Dear Vicki: My husband and I are nearing retirement age and for the first time in our almost 35 years of marriage, we’re having trouble. Our children are raised and on their own, we are financially settled, but are fighting like we never used to. If I look back at when things changed, it was probably five years ago when my brother died and I had hip replacement surgery. I think I’m usually Earth with some Fire, and Brad is absolutely Metal, but losing my brother and having such major surgery really changed me. Instead of the happy homemaker I had been, I became a warrior determined to come back better than ever. I think I became a Wood; I had to. Initially, Brad was very supportive and encouraging, but not anymore. Once I recovered I found that I actually liked being more assertive, even if it meant I was often angry or frustrated. But apparently Brad doesn’t like it. He’s been uncharacteristically cruel, is working longer hours at his firm, and generally seems to be pulling away. I love him. What can I do? Signed: Stumped in Stockton
Dear Stumped: It isn’t uncommon to step into a different element when we need to. In fact, most of us do it automatically. If we have to give a speech, we touch into our Fire. If we need to be precise, we find our Metal. If the garden needs work, we step into our Earth (quite literally). So when you found yourself in a situation that was taking you down, it would be natural for you to tap into Wood and use it’s motive power to help you get through a tough time. If it took years to get back to where you wanted, your newfound Wood could easily have impacted your “usual” energy array, especially if your warrior status created excessive Wood energy, which seems likely given your comment about being angry and frustrated (both signs of excess Wood).
If that’s the case, constant excess Wood energy could have changed you. By pooling the energy in Wood, little would flow to feed your Fire, thereby decreasing it. Excessive Wood energy could also have affected your Earth by over-controlling it. In short order, too much Wood would have changed you from an Earth/Fire to someone totally different. And while I’m sure everyone around you was supportive during the crisis time, it’s likely that Brad might not be excited about the “new” you long term. Let’s look at what might be going on for him.
For over 30 years, Brad was married to an Earth/Fire combination. That’s a perfect combination for many Metals because it both feeds them (Earth relates to Metal on the Nurturing Cycle) and helps make sure they don’t get too structured (Fire relates to Metal on the Controlling Cycle). And if things were great for you up until five years ago, it seems this was a combination that worked well for Brad. Your primary Earth really would have been a happy homemaker, plugged in mother, and loving spouse because these things matter to Earths. Your secondary Fire could have kept things fun at home and possibly even flirtatious with Brad.
However, if you’re more Wood than Earth or Fire now, that’s a big change. You will still have a Control Cycle relationship with Brad, but this time his Metal will be controlling your newfound Wood. That means he will feel like it’s somehow his job to make sure you don’t get too Woody (angry, frustrated, aggressive, allowing the ends to justify the means, all things that manifest with an excess of Wood). And it is his job; that’s what the Control Cycle is all about. In truth, before your troubles started, your Fire probably felt that way toward Brad: if he was manifesting too much Metal (too structured, too controlling, dismissive, etc.), your Fire would have stepped in to reduce his Metal, but probably in a soft and loving way due to your Earth.
These days, unless Brad has a secondary Earth, his intervention as a Metal might not feel very warm and fuzzy to your Wood. It probably does feel cruel; Metal pruning Wood can hurt. But here’s the thing: Metals are wired to control Wood. And in a head-to-head contest between Metal and Wood, Metal will win because it’s supposed to win. The control dynamic is what helps keep the whole cycle balanced. But at a relationship level, too many contests like this between Metal and Wood and both will leave the relationship. Yet it needn’t come to that.
To get things back on track with Brad, remind yourself of how well the first 30 years of your marriage went and how much you still love him. Holding this perspective will really help. Next, ask yourself what it is about your Wood that you like. Are you happier speaking up more often than you might have before? Do you like the sense of individual accomplishment being Wood has given you? These are important for all of us and it’s possible that, as an Earth, you were so focused on meeting the needs of your family that you didn’t meet your own needs very well. With your children out on their own now, you should have the time to do more for yourself and still interact with Brad in a way that honors the connection you originally had.
To reconnect with Brad, you need to reintroduce your Earth and Fire back into the picture. The key to doing this will be your Fire. More of your own Fire will build your Earth (Fire feeds Earth) and deplete some of your excess Wood by using it for fuel (Wood feeds Fire). More of your own Fire will also soften Brad’s Metal approach to you right now which will make your Wood feel less challenged, allowing it to back down (out of balance Woods can be very competitive).
To build your Fire, wear red (Fire’s color), eat whatever spicy foods you enjoy (this builds Fire), wear a garnet crystal next to your skin, and use rosemary essential oils. Most importantly, make a list of everything that brings you joy because it’s really the joy aspect of your Fire that you want to rekindle. But you want this to be about you and Brad, so bring him into the picture, too. Start planning fun activities with him again. What did you used to enjoy doing together? Start doing it! And how about a little romance? And flirting? Fires are great at that and Metals love the attention.
I truly believe that if you consciously build back the joy, excitement, and fun of your Fire, you and Brad will be able to re-establish the harmonious and balanced relationship you previously had, but with a slight twist. By using your Fire to keep your Wood in balance, you will be able to enjoy the sense of self your Wood brings without Brad’s Metal cutting it down. Blessings to you and good luck!