Enneagram compatibility - instinctual variants

There aren’t yet many studies that focus on the Enneagram types compatibiliy, but still one main idea managed to grab my attention.

Although the instinctual variants aren’t technically a ‘part’ of the Enneagram types, as they exist independently of any typology whatsoever, it seems that the specific flavour they give to each type is actually one of the most poweful indicators for compatibility.

Therefore it appears that indifferent to the Enneagram types involved in a relationship, the odds that they get along well are higher when their instinctual variants are the same or at least similar. Their shared values, their main focus point, as well as their common purpose can help build a strong connection to which both types bring a different yet enriching approach.

I also could observe that the more a couple resembled in their instinctual stackings, the closer they seemed to be to having a beautiful, mutually satisfying relationship. There are of course exceptions and people with different instinctual variants can as well have a solid, long-lasting relationship.

Still, there appears to be a correlation between compatibility and similar instinctual stackings. Let's see why that might be.

Self-preserving types share a strong desire for independence and material security that makes them understand each other well and work together towards attaining the level of material possessions that will make them both feel safe and accomplished. They will also respect each other’s need for privacy and autonomy because they both desire it to a certain extent.

Self-preserving types might frustrate the Social types because of their self-centered approach and lack of sociability. SP people tend to focus on themselves and somewhat reject others - their world is centered around their own person whereas the SO types need to function within a society and relate to its structure. Both types can feel trapped and misunderstood in this relationship.

The Self-preserving will also fustrate the Sexual types whose desire for close connection will be rejected by their need for private space and independence. SP types seek security and are unwilling to compromise it for the sake of new experience. On the other hand, the SX types will push for intensity and adventure and will end up running in circles, leaving both themselves and their SP partner drained and unwilling to continue the relationship. There is an exception to this rule though, if we take the stackings into account, the Sp/Sx types will get along decently well with the Sx/Sp.

Sexual types will connect to each other in an intense, intimate way that will build a powerful bond in a relatively short time. They will share the need for extraordinary experiences, original ideas and fascinating people, but nonetheless their main focus will remain on each other and their intimacy.

As explained earlier, Sexual types will end up scaring away the more conservative Self-preserving types with their energy and search for intense connections. The latter will feel intruded upon and they will tend to retreat from the relationship, while the SX will be disappointed and probably look in other places to find the thrill and intimacy that they crave. There is an exception to this rule though, if we take the stackings into account, the Sp/Sx types will get along decently well with the Sx/Sp.

Things will get somwehat worse with the Social type, whose main focus is on their social life and the many people that inhabit it. SX types need a deep one-on-one connection while the SO type is constantly looking outside the relatioship to define themselves through their social status, making the SX feel ignored and left aside in the favor of other people that they finally regard as outsiders.

Social types can get along well as they both define themselves and each other by the standards of the society that they belong to. They both know who they are, where they stand and where they’re heading to in relationship to their outer worlds. Choosing a partner becomes easier this way, but only as long as they belong and respond to roughly the same environment. It’s impotant for SO types to find a mate from their own social class or one that they aspire to accede to.

Social types will have trouble maintaining a stable relationship with a Sexual type who will ignore (if not even go against) social rules, traditions and issues such as class and standing.

They will also encounter difficulties with the Self-preserving types, who are far too focused on themselves and their own comfort to attend to society’s requests of them.

Taking stackings into account:
(remember please that these are not compatibility rules, but merely orientative probabilities.)


Sx/Sp more compatible with: Sx/Sp, Sx/So, Sp/Sx
Sx/So more compatible with: Sx/So, Sx/Sp


Sp/Sx more compatible with: Sp/Sx, Sx/Sp
Sp/So more compatible with: Sp/So


So/Sp more compatible with: So/Sp, So/Sx
So/Sx more compatible with: So/Sx, So/Sp


Anonymous said…
I'm going to have to say I disagree. I also think its weird that the only type compatible with sp/so is sp/so, what logic is this following?

