The Enneagram is way more than a personality test. Here’s how it can revolutionize your romantic relationships and sex life.
If you are like most people, you’ve probably taken a personality test (or two…or 500) in your life, hoping to discover more about yourself. You’ve likely found that some are more accurate than others, largely forgetting your results along the way. Which reminds me, what is my Myers-Briggs type again? I think it’s NFT-J or something…
But among all the personality-based tests out there, there’s one that may make you a believer in all this self-discovery mumbo-jumbo. It’s the Enneagram—and it could be the key to more successful relationships and better sex. No, really. Just ask
Steph Barron Hall.
Barron Hall has always been a staunch skeptic when it comes to personality tests. Even so, she’s now a top Enneagram coach, preaching the power of the Nine Types in fostering self-awareness and better communication. Not surprisingly, those two values are beyond essential in improving your romantic life and time between the sheets.
Barron Hall calls the Enneagram a powerful framework that can foster life-long personal growth in all avenues of life. Simply put, the Enneagram is way more than a personality quiz torn from the back pages of a magazine. Still wary? Here’s how knowing your Enneagram type can revolutionize your romantic relationships and sex life, according to certified skeptic-turned-believer Steph Barron Hall.
The Enneagram is a motivation-based personality framework oriented around nine archetypes—which I realize there’s a lot of jargon there. But it’s really about these nine core types that reflect things back to us about what’s truly driving us beneath the surface. The word "Enneagram" breaks into two parts: "Ennea," which means nine, and "gram," which means something that’s written or drawn.
Yes, so the Enneagram really isn’t about describing ourselves, but it’s about helping us to foster a deeper sense of self-understanding by seeing that motivation and understanding why you are doing a behavior.
The Enneagram is really useful for self-awareness, interpersonal communication, personal growth, and things of that nature. It really illuminates blind spots or things that we don’t want to see or recognize about ourselves.
The types that are adjacent to yours are what we call wings. So if you’re a Type Four, then the wings could be Type Three or Type Five. A lot of the time, that’s used to be a more narrow personality identifier. So somebody might say "I’m a Four, wing Three." And what they really mean is, "This is my core motivation, but it kind of shows up through this other lens."
For me personally, I see the wings as more of like growth stretches. So it’s a thing where you want to practice reaching over and developing some of the skills from your wing types. And I find that typically people have developed one of those wing types a lot more than the other. For example, a Type Seven might have really developed a lot of Type Eight and they really resist developing more of the Type Six. So they tend to say, "Oh, I’m a Seven, wing Eight." But what that’s telling me is you’ve just developed a lot of that Eight energy. There are different schools of thought on that, like with most things with the Enneagram.
This is one of the really key things: A lot of the time people take a quick test online and the results may resonate or they may not. And then they just kind of move along. I think what’s important to know is that the Enneagram is actually a much bigger tool and framework. It’s not just a test.
What really makes it really distinct from some other personality tools is the motivation piece. So a lot of the time when we look at personality tools, we’re like, "Oh, this is just a stereotype." But what Enneagram tries to understand is the driving force beath the surface or the motivation behind the behavior.
In many ways, it’s about uncovering what you’re not seeing about yourself and what’s driving you, insinuating that there’s a clear path to grow. So the Enneagram isn’t saying "This is who you are," it’s saying, "This is how you could view things in a new way." I tend to be a very practical person, but this tool can almost be very spiritual.
Our type doesn’t change. It’s consistent throughout whatever the situation and whatever your environment is, so it’s a powerful framework. But I think a lot of people have a hard time grasping that because, throughout our life, our behaviors change. We grow, we shift, we gain new coping skills, we have different ways of approaching things. Basically, we’re not so stuck in those ways that are connected to the type. And this kind of gets really esoteric. While we have the option to choose a different pattern, that’s not to say that we don’t have the same motivation. It’s just that our behavior is a thing that changes. The way that we show up in the world can shift and change.
But I find that sometimes people do tend to resonate less with their core type the more growth work they do. Sometimes people are just a lot more able to recognize motivations and things popping up. And they’re able to see it, observe it, notice it, get curious about it.
This answer can be somewhat contentious. Most Enneagram teachers do agree that we’re born with our type and the way that we experience early childhood experiences—sometimes in the Enneagram community, we call those "childhood wounds"—is based on our type. So you might have two identical twins who have a shared experience, but based on their own way of seeing the world based on their type, what they experience means something different to them. For one person, it might mean I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna just confront the world head on and be really tough. And for the other person, it might mean I’m gonna make peace and I’m going to shift things to make everything in harmony and forget myself in the process.
So we already have a predisposition to our Enneagram type and it’s just further solidified and further internalized based on our experiences.
Two things: The self-awareness piece is the main goal. Understanding yourself, learning yourself, what makes you tick—all those sorts of things. That’s incredibly valuable in dating. But one of my favorite ways to use the Enneagram is for communication. A lot of the time we walk through the world and we think, "I’m a person who gets quiet when I’m angry. I see that person over there getting quiet, they must be angry." So I’m applying my motivation to their behavior. But when we understand the Enneagram, we can automatically start to say, "OK, they may have a different motivation." So instead of going into relationships or conversations with assumptions, we are allowing there to be a lot more openness and a lot more curiosity, and really building that skill.
The ability to understand one another and find a lot more clarity, curiosity, and ask really good questions is incredibly useful. A lot of the time, especially on the first two dates, we’re not wanting to delve into a lot of deeper things. But if you’re able to talk about your Enneagram types together, it offers you an ability to go deeper with a little bit of that space. I think that having that foundation can really help build a stronger connection.
Even in conflict or difficult situations, when we understand our partner’s type, we can imagine their motivations to communicate better. Like, "Oh, when I say this, I wonder if they’re actually hearing this, which is not my intention."
