Enneagram Type 9 Relationships
We’ve looked at relationships through the lens of Types 7 and 4, and now it’s time to explore Enneagram Type 9 Relationships. A common misconception is that it’s easy to have a relationship with a Nine because they’re so mellow and peace-seeking. But not so fast! Every type has its relational pluses and minuses, so let’s have a quick overview of Type Nine to put this post in context.
Enneagram 9: The Peacemaker
Riso & Hudson of the Enneagram Institute call Type Nine the Peacemaker. Each type has a Basic Fear, and that of Type Nine, as explained in The Wisdom of the Enneagram, is of loss and separation – even of annihilation. Though we don’t know why each type arrives at its particular fear, it’s a deep-seated, primal thing that’s extremely hard to shake. And it’s usually not conscious but subconscious, quietly running the show.
So, Nines don’t want to lose separation with others or with themselves. This leads to their Basic Desire: to maintain inner stability and peace of mind. As Wisdom explains, “No type is more devoted to the quest for internal an external peace for themselves and others.” They seek peace and unity in their relationships and even extend that desire to the larger world, which makes them great mediators and, well, peacemakers.
Located in the Instinctive Center of Intelligence, Nines deal with the underlying emotion of anger. However, of all the Anger types, Nines are least in touch with that anger. If they showed how angry they are, it would disturb the peace and possibly jeopardize their relationships. So, they tend to put on their rose-colored glasses and self-narcotize with pleasant thoughts and escapist fantasy instead.
Famous Type Nines
It’s not our job to go around deciding what type other people are. BUT, to provide some context and comparison so people can get a “feel” for what Nines are like, the book Personality Types offers this list of famous Nines: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, Walt Disney, George Lucas, Sophia Lauren, Keanu Reeves, Janet Jackson and Norman Rockwell.
Type 9 Instinctual Variants
To provide even more context for Nineness and what it’s like to be in relationship with a Nine – or be a Nine in relationship – let’s take a brief look at the three primary instincts or “flavors” of Type Nine. Here’s how Dr. Beatrice Chestnut describes them in The Complete Enneagram:
Self-Preservation Nine: The instinct to survive combines with Passion (cardinal sin) of the Nine – sloth – and is referred to as Appetite. These Nines are less psychological and more tangible, immediate things that need to be done. Their appetite for physical comfort and routine can help fill the longing for love that Nines want, though deep down they don’t have the sense of being loved. It’s as if they’ve given up on love from others and console themselves with creature comforts as a substitute. This type also needs more alone type than other Nines.
Social Nine: Sloth and group merging are named Participation for this variant. This is the countertype of Nine, meaning it’s the least obviously Nine way of being. They are light-hearted, sociable and fun-loving but deep down, their need to participate arises from a feeling of not actually belonging. They don’t show their pain or how much energy it takes to stay so involved. They may sacrifice themselves to fulfill group responsibilities. Their lives are full of everything but their own needs and wants.
Sexual Nine: Sloth plus the need to merge with another is called Fusion in this variant. Without realizing it, these Nines use relationships to “feed their sense of being.” They take on the other’s agenda because it feels safer, less threatening. They feel a sense of loneliness or abandonment that they believe can only be filled by another – even though this idea is usually subconscious. This is not a true union, though, since the Fusion Nine has essentially taken on the feelings and beliefs of the beloved without contributing him- or herself to the relationship.
The Enneagram 9 in Love
A key relational trap for the Nine lies in their dislike of conflict. They negate their own opinions and preferences to prevent disagreement with others. This leads to others eventually not asking anymore what the Nine wants. After you ask someone a hundred times and they keep saying, “I don’t care; anything’s fine,” you believe them. But this eventually, in turn, leads to the Nine feeling overlooked – because it’s true – and getting resentful. This can manifest in withdrawal from the relationship for a period of time or, in some cases (depending on the Nine’s wing and instinctual variant) in an eruption of anger that astonishes those who witness it. If the Nine doesn’t learn to wake up to and address their own desires, this cycle will continue throughout their lives.
Tips for Nines in Relationships
Suzanne Stabile, in her book The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships, aptly names the chapter on Nines “Risking Conflict for Connection.” As a foundation for healthy human interactions, Nines need to know that their voice matters because they matter. When someone asks you for your opinion or preference, they really do want to know!
As a Nine, you need to recognize that it’s not possible to avoid every conflict. You’ll need to ease into admitting a conflict exists and resisting the temptation to escape it. This takes practice; you’re strengthening a long-neglected relational muscle little by little. Remind yourself that interpersonal conflict will not destroy you, even though it may feel terribly threatening and spark your survival “flight” instinct. Be present as much and as long as you can. Keep working at it.
Stabile says it well: “You can’t be healthy and whole if you spend your life setting yourself aside in order to stay connected to others.” It will also take practice to say aloud what you think or feel – even something as simple as where to go for lunch. Start with something simple like that, with someone you trust. Exercise that “I matter” muscle so that you can fully show up in your relationships. Give others the chance to serve and love you by letting them know what you actually think and want.
She also reminds Nines that there’s no such thing as a relationship that has no anger, disappointment or conflict. Also, most problems don’t fix themselves. Some things are just too big to wait out or numb out to. As long as there are humans, there will be conflict. Learning to accept that fact of life will help you have real, not idealized, relationships.
Tips for Those in Relationship with Nines
Stabile notes that Nines need a lot of attention and affection, and I would add that since they’re not likely to ask you for it, you need to be proactive. She also notes that if a Nine honestly says “No” to you, make sure to thank them for their honesty and reassure them that it doesn’t put your relationship in jeopardy.
Nines can be mergers, meaning their identity gets merged with yours in a romantic relationship. They have very permeable personal boundaries, so it can be difficult for them to know where they end and you begin. So, you need to encourage your Nine to own and begin to walk out their interests and desires – and, Stabile adds, to establish an identity outside their relationship with you.
Because of their permeable boundaries and their withdrawing tendencies, Nines need time to be alone and quiet. Don’t be offended by this. And don’t try to help your seemingly indecisive Nine by “helping” them make up their minds. Nines are also within the Autonomy Triad (8-9-1), so though you won’t hear a Nine say, “Don’t mess with me,” that’s an underlying theme. Rather than cause conflict like an Eight or give you a cold glare like a One, the sweet Nine will just retreat from your perceived control.
When your Nine does speak up, Stabile recommends, don’t interrupt. That makes anyone feel like they aren’t heard or valued, but it’s especially true for Nines. And when you speak to your Nine, be careful not to lead the outcome of a conversation with yes/no questions. It’s easy to manipulate a Nine into doing what you want, so instead, try to ask questions like, “What would you like to do?” And don’t take “I don’t care; anything is fine” for an answer – but do so gently.
Enneagram Type 9 Relationships
When emotionally healthy and present, Type 9 is a loving, kind companion. They are deeply receptive, accepting and serene. These are the truer, deeper qualities of Nine at its foundation. When Nines are more “asleep” to their true selves, they can seem distant and disinterested. I hope the information notes above will help you navigate your relationships, whether you are a Nine or have a Nine partner, friend or family member. And don’t forget to factor in your own type into the equation! You are responsible for doing the work that’s necessary for you to show up to your relationships as your highest self.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.