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Relationships with Enneagram Twos

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

If you’re in a relationship with an Enneagram Two, then you should know their ego is telling them that you earn love by meeting people's needs. It’s why they’re nicknamed The Helper. Their ego message can make Twos kind, compassionate, and generous people that continually serve those around them; it can also make them filled with pride and resentment for all the ways those around them fail to appreciate how sacrificial they are.

The five themes for relationships with Enneagram Twos are about their needs: their need to be needed, their need to be good, their need for boundaries, their need feel seen, and their need to be dark.

1/ The Need to Be Needed

Twos are great at loving their partners through acts of service because they believe meeting your needs should result in earning your love. Helpers can be incredibly supportive partners either from a genuinely noble place, or from a more insecure, clingy place. Average or unhealthy Twos worry that you wouldn’t love them if they weren’t so helpful, so they focus entirely on meeting your needs, and repressing their own needs.

This creates an unspoken hope, or bitter expectation, that you’ll notice all the nice things they’ve done for you and return the favor, or at minimum, express how appreciative you are of them.

Feeling appreciated is like oxygen for average Twos, and heroin for unhealthy Twos. They need it to survive in a relationship.

Average Twos get a bigger rush from feeling needed by more impressive people, which makes them subtly selective about who and when they provide their help. This selectiveness can cause friction in a relationship if the Two’s partner feels like they’re spending too much time and energy getting close to an influential person, like their boss or a leader in their community, rather than focusing on their relationship and the family unit as a whole. This tends to happen more when Twos feel like their partner or the kids simply don’t need their help anymore. After all, Twos have a deep sense of pride in being needed by others, so if you reject their help, it feels like you’ve rejected their entire purpose in life.

Healthy Twos have detached their core identity from the compulsion to feel needed, and have tapped into a sense of self-love that eliminates the desire to look like an unrealistically noble person.

2/ The Need to Look Good

Twos believe that being a good partner means looking like a good person. Not in the way that Threes want to look flashy, or the way that Ones want to look moral, but in a way that says, “I’m all set, so let’s keep the focus on you.” Insecure Twos take their focus to an extreme level and use heaps of flattery in the hopes that their tireless affirmation of your best qualities, will actually make them look more appealing. However, Twos rarely admit their seductive tendencies because they hate thinking about anyone’s “mixed motives”-- least of all their own.

Twos need to feel like a good person, and this overemphasis on the purity of their motives feeds their pride about being the noble partner in the relationship. This need can make it very difficult to create a mutual relationship where the Two's partner is allowed to serve them back, as Twos enjoy feeling like they’ve got the upper hand in the relationship by keeping the moral score card of good deeds skewed in their favor.

The desire for an upper hand can also leads average or unhealthy Twos to get into relationships with people that are way "below their league" because it makes them look like the “good one" in the relationship, all while eliminating any risk of rejection. These kind of relationships make their friends want to pull their hair out, confused by the poor fit.

Even if Twos are in a healthy, committed relationship with a strong partner, they still struggle with self-care, because self-care feels like selfishness, and Twos believe selfish people won’t earn the love they want, only good people do.

The only time Twos normally feel like self-care is okay is after they’ve completely run themselves into the ground serving everyone around them. It’s incredibly helpful if Twos have a partner that can notice when they’re getting close to empty and pull them out of the fray before they self-destruct. Ultimately, Twos need to find a lifestyle of self-care, not just a spa day every once in a blue moon.

3/ The Need for Boundaries

It’s not always easy to put up healthy boundaries with the ones we love, but for Enneagram Twos, it’s often like learning to write with their opposite hand. Twos are the most naturally codependent of all Enneagram types because they tend to see many codependent behaviors as a virtue, Twos believe it’s their calling in life to help those in need, and they feel like love should have no limits, which presents the danger of developing a savior complex for more egocentric Twos.

Twos live primarily from a mix of their heart’s emotions and their gut instincts, while ignoring the logic of the head center--making it almost impossible for them to feel something and not do something about it.

If left to their own devices, the more emotionally charged a situation is, the less rational their actions tend to be.

Furthermore, if a Two feels insecure about the stability of their relationship, or if their partner starts ignoring them, Twos can rationalize invasive behavior. Not only will Twos let their own boundaries be crossed, but they’ll also cross their loved one’s boundaries as well. It can be as subtle as hovering over your shoulder while you work, or as obvious as looking through your phone.

