In the journey of our 15 years of marriage, when we were hit by a really difficult season or have thoughts of giving up on ‘us’, the words of my officiating pastor on our wedding day would never fail to echo clearly amidst the tears, anger, arguments, etc… “Choose to love for the long term“.
A simple and yet empowering word that has helped me through those trying moments. Especially the early teething stages after the ‘honeymoon’ period, navigating through all our differences where ‘iron sharpens iron’ becomes real and intense 24/7 (Yikes…don’t remind me!)
Another knowledge that has helped my marriage go the extra mile is learning about the Enneagram (pronounced as Ennea-gram)! A personality profiling framework that really helped me understand that there are different worldviews (9 in total!) out there and each has a different way of seeing the same thing and has a different preferred way of treatment/communication.
Unlike other profiling tools, which tends to only describe your personality traits, the Enneagram tells you the WHY behind your thoughts and behaviours. It allows you to be able to go deeper into understanding the motivation (that i never understood in the past) behind people’s actions.
For example, I am a Type 5 who is known as The Observer; driven by the need to perceive and always trying to make sense of everything. Alot of the activity takes place in my head space (explains all the white hair… sobs!). Type 5s also value autonomy and guard their personal space fiercely, thus are very independent and (often, overly!) self reliant.
Hubby dearest on the other hand, is a Type 9 (a.k.a. The Peacemaker) who is gifted at seeing all other’s perspectives, values consensus and harmony a whole lot. Sounds saintly, yes… But the problem lies in their need to avoid conflict… which is kinda hard to avoid in especially a new marriage!
I remember how during our early days, he would often stop me mid sentence and tell me not to shout/quarrel when we were out in public. We could be talking about a conflict or our issues, but also just random topics not related to us.
That would annoy me to no end, as I felt I was just expressing my thoughts passionately and was entitled to expressing my feelings. I judged him as being too people conscious and ‘fake’ for denying our issues or wanting to portray an image of a perfect Christian marriage.
His accusation would trigger me and I would tell him I wasn’t shouting/quarreling with him prior and as a good wife does, proceeded to give him a live demo of what me shouting would look like so he would know the difference. LOL! (trust me, we both sure weren’t laughing then)
Seriously tho, when I later learnt and started to understand his Enneagram personality type… it started making perfect sense (Type 5 hello!!).
It wasn’t that he didn’t like me expressing my thoughts, which is darn important for me as a Type 5. The quarrels/convos I deemed as ‘normal’, was to him, loud/aggressive and a hint of how the whole convo COULD turn ugly or escalate. And it’s just not his preferred way of communication, making him feel uncomfortable. No one is ‘wrong’ here, but we just didn’t see eye-to-eye due to our different needs.
So I’ve since learnt to talk about our conflicts/issues in the privacy of our home and watch my tone and words. Which he greatly appreciates and makes him more willing to talk (rather than withdraw conversationally and shut off), thus improving the communication between us. And I must admit that I grew so much more aware of my surroundings and sensitive to others’ needs, because of him.
He’s since also learnt to give me space to share my thoughts openly and I’m proud to say, can even handle the times I escalate emotionally on certain topics. Haha!
Enneagram has helped me understand that while something is common sense or second nature to me, it may be totally foreign or uncomfortable to someone else. My biggest takeaway was appreciating my spouse’s strength more. I had more compassion after understanding the struggles that comes his personality type and we definitely ended up with more love than frustration!
There’s so many other marriage/parenting stories I’ve got to share on the Enneagram, but I’ll save them for next time!
I’m just really glad that we held on to each other through the ups & downs of life and thus get to enjoy all the love, our 2 amazing kids and this beautiful life we’ve created!
(Visit www.RelationshipStudio.com for more on the Enneagram!)