A guest post by Heidi Dennis
If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram before, it is a personality profile unlike any I have studied before. Personalities are based on numbers (1-9). What I like the most about it is that it gives you a range of how you behave when you are operating in a healthy manner and how you behave when you are not. (For a brief summary of each number, see the following link- https://www.enneagramworldwide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Enneagram-Guide.pdf For a more detailed look into each number, I would recommend Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s book The Road Back to You).
Another great aspect of the Enneagram is that it highlights how the different numbers interact with each other. Here is where this gets interesting for me. You see, I am a 9- otherwise known as the Peacekeeper or Mediator. I am all about avoiding conflict and keeping the peace (which is weird because I am a therapist. I can handle YOUR conflict all the day long, but when it comes to conflict headed towards me- that’s when I completely shut down). 9’s also tend to preserve their energy at all costs (especially when stressed). You know how your phone switches to low battery mode to conserve energy? This is me when I am feeling overwhelmed or overextended (or, let’s be honest, at the end of every single day after around 7pm). My husband, on the other hand, is a 6. 6’s are often referred to as the Loyal Skeptic. They are incredibly committed, yet they are always scanning the horizon for ways that things can go wrong. For some 6’s, this assessment of potential problems can shut them down. But for most 6’s (like my husband), it drives them to problem solve. 6’s can connect dots very quickly and are often really good at coming up with solutions. 9’s are very aware of how YOU feel, but don’t always know how THEY feel. 6’s are very aware of how THEY feel, but can be skeptical about how YOU feel. Starting to see the dilemma?
So, let me tell you a story about how my husband and I approach life in totally opposite ways. I was venting to a friend about an argument that my husband and I had regarding planning to go to the lake. In my mind, everything would magically come together. The family coming into town would be completely laid back and have no strong opinions about the days activities. We would float some, wakesurf some (my all time favorite thing to do), drive to a restaurant on the lake at some point to eat, etc. It would all work out just fine if we just go with the flow. Meanwhile, my husband is playing 21 questions with me- do we want to float before or after we surf? Should we drive to lunch first since the restaurant is on the other side of the lake? How are we going to take the Lilly pad if we are wanting to do other things? Do you think the kids will be ok driving across the lake?… As I am lamenting to my friend, I am expecting her utter sympathy at the multiple holes being poked in my otherwise perfect day (notice I didn’t say perfectly planned day). My friend instead responded by saying, “That’s so sweet of him to want to plan so that you can have the perfect day.” I was dumbfounded. She was absolutely right (side note- friends who are cheerleaders for your marriage are way better for you than friends who will just tell you what you want to hear).
In a moment, I went from thinking that my husband just wanted to plot against me to acknowledging that I have a husband who cares enough about me to try to ensure that everything works out the way that I want it. Before understanding the difference in our personalities (and what drives our behavior), I would have told you that my husband was a pessimistic and negative person. How sad to live in that misconception. I cringe when I think about where that prejudiced view could have led us in our marriage. I would have completely missed his heart towards me. Now that I understand where he is coming from, I can appreciate the ways that he is working on my behalf. (By the way, 6’s are the BEST people to travel with. They know all of the ways that things could go wrong and they plan accordingly. You just get to lay back and enjoy the ride)! The Enneagram helped me to see my husband in a completely new light. I am not perfect at remembering these things about him and constantly have to remind myself. In spite of this, the Enneagram can help with any relationship that you find yourself in- a boss, friend, co-worker, etc. It can completely change your relationships. I know it did mine!
***Another book plug, if you want to know more about how numbers interact with each other, check out Suzanne Stabile’s book The Path Between Us