We bring people into our lives for many different reasons: someone to party with, someone to read with, someone to help defenseless puppies with. But the people who stay in our lives are the ones whom we have grown to trust—trust with our sensitive feelings, delicate thoughts and who understand our desire to live life the way we do. 

At their heart, relationships are a place of vulnerability. 

You might think Enneagram Eights, known for their big intense energy and ability to act decisively, whether that is to take charge or to question someone’s political position, might want friends or relationships who can go toe to toe with them. And in some way you would be right. But there is a deeper drive at play for Eights in relationships.


What Eights secretly want in relationships has a lot more to do with what is inside them than how they appear to the rest of the world because underneath that show of strength is a big-hearted softie. So secretly, Eights are seeking someone who will protect their sensitive insides. 

As a friend or partner of an Enneagram Eight, you can provide protection in the following ways:

1. Steadfastness

To be steadfast is to be unwavering. To stand by your Eight now matter how badly they screw up. To be loyal through the good times and the bad. They need to know you have their back, even if you don't agree with their actions. 

You can do this by:

  • Publicly supporting their actions, or at least remaining neutral
  • Not complaining about them behind their backs 
  • Not gossiping about your relationship or what has been said in confidence 

2. Private feedback

Enneagram Eights are open to, and appreciate, direct feedback. They aren’t always aware of the impact their actions have on other people. They may need guidance about how to slow down or not take action. But whatever you have to say, make sure you say it in private. Public feedback exposes their weaknesses to people they don’t trust, leaving them feeling exposed and vulnerable. 

You can provide feedback to an Eight by:

  • Being direct, honest and transparent
  • Avoiding getting emotional or telling a story
  • Being straightforward about the impact they are having 
  • Providing options for other practical actions they can take
  • Keeping the discussion short and succinct 

3. Gentle Care 

Eights don’t feel feelings as feelings. They experience them as sensations or energy within the body—energy that drives them to take action. But as we know, relationships are a place of vulnerability. We build intimacy with someone by talking about emotions or sharing our vulnerabilities. As you can imagine, that will be very hard for someone whose entire personality is structured around being strong and denying weakness. 

So, a way to help an Enneagram Eight start to access and be more comfortable with vulnerability is through the body. You will need to ask your Eight if this is something they would like and it may take them a little while to settle into the idea. 

But once they do, you can try:

  • Giving them a foot massage
  • Rubbing their back
  • Stroking their arm
  • Making sure they are passive, and not giving anything in return. 

To help your Enneagram Type Eight feel protected, focus on having their back, giving direct feedback but in private, and using kinesthetic touch to help them access their softer side and build intimacy. 

Samantha Mackay
Samantha is a certified Enneagram coach at Individuo and educator at Truity. She has found knowing her personality type (ENTP / Enneagram 7) invaluable for recovering from burnout and for working with her anxiety, chronic illnesses and pain. To work with Samantha visit www.individuo.life