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Relationships with Enneagram Nines

Updated: Jan 5

If you’re in a relationship with an Enneagram Nine, then you should know that their ego is telling them that life is better if things stay the way they’ve always been. Average Nines can adapt to healthy environments as easily as they can adapt to dysfunctional ones because their primary concern is staying connected to people they love, rather than trying to improve their own life.

Since Nines are always adapting, they can be very different people depending on who they’re with, and of course, their level of health. In this relationship overview, each theme is based on one of the different partners you’re likely to experience in a relationship with an Enneagram Nine: The Peaceful Partner, The Passive Partner, The Disappearing Partner, The Present Partner, and The Ideal Partner.

1/ The Peaceful Partner

The most common version of an Enneagram Nine that you’ll experience in a relationship is the peaceful partner. It’s why the Enneagram Institute calls them the Peacemaker. Nines are incredibly kind, considerate, easygoing folks that want to spread love and peace wherever they go. They’re really the hippies of the Enneagram, or the Miss America’s if they’re tapping into the high side of the Three.

Nines have an unrelenting desire to see the best in people, and feeling accepted makes all other Enneagram types gravitate to healthy Nines.

It’s also why Nines sit at the top of the Enneagram: they have a unifying force inside of them that comes from their ability to empathize with the perspective of the other eight Enneagram types.

Ironically, the Nine's empathy doesn’t mean they dismiss your flaws. In fact, they can be quite bold in stating what your problem is, as they’re hypersensitive to any behavior that disrupts their sense of equilibrium. Healthy Nines are emotionally stable enough to confront problems head on because they know their motives are pure and they believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, which is love, healing, and reconciliation.

Sometimes Nines are a bit unrealistic in their positive outlook--it's part of the way they cope with pain, which is described by their place within the Harmonic Triad. When things go awry, positive outlook types go straight for the silver lining. Less healthy Nines have an instinctual reaction to ignore their pain, sorrow, or grief and instead turn to or create whatever positive narrative they can come up with and keep them in an ideal yet imaginary world.

When Nines feel stung by their partner and can’t suppress their negative emotions, they mostly resort to lobbing out a few passive aggressive comments about the most sensitive areas of your life, and then escape back into one of their many mindless yet peaceful routines. It takes a truly epic conflict to get Nines to boil over with rage. All Nines actually wrestle with a deep pool of dormant rage that stems from their frustration with the ways that life doesn’t allow them to have the peaceful existence they want. When Nines don’t feel strong enough to be a peacemaker, they resort to being a peacekeeper. The former feels empowered, while the latter feels passive.

2/ The Passive Partner

Nines have been compared to elephants in that they’re incredibly gentle yet stubborn, and can actually sleep standing up! Which is to say, Nines can look awake without any intention of doing anything. They're the most naturally indecisive of all Enneagram types, just a notch above Type Six. Average Nines get labeled as low maintenance and super easy going, but that’s often because they have no idea what they actually want, and when you press them to decide for themselves, they stall.

Many Nines prefer to maintain whatever peace they have by chilling out in a nice, familiar place.

In relationships, this can lead Nines to stay with an unhealthy or mismatched partner for decades because they don’t know who else they should be with.

Another way to say it is that Nines are frequently ambivalent. They may have a very clear idea of what they don't want, which is usually getting into a fight, breaking up, having to find another place to live, getting back on dating apps, and all the other inconvenient results of an honest, difficult decision to improve their life in the long run.

Even in a good relationship with an average Nine, their partners will still find it incredibly difficult to motivate them to leave a bad, yet familiar situation, like a job they hate but have had for years. Average Nines often need to be pushed out of a bad situation against their will because they lack the intrinsic belief that their life is going to get better if they upset the status quo. Nines also have a subtle way of draining their own gas tank so they never have to make a decision. For example, a Nine will commit to all several different activities after work so when they get home they can have the excuse of being too tired to finish that resume they need to send out...which would help them leave the job they hate.

A real sign of health for Nines is when they start speaking up for themselves, getting disciplined with their time and energy, and ultimately pursuing their true passions in life. The longer Nines resist their unique vision of a beautiful life, the more they turn into a complacent shell of themselves.

3/ The Disappearing Partner

Nines don’t disappear solely because they’re afraid of conflict or can’t make up their mind. They disappear because they’re afraid of a deep, often subconscious desire to feel free and independent. This desire scares Nines because they believe that being autonomous means severing their connection to those they love, and that's their greatest fear. Nines want everyone to be happy so that they’ll stay together. They want it so much that they’ll erase themselves from the picture entirely if that means everybody stays together.

