He Can’t Stand Her Clutter

Dear Vicki: My sister recently shared something that has me really upset. After less than a year of marriage, her daughter and new son-in-law are having marital troubles. Betsy is a nurse, Stuart is an architect, and the problem is that Stuart has very little tolerance for clutter around the house. But sweet Betsy excels at creating clutter because she loves her doll collection and has plastic sacks of projects (sewing, knitting, etc.) strewn all over. Really, the few times I’ve visited I have to agree that their house was sort of a cluttered mess. But my sister said that the final straw was when Betsey wallpapered Stuart’s home study with a cheery floral print. Apparently, Stuart not only didn’t like her choice of paper, he was also quite miffed that she left the ladder and brushes in his study. I love my niece, and she seems very happy in this marriage, so how can I help her? Signed, Anxious Auntie

celtic logo

Dear Anxious Auntie: The issue of “clutter” is an age-old problem that frequently defies definition because one person’s cozy decorating is another’s overwhelming clutter. As individuals, we have fairly ingrained behaviors regarding how we manage our personal space. But when we marry, or even just decide to cohabitate with a group of friends, we suddenly merge two (or more) personal spaces into one. Sometimes that goes smoothly, but usually it’s a humbling lesson in the art of compromise. How many marriages hit the rocks because the cap isn’t on the toothpaste? How many squabbles stem from dishes left in the sink? The short answer is a lot, so let’s see what we can do to prevent Betsey and Stuart from becoming another statistic in the category of failed marriages.

Based on your descriptions, it seems likely that Betsey is a primary Earth personality and Stuart is a primary Metal personality. Nurses are walking examples of the tender caring that Earth people love to shower on others. And Stuart’s skill at architecture speaks to the logic and rationality inherent in Metal people. The good news is that they are in love. The not so good news is that Earth and Metal people will usually clash on what they want in terms of the look and feel of the space they inhabit.

Continue reading

She Can’t Stand Her Brother’s Girlfriend

Dear Vicki: My twin brother Peter and I were very close growing up, but he went to college out of state and never moved back home. We’re 23 now and he’s hinted about getting engaged to Jessie, a girl he met while a student in college. She, however, was not a student – she is six years older than we are and was a waitress when they met. He’s clearly in love and has their whole life planned out, but the few times I’ve met her have given me grave concerns regarding their potential life together. Peter’s a serious guy, a real homebody, who works for an animal rescue service in the town where he and Jessie live. She is still a waitress, but apparently likes to go out with friends when she gets off work and sometimes doesn’t get home to Peter until after midnight, which is so not right. How is this going to be any kind of a marriage? He’s talking about children with her, too, but what party girl makes a good mother? That’s not the way things are supposed to be, but Peter defends Jessie no matter what I say. It’s absurd! I’m too busy with my job as a programmer to go try to talk some sense into him again, but what can I do? Signed: Disgusted in Detroit

celtic logo

Dear Disgusted: Bless you for wanting what’s best for your brother. As twins, it was probably very hard for you when he went away to college; twins are used to being and staying close. It’s also probably hard that Peter has chosen not to move back home and is, apparently, creating a new home with Jessie. Clearly, this is not what you think should be happening and that’s understandable. However, from a Five Elements perspective, it is also understandable that Peter would be attracted to Jessie, that Jessie would be attracted to Peter, and that you would have problems with their relationship. So let’s see what we can to do help you understand what is going on.

To use the Five Elements model to help sort of the relationship issues between you, Peter, and Jessie, we need a sense of the primary elemental personalities for the three of you. Your upset that Peter hasn’t done things the way you think they’re “supposed to be,” along with your job as a programmer, suggests that you likely have a primary Metal personality. Metal people work well with detail and have the focus and thoroughness necessary to be a good programmer. They also expect life to follow a prescribed pattern and unfold in an orderly fashion. When that doesn’t occur, they can easily become upset and sometimes judgmental.

