Distance Growing Between Son and New Husband

Dear Vicki: I read your post last summer about the woman whose new husband and son butted heads all the time. I have the opposite problem and wonder if you can help me. Last year I married Ted, a divorced father with joint custody of two very active teenage sons. My 10-year-old son Sam and I moved in with Ted and the blended family thing is working pretty well except for one big problem: Sam is miserable and pulling away from Ted. In an effort to bond, Ted wants to play ball with Sam and take him to sporting events or even war movies, but Sam just isn’t into those things. He likes his time alone to read and draw. I’ve tried to explain to Ted that Sam is different from his sons, but he just rolls his eyes and questions whether we’re going to raise a wimp. How can I help Ted and Sam get along? I love them both and want everyone to be happy in our home. Signed, Worried in Washington

celtic logo

Dear Worried: First, let’s focus on the positive fact that Ted wants to do a good job raising Sam. That means he cares. Second, Ted is approaching the challenge of getting along with Sam like someone who has a lot of Wood energy in his personality. Competition is key to a Wood’s approach to life, and nothing says competition like sporting events and war movies. But Sam clearly isn’t a Wood person. Preferring time alone to read or draw sounds a lot more like a Water personality.

In the Five Elements model, Wood and Water relate to each other on the Nurturing Cycle, so you’d think the relationship between Ted and Sam would be naturally nurturing. And it can be.  However, this particular Wood/Water relationship is a parent/child connection (or at least step-parent) where the child’s Water feeds the parent’s Wood, and this will make a subtle difference in the dynamics of the relationship. We’ll come back to that later, but first we’re going to talk about the most dramatic issue between Wood and Water, and that’s the concept of structure.

Continue reading

She Can’t Relate to Winter!

Dear Vicki: This isn’t really a question about a relationship with another person, it’s more about my relationship to a season. I hate winter and actually think I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because I’m always so depressed during the winter month, no matter how beautiful people say they are. I hate being cold! Even worse, I’m pretty sure I’m a Water personality, which makes winter “my” season. Yuck! So why do I hate it so much? Dreading Winter

celtic logo

Dear Dreading: This is an excellent question at an excellent time. Winter is just around the corner. In past posts we have touched on the fact that the seasons absolutely affect how our personalities manifest. During the season associated with our element, we often feel more “ourselves,” as if the incoming energy reminds us of who and what we are. For example, my Wood personality is all about getting things done, which is the hallmark of spring. So right around the middle of March, I usually do feel like I’m waking up from a long winter nap and am ready to take on the world. The incoming energy of spring helps me get going in a way that thrills my Wood.

We can also feel more balanced during a season that isn’t our primary energy, but is one that we really need. So if I’ve been going full speed ahead all spring and summer, the energy of autumn will help me slow down, not just because the days are shorter, but because it’s the energy of Metal, which sits on my Controlling Cycle. Autumn helps my productivity-oriented Wood slow down and stay balanced. And if my Wood is depleted, winter can be a great time because the Water energy of winter feeds the Wood element. But it doesn’t work that way for other elemental personalities, so let’s see what can be done to help you.

Continue reading

Best Friend Can’t See Her Boyfriend is Cheating

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m pretty sure that my best friend’s boyfriend is cheating on her. Bev and I have been besties since grade school. She’s sweet and kind, loves people and animals, and is studying to be a nurse. She and Jake (who spends more time skiing or playing ball than studying for the college business classes we share) have been together for a year and she’s convinced he’s “the one.” The problem is that lately I’ve seen Jake hanging with Ellie, the “hot” girl from our high school class, a lot. I’ve hinted at it to Bev, but she just smiles and says they’re old friends. They certainly look like more than friends to me, which really makes me angry! So what do I do? I want to shake Bev and tell her she deserves better than Jake. Why can’t she see it? Signed: Loyal Friend

 celtic logo

Dear Loyal Friend: Bev is very lucky to have a friend like you. And as her friend, you are definitely in a difficult place. The relationship between Bev and Jake is private; it’s really no body’s business but theirs how they handle it. That said, it does sound like Bev believes it’s a monogamous relationship and Jake may have different ideas. The other issue at stake is your relationship with Bev. You do risk looking like you’re butting in if you pursue this too strongly. The last thing anyone in love wants to hear is that their best friend thinks their boyfriend is a jerk. So, you need to tread lightly here. But treading lightly doesn’t mean doing nothing, so let’s take a look at the relationship dynamics at play between you, Bev, and Jake and see what might make sense.

Your description of Bev indicates that she is clearly an Earth personality. Earths are usually sweet and kind, they usually do love people and animals, and they make wonderful nurses (and friends). You and Jake, on the other hand, both sound like Wood personalities. Your anger over Jake’s potential betrayal of your friend is characteristically Wood. Jake’s interest in Ellie, the popular girl from high school, is also characteristic of a Wood. Being important matters to Woods and they often borrow their importance from the people with whom they associate. Dating the hot girl could definitely make Jake feel good about himself. Finally, Woods are frequently drawn to business as an occupation – hard work can create significant personal success – so it makes sense as a career path for both you and Jake.