The Nine's disappearance often comes from a noble desire for harmony, despite it looking like a stubborn resistance to all the glaring problems in their life. Again, the Nine's resistance to reality stems from the fear that if they were to speak their truth, they would lose the people they love and the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. This strategy also allows Nines to avoid taking any blame for the quality of their life, as they abdicate any responsibility when it comes to making major decisions about their future. After all, you can’t blame someone for making the wrong decision if they never make a decision, right?

The more Nines disappear from their life, the more they can become what Carl Jung called “a menace to their environment,” as they allow any horrible behavior to persist if it means they can stay comfortably numb.

This is a tricky theme to navigate in relationships, as many partners actually benefit from the Nine's disappearance.

It's not uncommon for aggressive, controlling partners to gravitate toward unhealthy Nines because it lets them be in a relationship without actually having to change any of their toxic behaviors. Being the most naturally accepting Enneagram type is not always a good thing. Nines that look like they’ve accepted their partner for who they are may just be unwilling to risk a life lived alone.

Ironically, Nines tend to enjoy an independent lifestyle more than they realize because of the subconscious desire for autonomy. Ultimately, the only way Nines manifest their greatest gifts in a relationship is by being their own independent person, which honestly, their partner’s may not enjoy, but should always respect.

4/ The Present Partner

During what’s known as the movement of integration, Nines take on many of the best traits of the Type Three Achiever. Enneagram Threes have an innate sense that their presence matters and that they’re capable of doing great things. So integrated Nines are those that throw out all the self-deprecating nonsense about how their presence doesn’t really matter, and are instead quite bold in their pursuit of what they love and find meaningful. Healthy Nines also take on the ambition of the Three without all of the superficial competitiveness. At their core, they want to do something that makes the world a better place.

Before this grander vision of a healthy, present Nine appears in your relationship, they often take some baby steps first, which you’ll experience in the way they start making decisions.

Nines that are still getting comfortable with their influence in life make decisions very slowly because they worry about and stress over every negative reaction or counterargument that could come once they finally decide what to do.

Once Nines finally come to a conclusion, their choice tends to come as a total surprise to their partner because they don’t let anyone into their thought process along the way. Also, they tend to hold their carefully and privately made decision dearly, and will defend it by rambling on and on about every detail. After all, they’ve thought so long about it that every minor detail feels equally important. All that to say, as Nines become more present in their relationships, their partners should try their best to be patient and supportive of their lengthy decision making process.

5/ The Ideal Partner

This theme is not necessarily about Nine's being ideal, but rather their tendency to idealize the ones they love. This is rooted in their childhood, when they learned to idealize their parents by blocking out whatever drama existed in the home as a way of maintaining their fantasy of a happy family. Nines can have incredibly abusive or neglectful parents and still remain close to them throughout their entire lives. This can be a major source of tension for the Nine’s partner if they get pulled into the family drama because the Nine simply can’t put up a healthy boundary between them and their parents.

However, Nines also tend to idealize their romantic partners, as the positive feelings they have for their partner allow them to numb the negative feelings they have for themself. Nines lose themselves in the ones they love, so even if a relationship is a complete mess, the thought of ending it feels totally disorienting. They just wouldn’t know what to do with their life. Once Nines merge identities with their partner, they fixate on their positive qualities, and will often rehearse nostalgic memories of whatever happy moments they’ve had together in order to justify staying in a relationship, even if deep down, they know it should probably end. It’s that habit of blocking out the sound of mom & dad fighting so they can pretend that home is where the heart is.

Ultimately, Nines are never an ideal partner if they’re not actively addressing ways their relationship could and should be better, and putting a significant amount of energy into their own personal growth.

There are likely more Nines in relationships they need to end or severely adjust, then any other Enneagram type. And if you’re in a relationship with a Nine, that's a discomfort you might need to wrestle with.

BONUS: 🧡 Love Language 🧡

As a refresher, the five love languages are quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and gifts. Based on the Nine's major personality traits, words of affirmation likely rank nears the top of their top love languages, just above quality time. If you can compliment a Nine while having a nice dinner together, then their love tank likely fills up. Acts of service probably ranks near the bottom because Nines never want to feel like they’re a burden, so they often avoid getting in the middle of something you could do for yourself.

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