Last time I wrote, I said I'd send pictures of an art project I did with my granddaughters for Nana week. I bought them some used cowboy boots. I spray painted them a neutral color, then brought out the paints, pictures, words to cut out, beads and sparkles and let them be creative. Once done, we filled them up with silk plants and now they are proudly displayed in their bedrooms. It was fun to see the words they chose and their creativity blossom.
I am trying to stay well in my marriage and overall, it has gotten a lot better. I wonder if you ever consider the Enneagram types when dealing with marital problems. I recently hav been investigating my husband's type (8- the challenger) and my type (2- the pleaser) and how it affects our marriage.
My question today though is something that feels really abusive that my husband does all of the time and he just won't stop. He says he doesn't do it. That thing is just disagreeing with everything I say just to be disagreeable.
He blames me for being “too sensitive” and says that it was my childhood that makes me argument averse. (his childhood was no more healthy than mine) The 8 on the enneagram loves to argue- the 2 (me) hates conflict. He is a really good guy apart from this. He will never admit he does this- I have started documenting what is said because I tend to forget the specifics when we are in front of a counselor. I would appreciate you addressing this.
I was in counseling for myself and the counselor told me to just say, “Yeah you are probably right” every time he argued with me- just to take the fight out of it. He eventually got really angry when I did that because he knew why I did it. (To draw attention to his argumentativeness and dip out) He keeps my stomach in knots! It feels abusive and unkind. He says he adores me and is crazy about me!
Answer: Understanding people and accepting that we are different is crucial to forming healthy relationships. Using tests such as the Myers Briggs, or the Enneagram can be useful is defining specific ways people see the world and function in it. I am not an expert on the Enneagram test, but I do find it helpful to recognize and define more of our internal motivations – what drives us to do what we do.
For example, you said you think your husband is an 8 on the Enneagram. The Challenger-8, loves to challenge, to argue, to debate, to question. He does not accept things at face value. He wants you to prove it to him. You, the Helper-2, love peace, getting along with others, accommodating people, and being helpful. You don’t want to argue or prove anything. You want to get along and have everyone play nice.
Understanding the Enneagram is more complex than just defining your type. There are wings and different strategies for how one handles stress. There are no “bad” types. Each number (9 in total) is different, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. But to summarize, each number on the Enneagram has a healthy way of functioning and an unhealthy way of functioning. For example, the unhealthy Helper-2, is a people pleaser, rescuing, enabling, and ignoring their own needs. They avoid conflict at their own peril. The unhealthy 8 is argumentative, insensitive, often cruel, and belligerent, ignoring that other people may have legitimate different perspectives.
Your husband is who he is –a challenger. That is not negative or sinful. John the Baptist was probably an 8 on the Enneagram, constantly challenging the Pharisees and their hypocrisy. The bigger question is whether your spouse is aware of his “type” and where he goes when he gets stressed or unhealthy. If your husband is typically unhealthy and unaware, he may become domineering and abusive in his challenging ways.
You are who you are. You are naturally a pleaser and helper. You are sensitive. That is not sinful or negative. That’s what makes you a 2. If you tend towards unhealthy features, you may over-function, feel resentful for all you do for others, take things too personally, and cave in to avoid conflict.
Therefore, my suggestion since you’ve found this test helpful is to ask yourself what do you need to learn or how do you need to change/grow in order to become the healthiest version of you? The you that God created you to be? (Psalm 139)
No matter how healthy you become, you will never become a challenger or enjoy being challenged. But as you grow confident and healthy in who God made you to be, you can learn to respond to your challenger husband without getting defensive for being sensitive or reactive when being questioned.
Here are a few things you might try to say to him when he challenges or disagrees with you.
“I know you think fast and always have a come-back why you disagree, but I don’t think that way. I need to take time to process, so I’m going to think about what you said and I’ll get back to you when I’m ready.”
“It’s not that I think I’m right and you’re wrong, but I think we have different needs or wants or priorities here.” (For example, perhaps he values saving money so he doesn’t want to buy new furniture, and you value having a pretty and comfortable space, so you would like to buy new furniture). “How might we solve this dilemma in a way that’s a win/win for us both?”
“I am sensitive. I like that I am sensitive, God made me that way. And because I am sensitive I notice and feel things that perhaps you don’t because you are made different. Might God want me to help you learn to be more sensitive sometimes? Just like God may use you to help me think more critically about things?”
“I’d like to share my thoughts and I’d like you to just listen before you comment or disagree. In fact, I want you to wait and think about what I have to say before you respond. Are you willing to do that for me?”
You said your husband tells you he adores you and is crazy about you. I encourage you to do your own work to be a healthy and strong you. That will help you not be as easily intimidated by his challenges well as face and handle conflict in a constructive way. As you get healthier, your husband may also desire to get healthier, or he may try to bully you back into your old ways. That will give you a clearer picture of whether or not you can stay well long-term.
Friend, how have you learned to accept personality differences in those you are in relationship with without feeling disrespected or thinking they are wrong or you are wrong, when you might just be different?
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