She’s Ready to Cut Ties with Her Brother

Dear Vicki: I feel terrible admitting this, but my brother and I fight about everything. I spent most of this year arguing with Ted about whether to sell our parent’s house (Mom passed two years ago and we just relocated my father to a retirement home) or keep it for rental income. We disagreed about which facility to place him in (my brother won), what to do with all the furnishings when we moved Dad (my brother won), who should host the holidays (I won only because I pointed out that his house is under renovation), etc. I’m a nurse and Ted’s a doctor, so he often points out that he knows more about everything than I, so I should just do what he says. I’m weary of the fighting and his angry, aggressive attitude toward me. I’d really like peace in the family, so I am seriously considering breaking off ties with him completely. The desire to do this has been especially strong this fall. I hate to tear the family a part, really the idea hurts my heart, but is there ever going to be a way to fix our relationship? Signed: Weary in Wisconsin

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Dear Weary: Family dynamics can be especially difficult. As the old saying goes, we pick our friends but are stuck with our family. Your family has been through some difficult times lately, too, with the loss of your mother, the relocation of your father, and the possible sale of your family home. This level of stress tends to bring out the very best, or the very worst, in us all. And while you and your brother may never be best friends, a little understanding might help you get along when you need to. And that is where the Five Elements model can help.

Ted sounds very much like a Wood personality. Wood people appreciate prestige, and our culture certainly holds doctors in high esteem. Ted would have needed a great deal of perseverance to make it though medical school, and Wood people usually have the stamina to push through barriers and succeed at manifesting almost anything. In fact, in the Five Elements model, Wood is represented by the power of spring, an energy that brings forth life from the darkness of winter.  You, on the other hand, sound more like an Earth personality. Earth people are usually very caring and compassionate. They want everyone to be happy and are miserable when there is fighting. Few people on the planet are more caring and compassionate than nurses, so your choice of professions also supports the strong likelihood that you are an Earth personality.

If we look at the primary relationship dynamic between Wood people and Earth people as outlined in the Five Elements model, we see that they relate via the Controlling cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. This means that it could feel to you like Ted is trying to get the upper hand when you argue because, in the Five Elements model, it is Wood’s job to make sure that Earth holds strong in the face of too much neediness from others. Left to their own devices, Earths can give so much to others that they deplete themselves physically or emotionally. When faced with an Earth that is giving too much, a Wood personality will often step in and try to control the situation to protect the Earth.

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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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She Has a Difficult Relationship with Herself

Dear Vicki: I enjoy your blog and know it’s supposed to be about relationships with other people, but I’m wondering if we can use knowledge of the five elements to help get along better with ourselves. At times I actually feel like two different people. I work in a deadline-driven industry, so I’m usually focused on addressing the tasks at hand for the day. It matters to me to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. But every now and then when I notice someone who needs help, I want to reach out and connect with them, but the voice in my head tells me I have too much to do and should mind my own business. The end result is that I pass by the opportunity to express the compassion I feel, and it makes me sad. Is there something I can do to change this? Signed, Too Efficient

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Dear Too Efficient: Your question is a beautiful illustration of the fact that our personal elements can and do become out of balance in relationship to each other. As I’ve said before, we each have all five elements in our personality make-up, it’s just that one or two are the most prominent, so create the personality we manifest to the world. And even thought our primary element determines how we see things, it shouldn’t interfere with our ability to express the totality of who we are. When that happens, it can indicate that something is out of balance in the way our personal five elements are relating and interacting with each other.

In your case, it sounds like you have a primary Wood personality; Wood people do want to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. This is very important to them. Earth people, on the other hand, love to connect with and help people, so it’s likely you have Earth as your secondary element. And the fact that you are unable to express your Earth energies the way you’d like to suggests that you are manifesting too little Earth. That is often referred to as deficient Earth.

There could be many reasons for this, but given that you have a primary Wood personality which relates to your secondary Earth via the Controlling Cycle in the model, I think it’s safe to say that your Wood is over-controlling your Earth at an emotional level. Your letter didn’t mention if you’ve been more angry or impatient than usual lately, but these would be additional clues that you have too much Wood energy at the moment and it’s affecting your ability to express your Earth.

