With Valentine's Day on the way, it’s natural to spend a bit more time thinking about love and relationships.  Rather than offer you a guide to make your relationship explosive, this year, we decided to get down and dirty with some Enneagram sex research by Dr. Frederik Coene and his research partner Valerie Wanamaker.

From Diplomat to Sex Researcher

How diplomat Dr. Coene became a sex researcher is an unlikely story, but standing in the kitchen during a dinner party one night, he overheard a discussion between two women. A conservatively dressed Enneagram Type 9 was discussing her multiple affairs and sexual escapades while her more provocatively dressed Type 2 friend was saying that sex didn’t mean that much to her and that it isn’t something she would pursue to seek pleasure for herself. 

“The conversation just didn’t make sense to me. The person I thought would be the most sexually conservative was actually really open-minded.  And the one I thought would be more focused on sex was actually less so. As a Type 6, when I don’t understand something, I automatically seek to intellectualize it. I’m a researcher by training so I started gathering data and having conversations with people to learn more. Then the pandemic hit, and with more time on my hands, I dedicated more energy to the project. Together with sex and relationship therapist Valerie Wanamaker, we started running focus groups, and gradually we created and expanded to include a small group of sex therapists and researchers who mainly work with the Enneagram.”

They gathered representatives from each Enneagram type and held focus groups totaling over 110 hours. They interviewed subjects and their partners to get multiple perspectives. With this research as the foundation, we extrapolated the findings to offer you a guide to sex, based on Enneagram type. Dr. Coene is quick to point out that, of course, the instinct and level of development play a crucial role in fully understanding the dynamics.

Type 1: Sex is all about the appropriateness of the act.

For the perfectionists of the Enneagram, sex must be in alignment with their values system. A drive to “get it right” flavors the experience but getting it right can differ a lot based on the Type 1’s individual and cultural values. Enneagram subtype also plays a role, but the common denominator is the desire to have alignment between sex and personal values. 

How to show up for your Type 1 partner: Don’t ask them to do something that is inconsistent with their personal or cultural values around sex. 

Type 2: Sex is about the relationship but.. expect some paradoxes.

For the helpers of the Enneagram, sex is about connection to their partner, but it’s a complicated equation featuring paradox. A Type 2 may be openly seductive but conversely rather inhibited. They see sex as something emotional, but they can have difficulty staying emotionally present during the act. They may demand intimacy from their partner, but they themselves have difficulty being exposed. Dr. Coene points out, “In my online training, I dedicate about 30 minutes to the sexual attitudes about each of the types. Except for Type 2–that workshop is two hours long!”

How to show up for your Type 2 partner: Encourage them to tell you what they want. 

Type 3: Sex is a way to feel desirable.

The achievers of the Enneagram look to sex as a way to prove their own desirability. They fuse sex with self-worth, and they can have issues with performance anxiety. For them, sex is very much about how they imagine they look in the eyes of their partner. 

How to show up for your Type 3 partner: Communicate to them that you find them desirable.

Type 4: Sex is very much about longing and what is missing.

The individualists of the Enneagram have a very idealized image of sex, and the sexual act is seldom good enough or the way they had imagined it. This might be someone who enjoys the fantasy or the memory of sex more than the actual act itself. For them, sex is colored by the richness of longing.

How to show up for your Type 4 partner: Stay present and don’t get caught up in their emotional longing. 

Type 5: Sex is about putting in the right amount of energy.

The investigators of the Enneagram are very aware of how much energy sex takes, so they work hard to avoid situations where they may be asked to put in more energy than they can offer. They are willing to put in a lot of energy as long as they know it is worth it. Type 5s can have a very mental relationship with sex, and this is the type who has the most fantasies and can surprise their partner with their kinkiness. 

How to show up for your Type 5 partner: Don’t surprise them with emotional demands but be open to following their lead, especially if it revolves around non-conventional sex. Chances are, they have thought a lot about it.

Type 6: Sex is about predictability and egalitarianism.

The loyalists of the Enneagram can be very open-minded about sex and may be willing to do whatever it takes to please their partner, but they need to know what is expected in advance. Kinky surprises may not be welcome. Type 6s have an egalitarian attitude towards sex, seeking give and take and wanting both partners to put in equal effort.

How to show up for your Type 6 partner: Put in as much effort as your partner and lay out the expectations in advance. 

Type 7: Sex is about fun and enjoyment.

The enthusiasts of the Enneagram want sex to be a venue for positive feelings and pleasure. Expect lots of teasing and lighthearted fun. Type 7s also like variety, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.

How to show up for your Type 7 partner:  Be playful! Playful is practically a love language for Types 7s, so keep it lively, flirtatious, low drama and fun. 

Type 8: Sex is about big energy and feeling in control.

The leaders of the Enneagram take an intense approach to sex as if to say “why settle for 50% when you can have 200%?” Dominance and submission comes almost naturally, and counterintuitively, sex is one of the only places where they allow themselves not to be in the lead.

How to show up for your Type 8 partner: Match their energy in the bedroom. They have a lust for life, and when you do too, this makes them feel alive.

Type 9: Sex is about finding union and a state of peacefulness.

The peacemakers of the Enneagram use sex as a way to merge with their partner, and to them, sex often equates with harmony. Going with the flow and acquiescing to their partner’s desires can be automatic behavior for Type 9s. This is the type most likely to say “it just happened…” regarding their sexual experience.  

How to show up for your Type 9 partner:  Bring a level of consciousness and consent to the experience. Self-forgetting is your partner’s trait, so try to help them remember and wake up to their own preferences.

Final thoughts

It is worth noting that instinct and subtype play a huge role when it comes to sex and the Enneagram. “We actually learned that more than dominant Enneagram type, the subtype matters the most when it comes to aligning sexual attitudes. Self-preservation, social, and intimate instincts have different drivers when it comes to sex.”  

Thus, the main advice to everyone, regardless of their type and instinct is to be present, vulnerable, know yourself and your partner, and communicate about it openly. 

And for anyone who wonders if there are types and combinations that just don’t work together, Dr. Coene offered this final message, “There is no such thing as sexual incompatibility. Instead, there are miscommunications and misunderstandings about what we seek in sex. By using the Enneagram as a tool for deeper understanding of your partner, both of you can have more fulfillment in your sex lives.”

Lynn Roulo
Lynn Roulo is an Enneagram instructor and Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches a unique combination of the two systems, combining the physical benefits of Kundalini Yoga with the psychological growth tools of the Enneagram. She has written two books combining the two systems. Headstart for Happiness, her first book is an introduction to the systems. The Nine Keys, her second book, focuses on the two systems in intimate relationships. Learn more about Lynn and her work here at LynnRoulo.com.