Dear Vicki: I’ve been dating an artist for three months and we’re really good together in many ways. Obviously, Craig’s creative, but he’s also very mellow and not overly fussy. We have great discussions and he takes my opinions seriously, which is a refreshing change. I’m having trouble getting people at work to take my suggestions seriously. It’s really frustrating; like I’m talking, but they don’t hear me, so I’m not getting ahead quickly. Anyway, I like Craig a lot, but there is something about him that’s really hard to take. If he says he’ll call on Monday, he might not call until Wednesday. Or if he’s supposed to pick me up at 6:00 pm, sometimes he doesn’t show up until 7:00 pm. This makes me angry. How can I get Craig to change without spoiling what we have? Signed, Angry in Annapolis
Dear Angry in Annapolis: It’s encouraging that you and Craig are doing so well given how very different your tendencies are. You like punctuality, he’s more go with the flow, and both of these can be traced back to your primary elemental personalities. So, let’s take a look at what those might be.
You’re frustrated at work by the fact that no one acknowledges you and you aren’t getting ahead quickly. This is really typical of a primary Wood personality. And Craig, as a mellow artist who loves discussions, seems to be pretty stereotypically a primary Water personality. As you have discovered, there are some pretty significant differences between these two elemental personalities, as well as definite issues associated with each.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my son, Kirk. He’s a quiet, loner kind of teen and a very talented artist. Last fall Kirk signed up for a drafting class with a teacher I’ll call Mr. Lane. Kirk loved the artistic aspects of the class and appreciated the structure Mr. Lane brought. All was well until Mr. Lane received our district’s Teacher of the Year award. According to Kirk, after that Mr. Lane began demanding greater accuracy and precision from this beginning drafting class. He also started bragging about the award and other accomplishments he’d had that the students would probably never obtain. Kirk is having a really hard time with this and wants to quit the class. Is there anything I can do to help him stay in a class he loved? Signed, Mom Who Cares
Dear Mom: It’s very unfortunate that a class Kirk so enjoyed has taken such a turn for the worse. And of course, it’s a difficult situation because Kirk is in no position to challenge how his teacher acts. But I do think there is a very definite elemental personality interaction occurring between the two, so let’s see if we can offer some assistance to Kirk.
You describe your son as a “quiet, loner kind of teen and a very talented artist.” In the Five Elements model, this would equate to the Water personality. And based on your descriptions of Mr. Lane, it sounds like he is a primary Metal personality; precision and structure are hallmarks of the Metal element. It says a lot about Kirk’s flexibility that he was able to embrace the structure Mr. Lane brought to the drafting class. Water people usually don’t appreciate someone interfering with their “go with the flow” nature. Clearly, your son is open enough to being guided (which can also be a Water energy trait in balanced Water people) that he embraced Mr. Lane’s direction. Good for him.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my partner Lizzie. We’ve run a small auction business for several years and have done really well. I love seeing what comes in and the challenge of researching its history. I run our office, but Lizzie literally runs the auctions. She is engaging, outgoing, funny, and makes running the events look easy. Or at least she used to. Our auction house burned down several months ago and while I took it philosophically—that’s what insurance is for—Lizzie was devastated. I’ve done everything I can think of to get her to see things the way I do, but nothing I’ve said or done has perked her up. Not even breaking ground for our new building. It’s like she’s really burned out or something and the more I try to help her, the worse she gets. I’m fine doing this alone, but I miss Lizzie’s sunshine. How can I help her get enthusiastic again? Signed, Gloomy in Glendale
Dear Gloomy: I’m so sorry about the fire. It’s surely a traumatic event for both of you, but based on your primary elemental personalities, it is probably something that will be easier for you to get over than for Lizzie. But there are ways for each of you to heal, so let’s look at your primary elemental personalities and see what we can do.
The fact that you manage the details of the business, love to research the history of the pieces that come in, and have approached the fire in a philosophic fashion makes me suspect that you are a primary Metal personality with a secondary Water personality. The Metal part of your personality will absolutely love the history of the pieces you sell because Metal people tend to appreciate the past. And no elemental personality does details like the Metal personality. However, your philosophic approach to the fire and loss is something we often see in the Water personality. Water people care less about things and more about ideas and meaning. You don’t mention it, but it wouldn’t be out of character for the Water part of your personality to wonder what the meaning was behind the fire or why the fire happened at all.
Dear Vicki: I’m wondering if you can help me with my new boyfriend. I’ve been dating Skip ever since we met at a friend’s party about six months ago and it’s been a blast! He’s funny, outgoing, and really exciting to be with. His hobby is stand-up comedy and he focuses on performing for charity events. He’s got a big heart, too. The problem is that I’m also funny and outgoing, so there are many times when we seem to be competing for the spotlight. We aren’t seeing other people anymore, but do we have a chance of staying together? Signed, Funny in Fresno
Dear Funny: Do you and Skip have a chance of staying together? Absolutely! Any relationship can work if we take the time to understand each other and our relationship tendencies. And that’s where the Five Elements model comes in – it’s a wonderful tool for understanding our personalities and how they relate to each other. In your case, it’s pretty easy to determine what elemental personalities you and Skip have. As outgoing, funny people who enjoy the spotlight, it’s a good bet that you and Skip are both primary Fire personalities.
A big priority for Fire personalities is connecting with other people, and parties are a great place to do that. The challenge is that Fire people also love to keep moving, so not many of their quick meetings from parties turn into long-lasting relationships. The fact that you and Skip are still together six months later speaks well of your chances. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that there are very specific challenges that come with a Fire/Fire relationship. Knowing them upfront will help a great deal.
Dear Vicki: Max and I have been close friends since childhood. We met at a child’s reading event at the local library when we were 9 years old and bonded over the books. Growing up, Max was a quiet, go with the flow kind of guy and I was a quiet, go with the flow kind of girl. We hung out a lot. But during college, Max really started to change. The first Christmas vacation back home we went to a poetry reading together (Max loved to write poetry), but he seemed cold and withdrawn. I wondered what was going on, but he never mentioned any problems at school, so I never asked. But by the time we graduated from college last year, Max was a different person. These days, his easy-going nature is completely gone and he’s become very precise and rigid. What happened to my old Max? I don’t know if it will help, but I’m a children’s librarian and Max is a computer programmer. Signed: Missing Max
Dear Missing Max: Childhood is a wonderful time of imagination, play, and discovery. As we’ve said here many times, regardless of our primary elemental personality, we all use a great deal of Water energy during childhood. If we are also a primary Water personality, our love of books, going with the flow, creativity, and the other aspects of the Water personality will stay with us as we grow.
However, if the Water personality aspects we manifest during childhood change as we grow, it is possible that our primary elemental personality really wasn’t Water, we were just in the Water phase of life. It’s also possible that the changes we manifest as we grow are because we have learned to lead with a different elemental personality for any number of reasons, even though our primary personality was, and still is, Water. And I think that might be what has happened for your friend, Max.