Dear Vicki: I want to be married and in love, but I’ve been divorced three times. Even though I was so sure I’d found true love with each guy, the relationships didn’t last. My first husband and I married young – we were only 19 – but we were in love and wanted the same thing: a home and family. Or so I thought. He left me for his flashy young secretary who was a better fit as he climbed the corporate ladder. Husband #2, a college professor, left to accept a fellowship to study primitive tribes in Africa. And Husband #3 is an artist who found his muse in the woman who runs a local gallery. They live together in a loft now. I honestly thought each of these men was my true love, a person I could grow old with. But now, at 37, I’m wondering how to pick the right guy. I’m new at the Five Elements, but am pretty sure I’m an Earth. Is there a certain element I should pick? I want a home and a family. Signed: Unmarried in Marengo
Dear Unmarried: It sounds like you’ve had quite an experience relating to different elements. I think you are correct – you are most likely an Earth. Home and family are very high on their list of priorities. The resiliency you’ve shown and hope you continue to hold out for a lasting marriage suggests that you might have Water as a secondary. Bless you on staying positive. But be mindful for yourself that you keep your energies balanced. Too much Earth (desire for a relationship) and Water (trust that everything will be perfect) can create a lot of mud for you. Mud usually lacks clarity and focus, which are important to have when entering into a relationship. Information about the person and their personality tendencies is important, too, but selecting a life partner isn’t as simple as finding a “positive” elemental match. The Five Elements model shows us that all of the elements can get along well with the others.
Honestly, you could “pick” whomever you fall in love with, but then make sure you take the time to determine their primary element so you can understand what their priorities will be in life and relationship. I also suggest that you help them understand what your priorities are as an Earth. Too often we tend to trust “love” as being all we need. And while it’s extremely important, I also believe that we need understanding and acceptance if any relationship is to go the distance. So in the name of that understanding, let’s take a look at what might have unfolded at an elemental level in each of your previous marriages.
Dear Vicki: I love New Years resolutions! Committing to what I want to accomplish next year makes me happy. Unfortunately, my husband hates the idea! Every year it’s impossible to get him excited about sharing thoughts for the coming year. And when he does finally agree, it’s like the Grinch is here to stay. I’m dreading January this year because I know it will just be one more fight about resolutions. Of course, I could make them alone, but we’ve been together a long time and so much of what happens in my life involves him. How do I get him excited about New Year’s resolutions? Signed: Resolutions for Me
Dear Resolutions: You don’t mention what elements you and your husband are, but based on your letter, I can make an educated guess. Because you enjoy coming up with resolutions for the New Year, I suspect that you are most likely a Wood. The arena of focus for Wood is the future, and there is nothing more future-oriented than resolutions. Honestly, they’re really nothing more than glorified plans for change, and Woods are excellent planners.
The fact that your husband hates resolutions (rather than just finding them boring, pointless, or silly) suggests that he has a lot of Metal. The arena of focus for Metals is the past; they excel at synthesizing the events that occur over the course of a cycle, be that a month, a season, a lifetime, or longer. Metals are brilliant at looking backward and bringing wisdom forward. But it’s often difficult for them to project themselves into the future; they just don’t think that way.
Our culture definitely focuses on New Years resolutions. But the fact that so many people embrace the practice of making resolutions doesn’t suggest that we’re a world of Woods. Rather, I think it suggests that each element can and does have a connection to the idea of a fresh start. We just need to understand that connection. Let’s take a closer look at how each element might respond to the idea of New Years resolutions, and then we’ll consider how you might encourage your husband to embrace them.
Dear Vicki: I’m familiar with the Five Elements model and how the elements keep each other in balance by either giving energy or taking it away. And in the model, that makes sense. But when that gets applied to people, I don’t understand how controlling someone can be good. My husband is an Earth and I’m a Water, so this means his Earth controls my Water. But I can tell you from personal experience, things don’t feel that good sometimes. Can you please give some real life examples of Water/Earth Controlling Cycle relationships that are positive? Thank you. Signed: Confused About Control
Dear Confused: This is an excellent question! Most people have a negative reaction to the idea of being controlled and that’s certainly come up in several of these blog posts over the years. Cutting something back doesn’t seem good because in our Western culture we often live by the maxim, “Bigger is better!” But in the East, where the Five Elements model originated thousands of years ago, a condition of too much is just as bad as a condition of too little. Said another way, inherent in the Five Elements model is the truth that bigger is usually not better. Instead, when there is too much of any element, it is necessary and good for the whole to reduce that element to help retain balance. And in the abstraction of the model, the element is happy to be reduced so that the whole can remain balanced.
