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  • Using the Enneagram to Improve Your Marriage

Jeff and I have been married for twenty-four years, and we have two grown kids. If asked, I would quickly respond that we are happily married. But before you think that we have it all together and every day is perfect, I want to be very clear and honest with you: “becoming us” hasn’t been easy.

Truthfully, there have been times when we seemed to be stuck in marital quicksand, relating to each other in unhealthy patterns that felt nearly impossible to escape. And, in fact, those times were impossible to escape… on our own. But by God’s grace and mercy, he pulled us out of each pit, restored our relationship, and put a deeper affection for one another into our hearts. God not only restored us over the course of years but helped us to thrive, both individually and as a couple.

The gospel brought healing to us individually and to our marriage before we ever heard of the Enneagram. And yet, the Enneagram has been an amazing resource and tool to illuminate our hearts to see if they’re aligned with the gospel, misaligned to some degree, or out of alignment entirely. It has helped us to see where we are misunderstanding each other and then use that insight to both turn toward God, and help us turn toward each other, in a more God-honoring way. Using the Enneagram from this biblical perspective was a significant turning point for us and our marriage.

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The Enneagram is Different

While personality tests are fun and informative, and offer some value, most of them focus on external behaviors. Where they fall short is that they don’t give you the tools to transform yourself from the inside out to become the friend, spouse, and follower of Christ you long to be.

However, the Enneagram works differently. Again, it reveals not what we do, but why we do it. From the Greek words for nine (ennea) and drawing (gram), the Enneagram is a nine-pointed

Gary Chapman's Seeds of Love
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geometric symbol. Each point represents a basic personality Type and a specific pattern of thinking and way of being. This means there are nine valid perspectives of the world.

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The Nine Types and Their Core Motivations

Type 1:

  • Core Fear: Being wrong, bad, evil, inappropriate,unredeemable, or corruptible.
  • Core Desire: Having integrity, being good, balanced,accurate, virtuous, and right.
  • Core Weakness: Resentment—Repressing anger that leads to continual frustration and dissatisfaction with yourself,others, and the world for not being perfect.
  • Core Longing: “You are good.”

Type 2:

  • Core Fear: Being rejected and unwanted, being thought worthless, needy, inconsequential, dispensable, or unworthy of love.
  • Core Desire: Being appreciated, loved, and wanted.
  • Core Weakness: Pride—Denying your own needs and emotions while using your strong intuition to discover and focus on the emotions and needs of others, confidently inserting your helpful support in hopes that others will say how grateful they are for your thoughtful care.
  • Core Longing: “You are wanted and loved.”

Type 3:

  • Core Fear: Being exposed as or thought incompetent,inefficient, or worthless; failing to be or appear successful.• Core Desire: Having high status and respect, being admired, successful, and valuable.
  • Core Weakness: Deceit—Deceiving yourself into believing that you are only the image you present to others; embellishing the truth by putting on a polished persona for everyone (including yourself) to see and admire.
  • Core Longing: “You are loved for simply being you.”

Type 4:

  • Core Fear: Being inadequate, emotionally cut off, plain, mundane, defective, flawed, or insignificant.
  • Core Desire: Being unique, special, and authentic.
  • Core Weakness: Envy—Feeling that you’re tragically flawed, something foundational is missing inside you, and others possess qualities you lack.
  • Core Longing: “You are seen and loved for exactly who you are—special and unique.”

Type 5:

  • Core Fear: Being annihilated, invaded, or not existing; being thought incapable or ignorant; having obligations placed upon you or your energy being completely depleted.
  • Core Desire: Being capable and competent.
  • Core Weakness: Avarice—Feeling that you lack inner resources and that too much interaction with others will lead to catastrophic depletion; withholding yourself from contact with the world; holding onto your resources and minimizing your needs.
  • Core Longing: “Your needs are not a problem.”

Type 6:

  • Core Fear: Feeling fear itself, being without support, security, or guidance; being blamed, targeted, alone, or physically abandoned.
  • Core Desire: Having security, guidance, and support.
  • Core Weakness: Anxiety—Scanning the horizon of life and trying to predict and prevent negative outcomes (especially worst-case scenarios); remaining in a constant state of apprehension and worry.
  • Core Longing: “You are safe and secure.”

Type 7:

  • Core Fear: Being deprived, trapped in emotional pain, limited, or bored; missing out on something fun.
  • Core Desire: Being happy, fully satisfied, and content.
  • Core Weakness: Gluttony—Feeling a great emptiness inside and having an insatiable desire to “fill yourself up” with experiences and stimulation in hopes of feeling completely satisfied and content.
  • Core Longing: “You will be taken care of.”

Type 8:

  • Core Fear: Being weak, powerless, harmed, controlled, vulnerable, manipulated, and left at the mercy of injustice.
  • Core Desire: Protecting yourself and those in your inner circle.
  • Core Weakness: Lust/Excess—Constantly desiring intensity, control, and power; pushing yourself willfully on life and people in order to get what you desire.
  • Core Longing: “You will not be betrayed.”

Type 9:

  • Core Fear: Being in conflict, tension, or discord; feeling shut out and overlooked; losing connection and relationship with others.
  • Core Desire: Having inner stability and peace of mind.
  • Core Weakness: Sloth—Remaining in an unrealistic and idealistic world in order to keep the peace, remain easy-going, and not be disturbed by your anger; falling asleep to your passions, abilities, desires, needs, and worth by merging with others to keep peace and harmony.
  • Core Longing: “Your presence matters.”

God Made Us To Be Different

We are all different, yet we are all uniquely who God made us to be. When we unify in our diversity, we glorify God and bless others. That’s why our purpose for studying the Enneagram is to learn why each Type thinks, feels, and acts in specific ways. With this information, coupled with our assurance in Christ, we can look at ourselves honestly, then surrender and depend on Christ to renew us into his likeness. What a powerful resource! It has the potential to impact every relationship in our lives. It can positively transform our relationships with ourselves, others, and most importantly with God.

Adapted from Becoming Us, Copyright © 2020, Beth and Jeff McCord, Published by Morgan James Publishing, used with permission, all rights reserved. 

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