Fives and Relationships
Fives came out of childhood believing it’s not okay to be comfortable in the world. From a young age, they tried to achieve a measure of comfort in the world by being useful, capable and competent, but when you are young, you don’t have any skill yet, nor do you have any expertise to offer the world. Consequently, young fives feel useless, incapable and incompetent most of the time. In adulthood, this leads to useless specialization. Fives have a lot of information, but they struggle to move past their discomfort with the world. While they know a great deal, they have little knowledge about how to apply their information in satisfying ways.
Fives are fiercely independent. For them, competence means not having any needs. They feel like their needs are an inconvenience, so they try to meet all of their needs on their own by being competent and minimizing any desires that lie beyond their personal skill set.
Their need for independence can lead them to physical or emotional isolation, frustrating those who desire to be close to them. If this describes your relationship with a five, you can calmly tell them how you feel, but be careful not to overwhelm them with strong emotions. Whenever there is a problem in the relationship, set up a time to sit down and discuss it. Be specific, succinct and speak to fives in a straightforward manner. Fives are known to shut down in the face of strong feelings, especially when the feelings are about them. After you calmly express your desire to be closer to them, give them space to process what you shared. Fives are extremely cerebral, and if the relationship matters to them, they will go away and think about it. Give them at least three days, and if they haven’t revisited the conversation with you, ask them if they have given it any more thought. If they value their relationship with you, they will have thoughts on a plan to connect with you. However, their plan might involve intellectual connections but lack in emotional connection. Most fives think their way into having a feeling. In other words, if you stick with a five as they tell you about an important thought, you can find an emotional connection within their most cherished deliberations. This might mean their interest in gardening, religion or computer science connects to a personal wound or a meaningful relationship.
Regardless of the intimacy of the relationship, Fives will always need some independence and time alone. They use their alone time to think and prepare to engage reality. Fives need time to get used to new ideas. If you need to give news to a five that will require a decision or some adjustment on their part, introduce the new idea and, if you can, give them 72 hours before you ask them what they think.
You can value fives for their counsel and objectivity. They appreciate being consulted on their areas of interest and expertise, but know they will likely offer you more information than you want to know. If you want to show further appreciation for them, engage fives around their areas of interest. Few people are as deeply interested in any one thing as fives are in their area of expertise. If you love a Ffve, learn what they are interested in and set aside hours to listen and engage with them around their interests.
Fives can be stubborn ,and you can’t push a five to socialize. Remember, fives feel they have a limited amount of energy, and they are always taking inventory of their drive and deciding how they want to spend this precious resource. This means they will only socialize to the degree they desire and no more. Because fives are quiet and withdrawn, it can be tempting to develop preconceived ideas of fives. We tend to cast others in a role to fit an image of who we think they are or should be. Instead, be patient with fives and wait for them to reveal their identity by allowing them to share about their interests with you.
Fives are clear headed and have strong critical thinking skills. They develop this skill by retreating to their heads and observing the world from a disinterested and disembodied mode of being. Unfortunately, this comes at a great cost to their relationships. There are vast portions of the human experience which cannot be encountered from the head; they can only be felt from the body. Unbeknownst to fives, people all around them are expressing feelings which are obvious to others, but hidden from themselves. Ironically, the Enneagram type most driven to perceive is blind to the obvious signs of emotions happening all around them, and their relationships are suffering because of it. Fives must reconnect to their bodies to encounter feelings and connect to their loved ones. They need a mindfulness practice to reconnect to their bodies. If a five practices observing their own body through an intentional, daily practice, they will learn their head is heavy and warm, while the rest of their body feels light and airy. In other words, they can easily feel and be aware of their head, but the rest of their body is inaccessible. If they can be as attentive to their body as they are to their head, they will begin to encounter both their own feelings and the emotions of others, thus allowing them to connect at the level of not only the head, but the heart as well. Until fives do this, their relationships will remain one-dimensional.
If you want to support a five, don’t ask them to be more enthusiastic than they are. Fives offer muted expressions of their thoughts and feelings, and that won’t change easily. If they become more animated, they have taken on seven (stress) or eight (security). You can also help a five by allowing them to choose the degree to which they want to engage big parties or strong emotions, and you can respect them by honoring their needs for privacy.
Fives are always aloof and under expressive, allowing them to minimally engage things that don’t interest them and conserve energy. However, if a five is unusually aloof, they are telling you they are uncomfortable, and you should invite them to share about the source of their discomfort. This should be done in private, with an understanding that they may require time to reflect on what made them feel uncomfortable. Their discomfort often involves fear of being exposed as incompetent, but they will usually communicate the symptoms of this disease rather than the heart of the matter. They will discuss this experience with an objective tone, removed from their feelings. If they can reconnect with their body they can close the gap between their heady narrative and the feelings at the core of the issue. However, this is deep work for a five, and you can’t invite them on this journey in the context of a casual relationship.
If you find yourself in a more causal relationship with a five who is offering you thoughts when feelings are called for, be patient with them and know you aren’t alone. Fives habitually and tragically relate through thoughts or ideas, leaving their relationships cognitive and one one-dimensional. You can let them know when you are experiencing them as being particularly heady and wonder aloud with them about what realities lie beyond their cognitive world. Fives are curious by nature, and you can appeal to their curiosity by wondering aloud with them about the limited importance of ideas and intellectual discussion. This might sound like, “That’s interesting, but what I wonder what emotional realities might be in play here.” When fives discover the depth of their feelings, the world opens up for them in exciting ways. You can invite them on this journey if you can pique their interest in exploring the depths of the human experience lying beyond their heads.