When applying this to people, we usually don’t like being reduced, especially in the West with our “more is always better than less” approach to life. But still, when we are stressed, there are times that someone stepping in to guide, protect, cool down, relax, or counterbalance us is good. And these are all aspects of what one element can do for another in a Controlling Cycle relationship.
(Dear Readers: This is the final “oldie but goodie” post from the first year of our blog. It addresses several key relationship dynamics between the elements and makes a good final summation in our review. Enjoy!)
Dear Vicki: I’m a Wood married to a wonderful guy, but I’m having a hard time nailing down his element. A well-known Five Elements lecturer told me that my husband was “parched Earth, all dried up and just not there.” That made sense to me because I don’t see him as overly nurturing; in fact, at times he seems rather sharp. He is thin and strong (even at 62), he’s been an engineer and is now a doctor, and often calls himself the machine (he keeps working on whatever has to get done). His weak system is his gut in a way that affects his ability to eat most foods, and he was raised in a military family. In general, he’s usually intense, but I do sometimes see a softness to him that is such a contradiction, especially when he makes me treats like my favorite tea and snacks or does the dishes. He helps the neighbors a lot and will not harm a living creature. Can he be a parched Earth, and what does that mean? Signed, Very Confused
Dear Very Confused: Calling your husband a parched Earth that is “dried up” and “just not there” implies that your husband doesn’t have enough Earth available to him to access on a regular basis. There are many reasons someone won’t manifest much of a particular element, but the most basic options are:
- The missing element could be their fifth element; the one they have the least of in their makeup.
- The element could be lacking for them, meaning they were born with it and something about their life made it impossible for them to express it safely.
- The element could be depleted, meaning that their overall energy system is deficient in that specific element. This could be because that element is: a) over-controlled by an element on the Controlling Cycle (for Earth, it would be Wood), b) underfed by the element in front of it on the Nurturing Cycle (in this case, Fire), c) used up by the element that follows it on the Nurturing Cycle (in this case, Metal), or d) overworked from trying to control an abundance of the element it controls on the Controlling Cycle (for Earth that would be Water).
The concept of “parched Earth” implies that the Earth is there but has been impacted in a way that makes it unable to manifest. This rules out Option 1 (that it’s his fifth element) and leaves us with Option 2 (Earth lacking) or Option 3 (Earth depleted).
Dear Vicki: I am happily married to a wonderful, sensitive fellow who is very inspirational. We have been married a long time and I love him dearly. He is retired now from his position as a researcher, and even though he excelled at that, I suspect he is a primary Water. And that’s my concern. Since retiring, he seems stuck and unable to act on many of the “new” ideas he has for himself. He is initially very enthusiastic about a particular topic but doesn’t seem able to follow through, so quickly loses interest and moves on to the next idea that attracts him. He is very intelligent but seems to fear not being able to do things perfectly enough to share with the world. I am an Earth with secondary Metal and want to help him, but am afraid that my Earth will feel overly controlling to his Water. What can I do? Signed: Hoping for Action
Dear Hoping: You have described your situation perfectly. Because you relate to your husband on the Controlling Cycle (Earth controls Water), it could be cause for concern if your Earth came on too strong with your Water husband. But let me remind you that, while the other elements “control” by decreasing an element’s energy, Earth controls by guiding Water. In nature, think of the way earthen banks guide the flow of water through lakes, rivers, and streams. This makes Earth the perfect element to provide structure for Water. Without structure, Water will spread and dissipate. So you can be a great help to your husband, but for more reasons than just your Earth.
Your husband had a successful career as a researcher, which means he possessed enough structure to accomplish whatever he set out to do. Research is usually considered the domain of Metal because it requires looking into what has already happened, discovering how different pieces of history and fact fit together, then determining how they answer the question. This looking back, synthesizing, and selecting what to take forward is pure Metal. I think this makes your husband a Water/Metal who used the structure of his secondary Metal to accomplish what was necessary during his work life. And in truth, his Water would have brought creativity and imagination to his work, another factor in his success.