At the start of a marriage, we make a lifelong commitment to love one another with only a tiny peek into who the person we are marrying really is, and no clue as to who you each will become. It takes years to get a clearer view of who you both are and learn each other’s patterns of behavior.
One tool that helps advance this process and shed light on each other's inner motivations, patterns of how you react to stress, and so much more, is the Enneagram.
I discovered this tool a few years back and became an Enneagram evangelist because it helped me have words for both my struggles and strengths in a way that I had never had before. I immediately made my husband take one of the online personality assessments. Despite his skepticism, he agreed to take the test to appease me. Immediately after I read the description of how his type (Type 7) operates, so much about our dynamic became clearer to me.
I could see for the first time why my explosive emotions that would erupt when I become stressed as an Enneagram type 2 met a brick wall in my husband who, as an Enneagram type 7, is inclined to avoid difficult situations and emotions.
Being able to empathize and understand each other in a new way as well as pinpoint our trouble spots helped us create new and much more healthy patterns in our relationship. Truly, this knowledge about each other has been transformational for our marriage!
Let’s explore what the Enneagram is and how it can help improve our marriages.
What Is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a system that helps define personality types and describes patterns in how people interact with the world and handle their emotions. The Enneagram lists nine different personality types and shows how these types are related to each other.
The nine Enneagram types are the following:
Type One is known as the Reformer. They tend to be very purposeful, perfection-driven, and self-controlled.
Type Two is known as the Helper. They tend to be more giving and people-pleasing.
Type Three is known as the Achiever. They are highly motivated, concerned with their image, and can adapt to different situations well.
Type Four is known as the Individualist. They tend to be very expressive, creative, and sometimes more emotional.
Type Six is known as the Loyalist. They tend to be very loyal, anxious, and responsible.
Type Seven is known as the Enthusiast. They tend to be adventurous, positive, and sometimes scattered.
Type Eight is known as the Challenger. This type tends to be justice-driven, confident, and more confrontational.
Type Nine is known as the Peacemaker. This type tends to want to avoid conflict, reassure others, and can resign from difficult situations.
The Enneagram can be used as a tool to help bring more self-awareness to how you both thrive, as well as how to handle stress. We can apply the knowledge it provides in a way that allows us to be more empathetic and understanding in our relationships.
Here are 3 ways the Enneagram can help improve your marriage:
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1. The Enneagram Can Help You Grow Personally
The purpose of the Enneagram is not to lock people into boxes of who they are, but rather the information is an opportunity to examine yourself through a new lens that should help you grow into a healthier version of yourself. Many of us are so unaware of the “what” and “why” behind our actions.
We are just living on autopilot, not really understanding why we get stuck in certain behavioral patterns. The Enneagram is like turning the light on in your soul... it gives words and insight into things you thought you just automatically did but had no idea why!
Growth begins with knowledge. We can’t fix something when we don’t see that it is broken. Our ability to excel also gets stifled when we don’t understand our strengths. The Enneagram gives you knowledge that you can use to help begin to work on things about yourself that may be detrimental to your marriage and also can help you gain more confidence about the strengths you bring to your marriage.
For me, I had no clue why no matter how hard I tried I kept falling into a pattern of being fine and then suddenly exploding on my husband when I would get run down. The Enneagram helped me to see that as a type 2 I struggle to have healthy boundaries in my life. Guilt is an inner motivator for me, and that guilt often prevents me from caring for myself properly. This leads to me having emotional breakdowns that have a negative impact on my marriage.
With this new understanding, I have been able to better prioritize self-care and notice my “warning signs” that I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed which have prompted me to work on learning more healthy ways to communicate how I am feeling.
Personal growth begins with knowledge and then asking the Holy Spirit helps us create more healthy patterns for our lives.
2. The Enneagram Can Help You Better Understand Your Spouse
This personality profile tool gives you a little deeper insight into how your spouse was made by God. As you learn more about each type you are able to get a snapshot into how their mind works. You can begin to understand what some of their core fears, desires, weaknesses, and longings are.
Oftentimes we don’t even know these things about ourselves! As you study each time you can begin to peel back the layers together of what drives your spouse as a person. The beautiful thing about this is that once you both are able to better understand how they are wired, you better help keep each other accountable when you face weak spots in your life.
Now that I know my husband has trouble confronting hard emotions and situations, I can encourage him to bravely begin to embrace negative emotions when they come up. He can know he is loved even when things don’t feel as positive as he would like.
I also can help him embrace his sense of adventure and get excited alongside him when he finds new things to be passionate about. I never have to worry that my husband will be bored. He can find joy in any situation and that is a strength of his that I can celebrate with him.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jacob Postuma
3. The Enneagram Can Help You Create Healthy Patterns in Your Relationship
When you begin to see how your personalities complement each other or maybe even rub against each other, you can begin to see how you are better able to thrive as a couple. In my marriage, my eagerness to help and my husband's glass-half-full approach to life have equipped us to dive into becoming Foster Parents, despite many fears we have had along the way.
Some strengths we have as a couple is the ability to eagerly host and help others, stay generally positive, and embrace new adventures when they come our way.
On the flipside, my personality type is one of the most empathetic of the nine types and I can easily become overwhelmed by the emotions of others or myself. My husband struggles with empathy and has a hard time understanding why I am breaking down over the tragedy of someone I don’t know.
This stark difference between us has created a lot of conflict over the years, but once we began to see how we are uniquely made in this area we were able to better navigate these situations. If we take a humble posture and are willing to openly examine the ways we view the world differently, it is possible to allow these differences to be an added strength to each other rather than a place of constant conflict.
The truth is I need my husband’s more black and white view of the world to help me enact more healthy emotional boundaries in my life and he needs my empathetic eyes to help him remain soft to the world around us.
The Enneagram helps us better see how we all need each other. We each face our own worlds in ways that are very similar but also it helps to see that our different approaches are not necessarily wrong. Our differences are intentional; God made us different on purpose! He designed us to need one another and also in his infinite creativity has made us each a little differently.
Check out a free personality assessment here and begin your journey of discovery together. Allow God’s spirit to give you the wisdom you need to take this new understanding and apply it to your relationship in a way that can bring new growth and health to your marriage.
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Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.