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.
Dear Vicki: I found your blog after searching for relationship tips between the elemental types! I know I am dominantly Fire with Wood, and my husband Jim is dominantly Metal. We have been together 10 years and there are times I still don’t feel close to him or understand how to connect with him. His “metal-ness” of being so rigid and structured confuses me a lot and I am not sure what the best way to connect with him is. At times I feel like he disapproves or judges me, and decides I am too silly! Last year our marriage was in a serious crisis and I have worked hard to bring my Fire back in control to be in the marriage and am seeking ways on how we can strengthen our bond. Any advice for a Fire and Metal marriage? Signed: Fire/Wood Wondering
Dear Fire/Wood: There are many ways to strengthen the bonds between people, and almost all of them require that both parties maintain open channels of communication and are willing to take the time to understand each other. The beauty of using the Five Elements model with relationships is that it not only helps us understand each other and our relationship dynamics, it also helps us identify the communication style that will work best with each of the elements. Let’s look at your relationship dynamics with Jim first because they do set the stage for everything else.
You and Jim relate via the Controlling Cycle, with your Fire controlling his Metal. As you probably know from being married to him for ten years, Metals are serious people who value order and structure. On the other hand, Fires are playful people who value enjoying life. Because your Fire controls his Metal, Jim probably feels threatened when you are too fiery (which he could easily see as “silly”). Fire people usually have little structure (in nature, fire is simply heat made visible) and are fine being playful and going where the moment takes them. When this happens, Metal will often up its game around Fire to bring more structure to a situation they perceive as chaos. But to a Fire, fun is never chaos, it’s just pure joy. This is likely one reason why Jim’s behavior often confuses you.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my husband. He’s a great guy and a good provider, but he’s always been a workaholic. He wanted to get ahead in his job and he did. He’s been the CEO of a small accounting firm for years, but now it’s in the midst of being taken over by a larger firm. Dan fought it, but the Board thought it was a good move, and it probably is for everyone except him; he’ll be out. Dan has always been a fighter, and his anger was a force to be reckoned with, but a few months ago that changed. Instead of an angry bull, now he’s sullen and withdrawn. I could manage his anger, but I’m not sure what to do with this. I’ve studied the Five Elements some and always thought Dan was a Wood personality, but now I’m not so sure. How can I help him? Signed: Worried Wife
Dear Worried: Dan is blessed to have such a caring wife. And while there is much you can do to help him, it goes without saying that he may also need the help of a professional counselor, so please do keep that in mind. Dan does sound like he has a Wood personality. The need for personal accomplishment accompanied with some form of recognition (title, financial rewards, visibility, etc.) does matter a great deal to Woods. They are most happy when they can keep moving toward that goal. But if something gets in their way, an out of balance Wood will succumb to anger. For them, the outward expression of anger still feels like movement, although it’s rarely very productive. In fact, the prolonged expression of anger usually ends up being counter-productive for the situation and harmful for Woods and the people closest to them. Few Woods actually want to be angry all the time and I think this is what’s driving Dan’s behavior right now. Let me explain.
When a Wood expresses anger, it’s usually because something they want to do or see happen isn’t unfolding as they would like. Woods in positions of authority often learn that the occasional angry outburst will motivate employees (and family members) to get things going to avoid additional outbursts of anger. Not a great management technique, but sadly successful in many cases. Fortunately, most Woods eventually come to the understanding that their anger isn’t doing anyone any good. When that happens, and the Wood realizes that nothing they do will get the desired results, if they are energetically balanced they will assess the situation and change tactics. But if they are unable to do this because they are either unbalanced or unable to find an alternative tactic, to avoid the continued expression of anger, a Wood can shut themselves down. And yes, this can look a lot like depression.
Dear Vicki: I am writing about my spouse, Caleb. He is an elementary teacher and a truly loving husband and father. As an attorney, I often work long hours and he is always there to take care of our children, and me. Caleb is perfect in so many ways, but he does have one trait that is a real problem. When we are with friends, he tends to share aspects of our life at home that I would rather not have shared. It is nothing terribly personal, just little things that I feel other people do not need to know. I have mentioned this to him before and he says he will change, but that has not happened. I do not know that much about the Five Elements, but reading what you have on your website, I suspect Caleb is an Earth. Can you help me understand – and change – him? Signed, Private in Pennsylvania
Dear Private in Pennsylvania: This is an interesting issue. On the surface, if Caleb is sharing minor details with others, it shouldn’t matter. And it probably wouldn’t matter to most of the elemental personalities, especially another Earth. But as an attorney, you most likely have a good amount of Metal, and Metals value privacy. Metals also tend to compartmentalize aspects of their life, clearly delineating what is work, what is home, what is public, and what is private with the goal of keeping them separate. Earth people rarely make this level of distinction. More importantly, sharing what’s going on for them is an important way Earths connect with others.
You say you want to understand your husband, so let’s start there. Yes, Caleb is most certainly an Earth person. And for an Earth, building bridges and connecting with others is very important. Earths are also much less discriminating than some of the other elements, so for them a connection is a connection, no matter where it’s found. When Caleb shares information or events from his life, it’s a mechanism for weaving a bridge between himself and others. And this is usually such an automatic response in Earths that it’s likely he doesn’t stop to ponder the issue of appropriateness before he speaks. So what can you do?
Dear Vicki: I am a recently divorced Earth. My Wood husband and I separated early last year and I’d hoped we’d get back together. But several months ago he stopped by, told me it was time to get on with it, and handed me papers to sign. I was shocked. But according to my lawyer it was a fair settlement, we could get a great price for the house, so I signed. Now I feel lost and lonely. My one child is married with a family and lives out of state. She has offered for me to come stay with her, but I think that just prolongs the pain. My ex is probably right: It IS time to get on with it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine my life going forward. I really don’t want anything new. I just want my old life with my old husband and my old house. But that’s all gone. How do I start over? Can the Five Elements help? Signed: Sad and Single
Dear Sad and Single: I am so sorry you’re going through this. It is very hard to cope when change is thrust upon us rather than something we select. And as an Earth, the end of a marriage and loss of the home where you raised your daughter is even harder because home and family are so important to Earths. You don’t mention if you have a counselor, but if not, I urge you to consider one. And yes, the Five Elements do offer wisdom regarding how you can start over. It rests in the model itself.
If you look at the model, it’s actually a road map for starting and stopping. The decreasing energy of stopping something flows along the Controlling Cycle represented in the model by the star pattern. The building energy of starting something flows along the Nurturing Cycle, which is represented by the circle pattern. Because you want to start something new, we will be using the Nurturing Cycle to help you.