He Cheated, But I Want Our Marriage to Work

Dear Vicki: Cal and I met when we were in law school. He was smart, funny, and very outgoing. I was more serious but somehow, we clicked. We married right out of law school and life was fast-paced and passionate. We worked hard, but I could always count on Cal’s teasing and humor to keep us connected. He went into trial law and I took the corporate route. But two years ago, right after our daughter was born, Cal won a high visibility, important case and things changed. He worked longer hours, played harder, and has been around less and less. I’ve left my firm and am trying to make a good home for the three of us, but he’s hardly ever here, which isn’t the right way to run a marriage. And when he is home, we fight and there’s no passion left. I finally confronted him last month and he admitted that there’s someone else who, as he puts it, is more fun than I am. I still love him and want Alma to have a full-time father. Can you help? Signed: Jilted in Jersey

Dear Jilted: This is a complicated situation, as you no doubt know. I do think there are actions you can take that will make a difference, but first, it’s important for you to understand the dynamics in your marriage. This will help you build on your relationship’s inherent strengths and hopefully avoid some of the more likely pitfalls.

The way you describe Cal in law school, it sounds like he was manifesting the primary elemental personality of a Fire.  Fire people are outgoing, funny, and love living life large. They also love connecting with new people, even if just for a short time. But Fire people lack the structure usually required to succeed in law school, so Cal has to have a strong secondary elemental personality that helps him out in the structure department. The most structured of the elemental personalities are Wood or Metal, and given his choice of trial law, I suspect his secondary personality is Wood. Wood people like being visible.   

That means getting ahead, defending the underdog, and winning (and winning and winning) will all matter greatly to him. And now that he’s become very successful, it will matter even more. So while he may be a primary Fire personality, it’s likely that he’s stepped more into the Wood part of his personality these days. And as you’ve seen, the Fire/Wood personality combination can make for an excellent, and usually extremely successful, trail attorney.

You, on the other hand, likely do not have a lot of Fire in your personality. To have made it through law school yourself, I suspect you have a primary Metal personality. Metal people care about deeply about rules and the right way to do things (key for a lawyer) and also expect appropriate behavior from the people around them. This can sometimes make them come across as “stuffy,” but they are really acting from a place of propriety. 

The fact that you had a child so soon after law school suggests that while your primary elemental personality is Metal, you have a strong secondary Earth personality. Family and home matter a great deal to Earth people.  That said, I think you’re still acting from a place of Metal, especially given your comment about the “right” way to run a marriage. That’s a Metal approach and could be one reason you and Cal are fighting so much. Your Metal desire to play by the rules will feel restrictive to his Wood. This is because of the elemental dynamics between the two of you. Let’s take a look.

It’s important to note that you and Cal have always had some form of a Controlling Cycle relationship (the big star in the Five Elements model shown below). In law school, Cal’s Fire controlled your Metal and helped keep you fluid enough to enjoy the playfulness of his Fire. In fact, that was probably a significant part of the attraction between you and Cal. Fire and Metal are polar opposites when it comes to structure. Metal is the most structured element of the five; Fire is the least. A Fire/Metal relationship is often very stable because Metals need help staying loose and Fires need help creating structure.

However, looking at the model, it’s likely that lately your Metal has been controlling his Wood. You’ve pointed out to Cal that he should be spending more time at home with you and Alma. You might even have suggested the right way to approach home life is to be home instead of running around. But feeling controlled or restricted usually doesn’t work well for the Wood person. And being asked to be home more probably feels restrictive not only to Cal’s Wood personality’s desire to work the hours necessary for success, but also to his Fire personality’s desire to have fun. 

For you, with a child in your life, you no longer need Cal’s Fire personality to keep your Metal personality flexible; I’m sure the demands of a two-year-old do that quite well. It’s also likely that the Earth energy you are using a lot of these days doesn’t appreciate the controlling energy of Cal’s Wood (Wood and Earth also relate on the Controlling Cycle, but it is Cal’s Wood that controls your Earth).

So, does this mean your relationship with Cal is doomed? Not necessarily, but it does mean that you and Cal need to have a serious talk. And the nature of that talk, as well as the time and place it occurs, will matter a great deal.

Where things stand now, it probably isn’t wise to interact with Cal from your Metal personality perspective of what is “right” in a marriage because his Wood personality will probably perceive that approach as too controlling and refuse to cooperate. And really, it isn’t Cal’s Wood personality that’s creating the problems at home. Wood people are usually quite stable. I believe the root of what’s upsetting your marriage sits in Cal’s primary Fire personality. 

Given his wild success, his Fire energy is probably in overdrive which means the things that matter to Fire people, like parties, celebrating wins, and attention, will be even more important to Cal these days. And if you, a Metal/Earth personality who takes family responsibilities seriously, don’t want to party with him, the poor boundaries that accompany excess Fire energy have allowed him to find someone else who will. But it doesn’t need to stay that way, so here’s what I suggest.

First, I strongly encourage you to enlist the support of a marriage counselor. Regardless of how things go with Cal, having someone in your corner is always important. Second, I suggest that you arrange a time to talk to Cal about the future of your relationship (his Wood personality will appreciate discussing the future; Wood people live for the future). However, I suggest that you don’t talk about your issues at home. Instead, if you can arrange childcare for Alma, plan a weekend getaway for you and Cal. This will be important for two reasons.

The excitement of a getaway will appeal to the Fire part of Cal’s personality. But because he already has too much Fire manifesting in his behavior, please make sure that wherever you go is near water. A lake, the shore, anywhere that will provide the Water energy needed to balance Cal’s Fire (Water controls Fire in the Five Elements model). Less Fire energy in Cal will make it easier for your Metal personality to stay strong and help his Wood personality see what his behaviors are doing to his family. And being in the country near nature will help build whatever amount of Earth energy he has in his personality. Loyalty and honoring long-term relationships sit in the Earth element, so the more Earth energy he can find right now, the better.

Hopefully, Cal will agree to attend counseling with you. As that process unfolds, keeping a good amount of Water energy around the house will help. Things like blue walls, blue bed sheets, and tabletop fountains are good ways to build Water energy, as is encouraging him to eat salads, raw vegetables, and fresh fruit (cooling foods that will help address excess Fire energy). 

In truth, the combined Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal personality energies you and Cal bring to your relationship indicate that you can have a balanced, stable, and loving family life. And that will be especially possible if you can keep a healthy amount of Water energy present. I deeply hope that you are able to make this happen. Blessings to you. Stay safe and well.

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