There’s nothing so exhilarating as the moment that another person "gets you." That sense of immediate recognition and wordless understanding is complete magic. We know it with some—maybe only a few—but the ones who hold that part of us do so for a lifetime.
This is exactly the kind of emotion I felt the moment I discovered a personality typing system called The Enneagram and it changed the way I approach romance forever.
The Enneagram is based on an ancient personality typing system and is divided into nine numbers and subdivided into three triads. The triads represent the head, the heart, and the gut, which are the three basic components of the human psyche. The uniqueness of the Enneagram in a wash of personality typing systems is this: regardless of type, it confronts readers with two pathways within their basic or dominant type: The Direction of Integration, which explains how a type is likely to behave when on a pathway of health and growth, and The Direction of Disintegration, which explains how a particular type is likely to behave under stress and pressure.
When I understood the power of this kind of introspection, I immediately knew it had wider implications for dating relationships. While it’s far from an exact science, it mirrors my dating journey effortlessly.
Under the heading “Fives” was my whole story. My story of withdrawing at a moment’s notice when I felt wounded, my story of delving into the magical world of books and theories when the outside world became too overwhelming, and my story of walking away from so many opportunities for love when I felt misunderstood as too “self-sufficient” or perceived as withholding of my emotions.
Enneagram types aren’t going to give you a horoscope reading, your astrological sign, or the next place to find the perfect date (If only!). But it holds unique insight into the tendencies that hold us back from healthy relationships with ourselves and others. After all, the happier, more integrated individuals we become, the more likely we will find and nurture healthy relationships—especially in those early phases of connection.
Here are a few insights for every type:
Reading your type when it comes to love:
TYPE ONE: The Perfectionist. Ethical, dedicated and reliable, Ones are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.
Relationship reminder: Embrace spontaneity and joy by proposing a spontaneous date. Take the pressure off by releasing control of expectations and outcomes. The world won’t fall apart when you kick your heels back.
TYPE TWO: The Helper. Warm and empathetic, twos are motivated by a need to be loved and needed and are always busy befriending strangers and sustaining their social networks.
Relationship reminder: Try not to be absorbed by the needs of your significant other and step outside the box momentarily to ask: “How am I doing?” Fight the urge to jump in and fix other people’s problems, even if you’re good at it.
TYPE THREE: The Performer. Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, threes are driven by a need to succeed at all costs, and to avoid failure.
Relationship reminder: Know that someone’s appreciation of you isn’t always tied to your accomplishments. You have a lot of depth to offer. Be committed to making authentic connections over leading with your career prestige or social status.
TYPE FOUR: The Romantic. Fours are prodigious in their creativity and expression but are particularly sensitive to being misunderstood. They have tendencies to be overly dramatic or stuck in their emotions.
Relationship reminder: Take stock of your emotions but don’t always choose to enter into them. Use your powers of perception to put yourself in your date’s shoes and see things from their side of the table.
TYPE FIVE: The Observer. Analytical, detached and private, fives are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and detach from the expectations of others so they can engage in intellectual pursuits.
Relationship reminder: Don’t be afraid of getting “pulled in” close by another. Your feelings aren’t too much for someone else to handle. You have what it takes to be good at relationships when you move from your head space to hearts space.
TYPE SIX: The Loyalist. Committed, practical and capable, sixes are the most worried of all the types due to their need for security and innate suspiciousness of authority. However, sixes at their best are particularly steadfast and loyal friends.
Relationship reminder: Know that not everyone has a “hidden agenda” and that it’s safe to be optimistic every once in awhile. Use your power of friendship and loyalty to build a trustworthy connection with a date or significant other.
TYPE SEVEN: The Enthusiast. Fun, spontaneous and pleasure-seeking, sevens are motivated by a need to be happy and social, having plenty of stimulating experiences but avoiding pain.
Relationship reminder: Commitment isn’t such a bad thing. Push back on your urge to flee and face what might be driving you to restless but shallow activity. You have so much wisdom to offer by staying grounded and centered.
TYPE EIGHT: The Challenger. Commanding, intense and powerful, eights are looking for the nearest conquest. They are motivated by a need for control and can often be protectors of the underdog.
Relationship reminder: Your power is in your show of tenderness equally as your strong personality. People can love and handle the real you, even when a bit of vulnerability surfaces. If you feel a tear coming on in conversation, don’t hold it back.
TYPE NINE: The Peacemaker. Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, nines have the gift of seeing any single issue from many angles, but have trouble asserting themselves due to desires to keep the peace, merge with another person’s way of life, and avoid conflict.
Relationship reminder: You needn't always “go along to get along”. You have permission to voice a contrasting opinion from your date’s perspective, even if that makes you nervous. Go ahead and step out!