Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Sky is Falling!

I'm an Enneagram style Four and my husband is style Six. We've recently adopted our first child and, though we're overjoyed to have a new addition in our lives, this is also a sleepless, stressful time as we adjust to our new roles. I'm particularly stressed because lately my husband seems less like my helpmate and more like an additional child, whose fears I must constantly calm. I feel as if I live with Chicken Little who's constantly crying the sky is falling. I'm having a hard time staying calm and positive when his paranoia kicks in. Any suggestions about how I can better cope with this portion of my spouse's personality, or ways I can make him feel more secure and less pessimistic?
First children can be stressful for any number of reasons – lack of sleep, changing roles, new responsibilities. One particular element is that children seem to evoke our hidden aspects, both the Shadow inner child and the Shadow inner parent. And because our society still pushes parenting more squarely on the mother, she often begins to feel she now has two children. Complicated feelings are evoked in men when children enter the family – as depicted in Frank Pittman's Man Enough: fathers, sons, and the search for masculinity
 
Actually, this can happen any time the wife nurtures someone else. For example, a style Nine wife spent two weeks helping her mother recuperate from broken ribs, expecting she could return to her style Eight husband and nestle under his protective arm. WRONG! He was feeling needy because she'd been gone, but of course as an Eight couldn't admit it, so it was a tough re-entry for both of them.  

Possibly you, as style Four and recently a mother, are connecting more with your Two energy. This has its up and down sides. On the down side, Fours begin to exhibit qualities of average to unhealthy Twos – wanting to be reassured the relationship is working and/or being more highly self-absorbed and thus having more difficulty relating to the spouse in customary ways (paradoxically, with increasing fears of abandonment). At the same time the husband with style Six is showing some Three behaviors – plagued with self-doubt, experiencing a higher need for approval and support, and feeling competitive (of the new child in this case), with increased fear of rejection. 

When your primary styles are under stress, Fours are more likely to focus on what's missing and Sixes  to uncover potential problems (as you've noted). According to Sarah Aschenbach (Relationships Made Easy) Fours can move to being "self-conscious, moody, hypersensitive" and Sixes to feeling "anxious, vacillating, eager to please" (or countering those behaviors with their opposite). Aschenbach also writes:
Under stress, Fours begin to feel no one understands or appreciates them for their unique gifts. . . As stress increases, they demand the right to do only what they want to do when they want to do it."
"Under stress, Sixes begin to vacillate between caving in and taking a tough stand. . . they may first try to make everyone happy then suddenly turn on one or both of the forces that they feel are trying to tear them apart. . . .
Style Fours often have a unique, protective energy toward children and animals (perhaps some internal re-parenting is taking place?), so you may be focusing so much on your new child you're not offering your husband the love and affection and attention he's accustomed to. That's neither good nor bad, but you might ask yourself if you're living some of your own unmet needs from childhood through this new little person in your life, perhaps overly focusing on the child's needs?

Helen Palmer (The Enneagram in Love and Work) notes that style Four can be as fearful as style Six. So it's possible his paranoia is hooking you because in part you're projecting onto him aspects of yourself you're having trouble owning. Palmer also writes,
In a down phase each blames the other for feelings of low self- esteem. The Four may think, "I'd feel better if I had a better partner" and the Six may ask, "How can this be love when I both love my partner and entertain doubts?"'. . . A crisis develops if both collude in worst-case thinking about their future. . . It helps when either can back down long enough to reaffirm their commitment. A good reminder would be: "This is a difficult phase; but remember, we're committed to changing and staying together." Fair-fight guidelines are useful because either type is likely to quit under fire. . . It helps when both partners can see through their own ambivalence about intimacy. . . It's a breakthrough when either can see the similarity between Four's push-pull habit of relating and Six's alternating pattern of belief and mistrust.
A style Four friend whose husband is style Six offered the following: 
My husband has been good for me. As a Four who feels flawed, his undying loyalty is a gift: he's there for me. But if we'd met at an earlier point in time – when he was more into his anger and I was more into my self-absorption – it might not have gone so smoothly. There could be a problem if the Four is very verbal and likes to process a lot of emotions, because when a Six is hurting that's the last thing he wants to do. The Four's way of processing isn't the Six's way of processing. It would irritate a Six for the Four to process a lot of feelings, even if she just asked questions. What the Six needs is space. It can also be a problem if the Four is pulling back emotionally because of all the attention the child needs, which the Six could take personally. The Six tends to say, "It's my fault" or "I've got to fix it." Any new mother is going to be physically tired, and the things men take as affirmation will go down the tubes. So it may help if she explains to her husband what's going on: "Right now I'm stressed out and I'm pulling back because I'm trying to survive." He'll probably be O.K. with that because it's not about their relationship, he's not looking for a hidden agenda, not worrying she's going to spring something on him.
You can't make your husband feel more secure and less pessimistic; that's his work. But you can look at yourself and work on your own stresses; making it more likely your love for him will be clear and tangible. 


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