Today we are going to get into some of my biggest points of advice when it comes to using the Enneagram inside your long-term, committed relationships; let’s call it “Enneagram for couples.” Whether you are married or not, I have some bullet points that I want to go through to help you know some advice for using the Enneagram as a couple. Let’s get into it!
1. Do Not Type Your Partner
My first point of advice for you is don’t type your partner. Do not tell them what Enneagram type they are, because this is not going to be helpful! Depending on how long you’ve known them, and if they have voiced some of their deepest motivations to you; or you have witnessed how they react to stress or growth, you probably have some good ideas, and you might be right! After all, there are only nine types to choose from, so you have just a little less than 10% chance of being right, and that jumps exponentially as you know them on a deeper level; but still, do not type your partner. I implore you, do not tell them what type they are. If they ask you, give them a few options for learning more, and let them know the good things, or the difficult things, or the uncomfortable things that make it seem like they might be a certain type, but please don’t just label them with a number!
That is the first part of this point, and the second part of is, once they know their Enneagram type, do not stereotype them. If they know what their type is, don’t put them in a box, or say things like, “Oh, that’s such a two thing” or, “Oh, your ‘eight’ is showing.” Be careful; it is so painful for your own partner, who you love and trust, to put you in a personality “box.” So please be gentle and careful with their heart as you move into any groundwork as a couple.
2. Go at Their Pace with Enneagram Work
When you are in a committed relationship, there are three parts to consider:
- You as an individual
- The other person as an individual
- The “Venn Diagram” where you meet, which is the relationship union
As far as that overlap, that intersection in the Venn diagram, go at the slowest person’s pace when doing Enneagram work together. I’m just going to be honest here: if you are reading this now, and you are the only one who studies things like this in your committed relationship, then the other person is probably the slow one. So, go at their pace as far as the relationship is concerned. Now for you, the part of you that is in individual from them, go ahead do your Enneagram work! Jump into it head-first! But, as far as the relationship is concerned, you need to go at the same pace.
3. Hold Their Type Softly
Remember, your partner might find at some point that they are mistyped! Recognize that even if they are right about their type, it’s only a part of them; it is not all of them. They are more than their tendencies, just as you are more than your tendencies. So hold that number with an open hand.
4. Don’t Assume
Don’t put assumptions on your partner’s future behavior, especially negative or harmful future behavior, based on their Enneagram type. This is very important. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have boundaries based on patterns of behavior; that is in no way what I’m saying. But as far as the Enneagram work that you are doing together is concerned, don’t assume that your partner will stay where they currently are…
- In their level of health
- In their stress reactions
- In their coping mechanisms
- In their tendencies.
Don’t make the assumption that they’ll just stay stuck. Being hopeful doesn’t mean that you are naive. We want to have boundaries where those are necessary, but don’t make negative assumptions about them because of what you know about their Enneagram type (or their alleged Enneagram type, depending on how much work they’ve done.)
5. Invite Your Partner to Participate, but Don’t Force Them
We need to be ready to do some of the uncomfortable work that comes with the Enneagram, and the exposing of some of the things that we might not want exposed, so giving an invitation can be really helpful; but don’t force your partner to be a part of this growth work if they aren’t ready to! If they aren’t ready themselves, this can be a great time for you to talk about what you’re learning about yourself, without making any assumptions about them or equating it to them in any way. You can talk about your individual work, the part of the “Venn diagram” where you are separate from them, and talk about what you’re learning and how you’re growing. This can help them maybe get ready, but we don’t want to coerce or manipulate them into doing Enneagram work. Give the invitation, and then allow them to make a choice of their own.
6. Support Them as They Grow; Give Grace When They Fall
Our patterns of behavior, our tendencies, and our coping mechanisms all came from particular reasons, and are very deeply ingrained in us, so they can be really difficult to notice and interrupt. If you’ve done Enneagram work of your own, then you know this to be true of you, so hopefully you can empathize with what your partner is going through, too, when they fall. If they are a different type than you, especially if they are in a different stance or a different center of intelligence (meaning they are a type that you don’t have a lot of “overlap” with in some of these behaviors) then it might be easier for you to get frustrated and wonder why they can’t just get past it. After all, it isn’t an issue for you, so why is it an issue for them?
So grace is going to come into play in a big way as you recognize that they have valid reasons for what they are stuck in, just like you have valid reasons for what you have been stuck in. You don’t need to understand why their issues are valid; you just have to give them the validity that they deserve. That is where grace comes in! So support them as they grow, and give grace when they fall.
7. Reevaluate your Boundaries Regularly.
Grace does not mean allowing continued harm; that’s not what I’m talking about. Reevaluate your boundaries often, adjusting them forward or back as needed for everyone’s health and wellbeing in the relationship. As your partner grows, you’ll find that maybe a boundary is too hard or too far out now, and you can soften that boundary because the other person is now safer in that area, or maybe they are proving that they are going to be thoughtful of your wellbeing in that area.
Or maybe you find as they slip back into tendencies or areas where they continue to be stuck, then for their health, the relationship’s health, and your health, there needs to be a boundary there. So reevaluate boundaries often, and be communicative of why they’re necessary in a loving way.
8. Have as Much Fun as You Can!
Enneagram work is uncomfortable; it’s almost like feeling naked in front of somebody, but on an emotional/mental level. It can be quite disarming! So have as much fun as you can! Say the hard things when you need to, but remember to affirm the person you love. You love them for a reason, and you can accept all of them, even their quirks and the things you just don’t understand, because you have different motivations and still love them. So find the things that are fun and affirming, and lean into that while continuing to view the things that you can both do to grow.
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.