Why is studying the Enneagram so important for relationships?
The enneagram, similar to the Myers Briggs, is a little tool, or map, that helps you understand your personality and temperament a little better. What it can do is give you a probable cause - a central fear - that drives you or your best friend, or mother, or father, to do the things you/they do and make the decisions that you/they do.
By understanding yours or another’s underlying fears, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate, you are given a starting point that helps you begin to face that fear. This will naturally make you more sympathetic and patient, and it’s really important if you want to help someone with something tough that they are going through.
The Enneagram is split into three groups, each with its own underlying emotion that is the primary driving force.
For the “gut” triad of 891, it’s believed to be anger, for the heart triad of 234, it’s shame, and for the head triad of 567, it’s fear. For example, if you consider yourself a #5 personality, the trend seems to be that fives fear the outer world and don’t know how to cope with it so they isolate themselves and try to understand their world internally so that the better they understand it, the more confident they will feel in confronting it.
So many of us ask , “what’s wrong with me?” or, “what’s wrong with them?” and we can’t even put into words what we’re experiencing. You could say the enneagram is a sort of criminal line up with potential fears and struggles and the map is asking you, “did your problem look like any of these?” It’s like putting a name to something you couldn’t find the words for earlier.
My personal experience with the Enneagram in relationships
Personalities are very complicated, with many facets, and effected by many variables, but having something like the Myers Briggs test or the enneagram provides neat categories that has helped me begin to understand the people around me a little better.
It maps out some of the basic virtues and vices that each personality is prone to. Now, no personality map or category system developed by mankind can be 100% accurate, but it’s helped me understand that the reason my friend tends to be so clingy and even aggressive about protecting who she considers family. This would most likely list her as a #6 personality, which is known as “the loyalist,” and tends to have being abandoned as the underlying fear partially directing her decisions and actions.
Knowing this has helped me be patient with her. It doesn’t justify certain behaviours that she can be prone to, such as being aggressive, but now I have a starting point with helping her cope with the idea of expanding her world.
Helping her to see that it can be healthy for her to explore other places on her own and make new connections, instead of being solely focused on 2 or 3 people and feeling like she has to do everything with those select few.
For me, it’s kind of difficult to see myself in the enneagram, so if you have a similar problem, you can ask a friend to choose which number comes the closest to matching your personality. However, it is usually the fear associated with each personality type that strikes people, which your friend might not know.
How you will benefit from understanding the Enneagram in a relationship?
The Enneagram will not act as a marriage councillor or a therapist. This map is not going to provide solutions for yours or your loved one’s undesirable traits or how to face your innermost fears, but if it can help you and those who matter most to you uncover childhood fears and traumas, you can help each other conquer those fears.
In a dating relationship or marriage, you and your spouse can benefit from understanding the traits of others’ personalities, especially each others, as that understanding will help you both be more patient.
And if their personalities are crossing boundaries into the undesirable traits they are more prone to, understanding their temperament will help you respond in a balanced way. For example, nines don’t like confrontation. So if a nine is exhibiting undesirable traits, such as being overcautious, you don’t need to yell to get your point across.
Or maybe your husband would be considered a 7 winging 8 (7w8), that is, a personality 7 leaning toward 8. He has a fear about his inner world - those events and people who are closest to him and affect him directly, with feelings and fears of loss and deprivation. He chases after exciting possibilities, but when he’s faced with his fears he immediately responds with anger in a physical way, like raising his voice.
While you can better understand the underlying cause of your husband raising his voice, you still have to deal with it somehow. If his underlying fear is his inner world, maybe you can reassure him to calm him and help him to face the situation or problem.
Discover how our PDF about relationships can help you
The enneagram is fairly complicated and this article isn’t going to have all the information you want in order to understand it properly. If you’re interested in learning more, download our PDF.
It goes into more detail about the connection between the enneagram and the relationships you make, whether those relationships are between husband and wife, with your boyfriend, your girlfriend, or even between your friends, your coworkers, and your bosses.