They Don’t Need Another Mother

Dear Vicki: I am writing regarding a family problem in the wake of my mother’s passing one year ago. Mary, my mom’s younger sister, was incredibly close to mom and often acted like she resented that mom had three children and a husband to attend to. Mom adored us all, but our family’s relationship with Mary was often quite difficult. Since mom died, even though the three of us are adults with our own children, Mary seems to think she has to play the role of our mom now. She gets very annoyed if we don’t call her or get in touch. She always wants to know what we’re doing and has strong opinions about whatever it is. My sister and I can find a place to connect with her because we’re both artists, but my younger brother Frank feels very frustrated by her constant questioning of his life and the choices he’s made. He’s actually quite angry with her and just recently snapped at me, “We already had a mother; we don’t need another one!” If it helps, Mary lives the artist’s life nearby and doesn’t need work beyond that because she parlayed an excellent investment into a permanent income stream for herself. None of us really enjoy Mary, but she is the only member of my mom’s family left and families should get along, right? Do you have any suggestions for how we can get on better with her? Signed: Pretty Fed Up

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Dear Pretty Fed Up: Ah, the joy of family interactions, so often fraught with misunderstanding and tension! Please remember that even though you are all from the same family, that in no way guarantees that getting along will somehow be easier. In truth, the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt often applies to families. The more acquainted we become with a person, the more we know their shortcomings, making it easier to dislike them. But it doesn’t change the issue that Mary is family, and as you have discovered, there is rarely an easy answer regarding how to shift unwanted behaviors. However, we do have our trusty Five Elements model to help make sense of the relationship, so let’s see what we can work out to help you change what is going on with your Aunt Mary.

As a full time artist, Mary likely has a primary Water personality. Creativity and imagination sit in Water, as does a tendency to have poor boundaries. In nature, water conforms to any container offered, but lacking a container, it flows all over the place. Mary clearly has never had good boundaries regarding her relationship with your family. Our culture generally gives priority to marriages and the families they produce, but while your mother was alive, Mary apparently felt her sibling relationship with your mother should be the top priority.

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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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Did She Share Too Much, Too Soon?

Dear Vicki: I’m in my mid-twenties and have been dating Aaron for almost six months. We really click and our time together has been a blast. We’ve been to lots of amazing restaurants – I’m a real foodie – and also spent time in places he enjoys like museums and science lectures. Things were going really well and I assumed we were headed for a permanent relationship. So two weeks ago, I shared with him that I got pregnant at 18 and put the baby girl up for adoption. Letting her go (especially to a closed adoption) was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I knew she needed more than I could give her at that point in my life. Especially because my parents and the father wanted nothing to do with her. Since I told Aaron this, he hasn’t exactly dumped me, but he has definitely pulled back. I asked if what I shared bothered him, but he says it’s just really busy at the engineering firm where he works. What can I do to make things right? I really love him. Signed: Iced Out in Inglewood

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Dear Iced Out: Your desire for honestly is commendable, and there was probably no perfect time to share that kind of information with Aaron. It is true that someone contemplating spending the rest of their life with you needs to know about your baby, but for a number of reasons, it appears Aaron wasn’t quite ready. Let’s take a quick look at the dynamics of your relationship and see what we can do to help you through this.

Putting someone else’s needs over your own as you did when you allowed a couple to adopt your baby says that you probably have a lot of Earth energy in your personality. Foodies usually have a lot of Earth, too. The fact that you perceived you and Aaron heading for a permanent relationship also supports the likelihood that you are an Earth personality because Earths see every relationship through the lens of possible permanence. Aaron, on the other hand, sounds like he could be a Metal personality. Metals love the past and exploring history in museums. They also love understanding how things work (hence the science lectures). The fact that he’s an engineer also supports the idea that Aaron is a Metal person. Engineering is all about developing the best possible way to do something, and Metals strive for perfection.

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Is Her Partner Disconnecting?

Dear Vicki: I just read your excellent post on help for a Metal husband and Fire wife and I wonder if you could comment on the variation I think I have going on. I am a Fire/Earth and use Wood for structure. My partner is Metal, but he is an artist so I think there’s a fair amount of Water in there, too. Anyway, we’re having problems. I drive him nuts with all my home projects and inability to sit still for a whole movie or TV show. He drives me nuts with his laser-focused attention that resents interruption whether working or relaxing. He doesn’t understand why it bothers me when he doesn’t answer a question. He decides if he thinks it needs an answer, and if he doesn’t think so, he is mum. I’ve tried to be patient with him because he recently lost a close friend, but it’s not working. I worry he might be pulling back. When we first got together, I felt our Earths bond strongly, but over time this has become intermittent. When stressed, I am drawn outdoors where I work on significant flower and vegetable gardens and a flock of chickens and a few fish in the pond.  He hates gardening and yard work. Maybe you could suggest another way to bring up his Earth? Signed: Nuts in Nevada

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Dear Nuts in Nevada: This is an excellent question. On the surface, it does seem like the information offered last week to a Fire/Metal couple should fit for you and your partner. However, I believe that there are more differences between the two couples than similarities. First, I suspect that you are really an Earth/Fire, not a primary Fire. My reasoning for this is that when stressed, Fires rarely seek solace outside with gardens, chickens, and fish. Instead, they usually seek events with other people where they can feed their need for excitement and connection. So your question is more about making a relationship work between an Earth/Fire and a Metal/Water. And I can tell you right up front that more Earth energy isn’t going to help, so let’s look at what will.

First, as with most relationships, it’s important to understand the underlying dynamics between you and your partner. In fact, it is more important in your relationship than with many others. As you know, your Earth will feel good to his Metal because Earth feeds Metal on the Nurturing Cycle. Metals expect this from Earths. However, your Earth relates to his secondary Water via the Controlling Cycle (Earth directs Water). More importantly, your secondary Fire relates to his primary Metal on the Controlling Cycle, (Fire melts Metal). That isn’t going to feel good to him at all. But turnabout is fair play, because his secondary Water relates to your secondary Fire via the Controlling Cycle (Water puts out Fire).

The takeaway from all of this is that the only Nurturing Cycle connection in your whole primary/secondary relationship complex is your Earth feeding his Metal. Every other connection you have with him is via the Controlling Cycle. Your Earth controls his Water, your Fire controls his Metal, and his Water controls your Fire.

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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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