Perhaps the most difficult decisions to make in life are those concerning our romantic relationships... Attempting to think in a calm and rational manner becomes a near impossible task when we are overwhelmed by strong feelings of emotion.
We are plagued by questions such as "How should I choose a partner? Should I choose someone exciting, or someone who balances and calms me?", "Why is it that I'm feeling unhappy in my current romantic relationship? What changes should I make?" or "If my romantic relationship is currently good, does that mean I should take it to the next level? What does that even look like and what is important for our romantic relationship to thrive?"
There can be so much uncertainty in love - how can we know the 'right' answers to these tough questions?
The Importance of Compassion
Research indicates that individuals make decisions on whether to stay or leave a relationship based on the perceived fulfilment of their needs. It is too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on caring for your partner at the expense of ignoring your own needs - a pattern that only ever leads to resentment and ruin. Assessing the wants and desires of both yourself and your partner is vital for a healthy relationship.
While this sounds great in theory, it can be often challenging to implement in practice: determining your own needs is difficult, never mind the needs of others too.
However, the solution might lie in simply practicing compassion. Although it is a term that is thrown around a lot, causing the more cynical people in a room to roll their eyes and scoff, it is an immensely powerful tool to gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives and wishes of others. A combination of consideration, empathy, kindness and concern; it is a crucial building block for a healthy relationship.
Part of practicing compassion is recognising that perspectives and needs vary vastly between different people. Just because you have a certain set of expectations does not mean your partner has the same ones: a phenomenon that is well illustrated with the notion of 'Love Languages'. This pragmatic approach to romance argues that different personalities give and receive love in very different ways, either through words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch. The love language that a person corresponds with most determines their entire outlook on romance, shaping the manner in which they show, and want to be shown, affection.
In light of these differences, it is important that we develop a strong understanding of the different ways that other personalities view and interact with the world. Oftentimes when others exhibit patterns of behaviour that we do not understand, our initial reactions are those of frustration and even anger. The Enneagram is a powerful tool that allows us to not only better understand ourselves, but provide more insight into the true feelings of the people around us too - enabling a deep level of empathy and tolerance in our romantic lives.
When we are aware of both our individual needs and the needs of our partners, we are able to practice compassion towards ourselves and each other- enabling us to set clear standards for what each person wants and expects in a romantic relationship. Once you and your partner have your standards, the two of you can look at how you both are behaving to determine whether the relationship meets these standards and your needs are being met. This can then help the two of you know whether to remain in the relationship or breakup.
The Enneagram consists of nine different personality types, each with entirely different ways of communicating, expressing themselves and seeing the world. These include the:
ENNEAGRAM TYPE ONE: Generally described as principled, objective, conscientious and quality orientated, Enneagram Type Ones are motivated by a desire to be either good or right. These enneagram types value being moral and ethical, placing qualities such as self-control, integrity and quality in high regard. Their core motivations are that of perfection and structure.
Given their drive to be perfectionists, Enneagram Type Ones tend to be hard on themselves. Consequently, when in a romantic relationship and in love, they would require a lot of reassurance from their partners that they are appreciated for just being themselves and for being a good partner.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, remember to relax and have fun. A spur-of-the-moment date with your partner would allow you to embrace spontaneity and joy. Take pressure off of yourself by ceding control of outcomes and expectations. The world will not fall apart when you allow yourself to let your hair down, kick your shoes off and let out your inner child.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE TWO: Associated with qualities such as warmth, generosity and self-sacrifice; the people orientated Enneagram Type Two is motivated by a need to be liked and appreciated. They value relationships and as a result kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice are all incredibly important qualities to them. Always striving to make the world a more loving and supportive place, they shower attention and care onto their loved ones.
Driven by their nurturing nature, these Enneagram types places a great deal of concern on the wellbeing of others and are innately attuned and sensitive to people's needs. This makes them extremely supportive romantic partners but can also result in a tendency to focus more on others than themselves. When in romantic relationships they require partners who remind them that they too are also important.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, take cognisance of yourself and try not to become overly absorbed by the needs of your partner. Momentarily step outside the bubble that is your relationship and ask yourself: "How am I doing?" "Are my needs being met?" - these questions will provide more insight into your own needs while also enabling you to enjoy far healthier relationships. Even if you are good at it, fight against your natural urge to jump right in and fix other people's problems. This can easily be achieved by simply incorporating alone time for self-care
ENNEAGRAM TYPE THREE: Common descriptions used for the Enneagram Type Threes include: ambitious, efficient, adaptable, driven and results-oriented - they are driven by their motivational need to outshine others and be the best.
Enneagram Type Threes are not always the easiest of people to be in a romantic relationship with given that they have a tendency to constantly be worried about not achieving the kind of success that they would like to in the world. As a result, they need partners who give them positive feedback on their accomplishments.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, you need to sever the tie that you create between love and achievement. Your partner appreciates and loves you for who you are, not for your achievements. Trust that you have a great deal of depth to offer and therefore commit to making authentic, deep connections over leading with your social status and career prestige.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE FOUR: Described as being self-attuned, purpose-driven, inspired, sensitive and courageous; Enneagram Type Fours are driven by a motivational need to be unique and authentic. Type Fours are likely to value their individualism and as a result, feelings, self-expression and purpose are of great import. Romantics at heart, they appreciate beauty and creating meaning for themselves and others.
