Have you ever been asked, “What’s your Enneagram subtype?” or “What’s your instinctual variant?” When it comes to the Enneagram, there is a lot of nuance to your type that you might be missing because you’re not familiar with your subtype! If you feel like none of the 9 Enneatypes fit you, it could be that you’re just not finding the subtype within your type that fits you best.
In the Enneagram, there are three subtypes for every individual Enneatype. These subtypes are called:
Not sure what your core Enneagram type is? Take our questionnaire here!
Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
What Are the Subtypes Anyway?
The subtypes add extra richness and specificity to your Enneagram type. They pinpoint the strategies you use to survive in the world and the types of connections you prioritize. While we have access to all three subtypes, one has more influence than the rest. Just like you have a preferred hand that you naturally go to when you have to do tasks requiring dexterity, you have a preferred subtype that naturally influences you more than the others. Thus some Ones, for example, are called “Social Ones” while others are “Sexual Ones” or “Self-Preservation Ones.”
These subtypes mean that there are 27 Enneatypes in total, separated into groups of three based on some of their core desires, fears, and coping mechanisms. There can be very different behaviors that you’ll see between the three subtypes!
The Self-Preservation Subtype focuses on physical safety, well-being, comfort, health, and material security. People with a Self-Preservation (SP) subtype spend a great deal of time focusing on conserving material goods, energy, or resources in order to feel secure and safe in the world.
The Social Subtype focuses on the content of relationships and wants to be liked and work with others toward shared goals. People with a social (So) subtype are quick to notice how others respond to them and to prioritize where they stand in a particular group. They are usually well aware of how they appear and what impact they’re having.
The Sexual Subtype focuses on a spark of intense connection with another individual. Sexual (Sx) subtypes want intense bonds, relationships, and experiences. They seek out interactions and experiences that will make them feel passion and energy. They often look for relationships and friendships that are intense and meaningful; deep and energetic at the same time.
It can take some time to identify which subtype you identify with most. In many ways you’ll relate to all three, but there should be one that has more of an underlying influence in your life than the rest.
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The Sexual Subtype of Every Enneagram Type
Sexual 1 Enneagram Type
Enneagram 1 Basic Desire: To have integrity and to be good
Enneagram 1 Basic Fear: To be corrupt or evil
Idealistic and passionate, Sexual Ones strive to improve their partner(s) or the world at large. They want to find someone with whom they can share their ideals and convictions. This focus on perfecting their partner can make them pushy, invasive, and critical – but it can also make them inspiring to others. People can be drawn to the idealistic vision that the Sexual One has of their potential. This One often feels that they know the “right” way to do things. They frequently believe that they are called to a higher moral standard than others. They often look at the people around them with a mixture of puzzlement and irritation. Why are people wasting their lives on such trivial efforts? Why does nobody care about being “better”? These Ones aren’t afraid of confrontations, and in this way they can resemble Eights. They have the strength, power, and determination to be very brave. But unlike the Eight, their goal is moral perfection in themselves and their partner. They have no problem pointing out what others need to do in order to reform or improve their behavior and are passionate about going for what they want.
Healthy Sexual Ones live with integrity and intense conviction. They are also highly ethical, generous, discerning, and pragmatic. They know how to temper their idealistic visions and ideals with compassion, practicality, and empathy. Unhealthy Sexual Ones are controlling, invasive, jealous, pushy, and entitled. They may punish themselves in unhealthy way in order to purge themselves of desires they see as sinful.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual One Enneatype:
- Focuses on perfecting others more than perfecting themselves
- Prone towards jealousy
- Is idealistic and passionate
- Isn’t afraid of a fight
- Goes for what they want
- Often determined and brave
- Doesn’t often question self
- Tends to be impatient
- May say one thing while secretly doing another
- Often orderly and responsible
Sexual 2 Enneagram Type
Enneagram 2 Basic Desire: To be loved for who they are.
Enneagram 2 Basic Fear: To be unloved or unwanted.
