My blog post today is an answer to an email sent by a reader. She wrote:

Dear Toria,

An interaction I had with my husband yesterday left me feeling especially upset. Both of us work stressful jobs; I’m a project manager, and he’s an accountant. We’re involved in our grown children’s lives, and we’re active at our church. Basically, our weekdays are very full. Our weekends have one fun day and one chores day. For me, chores day includes doing the laundry. I even fold everything, and then leave it on our bed so each of us can put our own clothes away.

We both had a stressful week last week. So last night when my husband came to our room to put his clothes away, he condescendingly accused me that I don’t how he likes his jeans folded.

That got me really angry!

I washed and dried his damn clothes for him. Why does it matter how I fold his jeans? What’s his problem?

Signed: Washed Out in Illinois

Here’s my answer:

Dear Washed Out,

I must admit your email made me smile. Depending on our elemental personalities, doing household chores can bring out both the best and the worst in us.

Earth personalities usually like doing laundry because it lets them focus on improving something. Clean clothes definitely are an improvement! Water and Fire personalities usually only do laundry after they run out of clean clothes to wear either because they got lost in a creative project or a good book (Water personalities) or were busy with friends (Fire personalities). Wood personalities generally view chores as things that have to be done so they can get on to something else. And Metals usually do laundry on a specific day and at a certain time and take special care in how the laundry gets done, because they believe there’s a right way to do everything.

I think these traits are the cause of your laundry issues: You definitely are not a Metal personality. But you definitely married one!

The way Metal personalities approach the world matches with the mindset needed to be a successful accountant. There’s not only a right way and a wrong way to do things, there’s also a right place, a right time, a right procedure, and so on. And all of those aspects have to be honored.

In the Five Elements Philosophy, Metal personalities occupy the end position in the cycle. This allows them to gain a clear understanding of the things that work and the things that don’t. Based on this understanding, they construct the rules, the protocol, the hierarchy, and son on, regarding what they view as the optimal approach to things, whether it’s accounting, or laundry, or everything else in between. Frankly, they’re usually spot-on in their observations.

But you sound like a Wood person. It takes keen planning and organizational skills to be an effective project manager. This describes the Wood personality exactly. Details are far more important to Metals than they are to Woods. So it makes sense that while you care that the laundry gets washed, dried, and folded, you care less about just how it’s folded. But your husband, as a Metal, clearly does care how it’s folded.

How can you iron this wrinkle out?

It’s important to remember that in the Five Elements Philosophy, you and your husband relate to each other with his Metal controlling your Wood. At best, this dynamic between you feels like he’s got your back. At its worst, especially in stressful times, it feels more like he’s throwing up brick walls in your path at every turn.

Another important component of the energy dynamic between the two of you is the difference in how your personalities approach tasks. For example, Wood personalities generally won’t follow a recipe. They generally have an idea of the ingredients that go into a specific dish, and add things as their mood strikes them. However, Metals usually follow a recipes to the letter because in their view, the recipe is the utmost authority on how to achieve the optimal outcome. Metal personalities approach nearly everything in this manner, whether it’s cooking, or laundry, or accounting: There’s a right way to do the task and there’s a wrong way, and for a good reason. Who’d consider doing anything in a way any other than the “right” way? Busy Wood personalities think in that way. Wood personalities gladly would sacrifice a small amount of perfection to serve accomplishment and efficiency. But don’t worry—you can address this.

Kindly ask your husband why he cares so much how you fold his jeans. He might have a reason that’s important to him, so you may decide to honor it. If you choose not to honor it, mutually agree with him that you’ll leave his laundered jeans neatly laid out on the bed so he can fold them the way he wants to. Metals usually do have good reasons for the things they seem inflexible about. Understanding their reasons can help you find a good way to approach them.

And if you’re both under stress, you need to find effective ways to de-stress. If there’s something you enjoy doing together that reduces your stress levels, you should do that. But if not—if it means that you go jogging while he tinkers with the car—you each need to do what you know will work to lower your stress levels. The good news is that both Wood and Metal personalities appreciate structure. If you can incorporate regular stress reducers into your routines, you’ll bring your elemental personalities back into balance. The end result will be that the troubles you’re experiences will “come out in the wash” (sorry, I had to!). Best wishes to you!

Love, Toria

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