A New Pair of Shades: The Enneagram and Marriage

Have you ever watched videos of people who are color blind trying on color blind glasses for the first time? As they walk outside and behold the blue of the sky and green of the grass, I sob just as much as they do. Those lenses change lives. But another kind of lenses changed mine. I received my own set of life-changing “glasses” about 3 years ago in the form of the Enneagram personality test, an assessment that identifies the 9 different lenses we can see the world through. I learned that when you use the Enneagram, relationships get easier.

None of us would admit it, but we each think everyone views life the way we do. We assume everyone’s reactions to conflict or joy should look like ours. We assume everyone longs for what we long for in relationships. Nothing will crash into those assumptions harder than the reality of marriage. The honeymoon comes to an end. We take the shiny masks off and realize that conflict, joy, longing, and intimacy are not one size fits all. The Enneagram is a powerful tool that helps eliminate our shame about our differences and stop blaming our partners.  This is what it taught me about marriage.

There’s a reason your husband does what he does.

I first learned about the Enneagram in the book “The Road Back to You” by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It only mildly interested me until I read about Ennegram type 8, also called “the Challenger.” As I read about the Challenger, I thought someone had spied on my husband. The book described him to a T. You cannot imagine the relief I felt when I realized he isn’t the only person who views conflict as intimacy and cares very little for what others think.

In my heart, I always wanted to believe my husband had altruistic motives for “bulldozing” and “getting things done” his way. But I doubted that—until I learned his Enneagram type. I read all about the Challenger’s strength, protectiveness, fears of betrayal and vulnerability, and constant focus on what comes next. This isn’t another marriage book that tells me all the ways my husband does things wrong. It provided a pair of glasses that let me see the world from his point of view.

There’s a reason you do what you do.

Then I discovered my own Enneagram type. I laughed and cried through the chapter about the 4—“the Romantic Individualist.” Part of me felt relieved again, to know I am not the only one who lives for being heard and understood, who could spend all day sorting through my emotions, who feels suffocated by the small talk of shallow friendship.

And there is a part of me that felt embarrassed when the book verbalized my tendency to have dramatic outbursts. But here’s the magic. Using a vocabulary I didn’t have before I learned about the Enneagram, I asked my husband, “Is this how you experience me?” And for the first time, in learning about motives that once were foreign to him, he could see the world from my point of view, too.

It’s possible to love each other well.

For the last 3 years, I have devoured most anything Enneagram. I have studied Enneagram wings, stances, orientation to time, and the dynamics of different numbers in relationships. With each bit of wisdom, the view into the hearts and motives of those I love most becomes clearer. I now know that the intimate relationship between an 8 and a 4 (my marriage) is the most emotionally volatile pairing. That may sound scary, but the grace that gives me is unexplainable. We will never let things go unsaid. And we may fight big, but we love big, too.

The Enneagram doesn’t excuse our shortcomings. It shows us the path to health within the hardwiring of who we are created to be. The Enneagram lets me love myself, my husband, and our relationship in full, beautiful color. And you can do that, too. What you’ll see when you look at your marriage through the lens of the Enneagram will be unique because you are unique and so is your spouse. And that is exquisite.

It’s time to throw off the expectation that every relationship should look the same, that we are all working toward the exact same end. I would probably suffocate in your marriage and you would cringe in mine. That’s why we have our own—our own paths to self-awareness, our own journeys to acceptance of that guy we married, our own junk to work through, and our own unique joys that come from learning to pick up a new pair of shades.

What are the benefits of knowing your husband’s personality type?