We can accomplish far more together than we can alone. In partnerships, we double our productivity, cover each other's blindspots, and tick off life's achievements faster. But only if both people share the same vision, and support each other to approach it in their own way. 

Enneagram Type Threes are very focused on their work and how it can help them to be seen as successful. Whatever their definition of success, Threes work hard to achieve it. They may find it difficult to allow their friends and partner into that vision, for fear that they may not understand how important achieving success is to their self-esteem. So while a Threes first instinct will be to find a partner that meets their definition of success, deep down, they are looking for something far less shiny. 

What an Enneagram Three secretly wants in relationships with friends or partners is someone they can stop performing for, where they can take off the mask and be their true self. 

Watch my youtube video talking about what Enneagram Type Threes want in relationships here.

Even though Threes can appear to lack empathy, it is a myth that they lack feelings. They are actually very emotional, one of the most emotional types on the Enneagram. However, they fear those feelings will undermine their drive to appear successful, and so they push them aside in order to focus on tasks, goals and getting things done. While it can be a very hard thing to do, Enneagram Threes are secretly seeking a space where they can step off the stage and be loved for who they are underneath. 

As a friend or partner of a Three, you can help in the following ways.


1. Recognition

It is easy to compliment an Enneagram Three for all that they have achieved. They expect to hear you say “good job,” “great performance,'' “I was so impressed by the way you closed that sale.” But that simply reinforces their deeper belief that they need the mask of success to be loved and appreciated. So instead, recognise and compliment them for who they are beneath the mask, not for what they do.  

Notice your Three’s real self, and acknowledge that in a positive way. For example:

  • “Thank you for sharing that personal story with me, I really enjoy getting to know the real you”
  • “It was so kind of you to take the time to chat with our elderly neighbor”
  • “I know this didn’t turn out the way you hoped, but I admired how you navigated the situation with integrity and compassion”

2. Common Goals

Enneagram Threes love setting goals and are pragmatic, so they quickly figure out the best way to achieve any objective. They often see their relationship as a task, so it’s important to have a say in what kind of relationship is being built. Agreeing on common goals helps to ensure you are on the same page about what you want to create.

Try setting common goals around the following:

  • Listening: How much uninterrupted (ie, no phones) conversation time do you want to have on a daily basis (think small, start with 10 minutes)
  • Activities: what activities do you want to do together and how often
  • Parenting: what does successful parenting look like for both of you and what small daily tasks can you both do to make that a reality

3. Faith 

Enneagram Threes are very sensitive to negativity and negative feedback. They focus on being in spaces and relationships where they feel a sense of positivity and a can-do attitude, where their efforts are rewarded with praise and encouragement. They will quickly sniff out the slightest whiff of failure or any disbelief that they aren’t able to succeed in the relationship. Hence, it is essential to believe in your Three. Believe they can slow down. Listen to their feelings. They can listen to their partner and let down their mask, but they need you to believe in them 100%.

Try the following:

  • Provide positive encouragement and feedback 
  • Reward them for trying uncomfortable things and expressing their feelings
  • Notice your thoughts around “their failure;” see those fears and concerns as yours and work through them

You can help an Enneagram Type Three be their real self in a relationship by recognizing and reinforcing the positive aspects of who they really are, not their achievements. Agree on common goals in your relationship and have faith your Three can slow down and allow themselves to feel their many feelings, even if that takes a long time.

Samantha Mackay

Samantha Mackay is a certified Enneagram and leadership development coach who believes work should be energizing, not draining. She combines the Enneagram with her experience of recovering from burnout twice to help leaders and teams thrive during stressful times. Connect with Samantha at www.samanthamackay.com