How to Give Our Partner Space when There is NONE!
Couples, roommates, colleagues, parents and children, we all have one of only 9 different personalities. 7.7 billion people on the planet and there are just 9 personality types. That’s it.
Actually, there are 27 personality types according to the Enneagram, the world’s oldest personality scale. However, each of the 9 types have one of the same three subtypes, which is how we come up with 27 options. 27 personalities out of 7.7 billion!
The good news is, you can crack your own code and help understand the “codes” of those around you to know how best to make them feel loved, safe and cared for. And how to teach those you’re in relationship with you how to best help you feel the same.
Children are still developing their personalities up until about age 15-18, but we are pretty much leaning toward one type over the other 8 types by age 15. And then for the rest of our lives we are adjusting and ameliorating that personality to help us better share and deliver our skills, talents, services and love to those in our lives.
Believe it or not, there are some couples that never feel like they need space from their partner. I know, shocker, right? Truth is those couples often simply don’t register the times they naturally gave their partner space or received it in return.
This doesn’t mean you and your partner are wrong for each other if you do find you need space, not by a long shot. It just means that perhaps you and your partner have some healing and transforming to do before you get to the natural giving of space to each other phase. Welcome to relationships! That’s their whole point—to heal, transform and enrich our lives!
Most of us are looking for the enrichment part and get sorely hurt and deeply frustrated when the healing and transforming opportunities arise. Hollywood and fairytales sold us the enriching part, so we are pretty disappointed when we realize we have healing and transforming to do. I mean how is it possible our partner tells us they need space? I am a walk in the park, right?
For example, I’m a 2 on the Enneagram. The sole goal of a type 2 is to love. Sounds admirable right? Well, we also get resentful if you don’t appreciate our efforts to love you the way we think you should. And we are ninja-level score keepers about how thoughtful and giving we’ve been and how unthoughtful and giving you or other’s might have been in return. Quid pro quo, baby! What, my halo is tilting?! That’s not possible. Remember, I’m super loving—I’m a type 2!
After ripening to the lovely age of 52 and spending nearly 30 years with this personality scale as a tool, and doing tons of personal therapy, group work, workshops, reading, etc., you get the idea, I am now a more “resourceful” type 2 than a “less resourceful” type 2. Translation: I gave up my ninja-level status as a score keeper and worked really hard at making my own feelings and needs a priority rather than trying to manipulate people into loving me by doing, baking, cooking, helping and the list goes on, for them.
I’m still breathing, so the practice continues, but I guarantee you, life is much easier on this side of type 2 than the other side.
Finding out how to best love your partner often means understanding that most of what they need and say isn’t about you but rather about THEM. And truly loving your partner is more about caring for THEIR happiness than how they make YOU feel.
That other kind of love I was practicing pre-Enneagram humility, was more contingency love or transactional love rather than transformational love.
Here’s an example of how this might look:
Partner A: “I notice you’re kinda getting bugged when I bring something up to talk about. Your face tightens up a bit and you’re not answering with full sentences. I want to honor that you might need some time alone, so I’m going to go to the front room/back of the house/garage/for a walk/put on headphones to listen to a book or podcast for about an hour or so. I really love you and don’t want to annoy you right now. Please come find me when you are ready to reconnect.”
Partner B Option 1 response: “Well, we have been around each other all day and you do like to talk more than I do, so it makes sense that I would need some time to chill. I’m gonna need longer than an hour.”
Partner B Option 2 response: “I didn’t even know I was doing that! Thanks for helping me out. That sounds great!”
Partner B Option 3 response: “I wish I was better at asking for what I need. I do need some time to unhook and be in my own head for a while. How about I come find you in three hours and we check back in then?”
Partner A has several options now too.
Remember that Partner A might know that Partner B is a type 5 on the Enneagram and wants to soak up a lot of facts and information about COVID 19. That makes them safe and brings comfort. While Partner A is a type 7 and wants to move onto the next fun thing they can do to pass the time in the house together and is already starting several Facebook groups to stay connected to her multiple groups of friends.
The most loving thing Partner A can do is not get hooked into anything that felt like a dig or an attack from Partner B. Focus on their desire to be loving to their partner and trust that their partner will ultimately want to treat them the same way.
Partner A response: “Awesome! I look forward to seeing you in a few hours!” Said with not a trace of resentment, edge or fear but all the confidence in the world that they just made their partner feel safe and loved and that their partner will ultimately want to return the favor out of love for them too.