Enneagram Relationships: What Your Partner Wants, According to Their Number

UPDATED: February 28, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 14, 2021
Happy couple hugging in their kitchen because they understand the importance of enneagram relationships

If love were like the movies, having similar tastes in music and long walks on the beach would be enough for love to last. In real life, committed relationships demand time, compromise and juggling the expectations that come with merging two independent lives into one home—where we share schedules and medicine cabinets, but not the same opinion about how they should be arranged. 

To combine the multitude of differences that two people bring into a relationship, a healthy dose of self-awareness is crucial, but it can be difficult to acquire. With the guidance of an ancient tool called the Enneagram in relationships, couples can unearth the motivation that’s hidden behind their behaviors and prevent hurtful and incorrect assumptions from taking root.

Enneagram relationships: Looking behind the behavior

Suzanne Stabile is an Enneagram expert and the bestselling author of The Road Back to You (a must-read for anyone seeking to identify their Enneagram type) and The Path Between Us (an Enneagram guidebook for relationships). She explains how the Enneagram illuminates the unique ways each person in a relationship approaches conflict and their day-to-day decisions.

“We are highly focused culturally on behavior, and because we move at such a fast pace, we don’t question what’s behind the behavior,” Stabile says. “We simply look at the behavior and judge it as good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate. And behavior appropriateness and rightness differ depending on what your motivation was for the behavior.”

Daring to look beneath the surface to investigate why we behave or respond the way we do can set the table for a wider conversation that adds lasting understanding and compassion for ourselves and the ones we love. It is also a reminder that the way we view the world is not necessarily how our partner experiences it. 

How does our Enneagram affect relationships?

This becomes especially clear when we consider the three centers of intelligence within the Enneagram—thinking, feeling and doing—which determine the lens through which a person views the world at first glance. It’s this filter that informs whether a person’s immediate response to a situation is to consider the way they feel about it, how they think about it or what they’re going to do about it. In conflict, asking a partner for their emotional response when their information processing priority is to rush to action will create an inevitable divide. Acknowledging that disconnect can prevent us from unfairly forcing our expectations onto the ones we love.

“Each number takes in information differently,” Stabile says. “You can’t change how you see; you can only change how you do with what you see.”

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In spite of our differences, there are no two types that—when healthy—can’t develop a successful partnership. The key is working on ourselves, rather than pointing out areas for improvement within our partners, and learning to articulate our needs while listening to the other person’s desires as well.

“We need to take responsibility for speaking for ourselves,” Stabile says. “You need to ask for what you want and need, and if you haven’t asked for it, then work really hard not to have an expectation that you’ll get it.”

Understanding Enneagram numbers to strengthen relationships

As you consider the Enneagram and how the resources it provides impact your experience within romantic relationships, remember that it is a tool meant to point inward, for reflection and personal growth, not outward as a tool to fix your partner.

“One of the things that happens when people start to learn the Enneagram is they start to work on other people,” Stabile says. “Knowing someone’s number is designed to help you have space for their differences, not for you to tell them how they can be better. Use what you learn to be as healthy as you can be. After that, meet someone where they are.”

There is more to the Enneagram than the motivations underneath our behaviors, but understanding why we act the way we do can give us a shared starting line. As we seek to understand and put language to the ways we prefer to receive love from our partners, we’ll also learn to leave room for others to be fully and truly themselves.

Read on to learn how you can use Enneagram wisdom to build stronger romantic relationships, and discover new ways you can honor the person you choose to share your life (and closet space) with, until death do you part.

Type One: The Perfectionist

Center of intelligence: Doing

Within a One resides a critical voice that constantly scolds them for mistakes and is quick to point out any area of life that could use improvement. This exhausting mental flagellation makes it so they yearn for perfection, sometimes leading them to expect it from those they love as well. Although this pattern of correcting and perfecting creates an unwelcome habit when left unchecked, Ones are typically much harder on themselves than their significant others. A loving partner will have compassion for the steady stream of mental criticism they endure and refrain from using condescending or patronizing language.

Way to honor an Enneagram One in your relationship: Don’t make fun of them.

Type Two: The Helper

Center of intelligence: Feeling

Twos are naturally intuitive to the feelings and needs of others around them, and they can sometimes confuse their partner’s feelings as their own. Relationships are essential for Twos, who seek it in interactions big and small, and this can split their focus from their primary partner. On a date, this looks like distracting conversations with waitstaff or chatting with a nearby stranger out of an innocent desire to connect with others. Twos are full of feelings and a longing for relationship, so as they take risks offering their heart to their partner, they’ll need to be mindful that they aren’t attempting to love enough for the both of them.

Way to honor an Enneagram Two in your relationship: Generously offer affection.

Type Three: The Achiever

Center of intelligence: Feeling

Although Threes need to be loved and respected for who they are rather than what they do, their knack for achieving can make it challenging to separate the two. Partners of Threes will have to make concerted efforts to verbalize their appreciation often and with intentionality so that these compliments won’t be lumped in as a response to their many triumphs. Because the overachieving Three is always dreaming and planning for the next big goal on the horizon, keeping trips down memory lane brief is key to keeping them engaged in conversation. 