Twos mask the boundary crossing as “honest concern for your wellbeing.” Also, boundary crossing creates drama, and a difficult truth for many Twos to admit is that they can enjoy a bit of drama. Because Twos are driven by their emotions, and drama stirs up emotion, it can have the effect of making them feel alive. At the same time, petty drama is usually just a nice distraction from dealing with more important problems in the Two’s life, like their weight, their sleep, their bills, or the pool of shame that clouds their identity.

4/ The Need to Be Seen

A key aspect of Twos' place within the Heart Center is that they have a great deal of shame around their identity. Shame clouds their vision, and because they can’t see themselves clearly, they tend to see themselves through the eyes of those they love. This is why Twos gravitate towards physical beauty, wealth, power, and popularity--which make them feel less ashamed of themselves if someone with such "admirable" qualities takes a shine to them.

Less mature Twos that win over an especially attractive partner will start to obsess about their partner’s social status or most impressive qualities, as they now feel like those attributes are a part of their identity as well. The yielding of their identity backfires if a Two starts feeling lost in their partner’s shadow. Resentful Twos that feel under-appreciated tend to become a bit delusional about the role they’ve played in their partners success, and may even take credit for things they had nothing to do with.

For healthier Twos, the need to be seen is simply a willingness to share the full spectrum of who they are with their partner, warts and all. Feeling safe enough to admit what they need and feeling seen by their partner very much go hand in hand.

To be clear, by feeling seen, I mean a mixture of feeling both understood and accepted. Ironically, the ability to make people feel seen is one of the Two's greatest gifts because of how intensely they observe their loved ones. Twos love to know what lights your heart on fire, what you hate, and what longings you have that constantly go unfulfilled, mostly so they can try to fulfill them.

Twos can’t expect other non-Twos to be as good at "seeing" as they are, but by sharing the things they may be ashamed of, Twos can at least start to feel accepted for who they truly are, rather than hiding behind the needs of some other more “attractive” figure.

5/ The Need to be Dark

True intimacy can be a very scary thing. For Twos, it might be the scariest thing they do in their entire lives, and it’s symbolized on the Enneagram in their movement of integration to the Type Four Individualist. The Four's greatest gift is their ability to embrace the highs and lows of life, the joy and the pain, the boredom and the ecstasy, the light and the dark. The ability to hold these emotional dichotomies forms the Four's unique identity and informs their ability to embrace the unique identity of everyone else they encounter. For Twos, they feel like their dark side could cost them the love they’ve worked so hard to earn, so they keep it hidden. As a result, many Twos have a hard time pushing past the initial infatuation stage of a dating relationship, and into the nitty gritty aspects of long term commitment.

Relationships feels easier to the Two when they're sharing superficial details about themselves, going out on fun dates and not talking about absent parents, sibling additions, etc., etc. Twos convince themselves that others only like them because they’re bright, upbeat, positive, and down for anything--but that narrative can only last for so long as all Twos eventually take on some of the worst traits of the Type Eight Challenger when they’re stressed out. This is called the movement of disintegration, and is catalyzed by repressed, negative emotions finally boiling over. On the low side, this looks like Twos scolding their parter for being ungrateful. On the high side, this can be a truly clarifying experience, as it reveals the Two's authentic feelings and desires.

Often times, Twos are so good at ignoring their needs or dark emotions that it takes a deeply traumatic loss of some kind to finally break down this well-constructed illusion.

The only beauty that comes from a painful experience of this magnitude is if the Two chooses to lean into their pain and allow others to walk with them through their darkest season of life.

If they do that, then they’ll have finally felt the kind of unconditional love their soul has been craving. Once Twos embrace the dark side of life, they typically feel more grounded in their identity, which helps them feel strong enough to create healthy boundaries with less healthy people. In turn, setting boundaries makes them feel authentically good and not just nice, and ultimately they become a very necessary part of a truly loving community.

BONUS: 🧡 Love Language

The Five Love Languages are acts of service, quality time, gifts, physical touch, and words of affirmation. When it comes to Twos showing love, their Love Language is probably acts of service, with words of affirmation being a close second. At the same time, Twos can be amazing, precise gift givers because they’re so keenly aware of what you like and dislike.

When it comes to the Love Language Twos prefer to receive from their partner, physical touch and words of affirmation are likely neck and neck, and it comes down to the specific Two's preference. Most Twos probably enjoy it when their partner leads with acts of service, but because it's often tinged with some form of spoken or unspoken expectation, service might not be as meaningful of a love language for Twos as genuine affirmation and the intimacy of physical touch.

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