I have been married to my husband for 39 years. In that time, I have come to understand some of his idiosyncrasies and he mine. I feel that our relationship has lasted this long because both of us have put in the time and effort to work towards a better understanding and acceptance of the other. For most of our marriage the method that we have used to gain this knowledge has been trial and error. This is not always an engaging and enlightening process. I will tell you that from my end, frustration, yelling, and some tears may have been involved.
I have always tried to figure out how each person I am around thinks, works, and sees the world around them. Maybe it is an innate survival skill, you know, like an animal checks its surroundings and scopes out the other beasts to decide if they need to flee or if it is safe to initiate contact. Maybe it is because I am a curious sort. Maybe, it is because I am an Enneagram type two and we are relationship seekers.
The Enneagram (or any personality typing) should not be used to judge people or put others into unfair “boxes”. But when the information is used as an insight into yourself and others it can be affirming and eye opening. I have always struggled with my sons need to know the next thing we would be doing. He was constantly asking, “What’s next??” Where will we go next, what is the next meal, what is coming up. I always wanted him to stop and enjoy the moment, just relax and experience the now. Then he took the Enneagram test, and his results were, affirming for him, and an eye-opener for me! He is an Enneagram seven. An Enneagram seven is a joyful person, a seeker, an enthusiast. The Enneagram Institute describes sevens as: “extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.” This is a perfect insight into my son’s life, who he is and how he works. It really helped me see the error in my ways in dealing with him and gave me a clear lens through which to see him, understand his actions and a direction in ways to better interact with him. This was life changing in our relationship with each other.
My husband has always been one to sit on the side at a social event. He spends a lot of time in his office, and the internet was a fount of information that he relishes. In our time together, he has always searched out new things to learn or do. At times I found this frustrating, wasn’t I or our children enough to keep his focus? Why is he sitting in his office or reading a book, he should be with me or our children? (don’t get me wrong, he is an amazing husband and father, I just always want more!) At social events, why can’t he just talk to people? Now, I understand his actions and behaviors a little better. My husband is an Enneagram five. Here is how the Enneagram Institute describes a five: “The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated. Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. They want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms—or the inner world of their imaginations. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. They do not accept received opinions and doctrines, feeling a strong need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves.” I can remember a few “discussions” around my having to validate information that I had gotten or ideas that I wanted to share. Now I better understand why he keeps asking for sources, and for data behind my statements. I have also worked hard over the years to better accept his introversions and how it can relate to me in my extroversions. I guess the saying that opposites attract is true in our relationship!
The Enneagram has so much depth and many levels of insight. It is not an easy answer to who we are. It is a lens that we can use in self discovery and also a tool that we can use to understand ourselves and others. It can help change misunderstandings and frustrations into understanding and acceptance. That can be life changing for all involved.
How might the Enneagram help you look at your relationships differently?