Dancing with the Bones of a Skeleton

Henry, Peacemaker (9) married in a 17-year relationship with Prisha, Perfectionist (1)

I love so many things about my wife… Prisha sets high standards and lives by them.  Her integrity is unquestionable. She can be the most considerate and thoughtful person I have ever known. She has a bubbly, self-effacing, charming sense of humor that could never offend anyone. She is both spontaneous and funny!   She has great taste in clothing, decorating and furnishing. My wife is extremely well organized and keeps clutter to a minimum. Prisha inspires others with her vision and her charisma. She is an excellent public speaker.


Professionally, Prisha is very accomplished as a master trainer in adult ‘soft skills’ education and from my perspective, she has no peer. What I respect the most about her work is that people who take her training walk out with skills they apply in the real world. She has been a huge positive influence in many people’s lives. With all of her talents, she remains humble, almost to a fault, which makes self-promotion nearly impossible for her. With her time and money, she is generous and is willing to sacrifice her personal interests for the good of the community.  She works hard to advance community interests.


I have learned so much from Prisha that I cannot begin to thank her for her influence.  I attribute a huge portion of my personal development to her innate wisdom.  For example, at the age of 64 I finally got over my fear of public speaking and found myself able to conduct a 1-hour presentation with full audience participation.  It went comfortably and flawlessly.


In our relationship, Prisha and I initially shared a burning interest in understanding people.  We were both self-described seekers.  For our first eight years together, I felt very supported by my wife and for most of our marriage, Prisha gave people the benefit of the doubt. We socialized normally and were happy together.  


However, over the last years, things have changed, and our relationship is deteriorating. In retrospect, there were some red flags along the way, but I didn’t recognize them as indicators of a bigger problem.  For example, Prisha moved to the United States to marry me, and it took her about ten years to make her first friend here.


In the last decade, despite all her accomplishments and talents, she has become more insecure which triggers a recurring pattern.  She begins to find everyone in her life untrustworthy which provides the basis for cutting them out of her life.  She talks about a place inside herself which she calls ‘The Pen.’  This is where she places people she has written off.  When I asked her how anyone could ever get out of The Pen, she simply replied, “The very fact that they could have done what they did, means they are the kind of person to whom there is no point in talking.”


The first time I saw her do this was with her oldest friend Jennifer, whom she had known for over 35 years. Because Jennifer lives in a different country, they don’t see each other frequently, but Prisha took a trip during which she met with Jennifer to catch up. Upon her return Prisha announced that Jennifer was lost to her. My wife was no longer interested in having her as a friend, because Jennifer had ‘put her whole life into taking up political causes.’


This behavior continued, and Prisha gradually cut herself off from all the friends I had introduced her to, perhaps in judgment or perhaps out of insecurity.  At about the ten-year mark, she commented: “I have caused you to lose all of your friends.”  I swept this comment under the rug, minimizing it.


As the years waxed on, Prisha became increasingly rigid in her judgments: “A lie is a lie is a lie.”  I estimate the tipping point, when she began to mistrust me, was when I came up to our apartment via the elevator instead of directly ascending the stairs.  She asked me why, and I replied that I had some trash to dispose of.  She stated flatly, “You’re lying.”  That began an interrogation, by the end of which I admitted I had actually hidden her Christmas present in the storeroom.  She expressed feelings of betrayal: “You told me you would never lie to me.”


The paranoia intensified. At the thirteen-year mark we planned a ‘Second Honeymoon” in Hawaii.  While we were planning it, she shared that she had been there many years before with her friend Jennifer and loved it. I shared that I had visited Hawaii on vacation with my first wife, as I recalled that trip vividly since we went to see my relatives living in Hawaii.  


Prisha and I had a wonderful time on our vacation.  I planned the entire event to be a deluxe occasion and surprised her with one incredible experience after another.  One day we took a helicopter tour where we flew over volcanoes, and the same day sailed on a catamaran in the sea.  The trip was amazing, one incredible memory after another.  


It was, as Prisha described later, the last good time we would ever have together. Shortly after our return, at Thanksgiving we visited my second ex-wife, with whom Prisha had become friends.  Martha, my second wife disclosed to Prisha that she had been to Hawaii with me, though this was more than 30 years before.


Although Martha and I had done nothing anywhere near as spectacular there, Prisha decided our Hawaii honeymoon was based on a lie, and now meant nothing to her.  She didn’t speak to me once during the 2 ½ hours driving back to our home, nor for 9 weeks afterward.  It soon became evident after that point that Prisha considered everything I had ever told her to be based on lies.


Several months later she announced, “You no longer have access to the ‘Me’ of me. From now on, we are just roommates.”  In my heart, I heard a dungeon door slam shut.


My strategy until very recently has been to accept continual rejection, ‘taking the hits’ while staying engaged.  I have continually reached out to bridge the silence, offering to resume conversations and work things out. Prisha has for years now refused my suggestions for marriage counseling and individual therapy, even though in her early adulthood she took full advantage of counselors.  She replied to my most recent offer for counseling, “I’m not interested in renewing our marriage.” It was then I knew for certain I had been assigned to The Pen.


