Monday, February 2, 2015

Loved to Death

Question: Today I decided to pursue a divorce from my too-often-angry “One” husband. He rarely shows this angry side to anyone else. Helen Palmer seems to suggest that Ones are usually better off with other Ones. I couldn’t agree more – BUT we have a 9-year-old child. I'm an Enneagram Four. How can I relate better with my One husband whether or not the divorce goes through??? 
It isn't my understanding from The Enneagram in Love & Work that Enneagram Ones are better off with each other. Palmer does suggest when paired, “each understands that being critical acknowledges your investment in the relationship. When they fight it’s a slow buildup, short explosive tussle, long silent standout, then gradual re-engagement.”

She also seems to press hard on the partnership of styles One and Four, a “volatile relationship that embodies the potential for deep self-understanding” but one in which a cycle can develop "where One's criticism reinforces Four's lack of worth.” At worst, “they share dissatisfaction with life, Four because something is missing, One because it’s flawed.” 

But any combination of Enneagram styles can work well or lead to problems, depending on the partners' level of emotional health and self-awareness. With styles One and Four, there are indeed some shadow aspects for each in the other. (Palmer – “when Fours act out ‘improper’ emotions, Ones recoil from seeing their own Shadow in action. Four's ‘emotional exhibitionism’ can seem self-indulgent and repellent to One.”)

In addition to acknowledging your own part in interaction dynamics, it’s helpful to consider what makes each style in a partnership tick. People with Enneagram One patterns can be especially sensitive to criticism so I suggest, instead of "fixing" your husband or your relationship, that you focus on possibilities (which will use your strength and draw out his Seven aspects).

Similarly, if you ask "What if...?" instead of disagreeing with him, you'll invite problem solving vs. hardening his position. When you reframe his criticism as a possibility, you might find him easier to get along with. And it works sometimes to negotiate rules you're both willing to live by, and then stick to them. 

Finally, if you acknowledge your faults/mistakes first, that may lower his defenses and open up a deeper conversation. If he's deeply entranced, however, he'll be too well-defended to admit any mistakes on his part.


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