Elsa, Perfectionist (1) married in an 18 year relationship with Lars, Enthusiast (7)
“I was with my husband for 18 years (married 15 years and two days) before he died suddenly of a massive heart attack. We were both 44 years old. I still miss him beyond words just over 5 years later. We had both been in active recovery from addiction for a couple of years before we got together as a couple so we had the advantage of being in a very conscious relationship.
There are so many things I loved about my husband…He was quick on the uptake, brilliant but never realized how much smarter he was than so much of the crowd. One of his greatest gifts was that he could step into a conflict and defuse the situation without letting either party lose face or feel embarrassed. He had the capacity to be incredibly gentle, firm but kind, yet still sometimes wickedly sarcastic. I felt safe with him. I knew he would always back me up, no matter what. He did this with the doctors when we had children, with my own mother when she got pushy with me, even with the kids when they didn’t listen to me. He was incredibly resilient and good at landing on his feet –I knew I could trust in his ability even if at times, he didn’t trust his ability himself.
Early on in our relationship our roles were set: it was his job to make sure I had fun, and I made sure we didn’t go bankrupt. For example, about three months into our engagement I took a job that required us to move to a new city. Before we did anything I had to be satisfied we could afford the upcoming changes given we both had bills and debt, some with serious emotional strings. None of these topics was his idea of a good time, but I knew we needed to lay all the cards on the table and come up with a plan. The Saturday morning between the job offer and my accepting it, I walked up to him and very matter-of -factly blurted out, “Tonight after dinner we have to see where our collective finances stand to make our decision. If you would please gather all of your monthly bills and debts, as will I, we can sit down and take a look. There will be no judgment, no blaming, no nothing but assessment and strategic planning to eliminate as much debt as possible before our move.” As I turned to leave, I caught the flash of pure panic in his eyes. We did however, sit down and do exactly as I said we would at about 7pm that night, strategy and all. This was how it went with us.
Things were not always easy in our marriage. There was a time, when our children were young, I was home full-time with them and struggled with loneliness. I found myself getting disproportionately angry at my husband for being away, even if the reason he was away was something like he was fixing my car! After getting advice from a friend and reading a book she recommended, my husband and I sat together one night and did a reflective inventory of what was working well in our marriage and what wasn’t. Owning our own parts, willing to do what we needed to support the other, we focused together on supporting the marriage rather than attempting to get our own needs met. We found that by doing just that, we pulled ourselves out of a needy space and back into a loving, supportive one. Basically, we needed to have more play time, together. Children can suck that out of a marriage rather fast; thankfully we were able to restore it..
He loved me like no one else ever has, imperfections and all, and was willing to work through whatever we came up against. He wasn’t afraid to face the hard issues, to deal with unpleasant topics but he never got stuck there and could always see an opportunity to be of service to the greater good, whether it be our family, friends or addiction recovery. Spending the best part of 20 years with this generous and loving husband gave me the ability to be bold and visionary in ways I never would have dared before.
Being married to my husband has been the absolute best part of my life. The most tedious tasks, the most boring life events, were never so bad if I was doing them with him. I appreciated that he could handle my energy when I let it all come to the surface. When I would get hesitant, stuck in the planning phase, he helped me to see that there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback, and more information to gain wisdom from moving forward. He took me places in life and inside myself I wouldn’t think to go or bother to indulge in. He could shine his inner light on things that looked dull beforehand. He brought new perspectives to things I thought I already knew. And when he committed, I knew it was complete. I never once doubted till death do us part.
As a further note, I had been a student of the Enneagram for several years prior to meeting Lars. The insights about our Enneagram types, where our attention goes, how this attention shines as well as distorts reality made a difference in our relationship. Much of what would otherwise have been serious conflict became complementary with that insight. If I had expected him to see things as I did as a Perfectionist (1), I don’t know that we would have lasted very long, (especially if he had turned his sarcasm on me as criticism—that could have gone very badly..).
Our success as a couple went beyond our love for each other. It was also based on a deeper understanding and ability to comprehend each other. We gave each other space for these differences without being threatened. I could back up and observe, he’s an Enthusiast (7), he wants to see fun, the possibility, the big picture… And he knew, she’s a Perfectionist (1), she wants it organized, planned out, methodical, rational… And we could enjoy the differences instead of feeling frustrated. And I think that made all the difference.”
The Theory: The Enthusiast (7) with the Perfectionist (1)
When in Balance
The detail-oriented , practically-minded Perfectionist (1)s and brainstorming, big picture Enthusiast (7)s enjoy a symbiotic, balancing relationship with both offering valuable traits the other generally lacks. When self-aware and in balance, they complete each other. This can be a highly complementary pairing.
