Her Daughter and Son-in-Law are Working Too Hard

Dear Vicki: I’m very worried about my daughter and hope you can help. Karen is an attorney in her late 20s who is married to another attorney named Tom. They met in law school and married right after graduation. Karen was always a serious child who spend hours alone reading and painting, but now her life appears to be all work and absolutely no play. Given she’s in corporate law and he’s a trial attorney, the only time they seem to spend together is when they work from home on the weekends. They live in an absolutely sterile apartment (nothing cozy or homey, just empty surfaces in a metal high-rise) and eat take-out most nights. Where is their joy and beauty? How will their marriage survive? I’m concerned that Tom might be a bad influence on Karen because he seems especially focused on getting ahead. What can I do to help these two get a life outside of work? Signed, Worried Mom

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Dear Worried Mom: We all need joy and beauty in our lives. However, different elemental personalities find joy and beauty in different ways, so Karen and Tom might not be as unhappy as you think they are. In fact, they might actually be happy. But let’s take a look at the elemental personalities we are dealing with here so we can ascertain what might be going on for everyone involved. And we are going to start with your elemental personality so you can understand the framework you are using to assess Karen and Tom’s happiness.

Without a doubt, you are a primary Earth personality. Your assessment of their apartment as sterile and lacking aspects of “cozy” and “homey” are a clear indication. People with a primary Earth personality value home and family relationships more than anything else. Creating a home that is cozy matters to Earth people, as does fixing wonderful meals for the people they love. And while these things are everything to Earth personalities, they can be markedly less important to the other elemental personalities. Another clue that you are a primary Earth is the fact that you are very worried about Karen and Tom, and especially worried that their relationship could fail. Worry is where Earth people go when they are stressed, and the ending of a primary relationship is almost unthinkable to an Earth person. But while you are definitely a primary Earth personality, I can guarantee you that both Karen and Tom are not.

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Work, Family, Marriage: Can She Find the Balance?

Dear Vicki: A few weeks ago, my husband James and I arranged childcare for our three children so we could enjoy a romantic dinner out because our relationship is very important to us. Plus, I’d just finished a big project for the accounting firm where I work and James had recently been promoted to manager of his sales department, so we were both looking forward to celebrating. While we were holding hands in our romantic booth, my cell rang. Worried it might be the babysitter, I checked the number and saw that it was a coworker on my project. Thinking something might be wrong and I could fix it then let it go, I picked up the call. This didn’t go over well with James. He said this was our personal time and I should have ignored the call once I knew it wasn’t the sitter. Who’s right? Signed, Right or Wrong?

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Dear Right or Wrong: This is a great example of the significant differences between the elemental personalities and how they react in any given situation. Based on your occupations and behaviors as described in your letter, I’m going to guess that you are a primary Metal personality and your husband is a primary Wood personality. However, I also think you each have a great deal of Earth energy due to the fact that you both value your relationship so much and have chosen to have a family of three children.

In all likelihood, as a Metal person, you probably didn’t see any harm in taking a call to quickly dispense with a problem. But as you found out, your Wood personality husband clearly didn’t like his romantic dinner interrupted by your work. Let’s look at the dynamics at play here to help you better understand what happened, why it happened, and how to avoid this kind of thing going forward.

As a Metal personality, you have the enviable ability of being able to compartmentalize most aspects of your life. When you’re at work, you focus on work. At home, you focus on home. Most Metal people are great at detaching; none of the other elemental personalities can do this as well. So at dinner, it wasn’t hard for you to step out of the romance into work for a brief moment or two, fix the problem, then detach from work and step right back into the romance. Ah, that the rest of us could follow your lead.

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Ending a Relationship: Can the Five Elements Help?

Dear Vicki: This may seem like an odd relationship question, but I need help ending a relationship. Eight years ago, I divorced after five years of marriage. It was a difficult time for me so I didn’t date for several years. Two years ago I started dating a nice fellow named Chuck. It’s been fun – we certainly laugh and go out a lot – but lately he’s started hinting at marriage. I care about Chuck, but he isn’t really someone I want to be with the rest of my life. He shifts from fun Fire energy to dour Metal too often; it’s like he’s two different people, which makes me tired, so I need to end things. I’d rather find a Wood personality, someone more like myself, to settle with but I don’t want to hurt Chuck’s feelings. Is there a way the Five Elements can help make it easier to tell him we’re through? Signed: Sensitive in Seattle

Dear Sensitive: It is very kind of you to seek out a good way to tell Chuck you aren’t interested in a marriage relationship with him. And since you’ve already ended a more permanent relationship once, it is wise of you to be cautious regarding entering into another one. The short answer to your questions is that yes, you absolutely can use an understanding of the Five Elements to help you end your relationship with Chuck on a good note. But first, let’s take a quick look at why it’s not surprising that your relationship with Chuck isn’t something you want to make permanent.

Chuck’s Fire relates to your Wood on the Nurturing Cycle, which can be a good thing for a relationship. However, it’s your Wood that feeds his Fire, and that’s the reason the relationship can feel tiring for you. Too much Fire will drain your Wood energy. And if Chuck’s secondary is Metal, it relates to your Wood on the Controlling Cycle, so will feel stifling to you. Honestly, it’s surprising you lasted with Chuck for two years, but I suspect the reason you did was because you have a secondary Earth.

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Can Earth Hold Her Fire Sister?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my older sister. Based on what I’ve read, I think she’s a Fire. Jenna’s funny, outgoing, and the life of every party. There’s only three years between us and we used to be really close. We always did things together. But ever since she married Frank earlier this year, she doesn’t seem to have time for me. We still live in the same town, but now she’s “too busy” to go shopping or even meet for coffee. If it helps, she’s 26 and a popular lecturer at a nearby university. I’m 23 and an elementary teacher. What can I do to get her back? I feel like I’ve lost her. Signed: Missing My Sister

Dear Missing: This is a difficult issue. For siblings, growing up often brings a degree of growing apart. As we mature, our worlds expand and there are suddenly more people, places, and events demanding time and attention. But no matter how old we become, there are still only 24 hours in a day. As we fill our adult lives with new people and opportunities, something has to give, and that “something” is often time with parents and siblings.

You don’t mention what element you think you are, but the fact that you’re an elementary teacher and the one missing the sisterly connection suggests that you’re an Earth. They are wonderful with young children and take seriously the deep and lasting bonds of family. As an Earth, you and Jenna relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Jenna’s Fire feeding your Earth. This means that attention from Jenna feeds you beyond your sibling relationship and makes it doubly hard on you when she isn’t around.

As a Fire, increased “busy-ness” in life energizes Jenna, so she is probably very happy these days. In addition, the understandable desire to spend time with her new husband likely does draw her away from older social patterns, including shopping with you or meeting for coffee. And because deep and lasting connections are so important to Earths, the absence of these old patterns with your sister is bound to upset you.

So what can you do? A lot!

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