These Enneagram types are known to be creative thinkers, with a tendency toward melancholy that is offset by an ability to find meaning in even the most difficult of life's challenges. This would mean then that Fours would benefit from a partner who is light-hearted.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, acknowledge and take stock of your emotions, being aware however that you do not always have to choose to enter into and become absorbed by them. Instead, use your gift of intuition and perception to put yourself in your partner's shoes and allow yourself to see things from your partner's side.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE FIVE: Described as someone who is perceptive, curious, unsentimental, self-sufficient and inventive, Enneagram Type Fives are motivated by the need to understand. They likely put enormous value into making sense of the world around them and, as a result of conserving resources, objectivity and knowledge are important to them. Striving for independence, they appreciate privacy and expertise - offering the gift of non-attachment to themselves and the world around them.
These Enneagram types are generally introverted by nature and are known to be skilful at analytical thinking, taking lots of time to put their ideas into the world. They therefore appreciate partners who are good listeners, especially when they finally emerge from their deep thoughts. Enneagram Type Fives also need to be given the time and space to process emotion - requiring that their partners do not force this process. Instead patiently trusting that they will come to you eventually is key.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, as an innately private and detached person, you should not be afraid of being drawn in by your partner. Despite what you may think, your feelings are not too much for your loved ones to handle. Draw more from your heart space to balance your heavy orientation towards your head space - you will have a better chance at a healthy romantic relationship as a result.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE SIX: Descriptions commonly used for the Enneagram Type Six include: devoted, courageous, prepared, trustworthy and team-orientated. This personality is driven towards safety and belonging, valuing kindness, loyalty and trust above all else. Sixes desire security - they strive to be responsible and appreciate being prepared and alert at all times.
The Enneagram type Six personalities can range from cautious and introverted to confrontational and extroverted. They are loyal, responsible and trustworthy to their family and friends, however, and benefit immensely from a partner who remains calm, does not react to their anxiety levels and who will work through things with them - especially as they tend to weigh up the pros and cons of every situation. As a partner to an Enneagram Type Six, you should put your trust in them and feel safe, knowing that they are prepared for anything that may come your way as a couple.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, try to remember not to worry as often and trust that not everyone has a 'hidden agenda'. It is safe to be optimistic now and then. Use your gift of loyalty and friendship to build a trustworthy connection with your partner.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE SEVEN: Described as being optimistic, fun-loving, spontaneous, restless and uninhibited, Enneagram Type Sevens are driven by the need to experience life to the fullest and avoid pain. This personality type values a sense of freedom and optimism in others.
Being inspired and taking opportunities as they present themselves is incredibly important to them since they approach life through playfulness, spontaneity and adventure.
Enneagram Type Sevens are comfortable trying new things and are known to be stimulating conversationalists. To this end, they would benefit from a partner who can keep up with them and who respects their independence.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, remind yourself that commitment is actually not such a bad thing. In fact, there is freedom within commitment - especially when you concentrate on simply being in the present moment. Therefore, resist your urge to flee and face head on what might be driving you towards restlessness and shallow activity. Know that by staying grounded and centred, you have so much wisdom to offer.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE EIGHT: Qualities such as assertiveness, decisiveness, protectiveness, independence and influence spring to mind when describing an Enneagram Type Eight. Motivated by the need to be strong and avoid vulnerability, they value control and autonomy above all else. Eights love challenges and embody a need for justice, which enables them to protect others.
They can often come across as outspoken, direct and in charge, tending to speak in a very assertive way. As a result, their Enneagram compatibility is strongest with partners that will not automatically mistake directness as a personal attack. To ensure the maintenance of a long-lasting and healthy relationship, their partners need to be patient and understand that this is just the way they are while simultaneously encouraging their tender, vulnerable side.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, you have a gift for being equally tender and strong. You have enormous potential for personal development by simply working to embrace feelings, instead of ignoring them - so long as they do not come out in an overly aggressive manner . So, do not hold back should you feel tears well up in your eyes during a conversation with your partner. Your partner can love and handle the real you, even when a bit of vulnerability bubbles to the surface, so make sure to embrace your feelings and not suppress them.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE NINE: Generally described as agreeable, understanding, patient, supportive and genuine, Enneagram Type Nines are motivated by a desire to be settled and in harmony with the world. Nines value being understood, and as a result being accommodating and accepting are important to them. They strive for a peaceful existence and appreciate stability, preferring to avoid conflict.
These types are known as supportive and receptive listeners who are always able to go with the flow. They need a partner who understands their innate ability to acknowledge all sides of an issue, which can often result in others perceiving them as indecisive or lacking initiative.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP TIP: In a relationship, you have every right to speak up and voice a contrasting opinion from your partner - even if this makes you nervous and uncomfortable. You do not have to always 'go along to get along.' Go ahead, give yourself permission to step outside your comfort zone.
Imagine returning home after a long day and your partner knew exactly what it is that you needed... Be it a glass of wine, a hug, a long heart-felt conversation, space to reflect or a silent stroll with your hands intertwined. Sound good? Of course it does! Now what if, in return, you knew exactly what your partner needed? Imagine how appreciated and satisfied you both would feel, knowing that both your needs are being acknowledged and seen to. This is why working together to understand each other's needs is a dance that can create a meaningful and lasting relationship.
By using the power of the Enneagram for relationships, we are able to understand both our own and our loved one's personalities - the unique motivations that drive us, and how to support, encourage and bring out the best in each other. The Enneagram allows us to develop the skills to not only care for our partners, but to acknowledge and remind ourselves that we too have needs; and by meeting each other's' needs, we open ourselves up to more loving, fulfilling and healthy relationships.
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