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.
Dear Vicki: I am writing because I’m currently at a point of overwhelm. For years I had a solid, well paid career in finance, but when it became apparent that I could not juggle work, home, and 5 children (one with complex health needs), I quit work and have been caught in caring ever since. For the past 18 years I have been the one at home who manages everything for the rest of the family. I do think I have a lot of Earth energy, I love my family, yet I feel I have let them down. I do not yet have full time work because I still have an adult son at home who can be demanding of time and attention due to his health issues. I have reached a point of sadness and frustration over this, but when I try to explain my feelings to my husband (who I think is a very Metal personality), he simply has no idea what I’m talking about. He doesn’t understand my sense of guilt over not contributing to the household – he has apparently never felt any guilt in his life – so does not know how to help. I know I can’t change the situation, but do you have any thoughts on how I can change the way I am dealing with it? I would love to find contentment. Signed: A Mom in Crisis
Dear Mom: Bless you for your willingness to be there for your family, especially the one who needs special attention. You probably do have a primary Earth personality; the desire to have a large family usually indicates an Earth personality, as does the fact that you made it a priority to stay home with your family rather than keep your job. However, that you had a career in finance for many years suggests that you probably have a good amount of Metal energy in the mix, too. You are correct that you likely can’t change the basics of your situation, but you can certainly change not only how you are dealing with it, but also how much help you have in dealing with it. There are many ways to do this, but first let’s look at what might be going on for you to create the sadness and frustration.
When Earth people are faced with a crisis at home, they usually do whatever it takes to make sure everyone and everything is managed as well as possible. The fact that you have some Metal energy in your mix will help drive a desire to do things not only the “right” way, but the best way possible. That’s because Metal people not only strive for perfection, they also honor the wisdom of the past, a wisdom that tells them what is “right” and what is “wrong.” This sense of what is right added to your Earth need to raise your children well is probably why you couldn’t manage a large family and a full-time job and do both perfectly. Not surprisingly, your Earth personality’s desire to do the best for your family won out.
Dear Vicki: My mother has always been a strong and loving woman. She is a nurse who managed (and still does) a multi-physician office while my two brothers and I were growing up, but she still had time to bake cookies and help with science projects. When her father died and living alone was too hard on Grammy, Mom moved her in with us. The problem now is that I recently received an amazing offer to teach at a nursing college out of state. I want to accept the offer, but my mother has all of a sudden turned into a mean and angry person. She actually makes snarky comments about my leaving. I know she has a lot going on at work and with Grammy here, and Dad isn’t a lot of help, but this is my chance and now I feel guilty taking it and worried that something really might be wrong with Mom. Can you help? Signed: Worried in Western Oaks
Dear Worried: Congratulations on the offer from the nursing college. It does seem like a wonderful opportunity for you and it is understandable that you would want to go. It is also understandable that your mother may be less than enthused. Let’s take a look at your likely elemental personalities and see what might be going on for your mother and how you might help.
The fact that your mother was able to run a large office suggests that she probably has a lot of Wood energy in her personality. That she is a nurse and also an excellent mother indicates that she clearly has a lot of Earth energy, too. I suspect that she is a primary Earth personality, but that her secondary Wood has been front and center for most of her adult life. It would take the Wood skills of organization and getting things done to have accomplished all she did while you and your brothers were growing up. It’s a very Earth thing to move her mother in when her father passed, but a very Wood thing to have the stamina to make it all work.
You also seem to be a primary Earth personality given your choice of nursing as a career. I’m sure this greatly pleased your mother and made for an even stronger bond between the two of you. In fact, I suspect this is part of the reason your mother is having such a hard time with the idea of you moving away. Earth people create strong bonds because deep and lasting relationships are one of the great priorities of their lives. And while at a rational level your mother is probably secretly pleased for you to have this opportunity, at a functional level it clearly isn’t going over very well with her.
Dear Readers: Today we offer another opportunity for you to get to know yourself better, or at least get to know your elemental personality better. As I mentioned last month, we each have all of the Five Elements in our personality make-up, but there is one of them for which we have a special affinity. I suggested that this elemental affinity can be likened to a primary lens through which we view the world. There are five different options for this lens – one for each of the five elements – and our primary lens affects how we interpret and respond to everything that happens in our environment. What we love, who we love, what we hate, what is easy, what is hard, you name it. The reality is that our primary elemental personality determines more than we realize regarding how we live our life.
Last month I suggested that our primary elemental personality creates predictable priorities and tendencies in our life that can be compared to joining a secret club at birth. For example, all members of the Wood club will have similar tendencies, as will all members of the Metal, Water, Earth or Fire clubs. How members of these different clubs get along in relationships has been the primary focus of this blog for years, but it’s just as important, if not more so, to know yourself and what matters to you. When you do, you not only begin to understand much of what you have done in the past, you will also be able to predict your priorities and tendencies in the future. And as we have said here many times, your relationships will start to make sense, too.
So, without further ado, here’s another up-close comparison across the five primary elemental personalities. This time we’re looking at personality-based strengths and weaknesses.
Dear Vicki: This may be an odd question, but I’m hoping you can help. My teenage daughter, Sam, is very creative and loves to design things like clothing, pottery, and even scenery for our local theater. Sam’s enthused about starting things, but once she’s in the middle of it, if the process takes too long, she loses her enthusiasm and I have to encourage her (and sometimes downright nag) to get her to finish. Sam’s very outgoing, active in student government, and does have a bit of a temper if I nag too much. I know she is busy, but I am drowning in her unfinished projects. Can you help? Signed, Soggy Mom
Dear Soggy Mom: This is an interesting issue. The fact that Sam has “a bit of a temper” and is active in student government suggests that Sam has a primary Wood personality. Wood people usually enjoy the task of running things, and anger is often a place they go when stressed. That said, conceptualization and creativity sit in the Water element, so this means that Sam must easily access the Water aspects of her personality, too. She just doesn’t stay there long enough to finish up on things, and I suspect this is partially an aspect of her Wood personality. Let me explain.
Sam uses her time playing in the creativity of the Water element to come up with lots of great ideas and projects, but it’s her Wood personality that she uses to make them happen. A hallmark of Wood is accomplishment, so this means that while Sam may love the designing phase of a project, she loves the success of the finished piece, too. But the road from the design start to the finish goes through the town of hard work, and some Woods just don’t have the patience for that. If too much time is involved, Sam might be losing interest in her projects and therein sits the problem. It’s not that Sam is lazy, she’s just not engaged anymore. And that’s the kiss of death for Wood people – they don’t do boredom well.