Dear Vicki: My younger brother and I had a shaky relationship growing up. We never seemed to agree on anything and often took the opposite side of an issue just to antagonize each other. We’ve grown out of that to some degree, but as adults we still don’t see eye to eye on much of anything. What he thinks is important seems stupid to me. And when I make something a priority, it feels like he always questions me. We both have children now and the cousins love to get together, but it’s hard when Greg and I are so tense around each other. Is there any way the Five Elements can help us get along better? I’m just beginning to study the elements, but suspect I’m a Metal and Greg is a Wood. Signed: Always at Odds
Dear Always At Odds: In relationships, the shadowy area of priority and tendency seems to trip us up again and again. It’s not uncommon to expect our friends and family to see the reasoning behind whatever we do, but it rarely happens that way. For example, if you question your brother’s priorities and offer what are to you vastly superior alternatives, he will likely resent the interference. Or when you make decisions that fly in the face of what he thinks is smart, he’ll likely assume you’re making a mistake and challenge you, which you won’t like. This is normal and to be expected because each element has its own way of approaching everything in life.
The Metal/Wood dynamic can be particularly prickly because these two elements tend to be more opinionated than the other three elements. It’s a dynamic I know very well, too. I’m a primary Wood and my husband is a primary Metal. As a Wood, I place much more importance on accomplishment than Mark ever would. We used to argue about my workaholic ways, but he’s come to accept that it’s essential to my happiness (even though he still shakes his head many evenings as he passes my home office on his way to the TV room). Conversely, a life without order and rules would make my Metal husband miserable. We used to fight about his exacting need for detail, but I’ve come to accept it even though the tedious precision he applies toward putting together a 1500 piece puzzle sends me screaming from the room. But he’s happy with his puzzles and glad that I don’t give him grief about them anymore.