Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for all of us, but I’m having trouble with my husband. We both work outside of the home (he manages a printing store, I’m a librarian) so used to spend time together just on weekends. But now with stay at home, we’re together almost 24/7. I think the problem is that I’m a pretty go with the flow kind of person and my husband is not. We’re all stressed, but lately my beautiful, kind, intelligent, hardworking guy has turned into a fussy, opinionated jerk who rants continuously about everything (politics, viruses, no business, you name it). I’m actually enjoying the quiet time at home to catch up on reading, but he’s like a caged animal. How do we get along? Signed, On the Edge
Dear On the Edge: That’s the question, isn’t it? How do people who are so different manage to get along? I believe the short answer is that we start by understanding each other. Especially now with the stress of Covid-19, we are all going to have times when we behave less than perfectly. And there are ways to manage that, but let’s start with understanding each other first. It sounds to me like you are a primary Water personality and your husband is a primary Wood personality, so let’s take a look.
Your husband, as a Wood person, will care about things like politics, will always have opinions, and will “rant” because frustration and anger are where Wood people go when they’re stressed. And politics usually stress the Wood personality; the concern that the “wrong” party or person is creating chaos frustrates them. And given what’s going in the world, I can guarantee that you’re not the only household where ranting abounds these days.
I have no idea how long you’ve been married, but the fact that you also know him to be a “beautiful, kind, intelligent, hardworking guy” says that you’ve likely been together a while, so his behaviors probably aren’t a total surprise to you. Rather, I think perhaps they’re wearing on you more heavily now than at previous times because, as you say, you are together 24/7. As a primary Water personality, you will tend to go with the flow more than most, or even let the flow go around you, leaving you unfazed. This will be a real asset for you moving through these coronavirus times.
Sadly, your laid-back approach isn’t something your Wood personality husband will necessarily understand. Wood people usually try to make things happen, and to do that they often have opinions about everything. The ability of a Water person to be philosophical, to look at a situation like the current pandemic and take an “it is what it is” approach, will be completely foreign to a Wood personality. Hold on to your ability to be philosophical, though. It will serve you well as you navigate the relationship with your husband. And understanding how you two relate is where the Five Elements model can help
In the Five Elements model, Water and Wood relate on the Nurturing Cycle (the big circle in the model below), so this connection can have a nurturing feel to it. Note that I say “can” have a nurturing feeling. How a Nurturing Cycle relationship feels will vary greatly depending on the elements involved, who is “feeding” who, and if the interactions are casual and fun or serious and stressed. In your relationship, it is your Water that is feeding his Wood, so he should feel happy with that.
And as long as you stay balanced so as not to over or under supply the relationship with energy, it can and should be a happy connection. It’s likely that the differences between you and your husband are heightened right now based on what’s going on in the world. Said another way, you’re probably having trouble with the fact that your flow is running smack dab into a wooden wall of ranting and fussiness that interferes with your calm.
There are several ways for you to approach this. First, your Wood personality husband might be surprised to know that his ranting is upsetting you as much as it is, unless you have already told him. Ranting is a natural expression for a frustrated Wood person; it’s an emotional energy release for them that often doesn’t include their brain. If you haven’t already shared with your husband that you’d rather not experience his rants or fussiness, then please do so. Wood people are usually very rational individuals who can comprehend that something they’re doing is a problem. Your husband probably won’t be able to change completely, but at least he’ll understand when you choose to remove yourself from the discussion, the room, or the house when he’s in one of those moods. You doing this might be the encouragement he needs to alter his behavior, too.
Second, you need to honor yourself. Like any healthy Water personality, your sanity will often depend on your ability to maintain a steady, calm flow so that you can go deep down to where the inner life of the Water personality exists. Make sure your Water energy is balanced. If you have too much Water energy, you could actually be contributing to your husband’s heightened frustrated state because, as we’ve said, Water feeds Wood. Once you’re sure you’re balanced, determine when your husband is most likely to be ranting or fussy (watching political shows on TV, perhaps?) and avoid those times and places. You can read a book in another room while he watches TV or does whatever it is that upsets him so much.
Finally, request that certain rooms in your home can be declared “neutral zones.” This means no intense discussions allowed. Rooms to label as such might be the bedroom and the dining room; anything that happens in either of these rooms usually doesn’t benefit from ranting or fussiness. If a conversation with him gets to be too much, retreat to one of these neutral zones and hold your line.
I suspect that if you do this a few times, the “beautiful, kind, and intelligent” part of him will get what’s happening, become more aware of his behavior, and ideally change it accordingly. He is always going to be a Wood personality, and you are always going to be a Water personality, but the relationship between the two of you doesn’t have to be contentious. It can be loving and deep as long as you understand and honor what each of you brings. Blessings to you! Stay safe and well!