He Cheated, But I Want Our Marriage to Work

Dear Vicki: Cal and I met when we were in law school. He was smart, funny, and very outgoing. I was more serious but somehow, we clicked. We married right out of law school and life was fast-paced and passionate. We worked hard, but I could always count on Cal’s teasing and humor to keep us connected. He went into trial law and I took the corporate route. But two years ago, right after our daughter was born, Cal won a high visibility, important case and things changed. He worked longer hours, played harder, and has been around less and less. I’ve left my firm and am trying to make a good home for the three of us, but he’s hardly ever here, which isn’t the right way to run a marriage. And when he is home, we fight and there’s no passion left. I finally confronted him last month and he admitted that there’s someone else who, as he puts it, is more fun than I am. I still love him and want Alma to have a full-time father. Can you help? Signed: Jilted in Jersey

Dear Jilted: This is a complicated situation, as you no doubt know. I do think there are actions you can take that will make a difference, but first, it’s important for you to understand the dynamics in your marriage. This will help you build on your relationship’s inherent strengths and hopefully avoid some of the more likely pitfalls.

The way you describe Cal in law school, it sounds like he was manifesting the primary elemental personality of a Fire.  Fire people are outgoing, funny, and love living life large. They also love connecting with new people, even if just for a short time. But Fire people lack the structure usually required to succeed in law school, so Cal has to have a strong secondary elemental personality that helps him out in the structure department. The most structured of the elemental personalities are Wood or Metal, and given his choice of trial law, I suspect his secondary personality is Wood. Wood people like being visible.   

That means getting ahead, defending the underdog, and winning (and winning and winning) will all matter greatly to him. And now that he’s become very successful, it will matter even more. So while he may be a primary Fire personality, it’s likely that he’s stepped more into the Wood part of his personality these days. And as you’ve seen, the Fire/Wood personality combination can make for an excellent, and usually extremely successful, trail attorney.

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Current Events Stress a Relationship

Dear Vicki: I’m having an issue with my husband of three years and hope you can help. Jax is a wise and kind guy who’s really into things being done the “right” way. When he’s stressed, he can get pretty dismissive, but other than that we usually get along really well. Recently, though, we had a significant argument about the upcoming elections. I can’t believe what’s happening in our country and am terribly concerned. Jax just shrugs and tells me not to worry. But so many people are hurting in so many ways, how can I not worry? And how can he be so seemingly indifferent about something so important? Does he even have a heart? What can I do to convince him that he needs to care more? Signed: Worried Wife 

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Dear Worried Wife: Yours is not the first letter I’ve received about current events here in the U.S. This is not a blog about politics, but fortunately for your situation, I think the issue is less about politics and more about understanding each other. I can’t help you with specific election issues, but I can help you understand some of what’s going on between you and Jax. Much of it has to do with the interaction between your elemental personalities, so let’s start there.

Based on the way you describe Jax, I think it’s safe to say he is a primary Metal elemental personality. Doing things the “right” way, an ability to stay detached, and becoming dismissive when stressed are all pretty characteristic of the Metal personality. And you are clearly a primary Earth personality. Caring what happens to people and a tendency to worry are two very dominant characteristics of Earth people. So, what does that mean for your relationship? To answer that, we will look at our ever-popular Five Elements model.

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A Perfectionist Drowning in Stress

Dear Vicki: My husband Roland is a truly kind person, but he has a deep appreciation for structure and doing things the “right” way. For almost twenty years he has managed an art gallery and done it very well. The gallery had grown and taken on dozens of new artists, and Roland personally championed each of them. But since the pandemic hit, Roland has become judgmental, overly critical, and even somewhat sloppy. The gallery has reopened, and sales are picking up, but Roland isn’t getting back to his usual self. I’ve tried to support him by bringing cookies and his favorite lunches to the gallery – and even tried flirting with him – but nothing seems to work. In fact, the gallery is doing fine these days, but he seems to be getting worse. Help! Signed: Misses Her Man

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Dear Misses: Roland is a lucky guy to have someone who cares about him so much. Bless you for trying, but I suspect that flirting (and lots of cookies) aren’t enough to get him back to his usual self. Given how you describe him, Roland’s primary elemental personality is likely Metal. The fact that he has a “deep appreciation for structure and doing things the ‘right’ way” strongly suggests Metal. People with a primary Metal personality are usually wonderfully structured perfectionists, until they become stressed. When that happens, they can become a dysfunctional version of their normal selves.

