Adult Son Distancing Himself from Mother

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my son Jacob. He graduated from law school four years ago and moved to New York from our small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up, Jacob was a quiet, studious child. He was something of a loner, but always seemed to appreciate the love and attention my husband and I showered on him. We supported him through college and grad school, were always so proud of him, and felt his continued gratitude. But since he started work as a corporate attorney, he has changed. He often won’t return our calls, interrupts or loses his temper when we do talk, is pretty critical, and has generally turned into a not so nice guy. Children change as they grow, I know, but this seems very dramatic. He has put a lot of pressure on himself to advance in his career, but why is he so different? It feels like we’ve lost him. Did we do something wrong? Signed: Puzzled in PA

 

Dear Puzzled: You are correct: Children do change as they grow. They learn about the world and their place in it. They make new friends and grow from these new relationships. They take continuous steps to become more independent. But they usually don’t change so dramatically over the course of just four years, so I think there has to be something else going on with Jacob. Let’s see if we can figure it out.

You don’t mention what primary element you think he is, but the fact that he was a quiet, studious child means he would likely be a Water or a Metal. His choice to practice law, however, would require the structure necessary to withstand the rigors of law school. That structure would be seen in both Metal and Wood. The overlap here is Metal, which also fits with the fact that the attention to detail necessary to practice corporate law usually sits in Metal. And this is just a guess, but your worry and concern about your son, and the fact that you so easily assume you might have done something wrong in raising him, suggest that you are probably a primary Earth element. This means that you and Jacob relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model with your Earth feeding his Metal.

On the surface, this should be good news for both of you. Earths love family, children, and helping people. Metals often expect attention and support, especially from Earths. Your relationship of parent to child also supports this natural flow of energy from Earth to Metal in the model. So what isn’t working? Why has he changed seemingly out of the blue?

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Husband “Bridging” with Others Too Much

Dear Vicki: I am writing about my spouse, Caleb. He is an elementary teacher and a truly loving husband and father. As an attorney, I often work long hours and he is always there to take care of our children, and me. Caleb is perfect in so many ways, but he does have one trait that is a real problem. When we are with friends, he tends to share aspects of our life at home that I would rather not have shared. It is nothing terribly personal, just little things that I feel other people do not need to know. I have mentioned this to him before and he says he will change, but that has not happened. I do not know that much about the Five Elements, but reading what you have on your website, I suspect Caleb is an Earth. Can you help me understand – and change – him? Signed, Private in Pennsylvania

Dear Private in Pennsylvania: This is an interesting issue. On the surface, if Caleb is sharing minor details with others, it shouldn’t matter. And it probably wouldn’t matter to most of the elemental personalities, especially another Earth. But as an attorney, you most likely have a good amount of Metal, and Metals value privacy. Metals also tend to compartmentalize aspects of their life, clearly delineating what is work, what is home, what is public, and what is private with the goal of keeping them separate. Earth people rarely make this level of distinction. More importantly, sharing what’s going on for them is an important way Earths connect with others.

You say you want to understand your husband, so let’s start there. Yes, Caleb is most certainly an Earth person. And for an Earth, building bridges and connecting with others is very important. Earths are also much less discriminating than some of the other elements, so for them a connection is a connection, no matter where it’s found. When Caleb shares information or events from his life, it’s a mechanism for weaving a bridge between himself and others. And this is usually such an automatic response in Earths that it’s likely he doesn’t stop to ponder the issue of appropriateness before he speaks. So what can you do?

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She Has Too Much Fire With New Boss

Dear Vicki: In your blog posts you’ve discussed control and what it means relative to the Five Elements model. I understand the theory that control is important to maintain balance and that each element has an element that is meant to control it. But in reality, this control stuff can be a problem. I’m a Fire person and whenever I’m around a Metal person, (someone who seems uptight and rigid to me), I can’t help getting super fiery with them. Sometimes that means I panic, but usually it means I flirt or go overboard with sharing way too much, too soon. I know Fire is meant to control Metal, but can we sense that we’re “meant to control” someone and react without thinking? This has become a real problem lately because my new boss is a Metal guy and I’m having a hard time not coming off as inappropriate. Help! Signed: Fire in Frisco

 

Dear Fire: The quick answer to your great question is yes, we can sense when we are around someone on our Controlling Cycle. But we can also sense when we are around someone on our Nurturing Cycle. And we can oftentimes sense if either are manifesting a balanced version of their primary element, or are out of balance. This is usually very unconscious and is part of the apparent mystery behind instantly liking or disliking someone when we meet them. The state of their primary element, and how it relates to our primary element, are very subtle aspects of the like/dislike dynamic we have all experienced.

