A Relationship Worth Fighting For: How the Enneagram and the Gospel Can Guide Us To Better Conflict ResolutionJul 04, 2019
Hi, Friends! It’s Your Enneagram Coach Beth, here to talk about conflict in our marriages and other important relationships, and how the Enneagram can help us resolve them in a healthier way.
No matter your personality Type, God hardwired you for relationship. You were made to want and need community with others, and like it or not, you can’t lead a truly fulfilling life on your own. Relationships are a gift, and marriage is an especially beautiful gift that provides us an earthly representation of Christ’s love for His church.
But just as it is with every good thing this side of Heaven, sin can make its way into our marriages, stealing our joy, intimacy, and satisfaction and replacing it with resentment, misunderstanding, hurtful words, and wounding arguments. The covenant relationships God created for our enjoyment can quickly become riddled with and all too often ended by conflict.
God’s Plan for Relationships
So how do we resolve conflicts with our partners in a constructive way? The Enneagram provides us with some extremely helpful insights, but it’s most transformative when viewed through the lens of the Gospel. We can discover and explore who we are and who our spouses are until we’re blue in the face, and we can try to be the best people we can be in our own strength. But without Christ, we’ll never experience lasting freedom. Like I always say, it’s not enough to know who we are unless we first understand Whose we are, God’s cherished children.
The Bible tells us that our relationships should be characterized by the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). God’s Word also tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” These verses are often recited at wedding ceremonies, and many of us have known them by heart since our Sunday school days, but living them out in our relationships is easier said than done!
From my experience, the act of “assumicide” is so often what gets in the way of compassion and leads to the most conflict in marriages. Assumicide is the act of assuming you know why your partner says or does something, but a wrong assumption can hurt your spouse and the relationship.
Understanding the Enneagram and how our personality’s unhealthy perceptions can negatively impact our behaviors can stop the harmful cycle of assumicide. For Jeff and me, this powerful tool empowered us to reject the lies of our internal wiring that don’t match up with what the Lord says of us. We learned to accept that we each view the world from completely different perspectives, but we can choose to harness our differences for good.
During the first few years of our marriage, it felt like we were trying to climb Mount Everest with no equipment. Something would activate our Core Fears or Weaknesses, and we would repeatedly react in ways that were harmful to ourselves and one another. Despite our best intentions to not “go there” and to have a thriving partnership, we kept hitting the same walls over and over again. By our fourth anniversary, we felt resentful, desperate, and hopeless. We simply didn’t understand ourselves, one another, and the fullness we already had in Christ.
The Gospel and the Enneagram changed everything! We learned to recognize the ways we would each think, speak, and act when we were out of alignment with the Gospel. We trained ourselves to combat assumicide and our personalities’ reactive instincts when a thought or feeling rushes in with these four steps:
- Take thoughts and feelings captive. When you see yourselves heading toward conflict, pause and ask, “How am I seeing this situation from the perspective of my personality? Does this perspective line up with what God says about me and my partner?
- Ask God to help. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for patience, wisdom, and grace. He will give you all the compassion and discernment you need in that moment.
- Ask clarifying questions. Ask your spouse to explain their perspective, repeating back what you hear to reduce misunderstanding and make sure their voice is heard.
- Trust in the truth of the Gospel. Remember, Christ is the One who is renewing and redeeming us. He has restored us to a right relationship with Him. So, if Christ has restored us, how do we turn around and restore each other with the same love?
Changing our Dance
Jeff and I have discovered that much of the time, the root of marriage conflict stems from not truly understanding the heart of our spouses and their Core Motivations, and insisting that our point of view be seen as right.
The belief that “we are right, and they are wrong” keeps us in unhealthy relational patterns. It’s like an old dance where we fall into the practiced steps of false thinking, resentment, and condemnation. Our thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and reactions seem stuck, and we don’t see another way. But when we shift our focus from being right to being restored, we can finally free ourselves from our old dance steps.
Imagine how your marriage (and all your relationships) would change if you really trusted the amazing news of the Gospel, believing that Christ is restoring you and your significant other. As you read this, Christ is reconciling you to Himself, advocating for you before the throne of God. He is showing God that he removed your sin and placed His righteousness on you, which means that you are in a right relationship with God.
God has an amazing plan for your relationship, and He put you with your spouse to accomplish His purposes. Conflicts are inevitable, but when we learn to navigate them using the Gospel and the powerful tool of the Enneagram, they give us the opportunity to experience transformational grace and abundant life.
Do you want to learn more about applying a Gospel-centered Enneagram in your marriage? No matter your season or personality combination, my heart is to show you how to better communicate, resolve conflict, and support one another, transforming your marriage into the relationship of your dreams. Here are some next steps you can take:
- Join us for an Enneagram Date Night: This summer, Jeff 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 weeks we’ll be stopping in Charlotte, Atlanta, and Nashville. You can get all the upcoming dates and details and purchase tickets here.
- 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 in 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 marriage coaching courses so each couple type combination will have its own specific Gospel-centered Enneagram curriculum. (Whoa!) The courses will launch in August, 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.