Tangible Truth Blog

A daily dose of truth

How the Enneagram Can Save Your Marriage

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

The Booty-First Sit

A guest post by Heidi Dennis

Have you ever noticed how, when you are sitting on the floor and a child comes to sit on your lap, they just plop down booty-first? They don’t even look behind them, they don’t ease into it- they just back it up and drop it like it’s hot right into your lap.

The other day when my son did just that to me, it struck me how trusting that is. He had NO DOUBT in his little 5-year-old mind that I would catch him. Child-like faith is a precious thing. The thought made me smile and swelled up in my chest. Then, something else entered my mind and quickly replaced the warm fuzzies with a sense of fear and sadness. He has this child-like faith because he hasn’t been hurt. If he plopped down onto my lap and I wasn’t there to catch him or he hurt himself somehow, his faith in me would falter.

Are you just like me and want to scoop up all of the littles in the world and bubble-wrap them with a layer of protection? Because you know just as well as I do that pain WILL come. They will free-fall and then face-plant. They will try and fail. They will give their heart and have it broken. They will trust and be betrayed. We’ve all gone through it.

My question to you is, in your own life, how have these hurts effected your ability to love? And, what’s more, how has it effected your ability to trust God? You see, when we are hurt by someone, we are less likely to trust someone else- even if they have given us no reason not to trust them. And on an even deeper level, when another human being hurts us, we are less likely to trust God- even if He hasn’t given us a reason not to trust Him.

This is a difficult truth, I know. But if you look back over the course of your life, who was REALLY the one who hurt you? Was it God or was it someone rebelling against God and not living up to the standard that God called him or her to? The bottom line is, it’s hard to trust after you’ve been hurt. Understandably so. But, if we use that hurt as an excuse to throw up walls, we will miss out on a chance to love again (and we can kind of act CA-RAZY in the process- you know we can. Our walls aren’t the most flattering view of ourselves- it’s like that bad selfie angle that gives you a double chin. Ya feel me?).

Letting down your walls might be with romantic love or it might be building up that child-like faith again with God (or both). No matter what you are holding yourself back from, take little steps towards lowering your walls. I’m not asking you to plop right down. That would be mean. But one inch at a time, take small steps towards trust. Each time it goes well, send a little message to those walls of yours that maybe…just maybe…it’s safe to get back to that booty- first sit.


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If My Parenting is like My Gardening, We are all in Trouble


A guest post by Heidi Dennis


I am a TERRIBLE gardener.  I mean, I am BAD.  I can take that plant that people say “It’s impossible to kill.  Anyone can do it” and sentence it to immediate death.  It’s like a plant takes one look at me and says, “nope”, then shrivels up and dies.  I see those idyllic pictures of someone tending to their garden and it looks so lovely (not the ones where people’s butts are sticking up in the air.  No- the ones with the cute hats and flowered aprons).  Although, in retrospect, I would probably look more like the one with the butt.  I think the biggest struggle that I have with gardening is my lack of patience.  I once tried to grow a tomato plant (because anyone can do that *eye-roll*).  One day I walked out and it was covered with green worms.  And any tomatoes that it produced had been half eaten (stupid worms &*%@#$.  Those are MY tomatoes!). Like any good plant parent, I googled what to do about it.  The answer?  Manually pick off each worm one by one.  I took one look at the hundreds of worms on my plant and said, “Enjoy your tomato plant, worms.  I’m out”).  

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