Enneagram and Faith: Has marriage hindered your development?

It’s said that in marriage, opposites attract. 

I used to think that meant people were different in everything- one likes sports, the other likes art, one like parties, the other likes quiet, etc, etc. But lately I’ve been wondering if it has more to do with personality than interests. 

We tend to like to be around people who complement us. People with whom we have enough in common to understand one another, but also people who approach things differently enough to enrich our perspective. This might be true in marriage more than any other relationships.

I’ve been married 15 years now. Long enough to have learned some things, not long enough to have learned it all. I think a lesson I have been learning lately could be relevant to more than just me, so I’m going to share it today. It relates to enneagram, and how marriage effects the development of our centers.

I’ve written here before that enneagram places personality types in three different centers: the gut (our body and instincts), heart (our emotions and relationships), and head (our thinking and reason). Good decisions involve all three centers to some extent, but we each have a tendency to default to one or two above the other(s). 

One key to growth is realizing which center is our default, and consciously stretching the muscles of the other centers in order to find more balance.

I think marriage can inhibit us from developing our weaker centers.

My husband has strong head and gut centers. One of the reasons I love to travel with him is because he’s so good at it. He’s not thrown when things don’t go as planned. He is able to think through a way out, and he has the confidence to ask for or demand what’s needed in the situation. 

In that same situation, my heart center reigns, with my head center close behind, but circling in fear more than in reason. So I let him take the lead. It’s one of his gifts, after all, so why not let him use it?

Marriages often develop roles over time: one person does the dishes, the other mows the lawn, one does the bills, the other cleans the bathroom. I think, if we’re not careful, we develop personality roles, too. Though I do believe in marriage two become one, I don’t think that means we are meant to give up our personhood.

Two individuals moving towards health and wholeness make for a much stronger team.

After all these years with my husband, I am realizing I have an under-developed gut center. I’ve used his strength as an excuse not to find my own. When he is around, I don’t need to stretch that muscle, so I don’t. Ironically, he wishes I would. In fact, it drives him crazy that I don’t have more confidence. The very thing I default to him to take care of is the very thing he wishes I would take more time to develop. He loves me, and he sees how much more balance I would find if I could pull from my gut center when it was needed.

Ignatius saw that there were three ways to come to a decision. One is to prayerfully consider the pros and cons of each option (head center). Another is to notice the feelings we have as it relates to each option (heart center). The last is to notice how we already know what option to move towards, and to simply do it (gut center). All three of those practices are helpful, especially when done in awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in each. 

Knowing that my default is feelings, I need to consciously employ my pro-con list and impulsive side a little more often, and not just count on my husband to do so. I was made to have all three centers available to me. As I learn to access them, I will become stronger, and so will my marriage.

Have you noticed this in your own marriage? What are your ideas for not allowing your partners strengths to halt your own development?


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*Since this post is focused on marriage, I am doing another giveaway! This time, of a couples enneagram coaching session. I will help you each understand your types, and think through how your types affects how you relate to one another and how you grow, individually and together. This can be done in person or on Skype if you are not local.

There are 3 ways to enter: 1. Comment on this post. 2. Share this post on social media. 3. Share my enneagram coaching page on social media. You can enter in any or all of the ways. Each way gives you one more chance to win. If you share on social media, make sure to tag @everydayawe on Twitter or Instagram or https://www.facebook.com/everydayawe on Facebook.

This give away closes September 3, 2015. Winner will be chosen at random, and notified by email or social media, depending on how the entry was made.

Good luck!

What if it's like driving a boat?

One of our favorite places in the world is my in-law’s cabin on a lake. We love to go there to swim, boat, and escape from the pressures of everyday life.

There is so much I love to do while I’m there, but there’s one thing I despise: I don’t like to drive the speedboat.

I like riding in the speed boat. I enjoy watching my kids ski or tube behind it. But, I flat out refuse to drive it. When I get behind the wheel, my heart thumps, my hands sweat, and my gut gets twisted in anxiety.

For some, driving a boat is easier than driving a car. There is wide open space in front of you. You don’t have to worry about staying in your lane or turning the right way. You simply watch for other boats, stay mindful of your speed, and go where you want to go… Which is exactly what I can’t handle. 

What if I don’t know where I want to go? What if I choose wrong? What if I direct the boat into danger? Why can’t someone just make lanes I can follow so I don’t mess this entire thing up???

So, my husband drives the boat, and I watch, missing out on what could be a grand adventure.

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There are many metaphors that could be used to describe God’s will. I used to think about it like a GPS. We drive, and God tells us where to go. If we go the wrong way, God reroutes us. There is a precise destination at the end that God will not fail to take us to.  Not only that, there is a best route to get there, and if we miss a turn, the drive is going to be much more frustrating.