Further compounding the situation, Prisha has become increasingly critical.  If a 5:1 ratio of positives to negatives are generally needed to sustain a relationship, her ratio of communications to me became closer to 1:5, with a predominance of unsolicited criticism and unrelenting disapproval and rejection.  This culminated in Prisha taking sides against me in a dispute I was having at work. I felt totally emotionally undermined. By contrast, I have always stood up for Prisha as her advocate.  On the very few times I have critiqued Prisha’s behavior, not her person, she has become angry, sometimes to the point of rage.


Prisha, when hurt, becomes almost totally uncommunicative. When I wait sufficient time for her to process her feelings and attempt to bring up the subject again for resolution, she generally continues to stonewall.  She says things like, “There is no use in talking.  Talking can’t fix this.”


As the years have worn on, Prisha’s terms for relationship became non-negotiable.  She considers any compromise as ‘compromising herself.’  “If people think I’m picky and sensitive, well I am.  I won’t give up my standards.  Not for anyone.”


I wish Prisha would understand that life is by definition a dynamic process. In any truly alive relationship including with self, the relationship must also be dynamic.  Thus integrity is always being renegotiated – and always thereby restored. Once there are too many aspects of a relationship that have become non-negotiable, your relationship calcifies and dies. You will then discover in your dance of relationship, once you dispel illusion: You are now dancing with the bones of a skeleton.”


The Theory:

Perfectionist (1) and Peacemaker (9) share many values and traits and can have a deep understanding of each other. Both can be idealistic with a drive to make the world a better place. Both can put others before themselves and stay focused on a larger picture goal.  They are both self-sacrificing and understand delayed gratification, often dealing with short-term discomfort for a positive future outcome.


Peacemaker (9)s bring a steadiness, an accepting, non-judgmental nature and a human focus to their idealism.  They are kind-hearted and accommodating with a soothing, easy presence.  Perfectionist (1)s bring clarity, rational thought and precise and critical thinking. They are ethical, fair and driven to improve themselves and their environment.


In the relationship, Peacemaker (9)s take the sharp edge off the Perfectionist (1)’s judgmental nature and can help mute the Perfectionist (1)’s  drive to be right.  They lighten up the seriousness of the Perfectionist (1) and bring a warmth to the environment.  The Perfectionist (1)s are decisive and purposeful  and give clarity, drive and inspiration to the Peacemaker (9). They can help the Peacemaker (9) find their own purpose.  In summary, Peacemaker (9)s accept and soothe the Perfectionist (1) and the Perfectionist (1) focuses and inspires the Peacemaker (9) to reach their own excellence.

This can be a highly idealistic, hospitable, altruistic couple who create good in the world. With such a focus on others, they need to make time to alone together to reconnect and rejuvenate.  Nature and animals are healing for both types.

Potential Challenges and Issues

The downward spiral of the relationship begins because of the opposite way the two types deal with conflict and stress. Perfectionist (1)s become more openly critical, frustrated, prickly and dissatisfied.  This can be directed at themselves, their partner, their other relationships and their environment.  They become fixated on finding fault and determining who is to blame. They become increasingly rigid in their views and disconnected from their hearts.  Compassion is usually nowhere in the picture.

In this environment, Peacemaker (9)s head the opposite direction and become more shut down, withdrawn, internally confused and uncomfortable. They numb out as a strategy to deflect the criticism and dissatisfaction of the Perfectionist (1). Internally, they try to convince themselves nothing is wrong or it is a phase the couple is going through. This further triggers the Perfectionist (1) who feels the Peacemaker (9) isn’t addressing their shortcomings. In return, the Peacemaker (9) resists the situation even more, becoming more passive (or passive aggressive), more indecisive and more withdrawn.  The Perfectionist (1) interprets this as willful resistance or passive defiance. The Perfectionist (1) starts to lose respect for the Peacemaker (9), and the Peacemaker (9) starts to lose confidence and trust in the Perfectionist (1).

If the downward spiral continues, the Perfectionist (1) becomes even more condemning, disdainful and critical of the Peacemaker (9).  The Peacemaker (9) reacts by becoming more unresponsive, passive, resigned and withdrawn.  To the Perfectionist (1), they feel they are merely living up to their own internal high standards. To the Peacemaker (9), they feel they are accommodating their very frustrated partner in the best way they know how. To the outside world, this couple may be hard to be around because of the barely suppressed anger seething from the Perfectionist (1) and the unresponsive passive energy of the Peacemaker (9).  Once this couple gets frozen in their anger, any heart connection is lost.  Because of the Peacemaker (9)’s resistance to change, the relationship may continue for long periods in this state, but eventually it collapses, both partners angry and disillusioned with each other.


The Kundalini Yoga Connection:

Because the Perfectionist (1) type structure can become so rigid, maintaining a strong heart connection, both to self and others, is vital.  In an unhealthy state of awareness, the attention becomes completely focused on improvement and criticism of others allowing no space for compassion. Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations to burn out anger and connect to and open the heart can help create this space.  Nervous system work is also important to help drop the habit of attention.

Peacemaker (9)s energetically numb out as a strategy to avoid conflict. For Peacemakers, conflict is extremely anxiety provoking and can feel like annihilation. Peacemakers need to wake up to their anger and discontent. They need to risk conflict.  Nervous system work is important to accommodate the discomfort conflict will bring. Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations to build the navel center (third chakra) and to burn anger are helpful.

If you would like to participate in my Enneagram couples survey, please message me at lynn@lynnroulo.com. I am still looking for several type combinations. Thank you!!