Dear Vicki: Thanksgiving is less than one month away and I’m dreading it. I hate Thanksgiving. It’s so much work! I remember my mother used to cook for days to be ready for Thanksgiving dinner. And then it took hours to clean up after it. She never complained, but it must have bothered her when Dad and my brothers went off to watch football while my sister and I helped Mom clean the kitchen. My girls are teenagers now and while I’ve made the “traditional” Thanksgiving meal all of their lives, and they have helped me, I’ve dreamed about doing things differently. I want to honor the idea of being grateful – that’s the most important part – and I want my family to have a wonderful holiday, but when I suggest changing it up a little in the food department to make things easier, my husband refuses to break with tradition. Secretly, I’d like to boycott the whole holiday this year, but then I feel guilty. Am I a horrible mom? Signed: Hates Turkey
Dear Hates Turkey: The short answer is that, no, you are not a horrible mom. Actually, you seem like a pretty honest mom to me. You care about your family and want to do well for them, but you also want to make it easier for you and your girls. That is very reasonable and actually very loving. The fact that you really want to make a good Thanksgiving holiday for your family but are feeling guilty that you might not be doing enough for your family suggests that you probably have a good amount of Earth energy in your personality. Earths care about making and keeping people happy. They want to do the best they can for their friends and family. But a balanced Earth will also know when and where to draw the line so they don’t become a squishy doormat. Congratulations on knowing when to raise your hand and ask for change!
And then there is your husband. People who value traditions and want to stick with them usually have a Metal personality. As we have said here many times, Metal people focus on the past. From that perspective, they determine what has worked before, what has not, and what should be carried forward. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” is a common Metal anthem. This sounds like your husband, right? The Thanksgiving traditions have worked for him, so why change them?
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
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.
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
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.
Dear Vicki: I found your blog after searching for relationship tips between the elemental types! I know I am dominantly Fire with Wood, and my husband Jim is dominantly Metal. We have been together 10 years and there are times I still don’t feel close to him or understand how to connect with him. His “metal-ness” of being so rigid and structured confuses me a lot and I am not sure what the best way to connect with him is. At times I feel like he disapproves or judges me, and decides I am too silly! Last year our marriage was in a serious crisis and I have worked hard to bring my Fire back in control to be in the marriage and am seeking ways on how we can strengthen our bond. Any advice for a Fire and Metal marriage? Signed: Fire/Wood Wondering
Dear Fire/Wood: There are many ways to strengthen the bonds between people, and almost all of them require that both parties maintain open channels of communication and are willing to take the time to understand each other. The beauty of using the Five Elements model with relationships is that it not only helps us understand each other and our relationship dynamics, it also helps us identify the communication style that will work best with each of the elements. Let’s look at your relationship dynamics with Jim first because they do set the stage for everything else.
You and Jim relate via the Controlling Cycle, with your Fire controlling his Metal. As you probably know from being married to him for ten years, Metals are serious people who value order and structure. On the other hand, Fires are playful people who value enjoying life. Because your Fire controls his Metal, Jim probably feels threatened when you are too fiery (which he could easily see as “silly”). Fire people usually have little structure (in nature, fire is simply heat made visible) and are fine being playful and going where the moment takes them. When this happens, Metal will often up its game around Fire to bring more structure to a situation they perceive as chaos. But to a Fire, fun is never chaos, it’s just pure joy. This is likely one reason why Jim’s behavior often confuses you.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my husband. He’s a great guy and a good provider, but he’s always been a workaholic. He wanted to get ahead in his job and he did. He’s been the CEO of a small accounting firm for years, but now it’s in the midst of being taken over by a larger firm. Dan fought it, but the Board thought it was a good move, and it probably is for everyone except him; he’ll be out. Dan has always been a fighter, and his anger was a force to be reckoned with, but a few months ago that changed. Instead of an angry bull, now he’s sullen and withdrawn. I could manage his anger, but I’m not sure what to do with this. I’ve studied the Five Elements some and always thought Dan was a Wood personality, but now I’m not so sure. How can I help him? Signed: Worried Wife
Dear Worried: Dan is blessed to have such a caring wife. And while there is much you can do to help him, it goes without saying that he may also need the help of a professional counselor, so please do keep that in mind. Dan does sound like he has a Wood personality. The need for personal accomplishment accompanied with some form of recognition (title, financial rewards, visibility, etc.) does matter a great deal to Woods. They are most happy when they can keep moving toward that goal. But if something gets in their way, an out of balance Wood will succumb to anger. For them, the outward expression of anger still feels like movement, although it’s rarely very productive. In fact, the prolonged expression of anger usually ends up being counter-productive for the situation and harmful for Woods and the people closest to them. Few Woods actually want to be angry all the time and I think this is what’s driving Dan’s behavior right now. Let me explain.
When a Wood expresses anger, it’s usually because something they want to do or see happen isn’t unfolding as they would like. Woods in positions of authority often learn that the occasional angry outburst will motivate employees (and family members) to get things going to avoid additional outbursts of anger. Not a great management technique, but sadly successful in many cases. Fortunately, most Woods eventually come to the understanding that their anger isn’t doing anyone any good. When that happens, and the Wood realizes that nothing they do will get the desired results, if they are energetically balanced they will assess the situation and change tactics. But if they are unable to do this because they are either unbalanced or unable to find an alternative tactic, to avoid the continued expression of anger, a Wood can shut themselves down. And yes, this can look a lot like depression.