Twins Clash While Sheltering at Home

Dear Vicki: I have 14-year-old twins who are as different as night and day. Ted is a low-key guy who has always been happiest alone reading or watching movies. Tammy is the exact opposite. For her, everything is exciting and should be shared and celebrated at high volume. With the onset of sheltering in place, my husband is working from home and the children are doing virtual classes here, which means the four of us are spending almost every waking moment together in our small house. It’s not going well. I’ve tried to create fun and inventive family dinners, but they have degenerated to the point that Ted no longer talks because he can’t get a word in with Tammy going on and on about anything and everything. Tammy thinks Ted is a downer and Ted thinks Tammy lacks substance. My husband, an attorney, thinks they’re both spoiled brats that I clearly failed to raise well as a stay-at-home mom. I know this is a stressful time in the world, and I’m deeply grateful we all still have our health, but do you have any advice for a mom trying desperately to hold her family together during a pandemic? Signed, Battle Weary Mom

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Dear Battle Weary: Well, it sounds like your household is certainly not dull. But have faith. You are dealing with the logical extension of what I believe are four different elemental personalities confined 24/7 in close quarters while a deadly virus runs amok in the world. For most people, the pandemic has thrown everything on its head and created stressors that can bring out the best – and the worst – in all of us. But there are ways to make some sense of (and even improve on) what’s happening at your house.

First, we need to identify the elemental personalities interacting in your family. To begin with, I believe that as a stay at home mom desiring nothing more than peace in the family, you are a primary Earth personality. Your husband, an attorney who gladly delegated childrearing to you yet is quick to judge the results, is very likely a Metal personality. As for Ted, the fact that he is low-key and enjoys time alone, plus loves reading and watching movies, strongly suggests that he is a primary Water personality. And Tammy is clearly a primary Fire personality: she loves to be the center of attention, louder is usually better, and everything is worthy of celebration.

Knowing that Ted is a primary Water personality and Tammy is a primary Fire personality absolutely explains the way they interact and the fact that you consider them exact opposites. At an elemental personality level, they really are exact opposites. Let me explain.

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Can Fire/Earth Husband be the Man in the Family?

Dear Vicki: I’m a Metal with a Wood secondary married to a Fire guy who has a lot of Earth. I sometimes wonder how we’ve made it seven years when we’re so different, but we have. In the good times, Rory’s Fire keeps my Metal from getting too stuck, and I’ve definitely learned to enjoy life, laugh, and play more thanks to him. And he says he appreciates how I help hold things together for him. But lately, I feel like I’m the more masculine person in this relationship. I’m the one who sets boundaries, makes plans, keeps us on track, etc. I’m tired of that and angry with him most of the time now. I really wish he could be the man in the family, especially now when we’re facing financial problems that require careful planning and holding to a budget. I think I need to bring out his inner Wood so he can help get things done. How do I do that? Signed: Needs More Wood

Dear Needs More Wood: The issue you’re having with Rory is one of structure, so it makes sense that you would want him to manifest more Wood, which is the second most structured of the elements. Metal is the most. From a structure perspective, that means that you have as a primary and secondary the two most structured elements possible. Rory, as you know, is much less structured. In fact, his primary Fire is the least structured of all of the elements. Fire is really just light; it is heat made visible. No structure there. But Earth does have structure, and that is important.

I think it’s this issue of structure that’s fueling your belief that you’re more “masculine” than Rory. In our patriarchal culture, the masculine principle (yang) is always seen as more structured and “no nonsense.” The feminine principle (yin) is more diffuse and go with the flow. But the Five Elements model teaches us that any whole needs equal amounts of yin and yang interacting in a dynamic fashion to maintain balance. That includes the “whole” that is your marriage. As you stated in your letter, during good times you and Rory do keep each other pretty balanced. But now that you’re in a tough spot, you aren’t feeling very balanced. Let’s see what we can do to move your marriage back to balance and also provide you with support.

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