How the Enneagram Changed My Marriage
If you have been around me during the past year, and we've had a conversation for more than 10 minutes, I guarantee that the enneagram has come up in my dialogue. What can I say, when I'm into something, I am really into it, and the enneagram is no exception. It has revolutionized the way I think about myself, my relationships, and most importantly, my marriage.
Now, for those of you who are reading this and thinking, "What the heck is the enneagram?!" I've got you covered. My best friend Kelsey is the one who first introduced me to this personality typing system, a description which doesn't even begin to do this tool justice. She has consolidated her favorite resources here, so give them a look through before you read any further:
You can take a free test HERE! I would read about the top few you score in, because while you are only one type, sometimes a test doesn't perfectly place you. When you read YOUR type, you'll know if it fits you.
You can read about the types HERE. The website with the test has descriptions, but I would actually come over here and read about the various types here because it is better information.
Also, THIS podcast (below) episode 37 if it doesn't take you straight there has a breakdown of all types! They don't get started until 15 min in so you may want to fast forward!
The next two podcasts have different interviews with each type! Once you figure out what you (or your family members) are, I would SO recommend listening interviews with those specific numbers! The people who lead this podcast are the ones being interviewed for the overview on the podcast above!
Now that you've had time to do your research, let's get into the good stuff. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am an enneagram 1, or "The Perfectionist". My type is marked by being very driven, very hard on oneself, and fueled by the desire to do everything the right way. I have high standards, high values, and at my best, I just want to reform the things around me. I have a very strong 2 wing, which in enneagram speak, means that I adopt some personality traits from one of the types next to me on the circle. My 2 wing makes me very relationship oriented, but it can also give me an insatiable desire to help or "fix" people when the help isn't asked for.
My husband Ross is the quintessential 7 on the enneagram. 7's are driven by fun, freedom, and a need to avoid pain at all costs. They are the person you want to travel with - always up for an adventure, always throwing out their next big idea, and great at inspiring those around them with their zest for life. At their worst, 7's have a tendency to be a bit flaky; they struggle with commitment because they're worried about being tied down or missing out on the next big thing. They don't enjoy pain, which can also translate to conflict, and shying away from a tough conversation can be the norm for an unhealthy 7. They don't place expectations on others, and they rebel when someone, be it an employer, teacher, or friend, places expectations on them.
I love the enneagram because it puts the emphasis on what motivates you, not just how you act. For instance, Ross and I are both very driven, but I'm fueled by creating the perfect world for myself and impacting others, and he is fueled by freedom and flexibility. Any number, when it does the self-work it requires to become healthy, can flourish and utilize its best qualities. In the same breath, any number who is living in a state of unhealth can wreak havoc on their lives and their relationships. So, let's bring this full circle to my marriage.
As you might have guessed from the descriptions above, Ross and I can easily butt heads in the category of expectations. I expect things to be done a certain way, and my standards can seem lofty, even when I'm not trying to directly impose my goals onto him. The level of expectation that I carry into every area of my life can feel suffocating. Because Ross is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, he is the first to encourage me and calm me down in times of stress, but he also has a tendency to very much avoid anything too serious. So, if he feels my need to discuss finances, scheduling, or anything stressful, it's not unusual for him to run away from it.
When I started to learn the enneagram, I immediately saw how my natural expectations made my husband feel like he wasn't good enough, and his hesitancy to commit to things made me feel unvalued. Both of us were unintentionally hurting each other by being less than our best selves.
Another key thing to know about the enneagram is that each number can adopt qualities from another number across the circle in times of stress and times of success. If you look at the diagram above, you'll see what I mean. It just so happens that 1's go to 7 in success, and 7's go to 1 in stress. This explains why I'm more fun on vacation than I am at home; I can easily let loose. And Ross, when struggling with stress in business, has a tendency to be very critical and negative, just like an unhealthy 1 might be. Learning about stress and success numbers gave me context to understand why we act so "out of character" in different seasons and circumstances.
Being able to give language to the way you are wired helps the other person see things from your view point, and it also helps them develop a better script from which to talk to you.
Now, when Ross and I get in a fight or a serious discussion, I realize that he can't easily come back with an answer the way I can because he needs to think and process (7's are in the head triad, another nuance of the enneagram). I live in the anger triad, and I have noticed myself becoming resentful over unmet and unfair expectations that I need to let go of. He needs me to set aside time and space for the heavy conflicts, rather than just throw them out at a time I deem is best. I have also seen how I place expectations on Ross that are pointless, like picking up his clothes immediately when he gets home just because that's what I would do. There isn't a right and wrong way to do everything, even if I choose to live that way. He needs my affirmation more than my "help", and I need to let him have his process in order to see his best work.
These are just a handful of examples, and I'm uncovering more every day. If you have never looked into the enneagram, I cannot recommend it enough, and I loved reading The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It's an excellent and easy reference to learn about each type. You should also check out my cousin-in-law Hunter's Facebook page for great educational resources on the enneagram.
If you're an enneagram nerd like me, tell me what your number is and what it has taught you!