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Relationships with Enneagram Fives


If you’re in a relationship with an Enneagram Five, then the first thing you should know is that their ego is constantly telling them that they’re only safe if they have all the resources necessary to survive on their own. That’s a tough ego message to deal with if you’re looking for an intimate relationship with a Five, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make fantastic husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. If there’s an Enneagram Five who’s near and dear to your heart, here are five key themes you’ll need to know about how they handle relationships: evading emotion, commitment triggers emotion, retreat & recharge, privacy is paramount, and security means clarity


1/ Evading Emotions


The first relationship theme for Enneagram Fives is perhaps the most obvious theme, which is their tendency to evade emotion. Evade is perhaps the better word than avoid in the case of the Fives because evade carries a connotation of cleverness, like a politician that evades giving a direct answer on a controversial topic. Fives actually don’t avoid their own emotions, but rather use them as fuel to get energized about their ideas.


When you look at the Five's triadic pattern, it goes: head, then heart, then gut--very much a top-down approach. In short, Fives are primarily influenced by the logic of the head center, which they fuel with emotions from the heart center, and then neglect the physical movement or instincts of the gut center. Fives get stereotyped as robots because they’re often obsessed with objectivity and rationality, but that’s because emotions exhaust them physically, not because they don’t feel them.

Because of this, average Fives are the least likely Enneagram type to get married, and the most likely to have stormy or distant relationships, as emotional intimacy doesn’t follow a set of rules or logical patterns they can easily solve or predict.

Fives only feel truly relaxed around people that can contain their emotions. They refuse to get involved with anyone’s emotional drama no matter how much the Five loves them. When their partner starts getting overly emotional, even in a positive, lovey-dovey way, the average Five’s immediate thought is that these emotions are being used to try and control or manipulate them. If Fives get any whiff of emotional instability, they start detaching from their partner and become surprisingly cold or aloof until things start to settle back down.


Healthy Fives have their ways of expressing emotional intimacy, and more often than not, it’s in non-verbal ways. Physical intimacy is important for Fives because it gets them into their bodies, which is a crucial habit to balance out their mental and emotional activity. Sex is also a nice container for intimacy because it has a clear timeframe. It can’t last forever, and for some, it doesn’t last that long at all.


2/ Commitment Triggers Emotion


If you’ve endeared yourself enough to a Five for them to use "the L word," one of their subconscious reactions is often to get slightly upset about it. Fives in love feel like you’ve caused them to take a piece of themselves and place it outside the safety of their castle walls--which, to be fair, is what love does. All long term commitment upsets the holy independence and objectivity of the Five, and a loving commitment is perhaps the most tricky aspect of a Five's entire existence, as it pulls all their emotions to the surface. However, once you’ve gotten a Five to stop evading their emotions and enter into a loving relationship, they’re some of the most committed people you will meet.


For Fives, falling in love feels like they’ve climbed the most dangerous, exhausting mountain in the world and if that relationship were to end, they’d have to climb that mountain all over again with a new person. They’d rather give up climbing all together then do repeat the climb. Fives, especially with a Six wing, can be super loyal to their partner because that person has become their main contact or connection to the outside world. Think of it like the mom who does all her son's laundry, cooks him food, and pays the bills, while he sits in his room and plays video games all day. There are tons of Type Five marriages with this exact same dynamic.


That’s why its important for every Type Five relationship to have some conflict. If Fives are too comfortable in their own world, they start emotionally detaching from their lover, and it stops being a true commitment, instead devolving into a potentially cold, plutonic survival pact.

Conflict is an important way Fives prove they’re still emotionally committed to the relationship, especially because it’s so easy for them to rationalize the 'ol Irish goodbye.

Fives really don’t like to tip their hand and expose the fact that they value, or even need, their partner, so any angry outburst is a signal they at least value the relationship in some way. When Fives don’t care about something, they either coldly dismiss it or calmly play the devil’s advocate just to get a rise out of you.


3/ Retreat & Recharge


If you live with a Five, then you are familiar with the ways they can retreat into themselves after they’ve spent any significant energy interacting with the outside world. It bares repeating that Fives are not emotionless robots.

They feel deeply. They just don’t trust those feelings, so they need be alone to evaluate how they feel about whatever interactions they’ve just had.

Fives are natural strategists, but their emotions feel like an earthquake shaking the chess board, so they have to reign it in before they can make their next move.


Fives also have a very limited social gas tank, and the moment they step out into the real world, that gas tank starts to drain. Every interaction with a stranger drains a quarter tank. Walking into a party with loud music, and no way to drive themselves home is another half tank gone. A thoughtful, elegant person teeing up a conversation about the environmental impact of cobalt mining for electric vehicles? Gas tank stabilizing! Maybe even refilling a quarter tank. If Fives can keep their interactions purely within the intellectual sphere of their unique interests, they can go for days without needing to recharge--it feels like being plugged directly into the wall. Although these days, that kind of interaction seems to be most available online, which is where many Fives find their preferred relational playground.