The compatibility question is by far the most common question I hear. I don’t see certain types as more or less compatible. Truly any paring can work. It’s really more about your personal preferences. I’ve met dozens of Type Fours who love Type Eights and only want to date Eights—and I’ve met dozens of Type Fours who have a very difficult time sharing space with Type Eights. So it’s more on a personal thing versus a type-by-type basis.
So I don’t think that there are types that are necessarily the most compatible. But there are certainly type pairings that are more common.
I see a lot of people get together who are basically the opposite attract dynamic. So they’re kind of looking for somebody to compliment them in their approach to the world, which can at times translate to Enneagram type.
A couple of years ago, I actually did a survey on Enneagram type and relationship pairings. It was not like a scientific study or anything, but just a general open survey. I had several thousand people respond and the least common partner pairings were same type pairings, like a Nine and Nine or an Eight and Eight. In general, I think we tend to get annoyed with people who are too similar to us.
Well, we all know that good sex is about good communication. If you can learn to communicate well, you have better sex in general. It’s not that a certain type is always looking for a certain move in the bedroom or something like that. It’s more just building the skills of being open, honest, aware, and curious. Those are the key skills that will be most conducive to being able to have conversations about what you need and what you like—and the same for your partner. If you can create a communication environment that engenders that sort of openness, that opens the door for better sex.
Even if you’re not in this committed, ongoing relationship with the same person, there can still be an opportunity to discover more about yourself and what is important to you sexually through the Enneagram. It can help you share those things with somebody else so that you’re not just leaving encounters thinking, "Well, I didn’t get what I needed out of it." You are having more fulfillment because you can communicate about it. You can communicate with yourself about it. Intra-personal communication is super helpful with the Enneagram.
Exactly. For me, knowing my Enneagram type, if something triggers something in me where I’m like, "I’m mad now," I can take a step back and be like, "Well, what did that threaten in me?" Maybe it threatened this core sense of self or maybe I felt embarrassed or maybe it was something else. But I can understand those things about myself because I understand myself through the lens of the Enneagram. Again, I’m able to understand my own responses, my own reactions, and my own reactivity.
Building that emotional intelligence is the lifelong goal of any sort of inner work— and building that self-understanding is so important when in communication with somebody else, whether relationally or in the workplace or whatever.
The most important thing to recognize is that the Enneagram is a tool. It’s something that can help guide and enlighten certain things, especially things that you might be missing. But it’s not going to be 100% true of you, of your partner, of your specific type pairing. It’s just a way to be more curious and more self-understanding versus thinking, "I’m this type, so I have to be this way," or "My partner is this type, so they have to be this certain way." It’s a lot more expansive than the narrow traits or qualities that we see often listed with the types.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no. It’s pretty obvious based on our conversation thus far that I think self-awareness and emotional intelligence are very sexy. So if you want to communicate that in some way on your dating profile, that’s great and there are other ways to do that. But I think every type pairing should work and I think everyone should give any type a shot. I don’t think that it should be based on your Enneagram type. So I think that the caution there could be that people might stereotype based on a specific type and not really going into it with a sense of curiosity or openness about who that person might actually be.
I think the first thing is to communicate why it’s important to you. Why does it matter to you? How has it helped you? How can it help you move forward as a couple? Any tool that we use, like love languages or the Enneagram, can be helpful to cultivate more of a connection.
But another approach is to not use any Enneagram language. So talking about yourself and what you’re learning about yourself without saying, "Well, I’m a three, so blah, blah, blah." Really talking about, "OK, this is what I’ve learned, and this is what I’ve found about myself and how I communicate." I think that can be really helpful and help peak their interest.
Honestly, I’m such a skeptic when it comes to personality things. I love personality-anything, but I’m always like, "Hm, let’s find the holes in this." But the Enneagram is just been the tool that, for me, has given me the most self-awareness and self-understanding—and has also been the most accurate—for years. It’s just really useful.
I’ve distilled all of this into this self-typing guide that I created. But basically, I recommend taking a test knowing that your results are not necessarily your type. I find a lot of people don’t get their actual type the first time around. (But I will say the first time I took a test, it was correct.) Be committed to being a little bit more open about it. If you’re open about it at this stage, then you’re prepared for this growth journey.
Once you get your results, look at the top two to three results and read more about them. There are like a lot of great websites, like the Enneagram Institute or The Enneagram At Work is one of my favorites. See what resonates most and get really curious about yourself and what’s driving you.
I recommend listening to podcasts, interviews, or panels on your top two types once you narrow it down to determine further. But I also recommend you work with a typing coach. So I do typing interviews, and it’s a really helpful process to excavate more of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
It’s important to recognize who you truly are right now versus who you want to be. We get a lot of societal messages about how we should be. So I really think it’s important to say, "OK, who am I really?" or even, "What’s the ugly truth beneath the surface?"
Aside from being a tool for self-growth, the Enneagram is also about those things that we don’t really like ourselves. I find that in looking at some of those things that we don’t always want to see, that’s where it gets really good. That’s kind of the key to unlocking that sense of transformation that we’re often seeking when we go to tests like this.
Remember that your Enneagram type is not the only thing that’s true about you. There are so many things that are true about us, and this is just one lens to look at life through. And it can be incredibly helpful, but it’s not the one thing that will ever be true about you.
Keep in mind that there’s so much more depth and nuance to this than you’re going to ever see on social media. There’s always more to learn. I am constantly learning more about it even though I’m multiple times over certified in this tool. It can be a really rich, lifelong discovery.
Katie Dupere is an editor and writer in New York City specializing in identity, internet culture, social good, lifestyle and beauty topics.
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