There’s comfort in that idea. We are behind the wheel, but our lives are not ours to direct. It is simply our responsibility to follow wherever God tells us to go.

But what if God’s will is more like driving a boat? 

What if God is sitting next to us, sunglasses on, with a mischievous smile spread across His face. What if God is asking us that most dangerous of questions… Where do you want to go? 

Owning our desires is dangerous. What if I chose wrong? What if the risks are too high? What if I mess the whole thing up?

But what if that’s the grand adventure God is inviting you into? A life with God beside us, laughing in the wind, riding by our side in the spirit of possibility and wonder. Ready to help if we crash into a rock, but letting us step into the energy of forging out own way.

The wide open water is ahead of you. Where do you want to go?

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Enneagram and Faith: What are your deepest vulnerabilities?

the enneagram and faith

Among the many things that made it difficult for me to see a therapist was the question, “Why this?”

I had been through many difficult experiences in my life. I didn’t understand why this particular circumstance was the one pushing me over the edge. Though I knew I was off, and felt I needed help, the things I was struggling with seemed like things I should have been strong enough to handle on my own. 

My therapist answered the question for me in our second session.

I told her the story about something that happened at work. Though I talked about it with fairly little emotion, the reality is it was making me want to shrink into a corner of my house and never walk out the door again. She heard beneath my voice to my heart, and spoke the truth, “Wow, that's hitting on every one of your deepest fears, isn't it?”

We all have fears. But some are so deep, we like to bury them beneath the others, with a few distractions piled on top for good measure. Vulnerabilities we try to avoid because they are the most difficult for us to handle. 

Now, here mine were, being dug up. Publicly. Of course I needed voices of reason and empathy to help me sort through what had been unearthed.

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One of the most challenging questions enneagram asks us to face is, “What are your deepest vulnerabilities?”

The answer to that question is crucial to our spiritual growth. It deeply impacts our ability to extend empathy and love. When we dig out our vulnerabilities, we also unearth our ability to extend grace.

I am shuffling my body as I write this. My anxious energy is pushing its way through my toes and my fingers, trying to get me to avoid what I know needs to come next. It is always easiest to write about my type as an example. Which means I need to share that thing I try to keep buried. 

As a type 2, my deepest vulnerability is a fear of rejection. Do you like me? Will you like me? What can I do so you will like me? These questions circle inside me all. the. time. Usually, I either avoid them or bury them. Or perhaps most often, try to make myself feel better by answering them in the shallowest possible way. (Hello Facebook!) 

When friends doesn’t have time to get together, I fight with the fear of what that means about the value our friendship plays in their lives. After getting together with a new friend, I fight with the fear of whether I said or did things that would keep that person from wanting to see me again.

Because of this vulnerability about rejection, there are things I feel like I should be able to handle that crush me. But there are other places where someone else might get crushed, but I can handle it. I’ve been told I’m good at receiving criticism, which is the vulnerability that can devastate a type 1. I am prone to disregarding my own needs for the sake of helping others, so the fear of being neglected that a type 9 struggles with feels foreign to me. A type 5 fears looking foolish, but I’ve fallen down that stairs enough in my life to have gotten over that one years ago.

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We all have our junk. We are vulnerable when it comes to some things and strong when it comes to others.

It does me no good to compare, and wonder why that person over there is so much stronger than me. We cannot just “get over” our struggles, nor can someone else just “get over” theirs. Comparing is another way to avoid what needs to be done.

We need to do the hard work of admitting and facing our vulnerabilities. 

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. - Brené Brown

For me, this means putting practices in my life that remind me of my belovedness. When I know that at my core I am not rejected, but loved, it helps me face the relationships in my life with less manipulation and fear. Other people may be able to read one book about God’s love and feel like it’s covered. I read books like Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen and Surrender to Love by David Benner on repeat. I return to the book of Psalms and the Gospel of John over and over again. I put quotes from John O’Donohue on my email and in Evernote so I can return to them whenever I need them. I wrap up in the prayer shawl someone knit for me and feel held by unconditional affection.

Lately, thanks to the enneagram, I have been more conscious of facing the rejection questions head-on with love and grace. I’ve noticed they’re getting a little softer. I might even be able to press publish without fearing how I came across in my self-disclosure and whether you will read me again. Maybe. 

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Do you know what your deepest vulnerabilities are? How might you be able to face your them today? 

Want help figuring out your enneagram type and finding the answers to those questions? Remember to check out my enneagram coaching page for details of how I could be a voice of reason and empathy for what is getting unearthed in your life.