Dear Vicki: My husband recently retired from running his own construction business and has gone off the deep end DOING things, including landscaping our yard. 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. He has no other topics of conversation other than his ideas for the yard and I feel like he’s really overdoing it. The other thing that bothers me is that before he retired, I was in charge of the gardening; it was my world. But now he has taken over. He even waters my plants! I get the feeling that he’s laying a claim: now that he’s retired, his world will be outside and mine will be inside. But I love my garden! I don’t want to stay inside! What can I do? Signed, Desperate
Dear Desperate: Retirement often changes a great deal in a couple’s dynamic. Roles can change, timing of meals can change, even where they live can change. The goal is to approach the changes in a balanced way, and that may not be happening for your husband right now. From a Five Elements perspective, it sounds like he may have too much Wood energy. All that you say he’s doing (envisioning, planning, building, completing) are wonderful aspects of Wood and were probably very important when he had his construction business. You don’t mention what you think his primary element is, but he’s probably a Wood personality; it’s a good element for running a business. And now that he’s retired, he probably doesn’t have the same outlets for his Wood that he used to, so it makes sense that he might seek out new ways of expressing it, including building things in your garden. However, while balanced Woods are definitely focused, they’re usually not obsessed. This makes me rather certain that he’s out of balance with too much Wood energy. So let’s see what we can do.
In the Five Element model, it is Metal’s job to keep Wood energy in check because Wood and Metal relate to each other via the Controlling Cycle with Metal controlling Wood. This means to address his excess Wood energy he needs more Metal energy. You can try to help him build his own Metal by wearing: 1) the color white; 2) a hematite pendant; and/or 3) lemon essential oil on his skin. 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 going forward, and it won’t be that hard for you to do.
Remember that we all have all five elements in our personality make-up. What we call our primary element is just the one that comes most naturally to us, but we can consciously choose to emphasize any element we want. For example, if we need to make a public presentation, we can emphasize our Fire since Fires are so good at connecting and speaking with other people. If we need to take care of a sick friend, we can emphasize our Earth energy because Earths are compassionate and nurturing. If we want to be imaginative or creative, we can emphasize our Water energy because imagination sits in Water.
In your case, since your husband needs more Metal to help balance his excessive Wood, you can tap into your Metal energy and connect with him from that place. Just remember, even if you aren’t a primary Metal (it sounds like you might be a primary Earth person), you have that Metal in you and can choose to come from that place. Metals are rational and logical regarding almost everything, so just take that stance when discussing his planning and building in the garden. And while it sounds easy, there is one little warning to keep in mind. Be sensitive to his reactions because too much Metal will feel threatening to him for the very reason you are trying to be more Metal: Metal controls Wood. You want to gently prune his Wood, not leave him feeling completely cut down. When you talk to him, 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 usually 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 doesn’t stop their energy, it merely channels it in a different direction.
And that’s exactly what you want to do with your husband: Help him re-channel his “make it happen” Wood energy into ways that work better for you. Come up with projects you’d like to see him do, then use your Metal to suggest them to your husband in a straightforward, rational manner. 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?”
It’s great news that your husband still wants to use his Wood energy and stay busy. Just make sure you use your Metal to help keep his Wood from taking over. If you do, all will be very well in the garden. Good luck!