Dear Five Faces: My husband is retired from running his own construction business and has gone off the deep end DOING things to our landscaping: he is obsessed with envisioning, planning, shopping, building, completing. We have new decks, new gardens, a new trellis, you name it. He creates deadlines for himself, too, as if this is his job now. I’m a little worried. He has no other topics of conversation other than his ideas for the backyard and I just feel like he’s overdoing it.
The other thing that bothers me about his behavior is that before he retired, I was in charge of the gardening; it was my world. Well, he has taken over! He even waters my plants. I get the feeling that he’s making a division – his world will be outside and mine will be inside. But I don’t want to stay inside! What can I do? Signed, Desperate
Dear Desperate: It sounds like your husband is currently in a state of too much Wood. All that you say he’s doing (envisioning, planning, building, completing) are wonderful aspects of Wood and were probably very important for his construction business. You don’t mention what you think his primary element is, but it well might be Wood; it’s a good element for running a business. And now that he’s retired, there probably aren’t the same outlets for his Wood as he’s used to, so it makes sense that he might seek out new ways of expressing it, like building things in your garden. However, while balanced Woods are definitely focused, they’re usually not obsessed; I think it’s very likely he’s out of balance. Let’s see what we can do.
In our Five Element model, it is Metal’s job to keep Wood in check, so with your husband you can either try to help him build his own Metal (which would involve using his Earth to feed his Metal) or you can use your Metal to moderate his Wood. Since you understand how to work with the elements and he may not, it’s probably going to be easier for you to use your Metal to help balance his Wood. It will also be an important part of your relationship dynamic.
Ways to use your Metal with him include being rational and logical regarding his obsession around planning and building in the garden. You need to talk to him, but make sure you don’t tell him “no” or that he can’t take on specific projects. The last thing you want to do is to stop a Wood; that’s when they get angry and very frustrated. A Wood who is stopped in their tracks is like a car hitting a brick wall – it’s ugly for all. Instead, it’s wise to tell the car that there’s a wall ahead and they need to turn right or left. That channels the energy in a different direction.
And that’s exactly what you can do with your husband, you can help him re-channel his “make it happen” energy into ways that work better for you. Use your own Metal to come up with projects you’d like to see him do, then suggest them to your husband in a straightforward, rational manner. Be careful not to whine when you talk to him because that could come off as really Watery, and too much Water rots Wood. To get started, you might try saying something like, “You know, I miss my time in the garden. Is there a way I can help with what you’re doing outside?” Or, “Thank you so much for all you’re doing! I have a few ideas to add to your list of projects. Can we discuss them sometime?”
Retirement often results in significant changes in a couple’s dynamic. It’s great news that your husband still wants to use his Wood and stay busy. Just make sure you use your Metal to help keep his Wood from going wild and all will be very well. Good luck!