When it comes to intimate relationships with a physically present partner, Fives have a consistent need to withdraw--and it shouldn't be taken personally. It doesn’t mean they want you to leave, they just can’t receive any more attention at the moment. If a Five's partner starts to pester, hover, or shame them for withdrawing, they will dig in even deeper.


In general, if you pressure a Five to do something they don’t want to do, you’ll quickly encounter their obstinance and stubbornness. Fives almost always need more time to recharge than their partners think they should need, so try your best to give them a wide berth as they sort out all their feelings, and try to recharge their battery.


4/ Privacy is Paramount


No matter how intimately connected you are with a Five, they will always keep a private little world inside themselves. They may reveal glimpses of that world to their closest friends and family, or anonymously online, but that inner world is sacred ground for Fives because to them, it feels like “the real me.” As long as Fives feel content with their private, inner world, they feel like no one coming or going can hurt them.


The Five's core “sin” is avarice because they’re driven to keep their most precious resources hidden from the outside world, which can make having a family pretty tricky--if you love your children, you can’t keep them hidden from the world forever. Even as parents, Fives tend to pass on the message of “don’t need me too much because you shouldn’t need anything that’s outside of yourself.”


Privacy and autonomy go hand-in-hand for Fives, so their ideal relationship should have both. It can be super off-putting for the Five's partner the first time they get hit with this privacy policy because it feels so blunt. It usually sounds something like a curt, one- or two-word response when asked about their day or where they went last night:

“I went out.”

“Did you have fun?”

“Yeah.”

If you’ve seen Ozark, Jason Bateman’s character, Marty Byrde, models this Five behavior perfectly throughout the show...granted he’s hiding a major money laundering scheme for the Mexican drug cartel, so his privacy really is a matter of life and death, but that’s the way it feels for many Fives. Where this attempt at privacy usually goes askew is in the Five's obsession with secrecy.

Healthy privacy leads to autonomy, and unhealthy secrecy leads to isolation.

Fives can feel safe when they’re isolated, but they’re not immune to loneliness, and the more they feel sad or lonely, the more Fives try to funnel those emotions into the world of esoteric ideas, and even conspiracy theories--all of which distorts their perception of reality.


At the end of the day, healthy Fives stay grounded by letting one or two trusted loved ones into their secret little worlds so they can co-create an environment together where they feel secure enough to let their imagination run wild, all while keeping one foot firmly planted in the real world.


5/ Security Means Clarity


There's a difference between clarity and certainty. Fives are great with a lack of certainty. They don’t mind handling complex questions about the future, and, in fact, that’s where they do some of their best work. What Fives need is clarity about where there is a lack of certainty. They need to know where the problem is, and what specific role they play in fixing or improving things, so they can either opt in or opt out.


The need for clarity is rooted in their childhood, when they felt like mom and dad didn’t create a clear role for them in the family. Often times there was a dramatic or unsafe environment in the home, and the Five’s needs were put on the back burner and/or their gifts were ignored. Eventually Fives accept this reality and make a subconscious agreement with their parents: “I wont ask too much from you, if you don’t ask too much from me.” Fast forward to their romantic relationships as adults, and they’re still looking for the kind of clarity this arrangement creates.

Fives need clear, consistent boundaries, and if you have any intentions for the future of the relationship, they must be clearly stated with no grey areas or hidden agenda.

Fives that feel unclear about the future of their romantic relationship stall. They try to buy time because emotional decisions create a mental fog that leads to analysis paralysis.


In order to get clear, most Fives turn their partners into objects rather than people, as it’s easier to make a big decision if you don’t factor in emotion, empathy, or any sense of culpability for someone else’s future. Fives like to think that we’re all just free people doing whatever we want, so it’s really on you if you want to stay in a relationship where you’re not getting what you need. That's the low side of the Type Five’s pursuit of clarity.


On the bright side, they actually embody the bold, passionate convictions of the Type Eight Challenger during their movement of integration. This is a pretty dramatic shift for Fives as they go from looking cold, scattered, awkward or detached to looking intensely present and clear about who they are, what they want, and how to improve the relationship. Ultimately, Fives are highly strategic thinkers that just need to know where they stand, and what you expect from them in the relationship, so they can put that brilliant mind to practical use.


BONUS: 🧡 Love Language 🧡


The five traditional love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, quality time, and acts of service. Quality time and acts of service are likely near the top of the list for many Gives. Quality time serves the Five's value of thoughtful, intellectual conversation mixed with plenty of alone time. Acts of service allow Fives to neglect mundane tasks they don’t think are as valuable as their intellectual pursuits.


At the bottom of the ranking would probably be physical touch and gifts. Touch is low just because being present in the body is the opposite of being present in the mind. Gifts are low because Fives tend to do so much research about the things they want that it’s almost impossible to buy them the exact right thing they would’ve bought themselves.



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