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Retired Husband Encroaching On Her Turf

Dear Vicki: My husband recently retired from running his own construction business and has gone off the deep end DOING things, including landscaping our yard. He is obsessed with envisioning, planning, shopping, building, completing. We have new decks, new gardens, a new trellis, you name it. He creates deadlines for himself, too, as if this is his job now. He has no other topics of conversation other than his ideas for the yard and I feel like he’s really overdoing it. The other thing that bothers me is that before he retired, I was in charge of the gardening; it was my world. But now he has taken over. He even waters my plants! I get the feeling that he’s laying a claim: now that he’s retired, his world will be outside and mine will be inside. But I love my garden! I don’t want to stay inside! What can I do? Signed, Desperate

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Dear Desperate: Retirement often changes a great deal in a couple’s dynamic. Roles can change, timing of meals can change, even where they live can change. The goal is to approach the changes in a balanced way, and that may not be happening for your husband right now. From a Five Elements perspective, it sounds like he may have too much Wood energy. All that you say he’s doing (envisioning, planning, building, completing) are wonderful aspects of Wood and were probably very important when he had his construction business. You don’t mention what you think his primary element is, but he’s probably a Wood personality; it’s a good element for running a business. And now that he’s retired, he probably doesn’t have the same outlets for his Wood that he used to, so it makes sense that he might seek out new ways of expressing it, including building things in your garden. However, while balanced Woods are definitely focused, they’re usually not obsessed. This makes me rather certain that he’s out of balance with too much Wood energy. So let’s see what we can do.

In the Five Element model, it is Metal’s job to keep Wood energy in check because Wood and Metal relate to each other via the Controlling Cycle with Metal controlling Wood. This means to address his excess Wood energy he needs more Metal energy. You can try to help him build his own Metal by wearing: 1) the color white; 2) a hematite pendant; and/or 3) lemon essential oil on his skin. Or you can use your Metal to moderate his Wood. Since you understand how to work with the elements and he may not, it’s probably going to be easier for you to use your Metal to help balance his Wood. It will also be an important part of your relationship dynamic going forward, and it won’t be that hard for you to do.

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Why Does She Fall Out of Love in the Fall?

Dear Vicki: Jim and I started dating 16 months ago. I believe he is an Earth/Water and I love being a Fire – it really helps me be a good teacher. Summers with Jim have been a dream; my Fire flares up and I feel free, funny, and in love with everything. But when school starts, I throw myself into teaching and our relationship takes a 180-degree turn. When that happens, Jim tries even harder to make me happy, but I want to focus on teaching my kids, so feel like pushing him away. In the Fall, I don’t have the time or energy to keep us entertained and really don’t want to owe him for all the wonderful things he does for me while I’m teaching. I know he’s just trying to be nice, so I don’t really understand my intense, angry reaction towards him. Also, Jim is a great artist, but doesn’t seem to take his career seriously. He always has work, but is so laid back about things that sometimes I want to jump in and manage his career. I do love him and want it to work between us for a long time, but why do I stop loving him every Fall? Signed: Frustrated Fire

Dear Frustrated Fire: It is absolutely possible for you to have a long-term relationship with Jim, but you will need to be mindful of your energies and manage them well. As a Fire, you know that you love connecting and having fun with people, but your Fire energy doesn’t necessarily need for those connections to last very long. On the other hand, Jims primary Earth will want lasting, long-term relationships. The good news for you is that long-term relationships between a Fire and an Earth can feel happy and natural for both people. It’s a Nurturing Cycle relationship where Fire feeds Earth. In nature, an earthen hearth is the perfect structure to hold and support fire allowing it to burn stable and steady, something that fire doesn’t often do left to its own devices. As an Earth, Jim can provide this gentle structure for you and your Fire.

One of the reasons you feel so happy and in love during the summer is that summer is your season. During summer everyone is a little more Fire as we loosen the structure of work, take vacations, and devote more time to play. Life is fun! The two summers you’ve been with Jim, you have had a ready companion to hold your Fire. I suspect you have actually been able to be more of your Fiery self your two summers with Jim because he has held the space for you. That would make your summers with Jim seem very much like a dream. But summer can’t last forever, and I think part of the problem you’re having in your relationship is the advent of Fall and the energy it brings. Autumn is Metal time and it calls us to slow down and turn inside. For you as a teacher, it also asks you to get serious about your profession. To do this, I think you allow your secondary element to influence you more than you know, and I have little doubt that your secondary is Wood.

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