Dear Vicki: I’m very worried about my daughter and hope you can help. Karen is an attorney in her late 20s who is married to another attorney named Tom. They met in law school and married right after graduation. Karen was always a serious child who spend hours alone reading and painting, but now her life appears to be all work and absolutely no play. Given she’s in corporate law and he’s a trial attorney, the only time they seem to spend together is when they work from home on the weekends. They live in an absolutely sterile apartment (nothing cozy or homey, just empty surfaces in a metal high-rise) and eat take-out most nights. Where is their joy and beauty? How will their marriage survive? I’m concerned that Tom might be a bad influence on Karen because he seems especially focused on getting ahead. What can I do to help these two get a life outside of work? Signed, Worried Mom
Dear Worried Mom: We all need joy and beauty in our lives. However, different elemental personalities find joy and beauty in different ways, so Karen and Tom might not be as unhappy as you think they are. In fact, they might actually be happy. But let’s take a look at the elemental personalities we are dealing with here so we can ascertain what might be going on for everyone involved. And we are going to start with your elemental personality so you can understand the framework you are using to assess Karen and Tom’s happiness.
Without a doubt, you are a primary Earth personality. Your assessment of their apartment as sterile and lacking aspects of “cozy” and “homey” are a clear indication. People with a primary Earth personality value home and family relationships more than anything else. Creating a home that is cozy matters to Earth people, as does fixing wonderful meals for the people they love. And while these things are everything to Earth personalities, they can be markedly less important to the other elemental personalities. Another clue that you are a primary Earth is the fact that you are very worried about Karen and Tom, and especially worried that their relationship could fail. Worry is where Earth people go when they are stressed, and the ending of a primary relationship is almost unthinkable to an Earth person. But while you are definitely a primary Earth personality, I can guarantee you that both Karen and Tom are not.
You describe your daughter as a serious child who spent hours alone reading and painting. The two most serious elemental personalities are usually Wood and Metal. As adults, Wood people tend to be serious about getting ahead and creating a name for themselves. Metal people tend to be serious about excelling within a given structure or hierarchy. They are also excellent at details. Since it takes a lot of that Metal focus on detail to get through law school, I suspect that both Karen and Tom are primary Metal personalities. Their choice to make a home in a metal high-rise with clean surfaces also supports this. Metal people are absolutely serious, but does this mean they are unhappy or in marital stress? Not really.
When Metal personalities get together, they will be serious. That’s who they are. There’s no way around it, nor should there be. What’s more, Metal people are usually very happy being serious! So, while you think it must be terrible for the two of them, Karen and Tom are probably happy with the tone of their relationship. After all, they chose to marry each other. And right now, they are trying to establish themselves in the highly competitive field of law where they need to be focused and serious, and also put in time to pay their proverbial dues.
However, your concerns for their relationship are not completely unfounded. There is a very real risk that when two Metal personalities are in a romantic relationship they will forget to connect romantically, which can lead to them slowly drifting apart. Odd as it may sound, Metal personalities sometimes need to remember to be romantic. To do this, Karen and Tom might try scheduling romantic time together weekly (date night, anyone?) to be sure this happens.
Also, certain challenges arise when two people with the same primary elemental personality are in a close relationship. On the positive side, it does mean they will understand each other exceedingly well. But it also means there isn’t the “juiciness” of a different personality style to energize the relationship, so things can sometimes feel stagnant or boring. When this happens, couples often find that their secondary elemental personalities step up and help provide the movement and flow necessary to keep a relationship interesting.
Based on your descriptions, I think it’s safe to say that Karen has Water as a secondary (seen in her love of art) and Tom has Wood as a secondary (seen in his desire to get ahead quickly). And the good news for Karen and Tom is that both of these secondary elements have great movement: Water will flow anywhere and everywhere, and Wood will blast your socks off if ignited. To help keep their relationship juicy, they just need to make sure they are regularly embracing their secondary elements in some way. And this is where you can help.
Karen’s Water will value philosophic or artistic expression and Tom’s Wood will value attending something significant, so you might consider gifting them with tickets to a local theatrical production (avoid musicals; Metals can find them frivolous), a new museum exhibit (Metals love history, Waters love the arc of history, and Woods love being seen somewhere important), or even a gallery opening or artist’s show. Anything you do to build Karen’s secondary Water energy and/or Tom’s secondary Wood energy will provide an influx of different energy and movement for their relationship.
Also, every elemental personality appreciates eating out in one way or another. You could give Karen and Tom gift certificates to romantic, fine-dining restaurants (Metals usually appreciate refined experiences). This will encourage them to leave their offices and connect, but you won’t be able to control what they discuss. If they talk about work, that’s just the way it will go. But at least they’ll be together eating wonderful food in a romantic location.
These are just some of the potential ideas for helping Karen and Tom connect in ways that support their relationship and encourage life together outside of their offices. However, they are at a time in their lives when they are ready, willing, and able to make their mark in the careers of their choice. Eventually, professional advancement may lose some of its appeal and their priorities could well change. But for now, I encourage you to embrace your daughter and son-in-law for who they are: Two wonderful Metal personalities who take life seriously. Blessings to them, and you!