If, in the face of stress, the distortion is toward too much Metal energy, an out of balance Metal person will seem domineering, controlling, and dismissive. Conversely, too little Metal energy will usually manifest as an inability to determine what’s important (confusion), which makes the Metal person more critical. It’s a subtle, but important distinction because it will determine the best way to help the stressed Metal personality. Based on your description, it sounds like Roland’s Metal energy is depleted, and in truth, it’s not a big surprise.

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She Changed, He Changed, Now Their Marriage is in Trouble

Dear Vicki: For the first time in almost 35 years of marriage, my husband and I are having trouble. Our children are raised and on their own, we are financially settled, but are fighting like we never used to. If I look back at when things changed, it was probably five years ago when my brother died and I had hip replacement surgery. Instead of the fun-loving, happy homemaker I had been, I became a warrior determined to come back better than ever. Initially, Brad was very supportive and encouraging, but not anymore. Once I recovered, I found that I actually liked being more assertive, even if it meant I was often angry or frustrated. But apparently Brad doesn’t like it. He’s been uncharacteristically opinionated and cruel, is working longer hours, and generally seems to be pulling away. I love him. Is there hope for us? Signed: Stumped in Stockton

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Dear Stumped: Of course there’s hope! There’s always hope. But there’s always change, too, and it sounds like you may have changed quite a bit five years ago when you faced the dual challenges of major surgery and the loss of your brother. Significant events in our life can and do change us, sometimes on a temporary basis and sometimes more permanently. So, let’s look at the ways the events of the past five years might have changed you and how you can work with that to rebuild a happy relationship with Brad.

You say that you were a “fun-loving, happy homemaker” before the surgery, but then you became a “warrior” while recovering from the surgery. And now you actually like your more assertive self. It sounds like pre-surgery you were probably acting like a primary Earth personality (happy homemaker) with a secondary Fire personality (fun-loving). However, post-surgery, you’re clearly acting like a primary Wood personality (warrior and assertive are both excellent ways to describe the primary Wood personality). So how could you have changed so much?

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Husband Unhappy with their Daughter and Grandson Back Home

Dear Vicki: I’m hoping you can help me sort things out with my husband, Weston. Our oldest daughter divorced last year and when the pandemic started, she moved back home bringing her active two-year-old son because his daycare closed. Fortunately, we could turn Weston’s basement study into an apartment for Stacy and Jimmy, and things have worked out well. At least I think so. But since they’ve been with us, Weston has really changed. I thought this would be a great time for our family with Stacy managing her IT team from here and Weston’s promotion (he’s a hydraulic engineer and also manages a team from home). It seemed so perfect! We’re all here! But apparently not. My previously optimistic, go with the flow husband has become a gloomy cynic who ignores Stacy, picks on Jimmy, and eats potato chips like there’s no tomorrow. He’s gained 30 pounds! What can I do? Signed: Worried for Weston

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Dear Worried for Weston: As you no doubt know, these are difficult times for most people in one way or another.  Many people are working from home these days and for some it’s heaven, but for others, not so much. Yet I don’t really think the working from home is Weston’s issue. Rather, I think many of the recent changes in his life are negatively affecting his primary elemental personality. So, let’s take a look at that.

I suspect that Weston is a Water personality. After all, he’s a hydraulic engineer: a water specialist! But he’s clearly an out of balance Water person. And given everything that’s going on around him, I think it’s safe to say he’s experiencing a low ebb. When someone’s Water energy is in a deficient state, they can feel disconnected from things around them and become pessimistic, cynical, and yes, gloomy. They can also crave salt, which explains the potato chips. I think if we look at what’s been happening in Weston’s life the past several months, we’ll be able to identify some of what’s causing him to be so out of sorts.

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