How the Enneagram Can Help Progress Your Relationships

By Carli Wall, MFT Intern

What Is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality test that provides a more detailed version of how people see, understand, and relate to themselves and the people around them. The Enneagram represents your primary personality type. After childhood, when transitioning into adulthood, everyone has one of the nine personality types that leads to their personality. We inherently are born with one dominating personality type nurtured through childhood and solidified as we become adults. The Enneagram describes different patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions.

The Enneagram posits that individuals have nine personality types, one of which is dominant.
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The Nine Types

The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious

The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

The personality types can be divided into three main categories or centers: the instinctive center, the feeling center, and the thinking center.
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Three Centers

The personality types can be divided into three main categories or centers: the instinctive center, the feeling center, and the thinking center. This means the Enneagram in a particular center relies heavily on instinct, thinking, or feeling when making decisions in life. This can be particularly important to understand oneself when communicating needs and desires in a relationship.

The three centers also represent the core experience that each number experiences when it comes to the relationship with their self and their core belief in themselves. The instinctive center is anger or rage. The feeling center is shame, and the thinking center is fear. This means when the layers are peeled, these powerful core emotions lie in the center of each personality type.

The Wings

Since no one is one personality type purely, the wings help us understand how our dominant personality type mixes with other personality types to create our unique sense of self. When looking at the Enneagram image above, the wings are the two numbers adjacent to your number. For example, if you are a 6 personality type (the Loyalist), your wings are 7 (the Enthusiast) and 5 (the Investigator). Although you primarily identify and have dominant personality traits of a 6, you also have some complementary traits of a 7 and 5 personality type.

The Enneagram tells us which personality types we lean into in states of growth and stress.

Levels of Development and Growth/Stress

The Enneagram takes it a step beyond your prominent personality type and supporting personality (wings) and helps one understand the level of development within their Enneagram. Each Enneagram has three development stages to describe the way one is currently living and experiencing their Enneagram: healthy, average, and unhealthy. Within each stage, different levels pinpoint precisely where one is developing.

“As we become more present, we see our personality traits more objectively, and the Levels become a continuous guide to self-observation, a map that we can use to chart where we are in our psycho-spiritual development at any given time. As we move “up” the Levels, we discover that we are freer and less driven by compulsive, unconscious drives and therefore able to act more effectively in all areas of our lives, including in our relationships.” (Enneagram Institute)

The Enneagram also tells us what personality types we tend to lean into when we are in a place of stress or personal growth. To learn more about your growth and stress personality Enneagram traits, take the test below listed under “Resources.”

How the Enneagram Can Help Me and My Relationships

The Enneagram is designed to help one understand yourself. To fully understand how you see yourself, your motivations in life, your fears, your desires, what passions you have, how you love, your basic behaviors, attitudes, defenses, desires, and motivations.

Once we understand how we show up for ourselves and want others to show up, we can take this information into the relationship space. Suppose we can learn our partners’ basic behaviors, attitudes, defenses, desires, and motivations. In that case, we can take the steps to better understand their experience and respect how it differs from ours. We stop making assumptions about our partner’s experience based on our own, and we start approaching them with curiosity to understand and accept how they perceive themselves and the world.

Learning your Enneagram and your partner’s Enneagram can help bridge the communication gap that so many couples struggle with. When in conflict, if each partner can understand the other’s experience and how one acts under stress, you can repair the conflict quicker and easier since both partners would feel understood and respected.

The Enneagram is a straightforward way of understanding our core belief systems. It highlights each personality’s positive and opportunities to better understand ourselves and the ones we love most. The levels of development help us know where we are in connection with ourselves and where our journey to growth lies. With the Enneagram, we can better understand our partner, family, and selves so we can continue to show up as our authentic selves and feel understood by those we love. “The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.”

Enneagram Resources



  • “The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual
    Growth for the Nine Personality Types” By Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
  • “Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery” By Don Richard Riso
  • “The Nine Keys: A Guide Book To Unlock Your Relationships Using Kundalini Yoga and
    the Enneagram” by Lynn Roulo

See My Reading Recommendations


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