By Sarah Trocki, Clinical Intern
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14
Enneagram types are the latest personality inventory applying to all aspects of life. The nine basic personality types are divided into three centers of intelligence (Thinking, Feeling and Action). These centers are an individual’s instinctual drives for responding to life. The Enneagram recognizes the strengths of each type and brings people together. This is through cultivating an understanding of how people live, love and communicate.
Understanding Enneagram types allow people to drastically improve their relationships by learning how to effectively love and respond to their partner.
What Are the 9 Enneagram Types?
- The Reformer: Reformers drive to perfection by striving to fulfill a bigger purpose. They want to make the world a better place – all while fighting their inner critic. These individuals are self-disciplined and feel the fate of the world lies on their shoulders. This can often lead to being highly critical of oneself and others.
- The Helper: Twos are the lovers. These Enneagram types are the most caring and empathetic individuals. The Helpers are the ones who know exactly how to care for others while forgetting to take time to care for themselves. If Twos get caught in being overly attentive to others’ needs, they may lose sight of their own needs and identity.
- The Achiever: Threes are individuals who can adapt to fit their surroundings and want recognition for success. Achievers can internalize the societal expectations of themselves and change accordingly. If not careful, Threes may lose their true identity to this desire for recognition and success. Typically, Threes are people-movers and know how to get stuff done.
- The Individualist: Fours are creative, caring and artistic. They want to have their own identity but also get caught being self-conscious for that individuality. Fours can feel like they don’t belong to society because of their eccentricity and intense emotions. There is an ongoing battle between individuality and conformity. Fours have some of the deepest emotions and aren’t afraid to feel them.
- The Investigator: Fives are insightful and independent. They focus on their own time in isolation. Before making any decision, a Five will analyze the situation at length. An Investigator does not typically feel the need to connect with others and is often emotionally detached. They are the cerebral, innovative type.
- The Loyalist: Sixes focus on the good. They are authentic and loyal. They thrive in their comfort zone and struggle when there’s a change in routine. The Loyalist is the type to be sincere and fully engaged in relationships but can often struggle with fear of the unknown and self-doubt. It can be difficult for a Loyalist to fully trust others to avoid a broken heart.
- The Enthusiast: Sevens are the epitome of an inner child. They are the individuals who love life and aren’t afraid to live it. These are the adventurous people who thrive on spontaneity. They’re optimistic, fun-loving and light-hearted. They can also become impatient, though, when others can’t keep up.
- The Challenger: Eights are natural leaders. They are the person who will take charge and direct other people to action. Challengers can be bossy or combative because they want to challenge themselves and others. Eights do like being under control or overpowered which can cause them to put up their guard. They are tough and emotionally disconnected to self-preservation.
- The Peacemaker: Nines are the people-pleasers. They minimize themselves for the sake of keeping the peace. They have an uncanny ability to make people feel seen and heard but often lose themselves in the midst. Peacemakers are the ultimate advocates.
Are Enneagram Types Hereditary?
According to the Enneagram Institute, most major Enneagram authors agree everyone is born with a dominant type. Inborn temperament and prenatal care largely determines this. As a result, the dominant Enneagram types influence how everyone reacts to their early childhood environment. By the time we are four or five years old, our consciousness develops a separate sense of self. Our overall personality orientation includes genetics in addition to other childhood factors.
How Do the Enneagram Types Work Together?
Reformers / Type Ones:
- Reformers in Love: Type Ones are planners. To a One, love is one of those best-planned life goals that brings spontaneity and excitement. Although Ones are mission-oriented, a relationship is where they are able to let their inner child out and relax a bit.
- How to love a Reformer: If you love a Type One, be the voice of reason and affirmation. Ones often feel weighed down by the expectation of a standard of perfection. Speak words of affirmation and positivity to your partner. Gently remind them a part of being human is making mistakes and having imperfections. Ones may also appreciate time taken to maintain some order or cleanliness as an act of service. Expecting perfection in your relationship may happen. Know this could just be a sign your partner is becoming overly critical and needs more attention.
Helpers / Type Twos:
- Helpers in Love: Because Twos care for others, it can be easy to get lost in romance. Helpers may find their relationship is strictly caring for another person and forget relationships go both ways. They value honesty and stability.
- How to Love a Helper: If you love a Two, be sure to encourage them to identify their own needs in the relationship. Twos need support in recognizing they can accept help. Come alongside your partner and be a sounding board for navigating self-love. Learning to be a good listener will drastically help a Two feel loved and appreciated because they fear expressing their needs or wants.
