Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

Leadership. Communication. Teamwork.

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What Real Love Is and What We Mistake for It

As Valentine’s Day rolls around, we are surrounded by images of love. Some of these are commercial, like sentimental cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Some of them are idealized cultural expectations, such as flowers or romantic dates. The prevalence of these images reminds us of an inner truth: that we all have our own ideas of what love is. Our expectations for romance and relationships are shaped by our culture, family, and often our Enneagram type. It’s easy to seek out a relationship that matches these expectations, and in the process, we may overlook experiences of real love that manifest differently. Let’s take a look at some of the ways each Enneagram type imagines love, as well as the deeper truths of love and relationships that they might not expect.  

Type One: Ones have been known to make lists of qualities that they are looking for in a partner, and to seek out someone who ticks all the boxes! As with many areas of life, Ones, on some level, want relationships that follow a certain set of standards. However, they often find themselves falling for someone quite different from their anticipated template. The truth for Ones to discover is that love is messy, a somewhat irrational process that’s perfect in its own way.

Type Two: Of all the Enneagram types, Twos are most focused on love, which they see as something they have to earn by giving to others. They imagine that their effort will be reciprocated, and that being loved means being appreciated and cared for in the ways they want to be. What Twos can discover is that real love is unconditional. It means attuning to another’s genuine needs rather than having our efforts reciprocated in a certain desired way.

Type Three: Many Threes dream of entering relationships that will draw others’ approval. Consciously or unconsciously, they seek out partners that match values reflected to them, whether it’s their family’s standards or societally prized attributes such as wealth or good looks. Through finding desirable partners, Threes hope to enhance their own value. The lesson for Threes is that love is a matter of heart connection, in which Threes can open up and be valued for themselves.

Type Four: Fours imagine that love means being understood completely, and finding a rescuer from their hardships. They fantasize about an ideal partner who will elevate them above the humdrum and mirror their deepest desires. What Fours can learn about love is that it is primarily altruistic. Rather than being a lover-embodied solution to all their problems, it is a force that transforms and heals by refocusing energy on caring for the other person.

Type Five: When Fives imagine an ideal relationship – whereas in some cases, they imagine a life of personal space and solitude, not “needing love” – they prefer a partner who’s interested in ideas, preferably someone who shares the Five’s interests and will listen to them at length. What sometimes surprises Fives is how much love is not an intellectual exercise. Genuine love for a Five brings patience, acceptance, and continual support.

Type Six: Sixes seek a “sure thing” in love and relationships. For them, love is security. They tend to seek out partners who will be steady and committed to them. At the same time, they question their loved ones and doubt that commitment. No matter how secure a relationship seems externally, it differs from the internal steadiness that will allow Sixes to stay the course with confidence. A revolution about love for type Six is that it’s intrinsically driven, and always there.  

Type Seven: Sevens seek out liberty within their relationships. A Seven may have coined the saying “If you love somebody, set them free.” While some Sevens live up to the stereotype of having trouble with commitment, others imagine that real love means excitement and stimulation. The surprise is that love can be a powerful agent for bringing us into the present moment. Loving relationships with others are grounding, and connect us with the joy of the here and now.

Type Eight: Eights are wary of opening up, and when they love, they love fiercely. For them, love means protecting the people that matter to them. People of action, they may throw themselves into acts of service rather than letting emotion in. The key for Eights is that the more they let down their guard and open their hearts in relationship, the deeper the reward. They discover that love is more than an act of protection; it is also an energy that nurtures them.

Type Nine: Nines seek love deeply, with the unconscious belief that love means getting along with others, connecting, and dwelling in harmony. These assumptions are true up to a point. Misconceptions occur when Nines imagine that harmony is continual agreement and pleasant, affiliative energy. What surprises Nines is that genuine love requires conflict to grow. As individuals stand up and hash out opinions, relationships are strengthened and become more harmonious.

No matter what our Enneagram type or relationship status, we can benefit from reflecting on the ways we imagine love to look, and being open to the unexpected forms it often takes in practice.


Getting Your Needs Met in Relationships

tangoWe all know wonderful relationships where opposites attract. For example, one person might tend to the home and hearth, while the other cultivates the couple’s circle of friends. When both people appreciate each other’s contributions, their connection thrives! The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. But sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand their partner’s priorities. When that happens, it helps to take a look at both people’s needs.

Learning the Enneagram Instincts teaches us the unconscious drives behind our relationship behavior. Instincts are biological and work to ensure our survival, individually and as a species. The Enneagram describes three that we share with much of the animal kingdom: the Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social Instincts. These drives shape our behavior in both subtle and obvious ways. We all use all three of these Instincts, but one of them, our dominant Instinct, shapes our focus in life and relationships. It’s helpful to learn which Instinct is dominant for both ourselves and our partners.

The Self-Preservation Instinct is focused on survival, physical well-being, and maintaining a foundation in the world. This can show up as a focus on health, work and practical know-how, or domesticity. People with a dominant Self-Preservation Instinct value conserving energy, so tend to be more low-key in their activities. If your partner has a dominant Self-Preservation Instinct, they’re looking for someone to come home to and relax with–a source of solace. They appreciate having a partner they can build and savor a life with.

The Sexual Instinct is focused on stimulation, exploration, and having a person or passion to focus on intensely. People with a dominant Sexual Instinct are natural risk-takers, seeking to display, attract, and have their energy met. They’re compelled to “burn fuel” for the sake of creating something or reaching that next frontier. If your partner has a dominant Sexual Instinct, they’re looking for a relationship that provides an energetic connection. They appreciate having a partner who maintains excitement and novelty.

The Social Instinct is focused on cooperation, contribution, and maintaining awareness of the people around us. People with a dominant Social Instinct value bonding and shared play. They are adaptable and attentive to interdependence, but deliberate about which communities to participate in. If your partner has a dominant Social Instinct, they’re looking for a relationship built on reciprocity, shared interests, and mutual support. They appreciate having a partner who’s a teammate as well as a playmate.

In all relationships, it takes consideration and good communication to meet each others’ needs. When each person has a different dominant Instinct, conscious effort is important to understand what the other person values. What qualities do you each bring to the table, and how can you work together to ensure you both get your needs met? When both people share the same dominant Instinct, it’s important to understand how your views of that Instinct’s priorities are similar or different. What strengths do you share, and how can you work together to bring the other two Instincts into your relationship? Putting in this effort leads to rich relationships, with each partner bringing different, vital contributions.