible outings to keep her busy, discuss her studies, whatever you think might help distract her. The good news with Earth people is that, even though it might take some time for their broken hearts to mend, they so strongly need deep connections that they will eventually get back on the relationship horse and ride again. Blessings to you, and to Bev!