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Relationships with Enneagram Fours

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

If you’re in a relationship with an Enneagram Four, then you should know that their ego is telling them that they are both uniquely gifted and uniquely wounded, and so they seek to ways to merge the beautiful with the broken into one authentic sense of self. This journey can lead Fours to endlessly fantasize about the person they could be, and the person they could be with.

Fours tend to want an ideal partner or none at all, and they’re going to need a strong partner to embrace the fact that Four “are prone to the most severe emotional difficulties of all enneagram types,” as Riso & Hudson of The Enneagram Institute remind us. Fours are also some of my absolute favorite people on the planet, and they have a lot more to offer than just the occasional emotional turbulence.

The five key themes that will help you understand your relationship with the Type Four Individualist are: emotion defines identity, constant comparison, the hide & seek routine, authentic self-expression, intuition as a love language

1/ Emotion Defines Identity

The Enneagram Four’s identity is defined by their emotions, and since emotions are always in flux, so too is their identity. The same fluctuations is often evident in their relationships, which can be pretty confusing for both partners. If the Four feels good today, then they must be in a good relationship. If they feel miserable today, then they must be in a bad relationship.

Negative emotions are far more common to Fours as they struggle with immense shame and regret about past indiscretions as well as their current life struggles, all of which causes frequent bouts of melancholy or depression. Fours can also ride the emotional waves of life to their highest highs, which is typically what happens when they start to fall in love. Some Enneagram teachers have nicknamed Fours "The Romantic” because they’re so attracted to the idea of being swept off their feet by an ideal partner. In reality, they love the juice they get from all the heightened emotions that come with an intimate romance. Fours can make their partners feel consumed by love if the Four is feeling energized, upbeat, and connected. They can just as easily make their partner feel like the relationship is a waste of time if the Four feels hopelessly broken and now just wants to be alone.

Fours tend to believe the relationship must be dying if it doesn’t feel like they’re on a permanent honeymoon. They ask themselves, “Shouldn’t it feel better than this? Shouldn’t I feel better than this?”

They’ve spent so much time daydreaming about an ideal romance that even feelings of comfort, stability, or routine can feel like an indictment on the relationship.

The kiss of death often comes when the Fours partner can no longer relate to or respect the Four's turbulent emotional states. Fours need people to listen and connect to their emotions, because, again, it’s how they form their identity. To reject or try to change the Four’s emotions is perceived as rejecting or trying to fix their core being. The big takeaway for the Type Four's partner is to avoid being dismissive of the Four's emotions, no matter how erratic they may seem. The takeaway for Enneagram Fours is the need to be aware of how dismissive you can be of other people’s needs, thoughts, or experiences if they don’t directly connect to what you’re feeling or your broader search for significance.

2/ Constant Comparison

Enneagram Fours are constantly comparing themselves to their family, friends, celebrities, and almost anyone in the field of view. These comparisons arise during childhood when Fours start to notice they’re not quite on the same wavelength as their parents. It’s not that their parents don’t love them, it’s just that mom and dad just seem to feel, and function, very differently than the Four does.

As Fours get older, they can either celebrate or bemoan these differences--they tend to do the latter more often as they feel like they’ve got a fatal flaw of some kind, which makes them envy the lives of other people around them.

This sense of being inherently different than other people creates an elevated fear of abandonment.

At the same time, this acute awareness of their distinct differences makes them hungry for deep connections with people that share a similar wounding or artistic sensibility. When Fours compare themselves to the world, they vacillate between feeling like one of the broken ones or feeling like one of the best ones. This is why their relationships often seem like a fairytale or a nightmare.

Fours have a keen eye and a strong taste for the finer things in life, which means they’re not easily satisfied with anything they consider too average or cliche. They may even sabotage a stable relationship just because it looks like what everyone else has. These kind of elitist ideals often make it difficult to embrace the lulls inherent in every long-term relationship. It also puts a lot of pressure on the Four's partner to keep things exciting in order to compensate for the “fatal flaw” feeling.

Fours can use their comparison for good if they find ways to connect with people via their pain and suffering. Because Fours are so clearly identified with their pain, they tend to attract people that can relate. Fours aren’t skittish heavy emotions, which can actually make Fours feel more alive, and in turn makes it very easy for them to form bonds with people during times of crisis. When comparison fuels a sense of empathy rather than isolation, Fours are on the right path.

3/ Hide & Seek Routine

One of the trademark patterns of Type Four relationships is the push-pull, back-and-forth intimacy their love can create. Unhealthy Fours take on the low side of the Type Two Helper in disintegration, which stirs up their desire to feel wanted and nurtured by a strong or desirable partner. Fours in disintegration need constant reassurance that the relationship is going well, that you still like them, and that they haven’t used up all your good will. They can often be effusive with praise and incredibly clingy in this state.

