Being Married to a Peacemaker (Enneagram Type 9)

Enneagram Type Nines are some of the best people, the salt of the earth, so to speak. Nines are called “Peacemakers” and are described as easy-going and self-effacing. Nines strive to avoid conflicts with others, and many times this shows up as not having a strong opinion about things, but going along with what others think – never rocking the boat.

My husband Dean is a type Nine – a no-questions-about-it kind of Nine. As I look back to when we first met, I think this is part of what immediately drew me to him. I could tell he was a genuinely good person – he was so sincere and kind. He was (and still is) a great listener, he’s great at validating points of view that are not his own and seeing issues from all different sides. (It’s probably no surprise that he ended up a licensed marriage and family therapist!)

If you read my earlier Enneagram post, you’ll know that I am a Type One – the “Perfectionist” (also known as “Reformer” in some circles.) As you can imagine, my husband and I are very different when it comes to our personalities. Being in a marriage that’s a One/Nine combination comes with many challenges, but also plenty of opportunities.

The Enneagram Institute does a great job at describing relationships between all the different types. As I read the One/Nine relationship description, I felt like it genuinely could have been written about Dean and I.

Opportunities

Some of the great opportunities between a One/Nine relationship are described as follows:

Nines tend to take a bit of the rough edge off of the criticality and seriousness of Ones, while Ones give clarity and direction to Nines. Further, Ones feel that they have a mission in life, and they are able to inspire Nines to become aware of their own purpose and to want to follow it.

As a One, I have high standards for myself and others, and I encourage Dean to push himself to be better too. I’m great at thinking through the logistics of how to do something and then making it happen (checking it off my to-do list – a wonderful feeling for a One.) As a Nine, Dean doesn’t always have the same drive to complete tasks, so sometimes it can be really beneficial for him to have someone (gently) pushing him to move forward on a project.

Dean helps me to slow down when I’m too quick to jump to conclusions or judge another person. He’s great at giving others the benefit of the doubt and having empathy, which I have the ability to do, but sometimes I bypass those feelings and just focus on my anger towards others instead. I have an anxious personality (I think this is common for a lot of Ones) and Dean’s laid-back Nine-ness is very helpful to balance and calm me down.

Challenges

If not kept in check, One/Nine relationships can get caught up in a lot of trouble:

“The main problem area for Ones and Nines has to do with the opposite ways that they deal with conflicts and rising stress. Ones tend to become more openly frustrated with themselves and others and with the feeling that things are not going as they should… Nines begin to shut down and withdraw.”

When I feel frustrated or angry at a situation, eventually I will notice that my stress threshold is about to be reached. I sense that I’m getting dangerously close to having an outburst, and sometimes I can catch it before it happens… but other times it comes out in an explosion of anger towards Dean. At that point, I’m not in a great frame of mind to listen to another point of view or accept fault for my actions. When this happens, Dean and I need to take a break from talking so I can calm down enough to be able to have a fruitful conversation. As much as I hate to admit it, it takes me a long time to calm down. Sometimes I need to wait until the next day before I can rationally discuss the situation again – and (heaven forbid!) if I need to apologize for something, it takes me a long time to swallow my pride and do that too.

As a Nine, Dean is much quicker to calm down, recognize his fault in a situation, and apologize when necessary. I envy this about him. He doesn’t let his anger consume him and he bounces back to his happy-go-lucky self in a flash. Nines don’t want to be angry – after all, they are ultimately trying to avoid conflicts. If Dean does get really worked up, his tendency is to distract himself from his anger, which at the worst of times looks like him withdrawing from me and immersing himself in a solitary activity, like playing video games. A red flag for us in our marriage is when we notice that Dean is suddenly playing a lot more video games than normal – it could be an indication that he’s keeping himself emotionally isolated from me.

Dean and I on our 10th anniversary trip in 2019

I really wish we had known about the Enneagram in our early years of being married. It could have helped us understand how we approached conflict and stress differently, and how best to navigate disagreements when they happened.

I remember early in our marriage when Dean and I would fight, I would often be left alone fuming while I could hear Dean whistling or humming to himself in another room – obviously not affected by our fight (at least that’s what I thought at the time.) That always made me livid! But looking back at those times through the lens of the Enneagram, I can see that these were simply typical ways that a One and a Nine would deal with their anger. I was letting anger consume and fuel me, while Dean was distracting himself from his anger. Neither of those tendencies made us better or worse than the other, we each just had different default modes of operation.

If you’re in a relationship with someone, whether it’s brand new or you’ve been together for over 20 years, I would encourage you to check out the Enneagram. It’s been so helpful to me to learn more about myself and about how my spouse is hard-wired. It has helped Dean and I avoid spinning our wheels in the same ruts over and over again, and actually make progress on the issues we need to work on. And maybe most importantly, it’s helped me love and appreciate the differences between Dean and I.

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