Ask Vicki: Relationship Advice Using the Five Elements

Two Similar Guys, Two Different Relationships

Dear Vicki: I am a nurse supervisor and have studied the Five Elements for some time but have never used them in my relationships. Lately I’ve been trying it out with my family, but I’ve hit on a point of confusion. I’m pretty sure I’m a Wood personality (and as a nurse, I know I have a lot of Earth energy, too) and I grew up with a brother who drove me crazy. Not only was he older, but I understand now that he was probably a Metal personality, which puts him on the control cycle to my Wood. We get along better as adults, but he’s still prone to arguing with me (which shouldn’t be too surprising – he’s a successful trial attorney). I’m pretty sure my husband is also a Metal personality, but we rarely argue; I find him supportive and loving, and so do his patients (he’s a pediatrician). Why is my relationship to these two Metal personality men in my life so different? Signed, Wondering

Dear Wondering: This is a great question! First, let’s get some basics out of the way. While I’m sure you love both of your Metal men, it’s a familial love with your brother and a romantic love with your husband. Years of family dynamics can set a tone for sibling relationships that perpetuates conflict. Also, the hormones involved with romantic relationships often help increase harmony which means that your marriage will probably have a bit of an edge in the “getting along” department versus your relationship with your brother. It’s not going to make a huge difference in how your Wood personality relates to their Metal personalities, but it is worth noting.

That said, the biggest factor in the difference between the relationships you have with your two Metal guys is going to be in their secondary elemental personalities. Our secondary elemental personalities absolutely affect how our primary personalities express, so that means two Metal personality guys can come off quite differently.

As a trial attorney, I think you’re correct that your brother’s primary personality is Metal since that would make it easier for him to work with the minutiae of the law. But to be an assertive and successful arguer, which good trial attorneys usually are, your brother’s secondary elemental personality is likely Wood. This means not only would his Metal personality control your Wood personality (as you noted, Metal controls Wood via the big star in the Five Elements model below), but his Wood personality probably competes with your Wood personality. And since Wood people don’t like to compete and lose, I suspect there might have been some lively fights between the two of you growing up (and maybe even now).

On the other hand, as a pediatrician, your husband probably has a strong secondary Earth personality. His primary Metal personality would have been important in getting through med school, but it’s his Earth energy that guarantees he will excel at working with children in a kind and compassionate way. And given you are a nurse, I agree that you probably have a strong secondary Earth personality, as well. That means that the relationship dynamics with your husband probably come more from the compatibility of your joint secondary Earth personalities and much less from the Metal /Wood control issues of your primary personalities. Another plus for you and your husband is that you’re both in the medical profession, which means you appreciate and understand each other’s work life.

The bottom line is that it’s highly likely that everyone’s secondary elemental personalities have made your marriage a match made in heaven while adding tension to your relationship with your brother. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have an unpleasant relationship with your brother forever. Yes, a loving connection between your primary Wood/secondary Earth and your brother’s primary Metal/secondary Wood might not seem likely at first, but there are aspects of this connection that can be very positive.

The most important point is that your Earth energy feeds your brother’s Metal energy via the Nurturing Cycle (the big circle) of the model. This means that Metal people usually feel nurtured and supported by Earth people. So, if you approach your brother less from the Wood part of your personality and more from the Earth part, you might find the relationship shifting to a kinder, gentler version of itself. Not only does Earth feed Metal, but family sits in the Earth element, so bringing more of that to your interactions with your brother will emphasize his Earth (wherever it is in his energy field) and familial connections.

One word of caution: You want to avoid your Earth reaching out to the Wood part of your brother’s personality. If you do, that could take you right back to feeling controlled since his Wood energy relates to your Earth energy the same way his Metal energy relates to your Wood energy (both are Controlling Cycle relationships). The best approach with your brother is going to be keeping your caring and compassionate Earth connected to the rational and reasonable Metal aspect of his personality. An easy way to do this is to focus on family (which will emphasize your Earth) and the past. Metal people love the past (Wood people love the future). You might start with sharing memories of fun family times.

I truly believe that you can create a better relationship with your brother by emphasizing the Earth part of your personality when you are around him, just as happens automatically with your husband. When you do, it’s very likely that you’ll have great relationships with both of your Metal men!