The Enneagram is becoming a widely-used tool for self-awareness, but when viewed through the lens of the Gospel, it has the power to strengthen and restore relationships.
Learning to communicate and resolve conflict with your spouse is a lot less about getting it right and more about gaining the emotional awareness to know what is happening in us and in them. The Enneagram can help us figure out what is keeping us from engaging intimately with each other and trusting God to take care of us in the process. This deeper understanding creates more compassion, care, empathy, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
But how do we begin to change habits that have been around for most of our lifetime? First, be proactive on the positive. Focus on affirming your spouse in a multitude of ways, especially for who they are in Christ.
Thriving marriages seek out opportunities to connect with one another in more positive ways than negative. When our hearts are at rest with the truth of the Gospel, we don’t need to use demands, judgments, or punishments since Christ has perfectly satisfied our deepest need. This ultimately means we don’t need for our spouse to come through for us like we thought or demanded—Christ already has!
What this confirms is what we most likely already know: When we intentionally focus on the positive, we set ourselves up for a positive outcome. But more importantly, when we turn toward our spouse in a positive and affirming manner, we are embodying the truth of the Gospel for them. We communicate to them that we see them, their needs, and that they are loved.
The Power of Affirmation
The Enneagram helps us offer the same love, forgiveness, and peace to our partners that Jesus offers us. You can start by looking to your spouse’s personality Type to see what qualities you can purposely affirm. Here are some things you can always affirm in your spouse’s Type:
Type 1: They are ethical, reliable, productive, wise, idealistic, conscientious, orderly, and self-disciplined.
Type 2: They are loving, caring, nurturing, compassionate, generous, supportive, and empathetic.
Type 3: They are optimistic, motivating, efficient, excelling, accomplished, admirable, and organized.
Type 4: They are compassionate, empathetic, introspective, supportive, creative, authentic, and emotionally deep.
Type 5: They are objective, observant, perceptive, curious, analytical, thoughtful, and innovative.
Type 6: They are loyal, committed, trustworthy, responsible, likable, compassionate, and hardworking.
Type 7: They are fun-loving, imaginative, optimistic, enthusiastic, creative, quick, and joyous.
Type 8: They are compassionate, protective, inspiring, resilient, empowering, self-assertive, and an advocate for the weak.
Type 9: They are great listeners, thoughtful, kind, generous, patient, accepting, and peaceable.
Affirming our spouse to become their best self helps us to become our best self. But here’s a challenging statement:
Helping our spouse to become their best self isn’t about us changing them into who we think they should be; it’s about coming alongside of them and loving them as they are becoming who God wants them to be.
Obviously, we can’t just transform instantly into the perfect spouse just because we have some new knowledge. But the real power to become a loving spouse aligned with the Gospel comes when we surrender to the Holy Spirit and depend solely on Him to do this transforming work of us.
In the midst of a bid for connection, we can communicate that we see our spouse’s need. We can demonstrate safety when they share, no matter how deep their needs are hidden under criticism, fear, or a demanding heart. And we can even move toward them by indicating we are there for them. We can do this since we can securely rely on the fact that the Gospel is at work within us.
When we struggle and want to grow, it allows us to walk with the Spirit and trust him in new and dynamic ways moment by moment, day by day.
Beth McCord is the founder of Your Enneagram Coach, a community designed to be a safe place for individuals to explore a Christ-centered Enneagram. In her new book, "Becoming Us", Beth and her husband, Pastor Jeff McCord, provide a roadmap for couples to break free from unhealthy patterns, align their marriage with the Gospel, and grow into the couple God designed them to be. Learn more at BecomingUs.com.