Enneagram Patterns in Marriage with Jamie & Chris Bailey, Part 1

Blog post graphic Enneagram and Patterns in Marriage podcast episode #30

I’m so excited because I get to share a conversation that I had earlier in this year, 2021, with Chris and Jamie Bailey of Expedition Marriage. If you aren’t married, don’t let me lose you, because I’m not married and I got so much out of this conversation! It was so good; there was just so much richness to what Chris and Jamie shared, and I’m very excited to be bringing it to you.

This will be a two part episode because it’s a longer conversation, so make sure to tune in next week for the rest of it. Before I continue, I want to mention that you will hear me reference things like “club members” and “Christian Enneagram Club” and that is a membership that I hosted for two years. It was founded in November of 2019, and is coming to a close, as of me recording this, in the next two weeks. I’m quite sad to see it go, but I’m excited for the new ways I can help people grow using the Enneagram and move along their own growth journeys. I’m feeling very mixed feelings about it ending!

I’m very grateful, though, to be able to share this conversation with you and to get this interview out so that more people can read it, because Chris and Jamie are gifts and I’m so grateful for them. Without further ado, here’s part one of my conversation with them.

Kim: I’m so excited to be talking to Chris and Jamie today about Enneagram patterns in marriage! Before you guys hop in and share all of this stuff with us, we want all the wisdom you can bring up. What do you do? What is your job? How do you use the Enneagram?

Chris: All right. Well, we’re Christian counselors and marriage coaches. With Expedition Marriage we work one-on-one with couples; we do groups with couples; seminars; those kinds of things, trying to enrich and better couples lives, and help them go from, if they’re struggling, to thriving. Our tagline is “enjoy the journey” and that’s what we really put couples to do, is to enjoy the journey of marriage because it is a journey.

Jamie: Yeah. The Enneagram is one of the many tools that we use. We are really big believers in if you can understand the root of things, then you can really have some repair happen. The Enneagram is an excellent tool to do just that, so we absolutely incorporate it into our counseling practice. We don’t use it for every couple. We’re not specific Enneagram marriage counselors, but it’s a great tool that we find a lot of value in.

Kim: I love it. You know that my tool is the Enneagram, but I also believe that there are so many other tools that we can use to enrich our relationships, and you guys are specifically enriching your marriage and creating that solid foundation with each other. So I’m just so grateful that you are here talking to us. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to be quiet, and we’re going to learn from you guys now. So if you’re ready, you take it away. I’ll be here if you need me, but I’m going to be learning along with everyone else. So if you guys are ready, you take it!

Jamie: Ok! Just so you know who we are, I am an Enneagram six with a five wing, and Chris is a nine with an eight wing (it usually comes out when he’s driving!) In the beginning of our relationship, it was much easier (like most relationships are at the beginning!) I was attracted to some of the strongest traits, you know, when we were all in love and developing that love. I loved the peace, and his calm, and sense of adventure. With him I was very attracted to the “Everything’s good” you know, that “go with the flow” because as a six (and this is way before I knew I was an Enneagram six) I live a little more frantically and in a little more anxiety. So all of his peace-making was just very soothing to me. And you had the same.

Chris: Yeah. Because Jamie was very encouraging, I felt extremely significant. I felt on top of the world! She gave me a lot of attention, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of reinforcement; she wanted to hear what I had to say.

Jamie: So at the beginning of all of our relationships, it’s easier because we have different lenses on. It has to be good in the beginning because if we saw what we were really going to get, none of us would move forward! So the beginning is good, but once you get to marriage, there is a bit of a “bait and switch” component to it. It’s not intentional; it’s just the natural thing that happens; we move from this state of fun and exploring one another, and our lens changes over time. We end up transitioning from that exploring and learning into a pattern, and usually it is a pattern of assumption. And because opposites usually attract, those patterns aren’t always healthy ones. We call it complimentary, but they’re more complimentary in the beginning. They morph over time; like, that peaceful presence Chris brought in the beginning that I loved, over time and into marriage morphed into “you’re lazy and not doing anything” and “why don’t you care more?”  And so where does the Enneagram come into play for that? Well, first of all, we want you all to know that this is a powerful tool for your marriage. It is a very powerful tool for growth and for your marriage. Now, it is fun! Initially when we stumbled across it, it was just fun. We were looking up all the memes on social media for hours, and they were hysterical and so relatable. But while those memes are funny on Instagram, they are not so funny in real life. Being in control or being anxiety-ridden or napping all the time….It’s only funny when it’s like Joey from Friends on a meme, as opposed to in our relationship. So enjoy the fun of it, but remember that in marriage we need to take it seriously. We also need to know that this is not an excuse to say, “Oh, this is how I am; this is my excuse for being this way.” In marriage, the Enneagram is not what fixes your marriage, but it is a tool of guidance that can help you fix your marriage, and optimize it. So that’s where we use it.