Perfectionist (1)s bring order, efficiency, tactical thinking, practicality, follow through and a drive for perfection, or at least high standards. Enthusiast (7)s bring high energy, a positive outlook, resilience, strategic thinking and an orientation towards fun and adventure.
Perfectionist (1)s help Enthusiast (7)s stay the course and not change plans when the going gets rough. The Perfectionist (1)’s attention to detail and practical thinking means projects and initiatives get done well with favorable results. The Enthusiast (7) is often the reason the project was started in the first place, with their insatiable belief in a brighter future where all things are possible.
Enthusiast (7)s bring joy and playfulness to the relationship and can help make sure things don’t get too heavy, balancing the seriousness of the Perfectionist (1). They remind the Perfectionist (1) to have fun, to relax and to enjoy life.
Both types can admire each other. Enthusiast (7)s appreciate the Perfectionist (1)s methodical and systematic approach to life as well as their reliability. They are happy to have a detail-oriented person at their side as most Enthusiast (7)s are aware that attention to detail is not their forte. Perfectionist (1)s can be very grounding for Enthusiast (7)s. Perfectionist (1)s admire the Enthusiast (7)’s joie de vivre, high spirits, joy and sense of fun and adventure. Enthusiast (7)s charge enthusiastically forward in life, and this can be balancing for Perfectionist (1)s who sometimes hold back and get overly involved in the details.
When aligned and in balance, this can be a mutually satisfying, fulfilling relationship.
The Downward Spiral
When fixated or in low stages of awareness, this can be a frustrating and difficult match.
Under stress with tightening defenses, Perfectionist (1)s become rigid, critical, irritated and blaming. They start to resent the playful, high-spirited Enthusiast (7) who is rarely interested in details or a methodical approach to situations. Perfectionist (1)s see the Enthusiast (7) as too pleasure seeking, too unfocused, impractical and with a lack of commitment to high standards. Perfectionist (1)s may start to take this behavior personally, as though it were directed at them.
Enthusiast (7)s on the other hand, get frustrated with the rigidity and seriousness of the Perfectionist (1). They start to feel penned in and trapped by what feels like a relentless “work before play” attitude. They can see the Perfectionist (1) as a strict schoolmarm who brings them down, limits them and drains their enthusiasm.
Conflicts between the two usually stem from their different approaches—Enthusiast (7)s have an immediacy of wanting to enjoy life to its fullest, and Perfectionist (1)s want to make sure all practical responsibilities are met before they allow themselves to relax and enjoy life. Enthusiast (7) start to feel like the Perfectionist “just doesn’t get it” while Perfectionist (1)s see the Enthusiast (7) as irresponsible and immature.
If the downward spiral gains momentum, the differences they share start to polarize the couple. The Enthusiast (7) may feel worn down and frustrated by the Perfectionist (1)’s continual criticism and dissatisfaction. The Enthusiast feels trapped and starts looking for ways to escape. For them, the environment becomes insufferably negative, and their discomfort may develop into full-blown anxiety.
The Perfectionist (1) gets even more frustrated with the Enthusiast (7)’s way of dealing with the situation. Their Enthusiast (7) partner begins to seem unreliable, scattered and hedonistic, someone with whom it is very difficult to imagine a positive future. The Perfectionist (1) might start developing feelings of contempt for the Enthusiast (7). With a panicking and frustrated Enthusiast (7) and a disillusioned, contemptuous Perfectionist (1), the connection falters and the relationship is in trouble.
Tightening defenses move in the opposite directions in this couple so coming back to the center is key to stopping the downward spiral. The Enthusiast (7) needs to resist the urge to flee in the face of rising anxiety and stress. The Perfectionist (1) need to resist the urge to lean in and try to control too much of the environment. And for both to change directions, they need to strengthen their nervous systems.
The Kundalini Yoga connection
The Enthusiast (7)’s underlying anxiety can benefit a lot from Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations that incorporate breathwork. Practices that require grit and determination are particularly helpful.
The Perfectionist (1)’s frustration can be burned down with Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations to burn inner anger and to open the heart. Any practice that connects the Perfectionist (1) with their softer emotions is beneficial.
If you know your Enneagram type and the type of your partner (or ex-partner), please consider participating in my relationship survey! Message me at email@example.com.
The book, The Nine Keys, will be out in 2018! This book contains 81 testimonials similar to the one above along with four Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations. To get on the pre-order listing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.