Achievers / Type Threes
- Achievers in Love: Threes may struggle in relationships if they think love is earned through achievements, hard work and performance. However, all they want is to be unconditionally loved. Achievers want a partner who is able to come alongside them and climb mountains together.
- How to Love an Achiever: Help them realize their successes do not define their worth. Threes need some affirmation of their achievements; but, be careful not to start encouraging alternative personas by overpraising achievements. Achievers need their partner to encourage authenticity. See through the façade to the real, true individual who wants to acceptance for who they truly are.
Individualists / Type Fours
- Individualists in Love: Fours need a partner who is able to sit in those emotional depths with them. They value and appreciate both beauty and brains in a partner. Fours often feel misunderstood. This can contribute to difficulties in finding someone who will appreciate all aspects of them. They may become jealous of other healthy couples, but a Four will find someone who loves every layer of their creative self.
- How to Love an Individualist: Relationships with Individualists may be difficult if you aren’t ready to experience emotional complexities. But Fours can also offer some of the best relationships and connections. Support your partner by showing you are willing to dive into those emotions and experience those deep feelings with them. Fours have the ability to deeply connect with others, if given the chance to do so. Help your partner feel understood and validated in those deep emotions by being present with them.
Investigators / Type Fives
- Investigators in Love: A Five may question if a relationship is even worth the sacrifice of time and energy. Because of their independence, a relationship can be exponentially draining for a Five. Taking time for self-care is vital to stay healthy. A Five needs a partner who respects space while also challenging one another with new insights. A Five may not do well with an overly emotional partner or one who may need more quality time together.
- How to Love an Investigator: Fives are thinkers, so give them space. They need time and space to think about their emotions, thoughts and feelings. Fives also like to intellectual challenges. They may need some support connecting to their emotions, but try to not nudge too hard. Fives dislike conflict or drama.
Loyalists / Type Sixes
- Loyalists in Love: Trust is a must. A Loyalist may take time letting their guard down when it comes to love. When they are in a relationship, they don’t just let anyone in to see their true selves. Sixes can be skeptical of others which can affect their relationships. Once in a trusted relationship, sixes are loyal, sincere and honest.
- How to Love a Loyalist: Show your loyalty and commitment to them, as they need the assurance to be able to fully trust you. A Six will not stray from routine often, so balance being respectful with small pushes of encouragement to go beyond their comfort zone. Their anxiety can become a hindrance. Sixes are deeply committed if cared for from a place of understanding.
Enthusiasts / Type Sevens
- Enthusiasts in Love: Sevens are great partners because of their optimism and adventurous side. But, they may encourage feelings of inadequacy in their partner because of their constant need for the next-best-thing. In other words, Enthusiasts live for the next moment which can make them miss the present. Sevens may also struggle to process difficult emotions due to their need for positivity.
- How to Love an Enthusiast: Sevens are typically on-the-go. If you’re with a Seven, be sure to have your own hobbies to allow your partner to explore on their own. These individuals may feel trapped with someone who has more needs in a relationship, so independence is a must. Encourage this type to explore their emotional side. Also, allow them to feel negative emotions rather than reframe them into positivity. Reinforce that no emotion is bad.
Challengers / Type Eights
- Challengers in Love: An Eight is an alpha who wants someone they can control. But they also want someone who will push back and tell them when to listen. It’s a give and take. Challengers should be able to include their partner in their decision-making rather than taking the reins all the time. It’s important to be clear about expectations with an Eight.
- How to Love a Challenger: Be straightforward and honest. Eights can be aggressive, but they are trying to shield themselves from vulnerability. Stay true to yourself while also creating a space for your partner to explore being vulnerable. If your partner respects you, the Challenger will blossom in the relationship. If not, your partner may not be ready to be emotionally vulnerable – and that’s okay. Just be present and direct, and you will get to a place of intimacy and vulnerability.
Peacemakers / Type Nines
- Peacemakers in Love: Because of their drive to avoid confrontation, Peacemakers often struggle with difficult, but necessary, conversations. They want a partner who is patient, like them, but allows them the space to find their own voice. Nines want to be assertive but struggle to find the balance between assertiveness and aggression.
- How to Love a Peacemaker: Be patient. Nines work to feel comfortable voicing their own needs and wants out of fear of disrupting the peace. Allow your partner to make decisions and encourage options. Your partner most likely will not explode when upset but will become passive aggressive. Notice their patterns and respond with encouraging a healthy expression of wants and needs. You can help your partner find their voice.
The Enneagram Institute provides a complete analysis for all pairing combinations. No matter the Enneagram types that make up your relationship though, be present and strive to better understand your partner. Don’t be afraid to communicate openly and express your wants and needs.