Chris: Something we get asked a lot is, “What’s the perfect match?” And we’re sad to say that there’s no perfect match. Well actually, I take that back; if you are married, whatever number your spouse is, that is your perfect match.

Jamie: Yes! That is who you need to be working this out with because here’s the deal; I know everybody loves the whole “soulmate” mindset, but it’s just not a thing. We are all compatible and incompatible; some things we are compatible with, and some things we are not. There is no perfect match out there! As believers, as Christians, we are all given the same commands to walk in the exact same fruit of the Spirit. We can’t just say, well, I’m an Enneagram Seven, so I can let go of the self-control because I’d like to go over here and party and not go to work today. We all are called to walk in the same fruit of the Spirit; it’s becoming and learning how to become who God has made us to be and following what He calls us to do that makes our marriage right. We can excuse a lot of what God commands of us, but we’re not called to do that; that’s not how this works. So it doesn’t matter what number you’re married to; every number will bring up different challenges and different strengths and all of that, but they all work together. When we’re following what God tells us to follow, and we’re all growing, that’s what’s going to make our marriage work, not our numbers. Since there’s not “that perfect match”, we need to be sure that we’re using the Enneagram as a tool for understanding, because that’s what we really do; that’s the “biggest bang for the buck” that we get with the Enneagram. We need to know our own numbers and one another’s numbers, and have a basic understanding of them.

Chris: Exactly, because God wants to grow us and stretch us and to make us more like Christ and it balances out. We don’t want to be all out of balance, and that’s the challenge sometimes when we get into relationships, is that the way that the other person acts will usually throw us out of balance, especially if they’re out of balance. That does become an issue, but it’s really up to God to take that and to make us more, to take us beyond just a number and to grow us and make us who He wanted us wants us to be.  It’s to be made more in the image of Christ, not just to be stuck as our Enneagram number.

Jamie: Right, and that’s what we love so much about the Enneagram, is that it encourages so much growth! It’s not just to inform; it’s to encourage change, not out of your number, but to become who God made you to be. And so when we apply it to marriage, it’s all about seeking to understand why our spouses think, feel, and act the way that they do. Those are the three components we really want to understand about one another, because oftentimes we hear things that aren’t being said because they are being filtered all the time. They are filtered through our numbers, our lens, how we perceive the world and one another; and so we want to know what those things are because it’s our basic fears and our basic desires within the Enneagram that are developing our patterns! We need to know what ours are, and we need to know what our spouses are, because our basic fears are the areas where we can hurt our spouses the most; that’s their sensitive area. And the flip to that is their greatest desires are how we can support them the best and help them thrive the best! And so that’s what we want the information that the Enneagram gives us to do in our marriage, because our triggers live in those basic fears.

Chris: And too often, the way we act when we’re triggered is a trigger for our spouse, like I was saying earlier, and the way they act is a trigger for us! You can almost see the merry-go-round that’s just going around in the marriage!

Jamie: Yes! That’s how we get in those roundabout patterns, is that we feed off of one another. We’ll give you our example here. For me as a six, my basic fears are being without support; not having support and not having guidance. When I feel like I don’t have support or guidance, what I need is reassurance and maybe some direction and decision-making from Chris, which asking a type nine for that is asking a whole lot! But even having that information about him allows for some balance. So what are your biggest fears, Chris?

Chris: My biggest fears are our loss and separation, and my biggest desires are inner peace and to have that peace of mind.

Jamie: Yeah. And so when he feels that loss or separation coming, he needs that connection and reassurance that it’s okay. He feels at every argument, “It’s the beginning of the end, and I’m going to lose my wife. It’s all fallen apart just cause I couldn’t choose where we went to eat!”

Chris: It almost writes itself! You’ve got someone who has a tendency to walk with anxiety and someone who has a desire to strive for peace, and it shakes things up!

Jamie: Yeah. And so that does play out into a pattern. My basic desire is that I am always looking for security and support; I want safety! I want to know what’s safe, what is the worst case scenario, and run way ahead so I can make sure that everything is going to be okay; where he’s just wanting to do what is peaceful and is looking for for stability. We need to engage with one another and know how we’re functioning and what each other’s filters are.

Chris: So Jamie will start to get anxious, not feeling supported, feeling kind of out there on her own, and like nobody sees the world the way that she sees it; and you know what? Nobody does! This is actually called the “usual error”;  we think that everybody will see the world the way we see it: what’s on our radar, on their radar, how we feel about things, how they feel about things. And no matter how many times we are reminded of it, since we are such forgetful creatures, five minutes later we’ll be right back into it and go, how could you not see that this way? Well, it’s because they aren’t you! And so to get back to that pattern, Jamie will get anxious and she’ll be out, which threatens my peace as a nine, and so I feel that anxiety and separation, and that I probably “did something wrong” even if I didn’t, but that’s where, that’s how I’m reading it and feeling it; I feel like a failure.  So then I start to minimize, which that’s a successful recipe, right?! But still I try to, because, if I can convince Jamie that it’s not as a big of deal as she feels it is, then maybe she won’t feel so bad about it, and then her freaking out won’t affect my peace.