The overpraising and clingy behaviors can quickly shift once the Four recognizes they’ve over-exposed themself in some way; reactively, they disappear to sort out their turbulent emotions alone. This pattern can often make their partner feel like they’re going crazy, as one moment they’re whimsically discussing their ideal wedding with the Four, and in the next moment, the Four is questioning the entire concept of monogamy. Some salty partners describe this behavior as “gaslighting,” but it’s important to remember that the sudden shift in sentiment is not an intentional manipulation, and there are no malicious motives. The Four is just as lost as their partner is, which is why they go into hiding.

Fours are hyper aware that their quick fluctuations causes harm to the ones they love, so they paint their withdrawal as a sort of noble action to save those closest to them from the pain of dealing with the Four. Sometimes this turns into a subtle game of hide and seek to get their lover to chase after them, but more often than not, it’s the Four’s ineffective attempt at self-discovery. Fours that withdraw from the world in an attempt to “find themselves” should know that they’ve bought into the most common lie that Fours tell themselves.

When Fours start sulking in isolation, they stop seeking practical solutions, and will actively resist--or even resent--anyone that tries to help.

Furthermore, Fours are naturally comfortable being alone, and less healthy Fours expect to be alone in life because (again) they’ve got that fatal flaw.

Ironically, Fours in hiding still get lonely because, after all, they’re human. Loneliness makes Fours reimagine the partners they’ve lost as an idealized version of who they actually were, which can then cause the Four go running or crawling back, depending on how much pride they’ve got left. Ultimately, Fours only trust a partner that has endured a few seasons of this back-and-forth kind of romance, and is patient with them when they need to sulk, seethe with anger, or brood in isolation.

4/ Authentic Self-Expression

For better or worse, Fours are the most naturally authentic personality type of the Enneagram--that is to say, they have the highest value for authenticity. Authenticity is like oxygen for Fours, and they can feel like they’re suffocating when they lose their sense of self. That’s why authenticity is a non-negotiable when it comes to their romantic relationships. Fours would much rather date an authentically dramatic, edgy, or aggressive person than someone stable who has repressed all the unique aspects of their personality.

Fours crave depth--they want to explore every nook and cranny of not just their soul, and but their partner’s innermost being as well.

If concepts like vulnerability and raw intimacy make your skin crawl, then best of luck in this relationship, because Fours see through all the shiny exteriors and polished personas that people work so hard to maintain.

Fours also feel compelled to express anything that feels authentic to them, be it through a deep conversation, or more likely, through a creative outlet. One of the most foundational ways Fours feel loved is when you love what they create. Interestingly enough, Fours actually under-express their true identity, and instead funnel it through creative performances or an artistic medium of some kind. You may be in a decades-long relationship with a Four, only to learn pivotal things about their life through one of their paintings, or in a song they wrote, or in their one-man show. When Fours express themselves in a creative act, no matter how big or small, those are the moments they’re the most open to receiving love and affirmation. If you want to cultivate an intimate relationship with a Four, take their creative self-expression seriously.

5/ Intuition as a Love Language

One of the greatest gifts a Four has to offer in a relationship is their intuition. Intuition is the highest form of knowing--it’s a mix of emotions, logic, and gut instincts that, when directed at the Four's relationship, creates a profound sense of warmth, compassion, and innate connection with their partner. Healthy Fours are the people you want in your corner during times of crisis or sudden loss because they intuitively understand what you need, and while it’s often called empathy, what Fours can do goes a step beyond that. It’s not just sharing a specific feeling, it’s seeing you on such a deep level that you experience a sense of spiritual oneness.

However, this kind of intuition only shows its strengths when Fours are in a secure state of integration, which looks like taking on the traits of a Type One Reformer.

Fours manifest their best qualities by taking on simple, daily disciplines that help them tap into reality rather than getting lost in their imagination.

The less time Fours spend being physically active and productive in the real world, the more they become aimless, confused, and disinterested in the needs of other people. If intuition is the highest form of knowing, then Fours are also capable of the highest form of not-knowing. Because Fours get blown all over the place by their emotions, they need an anchor of some kind--not their romantic partner!--something more like a spiritual community that inspires a sense of selfless morality to help draw out the Four's concern for other people. That’s the Four's movement to the moral objectivity of the One, and when mixed with the Four's emotional intelligence, creates their unique form of intuition. That intuition is ultimately what tells them to fight their tendency to withdraw, to lean into their authentic sense self, to stop comparing their flaws to the so-called perfect lives of other people, and most of all, to simply notice their emotional reactions rather than identifying with them.

BONUS: 🧡 Love Language

The five traditional love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, quality time, and acts of service. The Four's love language, for giving and receiving, is probably a tie between words of affirmation and quality time. Fours need to hear that you love them, that you think they’re beautiful, and special, and that the gifts they have to offer are very much needed in the relationship. They also need quality time with people to feel connected since they tend to withdraw, and quality time keeps them feeling grounded and present in the relationship.

Giving gifts to Fours is very tricky. If you miss the mark and get them something they hate, it will have the inverse effect, and they’ll feel both unloved and very misunderstood. Acts of service tend to go unnoticed or can even comes across as an insult, as if you’re saying to the Four “I’m doing this because you couldn’t do it.”

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