He Complains About The Way She Does Laundry

Dear Vicki: I had an incident with my husband yesterday that has left me surprisingly upset. We both work full time jobs (I’m a project manager for a construction firm, he’s an accountant), try to stay involved with our grown children, are active in our church group, and basically have very full days. Weekends we usually have one fun day and one day for chores, which for me includes the laundry. I wash, dry, and fold everything, then leave it on the bed so we can each put away our own clothes. It had been a stressful week for both of us, but last night when it can time for him to put away his jeans, he rather condescendingly said, “How many times do I have to tell you how I like my jeans folded?” Well, I got really angry. He gets his darn clothes washed and dried; does it really matter how they are folded? What’s going on? Signed: The Laundry Lady

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Dear Laundry Lady: I have to admit I smiled when I read your letter. Doing laundry can often bring out the best or the worst in most of us depending on our elemental personality. Earth people usually enjoy doing laundry because it allows them to focus on improving something about their home (clean clothes are a definite improvement!). Wood personalities usually find it a chore that has to be done to get on to something else (“the only way out is through”). Fire and Water people usually end up doing laundry only when they run out of clean clothes because they’ve either been busy with friends (Fires) or lost in a book or creative project (Waters). And Metals usually do laundry regularly on a specific day and time and take special care in how that laundry is done. That’s because Metals believe there is a right way to do everything. And I think this is the root of your laundry woes: I suspect that while you are not a Metal personality, you certainly are married to one.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, the mindset it takes to be a good accountant matches well the way Metal personalities approach the world. Not only is there is a right (and wrong) way to do everything, there is a right time, a right place, a right procedure, a right regulation, etc. And they all must be honored. In the Five Elements model, Metal people sit at the end of the cycle and this vantage point bestows upon them the ability to glean from the cycle an understanding of what worked and what did not. From this understanding they create the hierarchy, protocol, rules, etc. regarding what they perceive to be the optimal way to approach everything, be that accounting, laundry, or anything in between. And honestly, they are usually pretty spot on in their assertions.

You, on the other hand, sound like a Wood personality. It takes keen organization and planning skills to be a successful project manager, and this exactly describes the Wood personality. Details are way less important to Woods than they are to Metals, so it’s understandable that, while you will care that the clothes are clean, dry, and folded, you will care less exactly how they are folded. But as a Metal, your husband clearly does care how they are folded. So how can you smooth out this wrinkle?

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Control a Red Hot Issue for This Metal

Dear Vicki: Your last blog post about the positive aspects of control was really interesting, but like you said, having Earth as the controlling element is hitting the jackpot. Earths are gentle and kind. I’m not so lucky – I’m a primary Metal, which means Fire is my control. Too much time around Fire people is hard on me; they aren’t sweet and “guiding” like Earths. They are much harsher. How can control be a good thing when the element controlling you destroys you? Signed: Melted Metal

Dear Melted Metal: You are one of several emails I received regarding last week’s blog. There is definitely a bit of control envy out there. Everyone wants Earth on their Controlling Cycle! And I do understand. As a Wood, interactions with Metals, my control element, can feel tough even when their “pruning” is well intentioned. But there is great wisdom in the Five Elements model! Think of it: A sweet Earth wouldn’t have a chance of controlling a rampaging Wood because Wood has way too much structure for an Earth to oppose. Instead, it’s Metal, the most structured of all elements, that controls the excessive Wood. But while Earth cannot control Wood, that Wood structure is perfect for helping stabilize the over-energized Earth. Landslides are impossible on a well-wooded slope.

As a Metal, nothing stands up to your structure, but when you’re in a place of excessive Metal, more structure is the last thing you need. What you really need is to release some structure and the heat of Fire is the perfect way to bring flexibility to Metal. In truth, no element destroys another; they just bring balance. Fire decreases the too structured Metal and gives it flexibility. Metal prunes the over-expanded Wood to keep it from toppling. Wood anchors and prevents the Earth from sliding. And just to complete the cycle, Water prevents Fire from burning too hot and destroying itself.

The brilliance of the Five Elements model is that the element controlling you is just what you need to address an over-energized state. But this is still fairly abstract, so let’s look at a few real life examples for the Controlling Cycle relationships not covered last week. We’ll start with your Controlling Cycle relationship first.

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