Romantic relationships require more work than looking up your partner's date and time of birth to see if their star chart aligns with yours—though the Universe works in mysterious ways, so who are we to say?
Understanding not only your partner's personality but also your own is key to fostering communication that is productive, healthy and free-flowing.
Meredith TerHaar, Morning News Anchor with 13 ON YOUR SIDE and Enneagram Coach and Co-founder of Growing with the Enneagram, says understanding the Enneagram—a nine-type personality system that cultivates self-awareness—has elevated every relationship she has.
"Understanding ourselves more helps us love others better—with more empathy, compassion and grace. That's true of our relationship with ourselves, as well," said TerHaar. "I like to think of the nine types as nine different lenses that people use to view the world. Looking through my lens is different than looking through yours."
So, what makes the Enneagram a successful approach to partner communication? Its types are based on the "why" behind the way we think, feel and act.
"Our motivations include our core desires, fears, strengths, weaknesses and longings. All of these play a crucial role in how we show up in the world. Are we pursuing justice? Striving for achievement? Seeking security?" TerHaar explained. "Understanding the different core motivations of each type gives us invaluable insights into how to best relate to and communicate with someone who views the world through a different lens."
When coaching couples, TerHaar says she often witnesses the reveal of long-standing misunderstandings and the beginning of grace, accompanied by lots of laughter and storytelling. TerHaar recalled working with one couple: a woman who identified as an eight and a man who identified as a seven.
"We were talking about conflict in the context of their marriage and she shared, 'When he doesn't fight with me, I feel like he doesn't love me.' What a profound insight," TerHaar said. "For her, hammering away at an issue is a sign of love. But that's certainly not true of the other numbers and it wasn't something her husband understood until that moment. Now that the two of them have this mutual understanding, they will be able to handle conflict with more empathy and grace for one another next time tensions rise."
In her own relationship, Enneagram has helped TerHaar and her husband in unexpected ways.
"It helped us fight differently. Better! Without taking things personally. I could understand where he was coming from because I understand his type. He knows what triggers me, because he knows mine," TerHaar said, now understanding deeper, more intimate ways to care for her husband. "I realized, for years, I'd been creating a narrative about things he would say and do that weren't his thoughts—they were mine. And they weren't accurate."
Outside of simply taking an Enneagram test online, TerHaar recommends connecting with a coach to further learn your type and go deeper in your journey of growth and transformation.
Date Night Suggestions Based on Your Partner's Number
Courtesy of Meredith TerHaar
ONE (The Reformer): Volunteering with a local nonprofit together.
TWO (The Helper): Make dinner together, complete with their favorite wine and dessert.
THREE (The Achiever): Make dinner reservations at the hottest new place in town, so they can post about it.
FOUR (The Individualist): Coffee at an eclectic spot so you can stare deep into each other's eyes and ponder the depth of their uniqueness.
FIVE (The Investigator): A day date to a museum (that they've researched beforehand so they can impress you).
SIX (The Loyalist): A stop at their favorite local brewery, where everyone knows their name.
SEVEN (The Enthusiast): First drinks, then dinner, then a movie, then dessert, then bar hopping, then a greasy spoon diner.
EIGHT (The Challenger): Head to their favorite restaurant, where the hostess wouldn't dare make you wait.
NINE (The Peacemaker): Offer three options and give them 24 hours to decide. If you ask night-of, you'll end up doing what you want, instead of what they want.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar 2021 issue of West Michigan Woman.