Way to honor an Enneagram Three in your relationship: Celebrate their accomplishments.

Type Four: The Individualist

Center of intelligence: Feeling

Fours seek beauty and creativity in every corner of their life, which can lend them to melancholy and disappointment when the world is, well, ordinary. The mundane is tiresome for them, and a loving partner will learn how to help them complete the daily tasks of life without attempting to fix their problems. Fours feel things deeply, so it is unrealistic to expect them to maintain the same disposition all day long. When their moods begin an inevitable cycle of drastic ups and downs, loving them means being available without getting sucked into the drama along with them. In other words, don’t get on the roller coaster, but stay in the park.

Way to honor an Enneagram Four in your relationship: Help them see the beauty in the ordinary.

Type Five: The Thinker

Center of intelligence: Thinking

Fives generally have a field of expertise or an interest that they have studied extensively. Because their feelings are attached to what they know, partners of Fives can show love by listening respectfully to their niche knowledge and remembering information to recall in future conversations. Although their knowledge seems infinite, their energy levels are decidedly not, and they will chafe at a loaded schedule. Respecting a Five means encouraging their autonomy to decline or limit social engagements.

Way to honor an Enneagram Five in your relationship: Clear the calendar from time to time.

Type Six: The Guardian

Center of intelligence: Thinking

Sixes spend a lot of mental energy planning for worst case scenarios. In relationships, this translates to curiosity, and partners who brush off their questions will be met with a Six who assumes there is a hidden agenda lurking behind the silence. Showing respect for a Six’s concerns is an act of love and when their worries are acknowledged, it’s often apparent that their anxiety is rooted in a concern for the common good of the relationship rather than irrational fear. Being trustworthy and helping a Six trust themselves is the surest way to their heart.

Way to honor an Enneagram Six in your relationship: Reassure them frequently through words and actions.

Type Seven: The Enthusiast

Center of intelligence: Thinking

Sevens need spontaneity. As the life of the party, Sevens often obscure their depth behind a fun exterior and an armor of self-protecting humor and unfailing optimism. Asking questions and listening to their experiences will help them reveal themselves more authentically. Sevens think they are in tune with the full range of their emotions, but they only access the happy half, so sadness is not natural for them. If they share sorrow or painful memories, it is not an open invitation for their partner to do the same.

Way to honor an Enneagram Seven in your relationship: Only impose schedules when it is absolutely necessary.

Type Eight: The Boss

Center of intelligence: Doing

Eights crave intensity, and if they can’t find it at home, they’ll look for ways to create it through risky adventures or unwarranted debates. Flattery falls flat with them—they’d rather hear the cold hard truth—so partners can show love by getting straight to the point without cushioning it with excessive praise. They often appear dominant because of their fearless approach to conflict, but Eights possess a tenderness that is only shared when they feel safe. Partners who are given access to this vulnerability should receive it as a gift without making an awkward show when they discover that it does, in fact, exist.

Way to honor an Enneagram Eight in your relationship: Take up space and own your opinions.

Type Nine: The Peacemaker

Center of intelligence: Doing

Nines need time to make decisions. Their slow cadence and easygoing nature are not always an accurate reflection of their opinions, and a loving partner will learn to make room for them to name their preferences at their own pace. Nines have a strong desire to avoid conflict and ironically procrastinate by doing, so they’ll need to remind themselves that saving difficult conversations for later isn’t always a healthy solution. Of all the Enneagram numbers, Nines have the least amount of energy, but their generous spirit means partners will have to be intentional about not taking advantage of them.

Way to honor an Enneagram Nine in your relationship: Be clear with your expectations.

Enneagram is a tool to help improve relationships

Fruitful relationships require healthy communication and conflict, and the Enneagram has a way of softening the sting of hard conversations with our partners.

“It’s part of the mystique of the Enneagram,” Stabile says. “You can use numbers to say things that you could not say using someone’s name without hurting them or making them feel angry or impatient.”

Although unhealthy arguments naturally dissolve into finger pointing and asking “What’s wrong with us?” or, worse, “What’s wrong with you?” Enneagram wisdom teaches us to shift our focus toward reaching the other side of conflict with our relationship and connection intact. With that understanding, the question becomes “How do we bridge this disconnect?” and “How do we find each other?”

“The first thing you have to do is let go of wanting to be right and wanting the other person to be wrong,” Stabile says. “The goal has to be bridge building, not winning.”

This article was updated February 2024. Photo by PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.com

Sarah Paulk is a freelance writer known for her interviews with the thought leaders behind multimillion- and multibillion-dollar brands. Her cover stories and feature articles have appeared in Success from Home, Direct Selling News, Empowering Women and more. Sarah is also an author and ghostwriter who helps her clients bring their memories and research to life in book form. Connect with her at her website www.sarahpaulk.com.