Most people who come to me, read my books, or watch the videos are looking for specific advice for a specific problem. They come in saying their relationship is at the bottom of the scale, and they want to get their relationship up a few levels. They have a specific problem and it exists only one dimension. My relationship is “down here” and I want it to be “up here”.
Because it’s easy to see that direct linear path from “bad” to “good”, it makes a lot of sense to go looking for advice specific to that one problem. That’s why people go to marriage counseling, why people read books on relationships, why you go to marriage retreats- because you want to fix this one problem.
So if you’re reading this post, you probably feel like you have a one dimensional problem, and you’re here in search of a one dimensional solution.
It’s no different than if you are broke or your finances are a wreck, you would want to do a money course. If you are seriously overweight, you want to do something about eating right and going to the gym. There are tons of one dimensional systems that are out there to fix a problem where you want to bring the issue from “it sucks” to “it’s good”.
When I started writing online, I too started with a one-dimensional approach. Everything was specific advice for marriage, relationships, sexuality- what you can do to fix that problem. But what I’ve learned over the years, is that very often blockages in that specific problem really exist somewhere else.
You can often feel like you have a relationship problem or a marriage problem, the sex is terrible, there’s fighting, no one is happy. On that level, it’s “obviously a relationship problem”. But your relationship might be tanking because the house you’re in is falling down around you, or your finances are messed up, or you’re fat, unattractive, and unappealing. You could be grumpy, miserable, stalled, sick, unhappy…whatever.
There’s this entire second dimension to solving your relationship issues. All sorts of things like health, finances, family dynamics, kids and illnesses play into your relationship. Very often, to get the relationship from “bad” to “good”, you almost have to take your focus off the relationship directly and start working on some of these additional things off on the second dimension.
Then as all these areas start changing and improving, the average level of energy in your life starts coming up and your relationship comes up with it. It can come up by working on your relationship in a very indirect way. This understanding of the second dimension is what has made my stuff significantly more powerful than when I taught a one-dimensional system.
Now let’s talk about the third dimension.
People have complex personalities and between the two people in a relationship, there are all kinds of interactions and energy exchanges between them. It’s really important to know exactly what your personality types are. Which is where the third dimension of the Enneagram personality typing comes into play. To summarize it very briefly, it breaks people into nine basic personality types, but what makes it so good is that it shows what each of those types looks like when they are at a bad level of happiness, an average level of happiness and a really good level of happiness. In addition to that, they show what each of the nine personality types are like in their interactions with each other.
Why is this third dimension so important? One word. Chemistry.
Very often when you started your relationship together, you were both at a high point in your individual lives- you were both happy, functional, giving out a lot of positive energy, and your two personality types together had a positive interaction with each other. That’s why you hear people say “We had good chemistry.”
But as the relationship gets worse, some of these interactions between the two of you start being really negative and it gets to the point where you think, “Why am I with this person? Everything I do with them fails. I’m not even sure if they like me. We have bad chemistry.”
What the Enneagram typing helps with, is you start seeing that chemical interaction between the two personality types, is a reflection of the overall energy and happiness in the relationship. Understanding helps take some of the sting out of the negative interactions you had together, or soften your view of the things you don’t like about them. You can start seeing better, what you’re doing to bring negativity into that interaction too. You can start to better understanding the ways they are trying to be positive as well.
In terms of my work, the first dimension is the differences between men and women, understanding sexual attraction, the seductive process and Relationship Momentum. The second dimension is your whole life and energy. The third dimension is the understanding the chemistry of the two personality types inside the relationship.
So, you come to me and say you have that one specific problem of your relationship being at a low level and you want to improve it. I’ll say, yes you can work on that directly, yes you can go to marriage counseling and talk about the relationship. But again, if the problem is off to the side and it’s physical health, finances, family dynamics, or that someone is completely exhausted and overwhelmed, you need to fix these. If you end up just talking about the relationship, it’s going to be talking about more negative stuff and making it worse.
Likewise, if the problem is rooted in two differing styles of personality, neither of which are wrong or defective, and we can now step around the negative interactions and understand why they happen. We can consciously start creating positive interactions that will raise the overall energy, contentment and happiness in the relationship.
That’s what I mean by a three dimensional system. It’s not just talking about the relationship. It’s not just trying to do a few tips and tricks to tide things over and get you on your way.
I get that a one-dimensional approach seems easier. Often when you start working a one-dimensional system you start with a sense of excitement and hope, and that in itself can give you an energy boost that feels like it raises things up. You can enjoy being in a coaching situation, reading self-help books or going to seminars. It can feel good…but very often it’s a short term fix. Instead, you have to fix the structural stuff in your life. You have to figure out the two personalities interacting with each other, and take that information and feed it into the relationship and let the relationship rise back up to where it should be.
So that’s why I coach with a three dimensional approach. It’s a simple set of ideas once you get used to them. It’s completely doable and can be kind of fun once you get it going and it’s super effective. It’s often a lot faster to get success than a one-dimensional system and the success actually sticks.
But if you want to shop around and try some tips and tricks with a one dimensional approach first though, I’ll still be here when you’re done.
Post copy is the video transcript edited for readability.