For Better or For Worse: How the Enneagram Helps Us Avoid Relationship LandminesJul 18, 2019
Hi, Friends. It’s Jeff McCord, aka Your Enneagram Coach Beth’s other half! I’m back on the blog today to give you my two cents on the topic of navigating conflict, specifically in the most sanctifying relationship of all, the marriage relationship.
After 24 years of marriage and 22 years of pastoring, I’ve spent most of my life and ministry studying how the Gospel can make broken people and broken relationships whole again. I’ve pursued degrees and certifications in pastoral counseling, Gospel coaching, and family and church mediation. I’ve served as Pastor of Ministries and Discipleship for several churches and organizations, and I’ve followed all the major Christian thought leaders in the area of Gospel-centered relationship repair and reconciliation. It’s safe to say I’ve seen it all when it comes to healthy and unhealthy conflict resolution, both outside and inside the body of believers.
That’s why I’m such a huge fan of the Christ-centered Enneagram, and its power to reverse unhealthy patterns and restore relationships. Understanding how you and your significant other ticks, as well as the ways you each feel most loved and supported, is a game-changer when it comes to reconciling marriage issues, from the tiniest of everyday aggravations to the deepest of relationship wounds.
Studying the Enneagram fosters a culture of compassion in our homes, showing us how to exercise more balance, self-control, and grace in everything we think, say, and do. It also helps us experience more relational intimacy and satisfaction, enhancing mutual curiosity, respect, and connection.
Stopping Misunderstandings in their Tracks
Beth and I don’t have a perfect relationship by any means, but we’ve noticed a huge shift in the way we relate to each other as we’ve combined the Gospel and the Enneagram over the last two decades. One day very recently, it dawned on us that all those baby steps we’ve taken in learning how to better understand and communicate with one another were really paying off.
It was a normal day and we were in the living room talking. Beth began to tell a detailed story, and as she was talking, I got up and went to the kitchen and started using the loud ice maker to crush ice for my 32-oz YETI cup. Beth immediately felt hurt inside, assuming I had no interest in what she had to say. As a Type 9, Beth’s Core Longing is to know that her presence matters, so she thought, “If my voice was important to him, he would wait until I was done talking to get his ice.”
In the past, an incident like that would have caused a conflict between us. Beth would have shut down, and I would have been completely clueless that I had made her feel overlooked. But the beautiful part is that this time was different. God made Beth aware of her thought process and the lies she was telling herself at that moment, and then she replaced them with the truth.
For years, we’ve practiced asking ourselves clarifying questions to counter wrong thoughts and get back onto a healthy path. In this case, Beth said to herself, “Hold on a second. Is that true? Does Jeff really think my presence doesn’t matter? No. Jeff is my husband and best friend. He is listening to me, he’s just getting ice. Everything is okay.”
By the time I returned to the living room, Beth’s inner monologue had completely shifted. She said to me, “Next time, would you mind saying, ‘Hey, could you hold on a second? I want to hear what you have to say, but I need to get some ice.’ That would make such a difference to me.”
This whole scenario played out in about 30 seconds, but it had the potential to lead to an argument that would have lasted all night! Since we’re both working on understanding our internal worlds, we’ve learned to show compassion and a desire to help each other and not to take these situations personally. Since I’m a Type 6, it would have been easy for me to feel insecure or attacked, but instead, I was grateful for the feedback because I know we both want to love each other well. What in the past would have led to relational distance, this time led to connection, understanding, and growth.
This learned process doesn’t happen overnight, and we’re still working on using these everyday opportunities to better connect with one another. Misunderstandings don’t have to lead to conflicts, and conflicts don’t have to be destructive. Instead, there can be harmony and restoration when we rely on the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit.
Transformational Hope for Your Marriage Struggles
Even if your marriage is barely hanging on by a thread, this shift can happen in your relationship if you set your hearts every day in the direction of the Gospel. We all have a choice to make. We can become frustrated and angry when conflict happens, or we can trust the Holy Spirit to use it to help us grow in alignment with Him.
God has a very specific purpose for your relationship, and He put you with your spouse to accomplish His sovereign plans. By the grace of God, we can learn to navigate challenges using the Gospel and the powerful tool of the Enneagram to experience living hope and fullness of life.
Are you ready to dig deeper into applying a Gospel-centered Enneagram in your marriage? No matter the stage or season of your relationship or your specific struggles, our heart is to show you how to better communicate, resolve conflict, support one another, and grow into the couple you were designed to be. We’re providing you with these opportunities and resources in the coming months:
- Join us for an Enneagram Date Night: This summer, Beth and I are hosting Becoming Us Live: The Enneagram, The Gospel & Your Marriage around the country for couples who want to use a Gospel-centered Enneagram to understand each other better. In the next few months, we’ll be stopping all over the Southeast, with more cities and dates to come. You can get all the details and purchase tickets here.
- Take our Marriage Assessment: We’re developing a brand new Enneagram assessment just for couples, to help you discover the direct path to honest and productive communication in your relationship. When you and your spouse complete the questionnaire, you’ll receive a Personalized Marriage Plan to help you align your dynamics by using the powerful tool of the Gospel-centered Enneagram. We’ll also provide you with a Conversation Guide to facilitate healthy discussions around each of the themes covered in your Plan.
- Pre-order our Marriage Book: We’re excited, humbled, and a little nervous to be launching our very first book, Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage. Not only does it include our marriage story, but it’s written to serve as an instruction manual for your spouse. It would mean the world to us if you would be part of our mission to impact marriages by spreading the word as it releases on October 1. You can preorder your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and more.
- Take a Marriage Course Just For Your Types: We’re developing 45 different Becoming Us marriage coaching courses so each couple type combination will have its own specific Gospel-centered Enneagram curriculum. (Whoa!) The courses will launch this fall, so stay tuned!
- Invest in Your Marriage with a Becoming Us Retreat: We’re hosting an intimate 3-day retreat in November. Our goal for the retreat is to pour into you and your spouse and catapult your marriage to the next level. We really hope you’ll join us for this special experience. Sign up to get early access to the details here.
Are you new to the Enneagram? If so, welcome! A great first step in your journey is to discover your Type with our new, free test. We also offer 3-step online courses to help you dig deeper into the Enneagram for lasting spiritual growth and renewal. Our team also offers private coaching for individuals, families and teams.
For more Gospel-centered insights on The Enneagram, follow us on Instagram @yourenneagramcoach
We would love to share some free Enneagram resources with you.