If you remember yesterday I told you about my defiant microwave conversations, I would like to start with that again. Except this time, it’s my husband and the microwave.
(I hope I get lots of Google traffic from that SEO phrase “my husband and the microwave,” it sounds so dirty and exciting.)
As the microwave beeps its announcement that it’s done heating the food, the screen flashes, “Your food is ready.” What Chris whispers under his breath is: If that’s what you think is best, microwave in a pleasant and accommodating tone.
I’m married to a Nine on the Enneagram.
“Nines are peacemakers. Their gift of accepting others without prejudice makes people feel understood and accepted. Nines can be unbiased arbitrators, because they can see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides. Their sense of fairness may make them committed fighters for peace and justice. They express harsh truths calmly and so matter-of-factly that it’s easy for others to ‘swallow’ these truths. In the presence of a Nine, many people find it easy to come to rest themselves. In radical contrast to this, Nines often feel inwardly lashed by fears and restlessness, even when no one notices.” –The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Roho and Andreas Ebert
“The Nine observes all that is and, rather than getting sucked into the drama, essentially opts out, witnessing the world without much compulsion to participate in it. Nines withdraw in order to protect their need for autonomy. Their withdrawal may be disguised by their capacity to negotiate and mediate the lives of everyone around them. On one hand, this keeps them from engaging in their own inner life; on the other hand, they are able to lower the energy of their environment by calming everyone down and chilling everything out … Nines are calm, cool, and collected. They are by nature understanding and make excellent arbitrators, mediators, and referees because they have an innate ability to understand almost every perspective. Because of this profound capacity to understand others, it’s hard for them to take a position or hold an opinion, especially if it’s contrary to that of their partner or community.” –The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz
Nines are known as “peacemakers” or titled “The Need to Avoid” by Roho and Ebert. Karen Webb in Principles of the Ennegram calls Nines “Mediators.” Nines are easy-going, self-effacing, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent. Nines can fit in anywhere because they take on the feelings and opinions of those they’re around. The downfall is they do not have a strong sense of their own identity.
-Are usually able to see multiple points of view, making it harder to know and choose where to stand.
-Get easily distracted and daunted by the prospect of focusing single-mindedly on the task right in front of them.
-Often choose the easiest way out of a problem, especially if it avoids potential conflict or an argument.
-Employ passive-aggressive tendencies when people are too demanding (like “forgetting” about commitments they agreed to but didn’t actually want to do, or falling asleep to avoid attending to reality).
-See other people’s opinions as carrying more weight than their own.
-Are seen by other people as easygoing and free of worry, even if that’s not true of how they feel inside.
-Find it hard to prioritize and accomplish the things they’re supposed to do in a given day.
Most people who meet Chris Graham describe him as laid-back, easy to talk to, calm, or good at flying under the radar. He is supportive, accommodating, and good at mediating disagreements between our daughters and not getting wrapped up in the arguing.
His favorite response to a question or request is “sure.”
Nothing, absolutely nothing, annoys me more than sure. Sure is not a commitment. Sure is not an answer. Sure is not a solution. It’s a brush-off. It’s a non-decision.
I imagine one day when I finally snap and kill him, his headstone will list his final word as “sure.”
Cron and Stabile write: “If Eights are too in touch with their gut instincts and overexpress their anger, Nines are out of touch with their gut and underexpress their anger. Nines are out of touch with the good side of anger, the part that inspires, drives change, moves things along and gives them courage to stand up for themselves. When you’re unplugged from this side of anger, you become lethargic and dreamy. This failure to risk fully engaging with life stems in part from the Nines’ need to avoid conflict at all costs.”
As Chris began sharing things he had held inside for a long time, it became apparent really quickly that he had, more often than not, been living in a fantasy world lacking any reality. Part of this is addict behavior of rationalization and denial, but part of it was just his personality. He lived so much in his head that no one was around to point out how far he had wandered from reality.
Often when we would talk on the phone when he was in rehab, he would make a comment or observation and I would have no idea what he was talking about. It was like we were living two lives through two very different lenses. He romanticizes everything to the point of glossing over anything hard or negative and I live in a very black and white world where not much is fluffy and soft. I was aware of my viewpoint. Chris, until recently, was not self-aware enough to understand his warped way of seeing things.
Nines often grew up feeling their presence or their priorities didn’t matter much to others. They had early life experiences teach them the life skill of not rocking the boat or calling attention to themselves. (I would guess, and this isn’t from any specific book I read, just a connection I’m making between this learned coping skill and children of alcoholics, but I would guess there is probably a large segment of Nines who grew up in houses with alcoholics, addicts, and the co-dependent spouse or partner that cared for them.)
Reality is hard for Nines. Their need to avoid conflict and postpone decision-making as well as their inability to know where to start an ever-growing list of tasks and to-dos leads Nines to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Nines are highly likely to turn to food, shopping, sex, drinking, exercise, television, etc. to numb and ignore feelings.
Enneagram Nines are exhausted by the world. People-pleasing and avoiding discomfort are exhausting fronts to keep up. Nines are known to doze off if they take a break from a task.
Learning Nines are literally exhausted by their world makes so much sense to me. Since we’ve been married, I’ve been shocked at the amount of sleep Chris Graham requires. He would sleep 12 hours a night if he could. But there is also a deeper level to it than just being tired from the world. For Chris, staying up late at night by himself and then sleeping away the morning is a great way to not engage with your life. Being awake when the rest of the house is sleeping and asleep when the rest of the house is awake is called avoidance.
“Nines are loaded with unresolved anger, but they’re afraid the experience of letting it out will prove too overwhelming, so they fall asleep to it.”
The night we dropped Chris off at the detox facility, we spent a lot of time filling out paperwork. He was still drunk and not exactly excited to be there so I filled out as much as I could and left him with the self-evaluation forms I couldn’t complete. One of the questions asked if he wanted to harm himself. He checked no. The next question asked if he ever lost control of his anger and he checked yes.
I had NO IDEA what he was talking about. I had rarely seen Chris mad. That was my first inkling that maybe there were some things going on inside him he wasn’t letting other people see.
And if I hadn’t been so mad that night in the hospital lobby, it might have broken my heart.
That came later though.
Tomorrow: what all this means for our marriage.
Books I’ve referenced in this post & I highly recommend you read if you’re intrigued by the Enneagram:
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz (I just skimmed this for the post and haven’t read the whole thing yet.)
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
Principles of the Enneagram by Karen Webb
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED
PHOTO CREDIT: HUFF PHOTOGRAPHY
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