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 Instead of an angry bull, now he’s sullen and withdrawn.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.
Dear Vicki: I am writing about my spouse, Caleb. He is an elementary teacher and a truly loving husband and father. As an attorney, I often work long hours and he is always there to take care of our children, and me. Caleb is perfect in so many ways, but he does have one trait that is a real problem. When we are with friends, he tends to share aspects of our life at home that I would rather not have shared. It is nothing terribly personal, just little things that I feel other people do not need to know. I have mentioned this to him before and he says he will change, but that has not happened. I do not know that much about the Five Elements, but reading what you have on your website, I suspect Caleb is an Earth. Can you help me understand – and change – him? Signed, Private in Pennsylvania
Dear Private in Pennsylvania: This is an interesting issue. On the surface, if Caleb is sharing minor details with others, it shouldn’t matter. And it probably wouldn’t matter to most of the elemental personalities, especially another Earth. But as an attorney, you most likely have a good amount of Metal, and Metals value privacy. Metals also tend to compartmentalize aspects of their life, clearly delineating what is work, what is home, what is public, and what is private with the goal of keeping them separate. Earth people rarely make this level of distinction. More importantly, sharing what’s going on for them is an important way Earths connect with others.
You say you want to understand your husband, so let’s start there. Yes, Caleb is most certainly an Earth person. And for an Earth, building bridges and connecting with others is very important. Earths are also much less discriminating than some of the other elements, so for them a connection is a connection, no matter where it’s found. When Caleb shares information or events from his life, it’s a mechanism for weaving a bridge between himself and others. And this is usually such an automatic response in Earths that it’s likely he doesn’t stop to ponder the issue of appropriateness before he speaks. So what can you do?
Dear Vicki: I am a recently divorced Earth. My Wood husband and I separated early last year and I’d hoped we’d get back together. But several months ago he stopped by, told me it was time to get on with it, and handed me papers to sign. I was shocked. But according to my lawyer it was a fair settlement, we could get a great price for the house, so I signed. Now I feel lost and lonely. My one child is married with a family and lives out of state. She has offered for me to come stay with her, but I think that just prolongs the pain. My ex is probably right: It IS time to get on with it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine my life going forward. I really don’t want anything new. I just want my old life with my old husband and my old house. But that’s all gone. How do I start over? Can the Five Elements help? Signed: Sad and Single
Dear Sad and Single: I am so sorry you’re going through this. It is very hard to cope when change is thrust upon us rather than something we select. And as an Earth, the end of a marriage and loss of the home where you raised your daughter is even harder because home and family are so important to Earths. You don’t mention if you have a counselor, but if not, I urge you to consider one. And yes, the Five Elements do offer wisdom regarding how you can start over. It rests in the model itself.
If you look at the model, it’s actually a road map for starting and stopping. The decreasing energy of stopping something flows along the Controlling Cycle represented in the model by the star pattern. The building energy of starting something flows along the Nurturing Cycle, which is represented by the circle pattern. Because you want to start something new, we will be using the Nurturing Cycle to help you.
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.