The worst thing about the Enneagram is probably the part you’re most familiar with. The constant dinner party droning of people trying to diagnose your “type” and your “wing,” and you’re just sitting there like a confused toddler while everyone appears to be pronouncing a complex quadratic equation over your entire personality.
Rest assured, that is not the Enneagram. That’s more of a party trick that is dramatically simplifying what is actually an extremely well-researched and expansive tool for understanding how you connect to God, the world around you and your own heart. The people who use it to put you in a box don’t really understand it or, at the very least, are doing a very bad job of helping you understand it.
It’s not a personality test, although it can help you understand your personality. It’s not a strengths finder, although it will help you explore what you’re good at, what you’re not good at and why. And it’s not really a substitute for couples’ therapy, although it will give insight into the bond you share with your significant other. It’s more like a tool to reframe your perspective.
If you’re looking for a fast, easy way to understand what the Enneagram is really about, you won’t find it here. You won’t find it anywhere, actually. The Enneagram is involved, and it’s best studied with an actual, certified coach or, at the very least, with the help of a few of the many excellent books that have been written about it.
So consider this not a primer on how to use the Enneagram for your marriage but rather a list of some of the perks the Enneagram can bring to your marriage. Take it as an encouragement to explore the Enneagram on your own time.
1. It’ll Help You Understand What Your Partner Is Motivated By
One of the best things the Enneagram can bring to you is helping both you and your partner gain insight into what inspires you and what drives you. This is much, much more than money or success. We’re talking about what really drives you: the yearn for community or recognition or connection. We’re talking about the motive behind all the rest of your motives. For example, a 9’s most basic desire is for a general peace of mind. When they’re not aware of that desire, they may go to great—even destructive—lengths to gain peace of mind. But the more they understand it, the more they’re able to pursue that desire in a healthy, meaningful way.
Understanding your own and your partner’s desires will help you both navigate your communication and conflict with a clearer picture of what the other person wants and how you can help each other achieve it.
2. It’ll Help You Understand What Your Partner Is Scared Of
Similarly, the Enneagram will also help you gain insight into your fears. Not surface-level fears, like ghosts or sharks, but the deeper concerns—like loneliness or vulnerability. All humans share a few baseline fears, but the Enneagram posits that most individuals are particularly inclined to one or two specific things that come to shape their view of the world. For example, 7s tend to fear boredom, and crave constant stimulation to keep a sense of staleness out of their lives. When correctly understood, this is a good thing. You can always count on a 7 to be pursuing new, exciting experiences. But when 7s are in an unhealthy place, this fear can compel them to do destructive things to enhance their appetite for new highs.
The more you understand your partner’s baseline fear, the better you’ll understand your own conflicts and where they stem from. This doesn’t mean you’ll stop fighting (it might, at least for a season, mean you fight more), but it will help you to be honest with each other in those conflicts.
3. It’ll Help You Understand Where Your Partner Is At Emotionally
It’s easy to become critical of what look like your partner’s mood swings. What the Enneagram can help you and your partner do is recognize what’s going on behind those mood swings. We all have seasons of being in a really good place and seasons where we get overwhelmed with doubt and anxiety, but we’re not always great at recognizing those seasons when they come and go, and we’re definitely not great at recognizing when people around us are going through them. The Enneagram can give us a sort of map for our personalities, so we can recognize when we’re acting in ways that aren’t really aligned with the healthiest expressions of our character. By recognizing your own healthy and unhealthy inclinations, and those of your partner, you’ll have a better grasp on your own respective states, and be equipped with tools for what to do when you’re not at your best.
So check out some of the books linked to above and look around for some certified Enneagram coaches in your area who can walk you through it with experience. And if you’re looking for a shorter, simpler assessment for your relationship in the meantime, why not start here with brightpeak’s Relationship Assessment? It can help get you on the same page about your goals for the future.