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I thought he was perfect: funny, smart, Catholic. But then I asked the question — you know the one.

“What’s your enneagram number?”

“Four,” he replied.

We broke up the next day. 

Enneagram com­pat­i­bility should be on people’s list of deal-breakers; people love being known and under­stood, espe­cially in romantic rela­tion­ships. That’s why you should date only people with whom your “type” is com­patible. 

The enneagram test is a model of the human psyche that describes inter­con­nected per­son­ality types — it won’t tell you which Disney princess you’re most like, or what color best describes your mood. It’s a care­fully crafted test that aims to under­stand a person’s drives: their moti­va­tions, strengths, and weak­nesses. A closely related, more popular, test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indi­cator. While that test is helpful to figure out how a person makes deci­sions, the enneagram test explains why they make them.

In 1915 Russia, philosopher George Gur­d­jieff cat­e­go­rized nine per­son­al­ities into an “enneagram, which broke down emo­tional and behav­ioral aspects of each per­son­ality trait.” Psy­chol­o­gists in Berkeley, Cal­i­fornia, fol­lowed his example, and by the late 1960s, the enneagram was adopted as a rep­utable tool in the field of psy­chology. 

The results range from one to nine, each “type” a shorthand way of indi­cating a person’s attitude or behavior. The numbers aren’t ranked numer­i­cally and no “type” is inher­ently better than the next — they’re just dif­ferent.

The Enneagram Institute’s analyses describe your per­son­ality as a range of dif­ferent atti­tudes. So you can see how a type eight like myself (we’re referred to as the chal­lengers, the “pow­erful, dom­i­nating type: self-con­fident, decisive, willful, and con­fronta­tional”) wouldn’t mesh well with a four (“the sen­sitive, with­drawn type: expressive, dra­matic, self-absorbed, and tem­pera­mental”).

To con­tex­tu­alize, psy­chol­o­gists say that Winston Churchill was an eight. They also say Taylor Swift is a four. If you can envision a world where that would ever work out, good on you — but some­thing tells me “Dear Churchill” won’t be a song on her next album. 

I can’t guar­antee that your perfect match cor­re­sponds with your com­patible enneagram type, but knowing your partner’s stressors can lead to a healthier rela­tionship.

In a world of 7.5 billion people, you should date someone you have a good shot at being com­patible with. Oth­erwise, it’s just not worth the time. The enneagram expe­dites judgement, allowing users the oppor­tunity to under­stand them­selves from the get-go — not a couple months into a failing rela­tionship.

The enneagram is a great tool for self-dis­covery. It ana­lyzes your faults and neu­roses in such a way that your rela­tionship is bound to be crafted on a solid under­standing of who the other person is. 

Before I knew my enneagram, per­son­ality com­pat­i­bility was a non­factor. I didn’t con­sider how my ten­dency toward aggression would match with someone else’s — a dan­gerous thing when you put two eights in a room and tell them to decide where to go for dinner. 

As an eight, I have a hard time ver­bal­izing emo­tional vul­ner­a­bility — and the enneagram description of this is the first thing that’s allowed me to express why. The institute’s description taught me how I use the mech­anism of denial to maintain a self-image of being “strong.” It taught me that if I antic­ipate an attack on my vul­ner­a­bility, I respond with aggression. 

Self-dis­covery is uncom­fortable; but if you want to succeed in a rela­tionship, these are things you need to know. Of course, I knew them to some extent — but I never con­fronted my per­son­ality with an exam­i­nation of why I act the way I do. If indi­viduals know them­selves, they can com­mu­nicate what, why, and how they want their partners to rec­i­p­rocate their feelings. 

Type eights are most likely to get along with type nines, the “easy­going, self-effacing type: receptive, reas­suring agreeable, and com­placent.” The enneagram spec­ifies strengths in the eight-nine rela­tionship, like effective dia­logue, the balance between a dom­inant char­acter and an easy-going nature, and mutual give and take. It also high­lights weak­nesses that a pos­sible match might face and how to combat problems as they come.

Con­flict res­o­lution looks very dif­ferent to eights and nines. To find common ground, I would have to be patient and calm while working through a tense sit­u­ation. If my dream nine and I want to succeed, it’s helpful to know that I’m more con­fronta­tional, while he is much less willing to address con­flict unless the sit­u­ation requires it. We can also under­stand our triggers better: I’m easily stressed by vul­nerable or emo­tional sit­u­a­tions, while he’s easily stressed by dif­ficult deci­sions. 

Two highly self-aware people have the best chance of success, no matter what types they are.

Many mar­riage coun­selors or psy­chol­o­gists use per­son­ality assess­ments to identify faults in rela­tion­ships. A common saying is “oppo­sites attract” — but oppo­sites also balance. In the context of the enneagram, it makes sense that a dom­inant per­son­ality wouldn’t fit well with an emo­tional per­son­ality.

I grav­itate toward people who are low-energy, because I’m very high-energy. I’m more action-ori­ented, so I appre­ciate people who sac­rifice a great deal to do what needs to be done. If I have a partner who under­stands these sen­ti­ments, we’re more likely to bring out the pos­itive qual­ities in each other’s per­son­al­ities.

You shouldn’t blacklist types you’re stereo­typ­i­cally incom­patible with — mir­acles happen — but the enneagram deserves more than a fleeting thought. Con­sider asking the question on your next first date: “What’s your enneagram?”

Com­pletely unre­lated: if you’re a nine, stop by the Col­legian office this week. I’d love to discuss our future.

 

Haley Strack is a sophomore studying pol­itics.