The Tuna Incident…(excerpt from The Nine Keys)

 The following is an excerpt from “The Nine Keys”

Charlotte, Leader (8) married in a 20-year relationship with Oliver, Helper (2)

“We were 26 years old when we met and each going through difficult times. His kindness, softness and tenderness, despite my constant resistance, was what won my heart… He knew somehow that my hard shell was just that, a shell. He saw through it whereas other people didn’t. Or others saw it, decided they could not break it and walked away. He was persistent. And that won me over. Somehow I felt he passed the test.

My husband is stable, reliable, self-sacrificing and wants the best for his family. He’s always willing to help others, and I love that he’s the one who runs to help an old lady crossing the street. He’s passionate and very comfortable expressing his soft side. I feel safe being vulnerable with him. He broke my tough shell and can handle me. He is forgiving and takes my bluntness without getting too hurt by it. He forgets fights between us quickly, not taking my harshness and anger to heart for very long. He is always trying to please me and works hard to make me happy. I love being his queen and being waited on by him! We are best friends and enjoy each other’s company.

Our parenting styles are different, and in many ways we have the opposite of traditional male/female roles. He’s more in touch with the kids’ emotions than I am and in that regard is more like the “mom.” As the kids get older, I am more understanding of their needs as teenagers and give them more space and freedom. We’ve learned ways to respect, accept, love and celebrate the differences, and I actually think as parents we provide a healthy balance.

One central issue we had to work through was finding the right balance of dependency in our relationship.  My husband is very giving and wants to do everything for everyone in his family.  When the kids were younger, he would get them ready in the morning, take them to school, go grocery shopping, manage the house, pay the bills, bring me coffee at my bedside every morning, and so forth. But then, he’d go away on a business trip leaving me alone with the children, and I would rage at how dependent they were, expecting me to do all the things for them their father did. It was extreme—my seven year old expected his toothpaste to be squeezed on his toothbrush for him. I had no idea my husband was squeezing their toothpaste! I would call and scream at him for leaving me with these problems. My poor husband felt so guilty, and it took me a while to realize my accusations weren’t helping the situation. But my anger would take over again. This cycle went on for many years with me blaming him for doing too much and him not feeling appreciated for all he was doing.

And then, there was the tuna incident. One day right before leaving on a business trip, he noticed there was no tuna in the pantry.  In his mind, it was his responsibility to make sure the pantry was full in case, God forbid, we urgently needed something.  Like tuna. He was about to leave to go to the store when I broke down yelling and screaming that I wasn’t interested in TUNA, and I would rather he spend time with me before he goes away on his trip. And he screamed back “You don’t appreciate ANYTHING I do!”  This was a huge moment for both of us, a shock for him that I actually wanted him and not the things he does and for me to get him to understand that we needed to find a healthy balance.

We continue to fine-tune the dependency balance, but my kids understand that dad and I are different. They can’t expect the same treatment.  My husband has gotten more in touch with his needs and doesn’t feel as compelled to do everything for everyone. And my urge to fight has decreased so we have more peace in our environment.  

In many ways, he is everything I am not. We’ve been together 20 years and are much more settled into the understanding of who we are, both individually and as a couple. He has stuck with me through thick and thin, and I feel a tremendous amount of love and appreciation to have him by my side.  If two people with opposite trigger points can grow together, it’s a real soulmate thing. And that’s what I feel with him.”


2:8 The Theory

2:8 When In Balance

The Helper (2) and the Leader (8) combination can have an archetypical flavor to it with the Leader (8) embodying many of the traditional masculine or yang traits and the Helper (2) embodying the more feminine or yin traits. This can be a successful and enduring couple in which responsibilities are clearly delineated and both partners complement and support each other.