Jamie: But instead, when we don’t have that understanding of what’s happening, we fall into this pattern where I may be overwhelmed in life, which will make me more anxiety-ridden, and when I get anxious, I get more irritable and a little snappier. When I do that, his response to that, since he is on “Operation Peace”, is “How do I shut her down? How do I minimize that?” And then when he begins to minimize or defend his response to my anxiety, now it makes me respond in more anxiety.

Chris: You’re not supported! What I’m doing is not supporting you at all. In fact, it’s telling you that how you feel is wrong and how you think is wrong.

Jamie: Yes, and so it’s amping it up. So now we are in this cycle, and the more I get amped up, the more he strives for that peace, but I’m not looking for peace! That’s not what I want or what I’m looking for, is to make sure he’s peaceful. I’m looking to decrease my own overwhelm and all of that. So you get stuck in this pattern, and you need to use the information that you can get from the Enneagram to be able to recognize the pattern that you’re in, because how it’s supposed to work is we are here to be resources for one another. We want to know what the behavior is: when I have that anxiety. And when he sees that irritability in me, that needs to be a red flag to him. When he knows these are my things, it’s a red flag to him that I need to lean in. I don’t need to fight for peace in this; I don’t need to shut this down. I need him right now.  When he knows my basic desire is for security, safety, and support, he now knows what he can offer me in those moments; and that right there will shut things down. So instead of minimizing my anxiety or overwhelm, he leans into it and asks, “What do you need? How can I help you? I’m here with you. We’ll handle this. We’ll come up with a plan.” And that relieves the anxiety. So when we understand each other, we can be a resource. And when he is flailing, because he feels a loss of connection, I can just put my hand on his leg and remind him that we are okay, and then continue the conversation and just make that connection, and that will completely derail the situation.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Very rarely is what we see going what is actually going on! We, as couples, are almost always fighting with symptoms or symptoms of symptoms, and we’re not actually dealing with the issue, because we think that what we see on the surface is what’s happening; but no, there are other things below it. And as Jamie was saying, if we start to get a better understanding of ourselves, our spouse, what drives us, our fears…then we can start to queue in and be able to see more of what’s really going on. Because that insight and understanding can help carry over to empathy, and empathy solves a whole lot of problems. It keeps us relational and connected.

Jamie: And we’re no longer in our pattern! We disrupt the pattern by not defending. We don’t need to defend ourselves, so we are here to bring a solution instead of to protect and defend ourselves. By nature, we are self-protective and defensive, and patterns like this can happen! Let’s say you have a type 3 wife who is married to a type 8 husband. Type 3 is the big “go-getter” and the achiever. They have their schedule plan; it’s packed full and it’s not a drain to them at all.  Type 8 is someone who doesn’t want to be controlled; they have that fear of being controlled or told what to do. So a type 3 wife may be like, “I’ve got all our plans for next weekend. Here’s what’s on our agenda.” For the type 8 husband, that’s going to threaten his control, and he may respond with, “You’re controlling me. I want a say in what we do for the weekend.” He may not even be opposed to what is in the plan, but he is opposed to the fact that he didn’t get a say in it and she’s just dragging him through life. So they can end up in their own pattern, and what interrupts that is that the wife understands that her husband needs to be let in. It’s not a problem that she makes these plans, but it’s a problem that she make them without him, because she knows her husband thrives on feeling secure and like he’s not being controlled. Or the husband can give his wife the same thing by letting her plan, knowing that is what she thrives on. If neither of them do this, you just have a whole lot of negative reaction and you’re in this pattern, this back and forth dance.

Okay. Friends. That is it for this week. We’ll finish up with part two with Jamie and Chris and next week. And I really hope that you’re enjoying it! It was so fruitful to be able to hear these things from Jamie and Chris and how they use the Enneagram in their own marriage, but also in how they use it to help other couples who are wanting to go deeper with each other in how they interact and how they react or respond to each other in life. Find Chris & Jamie Bailey on Instagram, where they share so much helpful and humorous content to help you grow in your marriage. They also wrote a Couple’s Devotional! Find it on Amazon here.

Enjoy this post? Have a question? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below or over on Instagram where I hang out the most. If you haven’t yet, grab a copy of The Enneagram for Beginner’s book (affiliate link, thank you for your support!) or you can shop through my favorite books and resources for using the Enneagram in the Amazon Storefront.

Want to purchase Enneagram stickers, hats and more? Click through to the Christian Enneagram Shop and check it out. 


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