Our elemental wiring is a core part of our personalities. As we discussed in a post last February, our primary elements are just like tuning forks. Ting a tuning fork and other tuning forks will always respond. At an elemental level, we will resonate in harmony with an element on our Nurturing Cycle and can sense a slight disharmony around an element on our Controlling Cycle. And honestly, sometimes what we sense around someone on our Controlling Cycle can be more than a slight sense of discomfort, depending on whether they control us or we control them.

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Can Love Bloom Again — 25 Years Later?

Dear Vicki: My husband and I divorced years ago. We never had children, which was fine with me since I spent almost every hour of the day building my medical practice. Apparently it wasn’t fine with Jim because he remarried within a year of our divorce and had two children with his new wife. We both stayed in Albany. Our paths rarely crossed, but in the little spare time I had, I did think of him a lot. Now, twenty-five years later, he is a widower and manages the restaurant he has owned for decades. I am retiring and wonder if there is any possibility that we might try again. I was an idiot to leave him, but now that I’m done working I think things could be better. I’m new to the Five Elements but suspect I’m a Metal and Jim is probably an Earth. Signed: Alone in Albany

 

Dear Alone: This is certainly an intriguing question. The Five Elements can help us understand each other and ourselves. They can explain why some connections are harmonious and others discordant. They can even predict what issues we might have when we interact with someone. But they can’t really explain love. Love is, well, sort of mystical and a connection of the soul. The Five Elements are part of our personality.

That said, it sounds like you might still love your ex-husband. If that’s the case, there’s no harm in reaching out to see where things might stand for Jim. You don’t mention how long ago his second wife passed, but that might make a difference in the reception you receive from him. Earths cherish long-term relationships and don’t let go of them easily. He might think it strange that you are contacting him now, or he might welcome a connection from the past. With Earths, it’s hard to say, so you’ll just have to take your chances. But before you do call Jim, it might help you to consider why your marriage to him failed in the first place and if things might really be different for you a second time around.

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Water Friend Freezes After Marriage

Dear Vicki: I need help with my best friend who has really changed. Tammy and I have been close since grade school, but things are really different since she got married. She used to be a real carefree kind of girl, but when she started dating Fred, that changed. They just got married (I thought it was too soon, we’re all only 19), but they say they’re in love. Anyway, Fred is a super-serious person (personally, I think he’s a boring, demanding snob) and I’m afraid he’s changing Tammy. She’s withdrawn from me and seems cold and critical. I’ve only been invited over to their new apartment once. The Five Elements model is new to me (my mom shared it with me), but since Tammy is a great artist (and sometimes moody), maybe she’s a Water? Mom says I’m an Earth. Can you help me get my best friend back? Signed: Lonely in Louisiana

 

Dear Lonely:The transition from childhood to adulthood is rarely easy. I agree with you that 19 years old seems young to make the serious commitment of marriage, but I know dozens of couples that married young and grew old together. I also know many young couples that were unable to make marriage work and simply grew apart as they continued growing up. It’s understandable that you will feel “displaced” as Tammy’s closest connection now that she’s married; that is also part of growing up. However, if we are wise, we don’t replace people in our life when we marry, we make room for more. Hopefully, Tammy will learn this, but until then I do think there is something specific you can do to try to re-establish your connection with Tammy, who does sound like a Water person.

When we marry, we combine our energies with the energies of our new spouse. That means that Tammy’s Water is constantly in touch with Fred’s Metal. The good news for Tammy is that she and Fred relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Fred’s Metal feeding Tammy’s Water. That probably feels pretty good to her and might be one aspect of her attraction to him. Interestingly, you and Fred also relate on the Nurturing Cycle, but it is your Earth that feeds his Metal, which could feel like a drag to you and be a reason you find him demanding. Another reason he might bother you – other than the fact that you feel he has come between you and your best friend – is that out of balance Metals can seem snobby and controlling, especially if they are in an excess energy place. Too much energy makes Metals inflexible and dismissive. How Tammy handles that is between her and Fred, but let’s look at what you can do to reconnect with Tammy.

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