Continue reading

Her Mother’s a Better Grandma than a Mom

Dear Vicki: I need help relating to my mother. When I was growing up, she never acted like my friend’s moms; we had no cookies, no cuddles, nothing warm and fuzzy. Instead, we had rules and order in a well-run household of five (she had three children). But now that I’m grown, she treats my children very differently. They get cookies and treats! Honestly, if I wasn’t so busy at my accounting firm, I’d be a little worried she is spoiling them. And where was this side of her when she was raising me? Signed: Daughter of a Changed Mom

 celtic logo

Dear Daughter: This is an excellent question because it offers an opportunity to discuss an aspect of the Five Elements personalities called “lacking.” As we have said in this blog many times, we are born with all five elements in our personality make-up. But one of the elements takes center stage as our primary element and it’s through the filter of this element that we live and interact with the world around us. Sometimes, however, even though we are born with an element in a primary position, something in our life can make it unsafe or undesirable for us to express that elemental personality. Then as we age, life shifts enough for us that we can eventually begin expressing the suppressed element. When that happens, it can look like we’ve experienced the mother of all personality changes (pun completely intended).

I suspect that your mother might have been born a primary Earth personality and for some reason in her childhood, it became necessary for her to suppress it. Perhaps her parents were concerned that she was a clingy child (Earths usually need close relationships more than other elements) and chastised her for that behavior. Or maybe organization and process were so highly valued in her family that she worked to manifest those traits, which are attributes of a Metal personality, to win the approval so desired by her Earth. If that structured behavior was sufficiently reinforced for her, she well might have carried her Metal approach to life into her mothering since raising a family the “right” way would be very important to both a Metal and an Earth (lacking or not).

Now that you’re grown and are a mother yourself, your mother might feel it’s safe to venture into the “warm and fuzzy” Earth arena with your children because you are providing structure for them. I say this because, as an accountant, you likely have a true Metal personality style yourself and Metals believe structure is very important. In a way, your easy ability to create the well-run household she tried to create as a mother might be allowing her to explore her natural Earth personality.

Of course, this will feel very odd to you. As a Metal child, you would have naturally expected Earthy mothering from your mother because Earth and Metal relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model with Earth feeding Metal. You might have resented the lack of cookies and cuddling from her that your friends received from their moms. But hopefully, your Metal personality appreciated the structure your mother brought to the home and family. You should also be grateful that your Metal personality mom would not have brought the over-involvement and smothering attention that can easily occur when there is too much Earth energy in a parenting style.  It’s probably not lost on you that, in fact, you are likely mothering your children the way you were mothered.

In truth, it sounds like you don’t have time to bake cookies and fuss over your children a lot yourself, so it could be a blessing that your mother is available to do so. Your children certainly appreciate their Earthy grandmother and it takes some of the pressure off of you. It does sound like a win-win for all as long as you can move past the fact that your children are receiving a benefit from your mother that you didn’t have. And I’m sure you can; Metal personalities detach easily once they see it is the right thing to do.

But there is one more important point to consider here. Your mother expressing more Earth energy in her personality is a blessing for your family, but it is also something to celebrate for her. It means she may finally be comfortable expressing her true self, which is an important step: At a personality level, she is coming home to herself in a very healing way. And honestly, it can be a healing for you, too, if you allow it. It’s never too late for cookies and cuddles, whether you are a Metal or Earth mother or daughter. I encourage you to embrace and enjoy both!

baking

 

 

Family Reunions: A Waste of Time if You Aren’t Family?

Dear Vicki: My partner Cam and I have been together for five years. We’ve seen each other through college graduations, lost jobs, new jobs, multiple apartment moves, you name it. We both take our careers seriously (me as an investment banker, Cam as a sous chef), but I think I drive myself more than he does. Anyway, his family is having a first-ever extended family reunion next month (probably 100 people or so) and he’s excited to go. I, on the other hand, would rather take a pass. It will involve out of state travel, a day away from work, and spending lots of time with people I’ve never met. Of course, I know the right thing to do is to go with Cam, and that’s what he wants, but it seems like a colossal waste of time for me. Work is particularly busy right now and I can think of a dozen things I’d rather do with free time, especially catch up on projects at work. I wouldn’t expect him to go to my family reunion (if we even had one), so how can I explain to him that I think he should go enjoy his family on his own? Signed: Busy in Bentonville

 celtic logo

Dear Busy: Unless they have a lot of Fire energy, few people look forward to spending time with a crowd of strangers. Fire energy loves the excitement of connecting with new people, especially in a fun surrounding, and you clearly are not a primary Fire personality. Given that you mention some aspect of work five times in your letter, I suspect you are a Wood personality; career success and getting ahead really matter to Wood people. Also, Woods like predictability in their life and environments, so a large gathering of strangers will seem chaotic to a Wood. It’s no surprise you would rather take a pass. However, being in a committed relationship means that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do for the sake of your partner, so let’s see if this might be one of those times.

Given that the family reunion is important to Cam, and his profession involves a love of food, it’s a pretty easy guess that he has a lot of Earth energy. Earth people not only love food, they love family and deep, long-term connections. In fact, weaving people together in a web of strong connection brings great joy to Earths. His family is important to him, and you are important to him, so sharing the reunion with you will likely be pretty important to Cam. But I think there’s more to consider here than just whether you go to the reunion or not. I think it’s important to step back and take stock of the dynamics in your relationship with Cam and how your refusal to go with him might impact your connection.

Continue reading