I do think, in some ways, having the same instinctual variant can influence compatibility, but in the end in all comes down to health.
INTP said…
It appears that the instinctual variants play a more important role in Enneagram compatibility than the types themselves. This is exactly what this post is about.

However it shouldn't be interpreted in absolute terms like "the only type compatible with sp/so is sp/so", but rather in an orientative manner: "there are much higher chances for good compatibility beween two sp/so".

These aren't precise formulas, there's a lot of flexibility to them. Sometimes, two seemingly incompatible types can get along well, but it's just more improbable that's all.

The theory that sp/so is sensibly more compatible with another sp/so than with other instinctual stackings comes from the fact that both insist on less intimacy and more independence. So an sx would probably feel frustrated with them because of their need to be close and have intense contact. Something similar happens to the so/sp: they want social interaction and are fairly dependent on society's demands.

Of course if we really had to choose, then yes, the so/sp would be more suitable for the sp/so than either the sx/sp, sp/sx or sx/so. And this is exactly what the theory stipulates: that the more similar the types, the more likely the good compatibility. I only listed the highest chances, but the list can obviously go on, in order of similarity.

The sp/so stacking is one of the most independent and least relationship-oriented. Being in relationships does not come naturally to them and can easily feel suffocated by too much intimacy or too much social demands. They're highly individualistic and self-reliant and it is more likely that on the long term they will come to appreciate and get along better with a very similar person, with very similar views and behavior.

Like I said, this is not set in stone but it's obviously more likely.
Anonymous said…
In some ways I agree about people who are more similar to each other being more compatible. I think the saying that 'opposites attract' is well... not as accurate as some may believe. But this is the only way I agree, and this agreement doesn't have anything to do with the Enneagram.

Perhaps the reason I feel so uncomfortable with trying to formulate different levels of compatibilities between each type is that I feel it can be destructive in more ways than one, and can lead to bias in how others view certain types, regardless of whether they are compatible with them. An example of this would be the idealization of the sx instinct - from this logic one may come to the conclusion that sp/so is only compatible with sp/so because the other variants don't like sp/so. :P ;)

I would also disagree about sp/so being (or one of, even) the least relationship oriented; in many types, sp/so would seem far warmer than than so/sp, who is more diplomatic and focussed on group recognition. Also moreso than the sp/sx, who is possibly the most self absorbed, socialyl oblivious and self reliant. Because, for the sp/so, the social instinct is balanced and not generally a cause of stress, sp/so will often find that relationships come easy to them. True intimacy may not though, I would agree with that.

So yeah, I agree that certain stackings, even if of different types, can find themselves having a similar flavour and certain likemindedness, however this is not necessary and I don't even think it influences compatibility really.

A persons tastes, views, opinions and presentation may be affected by their stacking, however people of the exact same stacking often vary greatly in these areas despite this, and this is often what really determines compatibility.

For me, compatibility is not determine by E type at all, and I don't think it's part of it's purpose in gaing self understanding.
Anonymous said…
both are very well written and thought after comments.
Nancy said…
I just read your post and all of the subsequent comments. I have been learning the enneagram over the years mostly through an attempt to understand people in difficult situations. I had never before put too much thought into "stackings", I mostly tried to identify individuals with just one instinctual variant.

Your post makes a lot of sense theoretically. Of course, someone who is more social will get along very well with someone else who is very social. I have seen enough couples argue about what to do with their free time. One of them always wants to go out with friends and the other just wants to stay home and watch TV or read a book.

I am a social 8 and I was married to a sexual one. I guess if I were to take stackings into consideration I would say he was a sx/sp one. But sexual for him did not mean intensity. I would probably identify myself as so/sx. I am intense. For him sx meant he just needed to be in a relationship and all that needed to mean was that there was another person in his life. However, he was not intense and he was actually lost in his own world. He almost never spent time with me yet he would always want me around.

This indicates to me that although the chances of compatibility may increase with similar instinctual variants, I think the type in conjunction with the instinct is very important. A sexual 8 would be much more intense than a sexual 1.

My question is, in keeping with the stacking concept, would my ex have been more intense if he were a so/sx or sx/so?

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