Dear Vicki: I had an incident with my husband yesterday that has left me surprisingly upset. We both work full time jobs (I’m a project manager for a construction firm, he’s an accountant), try to stay involved with our grown children, are active in our church group, and basically have very full days. Weekends we usually have one fun day and one day for chores, which for me includes the laundry. I wash, dry, and fold everything, then leave it on the bed so we can each put away our own clothes. It had been a stressful week for both of us, but last night when it can time for him to put away his jeans, he rather condescendingly said, “How many times do I have to tell you how I like my jeans folded?” Well, I got really angry. He gets his darn clothes washed and dried; does it really matter how they are folded? What’s going on? Signed: The Laundry Lady
Dear Laundry Lady: I have to admit I smiled when I read your letter. Doing laundry can often bring out the best or the worst in most of us depending on our elemental personality. Earth people usually enjoy doing laundry because it allows them to focus on improving something about their home (clean clothes are a definite improvement!). Wood personalities usually find it a chore that has to be done to get on to something else (“the only way out is through”). Fire and Water people usually end up doing laundry only when they run out of clean clothes because they’ve either been busy with friends (Fires) or lost in a book or creative project (Waters). And Metals usually do laundry regularly on a specific day and time and take special care in how that laundry is done. That’s because Metals believe there is a right way to do everything. And I think this is the root of your laundry woes: I suspect that while you are not a Metal personality, you certainly are married to one.
As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, the mindset it takes to be a good accountant matches well the way Metal personalities approach the world. Not only is there is a right (and wrong) way to do everything, there is a right time, a right place, a right procedure, a right regulation, etc. And they all must be honored. In the Five Elements model, Metal people sit at the end of the cycle and this vantage point bestows upon them the ability to glean from the cycle an understanding of what worked and what did not. From this understanding they create the hierarchy, protocol, rules, etc. regarding what they perceive to be the optimal way to approach everything, be that accounting, laundry, or anything in between. And honestly, they are usually pretty spot on in their assertions.
You, on the other hand, sound like a Wood personality. It takes keen organization and planning skills to be a successful project manager, and this exactly describes the Wood personality. Details are way less important to Woods than they are to Metals, so it’s understandable that, while you will care that the clothes are clean, dry, and folded, you will care less exactly how they are folded. But as a Metal, your husband clearly does care how they are folded. So how can you smooth out this wrinkle?
It’s important to remember that in the Five Elements model, you and your husband relate via the Controlling Cycle with his Metal controlling your Wood. At it’s best, this energy dynamic between you will feel like he usually has your back (and he probably does). At it’s worst, especially in times of stress, it will feel like he throws brick walls up in front of you at every turn. Another important aspect of the dynamic between you is the very real difference between how your personalities approach a task. Let’s use cooking as an example. Wood people usually don’t follow recipes. They have a general idea of what goes in a specific dish, perhaps a pot of chili, and will add the necessary ingredients as the mood strikes them. Metals, however, will usually follow every aspect of a recipe to the letter because they view the recipe as the authority on how to create the optimal outcome, in this case chili. A Metal personality will approach almost everything this way, whether it’s cooking, laundry, or accounting. There is a right way and a wrong way for a very good reason. Who would think of doing anything any way but the “right” way? As you well know, a busy Wood would think that way. Wood personalities will gladly sacrifice a bit of perfection in the service of efficiency and accomplishment. But worry not. There are several ways to address this.
First, I encourage you to ask your husband why it matters so greatly how you fold his jeans. He may have a very important (to him) reason that you might want to honor. And if you decide you don’t want to honor it, agree that you will leave his washed and dried jeans laid out nicely on the bed and he can fold them himself in whatever way suits his fancy. My personal experience with Metals is that they usually do have very good reasons for most of the things on which they seem rather inflexible. Understanding their reasoning can make a big difference in how you approach them.
Second, going back to the Five Elements model, the fact that your anger flared so easily suggests that you might have a little too much Wood energy going on right now. The need to do a lot in a little time usually does bring up more Wood to help with accomplishment. Easy ways to help balance out that Wood energy for you include the following: wear white (this color decreases Wood energy), eat sour foods (think sauerkraut), drink lots of lemon water or dandelion tea, and use lavender oil on your skin or in an oil diffuser regularly. Further, the rather dismissive attitude your husband copped over something as minor as improperly folded jeans suggests that he might have a little too much Metal energy going on. Easy ways to help balance out that Metal energy for him include the following: wear red (this color decreases Metal energy), eat spicy foods, drink red clover tea, and use eucalyptus oil on his skin or in an oil diffuser regularly.
Finally, if you are both under a lot of stress, I encourage you to take whatever steps you can to de-stress in ways that you know work for you. If there is something fun you enjoy doing together, that would be perfect. But if not, if it means you go for a walk while he tinkers with the stereo, it’s important that you each do what you know will help alleviate the stress. The good news in your relationship is that both Metal and Wood personalities have a great deal of structure. If you can put in place ways to lower the stress level in your lives and bring your individual elemental personalities back to balance, it is very likely that you will stick to them. The end result? I suspect you will find that the troubles you are having will all come out in the wash (so to speak). Blessings to you!