Continue reading

Alone Time and Relationship

Dear Vicki: My husband of 15 years and I divorced two years ago. It was his choice and very difficult for me; I crawled into a hole for quite some time. Recently, I’ve started dating a nice fellow I’ll call Tom, but I’m having trouble figuring him out. Sometimes he’s sensitive and caring, and sometimes he’s aloof and distant. When he’s in his caring place, we get along great. But when he’s off on his own, I tend to drift away, too, which I don’t think speaks well for a future together. I do love time alone – I’m an art therapist so enjoy my painting – and Tom is an attorney who spends a great deal of time at work. Do you think we have a chance of making it work? Signed, Can This Work

celtic logo

Dear Can This Work: First, let me say that I pretty much believe any relationship can “make it” if both parties understand the dynamics of their connection and are willing to work with them. There will be ups and downs, of course, but these can be predicted based on your elemental personalities. Knowing what your personal tendencies are in a relationship will always help build on the ups and smooth over the downs.

It sounds to me like you may have a primary Water personality given your love for art and an appreciation of time alone to paint. Creativity of all kinds sits in the Water element. But the fact that you use your talent to work as a therapist suggests that you also have a strong amount of Earth energy in your personality, too. Earth people love helping others, and they also value home and family. Your concern about being able to “make it work” with Tom speaks to a desire for a long-term relationship, which is also very important to Earth people.

As an attorney, it’s very likely that Tom has a primary Metal personality because it takes an appreciation of detail and hierarchy to practice law. Metal people also require time alone to work, which would explain his tendency to distance himself from you at times. And when Metal people become overworked or tired, they can come off as aloof, so I think it’s a pretty good guess that Tom is a primary Metal personality. However, his sensitivity and caring with you suggests a good amount of Earth energy in his personality, too.  Bottom line: In your relationship with Tom he brings Metal and Earth personality tendencies and you bring Water and Earth personality tendencies.

Continue reading

Finding True Love

Dear Readers,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In the spirit of the day, I am reposting a letter from last year that really sums up how useful knowledge of the Five Elements can be when looking for true and lasting love. Enjoy!

Vicki

heart red clipheart red clipheart red clip

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 find the right guy. All I want is a happy home and family. Signed: Unmarried in Marengo

celtic logo

Dear Unmarried: It sounds like you’ve had quite an experience relating to different kinds of guys. I’m so sorry your marriages haven’t worked out, but I do think there is a Five Elements explanation as to why. Let’s take a look at your primary elemental personality and the personalities of your three husbands to see what we can learn so that marriage #4, whenever it happens, is a wild success.

Based on your overwhelming desire for a happy home and family, I think it’s safe to say that you are a primary Earth personality. 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 your secondary personality. Bless you on staying positive. But be mindful to keep yourself balanced because too much Earth (desire for a relationship) and Water (trust that everything will be perfect) together can create a lot of mud, which usually lacks clarity and focus. And these 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 each other if they try. This means you can “pick” whomever you fall in love with, but then make sure you take the time to determine their elemental personality 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 personality. 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.

Based on your letter, it appears that you have been married to a Wood person, a Metal person, and a Water person, in that order. Technically, your first marriage had every chance of working. Even though Earth and Wood relate on the Controlling Cycle, an Earth wife and Wood husband recreate what was considered the “perfect” marriage in the 1950s. The Wood person’s desire for success and accomplishment provided the financial means to support the Earth person’s desire for a home and family. There’s no way to know exactly why your first marriage failed, but perhaps your husband’s secondary personality got in the way. He clearly didn’t have a secondary Earth personality or the two of you would probably still be together. Instead, his desire to climb the corporate ladder and have someone a bit flashier at his side suggests that Fire might have been his secondary. If so, your secondary Water personality would have been problematic for his secondary Fire (Water controls Fire); there were probably times he felt like you rained on his parade. But Earth people value loyalty and he clearly was not able to give you that, so the bottom line is that it wasn’t a good match.

Your second husband was probably a Metal person given his desire to move halfway around the planet all alone to study a chosen topic. Metal people tend to be loners who will go the distance (sometimes literally) in search of knowledge. And even though the two of you related on the Nurturing Cycle (Earth feeds Metal), it was your energy feeding him. I wonder if there were times you felt he drained you. That can sometimes happen with an Earth/Metal relationship since Earth people want to give and Metal people often feel they deserve the attention. It’s unlikely that Husband #2 had Earth as a secondary personality either since it wasn’t difficult for him to leave the relationship for his chosen work in Africa. Instead, I suspect he had Water as a secondary, another loner element. But more importantly, Earth and Water relate on the Controlling Cycle, so even though Earth’s version of control is very gentle, it can still feel “containing” to Water, which wants to go with the flow no matter where the flow goes.

