Dear Vicki: I read your post last summer about the woman whose new husband and son butted heads all the time. I have the opposite problem and wonder if you can help me. Last year I married Ted, a divorced father with joint custody of two very active teenage sons. My 10-year-old son Sam and I moved in with Ted and the blended family thing is working pretty well except for one big problem: Sam is miserable and pulling away from Ted. In an effort to bond, Ted wants to play ball with Sam and take him to sporting events or even war movies, but Sam just isn’t into those things. He likes his time alone to read and draw. I’ve tried to explain to Ted that Sam is different from his sons, but he just rolls his eyes and questions whether we’re going to raise a wimp. How can I help Ted and Sam get along? I love them both and want everyone to be happy in our home. Signed, Worried in Washington
Dear Worried: First, let’s focus on the positive fact that Ted wants to do a good job raising Sam. That means he cares. Second, Ted is approaching the challenge of getting along with Sam like someone who has a lot of Wood energy in his personality. Competition is key to a Wood’s approach to life, and nothing says competition like sporting events and war movies. But Sam clearly isn’t a Wood person. Preferring time alone to read or draw sounds a lot more like a Water personality.
In the Five Elements model, Wood and Water relate to each other on the Nurturing Cycle, so you’d think the relationship between Ted and Sam would be naturally nurturing. And it can be. However, this particular Wood/Water relationship is a parent/child connection (or at least step-parent) where the child’s Water feeds the parent’s Wood, and this will make a subtle difference in the dynamics of the relationship. We’ll come back to that later, but first we’re going to talk about the most dramatic issue between Wood and Water, and that’s the concept of structure.
Dear Vicki: I hope you can help. After 10 years as a single mom/widow, I recently married a guy I really love who brings a great deal of stability to my life. Brad is a smart go-getter who I believe has a lot of Wood in his personality. Unfortunately, my teenage son is also a smart go-getter who has a lot of Wood in his personality. When Brad and I first started dating, he and Gordy (my son) got on great. They played football, discussed sports, and even went driving together in Brad’s sports car. But that all changed when Brad moved in after the wedding. Now, life here is like The Battle of the Titans. I had such hopes for a happy and harmonious family life, but this is absolutely crazy. I love them both, so what can I do? Signed: Weary in Wisconsin
Dear Weary: You have described life with two Wood people very well; it can be a constant battle. And since both guys love you, it’s not surprising that they were both on their best behavior during the courting period. Woods like to make good impressions because what people think about them matters a lot. From Brad’s perspective, he knew you and Gordy were a package deal, so would have put almost as much energy into impressing Gordy as he put into wooing you. And from Gordy’s perspective, the idea of a cool step-dad after no father figure for 10 years was probably appealing. But as you have discovered, the reality of day-to-day life with two Wood guys living in the same house can be a challenge. So let’s look at ways to make this situation work for everyone.
As you know if you’ve read anything about the Five Elements model, the elements all relate via the Nurturing or Controlling Cycles. For example, while you don’t mention what element you think is primary in your personality, your desire for “a happy and harmonious family life” suggests that you have a lot of Earth energy. Home and family matter deeply to Earths, and conflict of any kind is painful for them. Woods and Earths relate via the Controlling Cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. But because Earth is involved, it is a gentle type of control (unlike, for example, Water controlling Fire where Water actually diminishes Fire by putting it out). In nature, Wood “controls” Earth by using its root system to stabilize the ground. Brad’s presence feels stabilizing to you because, at an elemental level, it really is. And in some ways, Gordy probably felt stabilizing to you, too. As you have discovered, the problem isn’t you with either of your guys, it’s the two guys together. That’s because they have the same elemental personality.