Helper (2)s are more interested in the welfare of others while Leader (8)s tend to be more self-interested. Helper (2)s are more directly connected to the emotional world. They value emotions highly and can identify, discuss and process their feelings and the feelings of others. They can reach even emotionally remote people. This is an important trait in breaking through the Leader (8)s tough emotional armor. Leader (8) can be very vulnerable and sensitive on the inside, but this is rarely presented to the outside world, and it takes someone with great empathy, and an open heart to reach them. Helper (2)s are affectionate and adoring, and Leader (8)s enjoy basking in their care.


Leader (8)s are tough, practical and results-oriented. They balance out the Helper (2)’s softness and make sure concrete priorities get done. They have few or no issues with personal boundaries, and Helper (2)s can learn a lot from watching their Leader (8) partner. Leader (8)s are hard-working, resourceful, resilient and make sure the couple’s concrete needs are met. Helper (2)s notice this and appreciate and admire their Leader (8)’s hard work and sacrifice.


Together, this can be a strong-willed, effective, supportive couple who accommodate each other’s blind spots and accentuate each other’s strengths.


2:8 The Downward Spiral

Helper (2)s and Leader (8)s value the emotional world very differently and have very different communication styles. Under stress, these differences can trigger the downward spiral.


Helper (2)s place importance on feelings, relationships, and emotional responses. Leader (8)s value the tangible, practical world more highly, and in average-to-lower levels of awareness can have a casual disregard for the emotional world. This difference manifests as dramatically different interpersonal styles. Leader (8)s are direct and independent with a potentially harsher way of dealing with people and situations. In average levels of awareness, they fall back on logic and reason, often stripping emotion out of decision-making. They can take pride in this approach. In contrast, average Helper (2)s become highly attached to people. Situations are loaded with emotion. Helper (2)s are more other-oriented in their thinking and feel they can’t be at ease if they know someone close to them is suffering. Leader (8)s feel they can’t relax if those close to them can’t learn to take care of themselves.


Both types can polarize about their approach to interpersonal problems. Helper (2)s want to be overly involved whereas Leader (8)s demand independence. Helper (2)s see their Leader (8) as hard-hearted, confrontational, cold and self-centered. Leader (8)s lose respect for their Helper (2) seeing them as weak, manipulative and creating unnecessary dependencies with others. Fights around value differences can pepper the relationship, with neither side feeling they can move too much into the middle without a loss of their core values. They can be mutually confused by the other’s position.


The cycle continues with the Leader (8) losing respect for the Helper (2), finding them people-pleasing and manipulative, and the Helper (2) feeling their Leader (8) is hard-hearted and controlling. Without a break in the momentum, the relationship is at risk, and the partners may split.


2:8 The Lighthouse

Different values around human connection and different communication styles start the downward spiral of this couple so coming back into the center is the way to stop the downward momentum.  Helper (2)s need to try to connect with their Leader (8)’s fear of being vulnerable and the accompanying aggression to hide vulnerability.  Leader (8)s need to respect their Helper (2)’s orientation towards feelings and emotions.


2:8 The Kundalini Yoga Connection

Both types need to strengthen their nervous system so the communication style differences don’t feel as threatening.


Helper (2)s need manage their impulse to be so involved in the lives of others and to get more in touch with their own needs.  Kundalini Yoga kriyas that increase body awareness are helpful for Helper (2)s . Doing a yoga or meditation practice independently can be very beneficial to keep them focused on their own experience.


Leader (8)s need to connect with their heart and learn to place more value in the emotional world, both their own emotions and the emotions of others. They need to learn to contain the energy of anger and to manage their aggressive communication style. This aggressive style is likely damaging their relationships.  Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations with heart opening  and breath management exercises can be really helpful for Leader (8)s.


Improve Your Relationship!

To learn about the Helper (2) and Leader (8) dynamic, personal testimonials of this type combination for both perspectives, relationship keys for success and Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations for each type, download “The Nine Keys: A Guide Book to Unlock Your Relationships Using Kundalini Yoga and the Enneagram” here.

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