Dear Vicki: My husband of 15 years and I divorced two years ago. It was his choice and very difficult for me; I crawled into a hole for quite some time. Recently, I’ve started dating a nice fellow I’ll call Tom, but I’m having trouble figuring him out. Sometimes he’s sensitive and caring, and sometimes he’s aloof and distant. When he’s in his caring place, we get along great. But when he’s off on his own, I tend to drift away, too, which I don’t think speaks well for a future together. I do love time alone – I’m an art therapist so enjoy my painting – and Tom is an attorney who spends a great deal of time at work. Do you think we have a chance of making it work? Signed, Can This Work
Dear Can This Work: First, let me say that I pretty much believe any relationship can “make it” if both parties understand the dynamics of their connection and are willing to work with them. There will be ups and downs, of course, but these can be predicted based on your elemental personalities. Knowing what your personal tendencies are in a relationship will always help build on the ups and smooth over the downs.
It sounds to me like you may have a primary Water personality given your love for art and an appreciation of time alone to paint. Creativity of all kinds sits in the Water element. But the fact that you use your talent to work as a therapist suggests that you also have a strong amount of Earth energy in your personality, too. Earth people love helping others, and they also value home and family. Your concern about being able to “make it work” with Tom speaks to a desire for a long-term relationship, which is also very important to Earth people.
As an attorney, it’s very likely that Tom has a primary Metal personality because it takes an appreciation of detail and hierarchy to practice law. Metal people also require time alone to work, which would explain his tendency to distance himself from you at times. And when Metal people become overworked or tired, they can come off as aloof, so I think it’s a pretty good guess that Tom is a primary Metal personality. However, his sensitivity and caring with you suggests a good amount of Earth energy in his personality, too. Bottom line: In your relationship with Tom he brings Metal and Earth personality tendencies and you bring Water and Earth personality tendencies.
The good news is that this can be a great relationship! In the Five Elements model, Metal and Water relate on the Nurturing Cycle, as do Earth and Metal. This means that his Metal energy will feed your Water and your Earth energy will feed his Metal. The result of this type of connection is that both of you could feel very supported by your relationship. However, you also have relationship interactions on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model. In this model, Earth controls Water, so it is possible that his secondary Earth could seem controlling to your Water, which won’t feel good and might make you want to drift away. But I don’t think that will happen, and here’s why.
As a primary Earth personality yourself, your Water energy is already used to having Earth around and knows how to manage it. Plus, Tom’s Earth energy will feel comforting and deeply connecting to your Earth energy. In fact, two Earth people together will love nothing more than being with each other. This suggests that staying in your Earth energies with each other all the time will make the relating easier, and it absolutely will. But please don’t do that. There are two major risks with trying to relate with each other only from the Earth parts of your personalities.
First, it will be impossible to do, especially if Earth is only a secondary personality aspect for each of you. If you only have Earth time together, both your Water and his Metal energies will speak up loud and clear demanding alone time. When this happens, it will be hard to discern whether you don’t want to be with Tom because you need alone time or because you just don’t like Tom. The easier assumption will be that you don’t like Tom, but that might not be the case. In truth, it’s far more likely that the need for alone time is coming from the Water part of your personality, or in his case, the Metal part of his personality. And this is why it’s always important to understand our own personality tendencies, as well as the likely tendencies of the people with whom we relate. If we don’t understand, it’s easy to make assumptions that just might not be true.
For a relationship with Tom to last, you will probably need to consciously plan some alone time up front so both of you expect it. If not, when one of you decides they want alone time but the other one is in an Earthy place, the one of you in the Earthy place might well agree (Earth people are usually very agreeable), but they will do so with hurt feelings. Nothing hurts an Earth person more than feeling rebuffed, and too many hurt feelings too often could drive a wedge between you. Just plan and agree on when you will have your alone times and all will be not only well, but very compatible.
The second major risk with all Earth energy all the time when you are together is that Tom’s Metal personality brings the only real focused structure the two of you have. Some structure is a good thing, but neither Water or Earth are very structured energies. Ideally, you can communicate often and honestly enough to identify those times when structure will help your relationship (and your lives). Set times to meet and then really hold to them. Stick to budgets, plans, and agreements. Don’t just go with the flow about something the two of you have planned. This will likely alter the plans which could really upset the Metal part of Tom’s personality.
The bottom line here is to appreciate and embrace some degree of structure in your relationship and honor your need for alone time. I promise that if both are agreed on ahead of time, they will feel like gifts to your Water/Earth personality. With awareness and some guidelines, your relationship with Tom has a strong likelihood of making it work in a wonderful, wonderful way! Good luck!