Her Husband Won’t Support Her Career Change

Dear Vicki: My husband and I have been married 15 years and worked in academia for much of that time. Simon taught at a large medical school and was always the most popular lecturer there. I managed the medical school’s library and dearly loved helping the students. Several years ago, Simon pursued his dream of going to med school (he wanted to be the doctor rather than just teach about it) and I kept working to support both of us. After completing his degree, he opened a successful practice. I no longer want to deal with the politics of academia, so this feels like the perfect time for me to change careers and do something more artistic, which I have wanted for years. The problem is that I expected Simon to be as encouraging regarding my potential change as I was of his, but he’s not. Whenever I bring up the subject, he’s completely unsupportive. He suggests that I probably won’t be successful, that there are more talented people around, and at his worst, that I should consider becoming his receptionist (how artistic is that?). Why is he so resistant to me changing careers? And what can I do? Signed: Ready for a Change

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 Dear Ready for a Change: I can understand why this makes no sense to you. It does seem only fair that he supports your career change as you supported his. And in truth, it is only fair. But I think a closer look at your elemental personalities and how they interact will shed some light on why he isn’t jumping for joy over the idea but instead, is actually trying to squash it. We will also cover ways to help you both move through this process.

First, being a popular lecturer suggests that Simon has a good deal of Fire in his elemental personality. However, Fire people usually don’t have the structure necessary to get through med school. That suggests that Simon’s secondary elemental personality is either Wood (more of a doer) or Metal (more of a thinker), as these are the two most structured personalities. And given his desire to “be” the doctor rather than “just teach” about it, I believe his secondary personality is Wood.

You, on the other hand, are clearly a primary Water personality given your life-long desire for creative expression. Water people also usually have a passion for books, which is where working in a library would come in. But the Water personality alone doesn’t have the structure to manage a library. And given your joy at helping the students, I suspect that your secondary elemental personality is Earth, which is exactly the element that helps provide structure to Water (think river channels, ocean floors, etc.). Also, since we all have all five of the elemental personalities in our wiring, you have probably drawn on the Metal personality in you a time or two for added structured when needed.

Returning to Simon’s negative response to the idea of you moving into a more artistic career, here’s what I think is happening between the two of you. As a Water/Earth personality, you probably could care less about material accomplishments or notoriety. Your primary Water personality will want a good deal of alone time to create, but the support of those closest to you will really matter to the Earth part of your personality. As a Fire/Wood personality, Simon is clearly wired to shine and accomplish. I have no idea how deeply his ego is tied up in being the star of the family, but that wouldn’t be unheard of for a Fire/Wood person. And while Simon may have some ego tied up in being the star, I think the bigger issue is how you two relate via the Five Elements model, so let’s take a look at that.

During most of your marriage, Simon is used to the Earth part of your personality being available to nurture and support him. Earth and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, with Earth holding a space that keeps Fire safe. In truth, his Fire feeding your Earth probably felt good to you, too. Given this, it’s possible he is concerned that you changing careers to something more artistic, which usually requires a great deal of alone time, will mean you won’t be available to provide him with the support he is used to. And if he’s in any way invested in being a star, he probably isn’t going to like losing his primary audience, or even competing for an audience if you are successful.

It’s also possible that Simon has experienced times when you were an active artist, thus more in the Water part of your personality, and isn’t excited about you becoming more “Watery” again. The reason for this is very apparent in the Five elements model. Water relates to Fire via the Controlling Cycle where Water puts out Fire. And while Water relates to Wood on the Nurturing Cycle, too much Water rots Wood. So for Simon, you spending a lot of time in the Water part of your personality will not be a good thing for him: it will douse his Fire and rot his Wood.

Finally, Wood personalities don’t like it when things feel out of control because it feels like chaos to them. Your move into a totally new career might feel chaotic to him. And isn’t it interesting that suggesting you become his receptionist is a great way to maintain control over you and insure you are available to interact with him?

As you can see, there are many reasons, most of which are probably subconscious, that Simon might “shut down” over the idea of you embracing a more artistic career. So what do you do? First, remember that as a Fire/Wood personality, attention and success are important to Simon, so assure him that whatever you pursue, it will not interfere with either of those. Second, since balanced Wood always supports fairness, the fact that Simon is shut down over this issue suggests he has too much Wood involved. In the Five Elements model, it is Metal that controls Wood. So when you discuss this with Simon, I encourage you to approach the topic in a calm, cool, rational, reasonable, logical, and concise fashion. These are the hallmarks of the Metal personality and will ensure that Simon’s Wood energy is balanced – and thus able to embrace the natural Wood tendency to be fair – when you talk.

I’m sure you wish that Simon could be as loving and supportive around your career change as you were around his, but it doesn’t sound like he’s wired for that. He has too much of the Wood and Fire personalities, and not enough of the Earth personality, to give you what your own Earth probably needs. But he does love you and will certainly want what’s best for you. So if you’re willing to engage aspects of the Metal personality to help him understand what you need and want from both a career and him, and then use your own Earth to keep your Water from spending too much time alone, I truly believe Simon will eventually embrace the change. Blessings to you both!

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