Interestingly, your third husband was also probably a primary Water personality; creativity and imagination sit in the Water element. Your Earth personality could have felt supportive and stabilizing to him, but it also might have felt slightly controlling, especially if your Earth was out of balance. It’s likely you desperately wanted this third marriage to work, so could have tried harder to please him than necessary, or wise. Too much Earth energy usually feels cloying and restrictive to Water people. Also, artists often find their “muse” in someone radically different from them. In this case, I suspect his muse was a Fire person, the yang to his yin, the light to his dark. This opposing energy could hold them together, or they might tire of the differences and separate. But if this happens, please don’t go back with him; he has clearly proven he is not the right person for you.

Instead, try to hang around people who are Earth or Fire personalities. Another Earth person will value home and family as much as you do. In fact, two Earth people together usually live for home and family. But they need to be careful to stay balanced and not give everything to the other person or they risk falling into co-dependency. However, should you fall in love with an Earth, if you stay balanced and present with each other, you will probably feel like you have finally found heaven.

Fire is another element that could work well for you. Fire people like connections just as much as Earth people do, and since Fire feeds Earth on the Nurturing Cycle, you will feel seen and appreciated in an Earth/Fire connection. You will also have a great deal of fun. That said, most Fire people don’t value long term connections as much as Earth people do, nor do they like to stay home as much as Earth people tend to. But if you are up for having parties at home and going out a lot, you could find a relationship with a Fire person to be enjoyable and satisfying. Especially if that Fire has Earth as a secondary.

The truth is that you will probably find lasting happiness in a relationship with anyone who has Earth as a primary or strong secondary personality. To meet Earth people, get out and do the things you enjoy because other Earth people will enjoy them, too! You might try a series of cooking classes or perhaps a course on home decorating. If you aren’t doing this already, I encourage you to volunteer for causes that matter to you because many of the people there will also have Earth personalities. And let your friends know you’re interested in dating teachers, people in the healthcare field, and social workers. These are all areas often filled by Earth personalities. Most importantly, give it time and be yourself. Your Earth personality will attract someone who values what you value, I promise. I wish you all the best and may cupid find you soon!

cupid

Her Husband is Ignoring Her

Dear Vicki: I’m married to a workaholic! Jason goes to work early, stays late, takes calls on weekends, and is forever checking his cell phone. We’ve been married for 10 years and during that time he’s done well in his law firm. But now he’s obsessed with becoming a partner, so all he cares about are his numbers, referrals, and keeping a high profile. When I mention quitting my secretarial job to start a family, which he knows matters a lot to me, he says it just isn’t the right time for him yet. That may be, but this isn’t just about him. My biological clock is ticking and I’m worried I’m running out of time. This whole thing is exhausting. What can I do to get back the loving and attentive Jason I married before he went to law school? Signed: Alone in LA

celtic logo

Dear Alone: The short answer to your question is that you will probably never “get back” the Jason you knew in college. Time takes us forward into new experiences and these experiences change our views, priorities, and goals. Hopefully, your relationship with Jason is strong enough to morph with these shifts. It’s likely you knew Jason wanted a career in law before you married him, but perhaps you were unaware of what that might entail. And even if you were, the reality of life with an attorney may not be all you’d hoped. So let’s see if there are ways we can help you adjust, adapt, and possibly even feel better.

The fact that Jason is an attorney suggests that he is probably a primary Metal personality. Metal people are excellent with detail, hierarchy, and protocol, all of which are very important in the practice of law. However, his strong drive (even need) to make partner in his firm suggests that he also has a lot of Wood energy in his personality. The self-esteem so important for most Wood people usually comes from doing a brilliant job and succeeding. And within the structure of a law firm, the young attorneys who bill the most hours – meaning they work the most hours – usually get the best reviews and the promotions. Jason is being true to his combination of Metal and Wood personalities: he is playing by the rules of the game to get ahead.

Continue reading