Sexual Twos strive to forge intimate, passionate connections with others. Through seduction and charm they hope to win exclusive relationships with people; to share secrets with others and to be shared with. They’re not content to be just someone’s friend, they want to be the “best” friend – the confidante and number-one kindred spirit. Giving lots of attention to people is one of the ways that they charm and seduce; they may learn everything about their partner or friends’ interests in order to have something to share in common. They are also good at listening and discussing the problems and struggles of their friend or partner and enjoy these intimate, confidential conversations. People who seem distant or uninterested are especially fascinating to the Sexual Two and they may be especially driven to win them over. Underneath their generous, passionate exterior, the Sexual Two may be anxious about their desirability. Thus, they turn on the charm in order to find validation and love. This Two is usually direct, action-oriented, and dominant. They believe in love conquering all and will do nearly anything to gain affection and closeness.
Healthy Sexual Twos are deeply romantic without any ulterior motives. They give out of unconditional and selfless love, rather than hoping to get a “blank check” they can use to ask anything of the loved one. They are empathetic, supportive, protective, and inspirational. Unhealthy Sexual Twos are pushy and demanding, unable to take no for an answer. They try to keep all their friends apart because they’re afraid of being dismantled as the “number one intimate.” They are prone to jealousy, possessiveness, and obsessive behavior.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual Two Enneatype:
- Seductive and charming
- Dominant and action-oriented
- Less ashamed of having needs than the Self-Preservation or Sexual 2 Subtypes
- Generous and supportive
- Seeks strong, intimate bonds
- Needs to be desired
- Caring and empathetic
Sexual 3 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To be successful and desired
Basic Fear: To be a failure or worthless, without achievement.
The Sexual Three has a strong desire to be desired. They want to be attractive, alluring and wanted by others – particularly their ideal mate. They are often seen as supporters of others. While they may have an abundance of strengths and talents, they often use these to escalate other individuals instead of themselves. Because of this, many times their own skills are more subtly recognized or less obvious altogether. This Three can often look like a Two because they are so supportive, helpful, and pleasing, but they focus more on being attractive than they do meeting emotional needs (the playground of the 2). Unlike the Self-Preservation or Social Three, the Sexual Three isn’t as focused on prestige or money as they are on personal appeal and magnetism. They may work out a lot at the gym or perfect a stunning Instagram profile as a way of appearing seductive or attractive. Underneath their curated exterior, these Threes often struggle with sadness and emptiness. Their childhood’s often had traumatic experiences or rejections that they strive to disconnect from. It is often difficult for them to love themselves and see themselves and their own strengths. Because they try so hard to be good and perfect and pleasing, criticism can be debilitating to them.
Healthy Sexual Threes are inspiring, supportive, and authentic. They are able to find their own desires rather than constantly trying to be attractive and physically perfect. They are self-accepting, self-improving, and genuine. Unhealthy Sexual Threes have tendencies that appear narcissistic. They are vain, vindictive, jealous, and go after sexual encounters in order to feel attractive rather than out of a genuine desire for connection.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual Three Enneatype:
- Want to find the perfect lover/partner
- Want to be the perfect lover/partner
- Enthusiastically support others
- Use their talents and strengths to lift their partner/friend up
- Want to be desired/attractive to others
- Often insecure about themselves but won’t show it
Sexual 4 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To have a sense of identity and to be authentic to themselves
Basic Fear: To have no identity or significance
This Four will appear very different from the Self-Preservation or Social Four. While the Social Four is often overwhelmed by sadness, the Sexual Four is often overwhelmed by anger. Because of this, they often mistype as Eights. These Fours are competitive, direct, and aggressive. They have intense and fiery emotions and strive to be the best and most elite in whatever their passion is. Like most Sexual types, Fours long to be the object of desire of another individual. They can feel many conflicting emotions towards that individual; envy, longing, admiration, and even hatred. At average to unhealthy levels, they want to be the only person that matters to the individual they’re with. As a result, they may strive to accomplish great feats in order to be irreplaceable. At the same time, they are often drawn towards people who seem uninterested, accomplished, or “out of their league.” This can lead to calamity because they often wind up envying their partner and resenting them for having the qualities they wish they had themselves. These Fours tend to be impulsive and vocal about expressing what they want and need. Unlike the Self-Preservation or Social Four, the Sexual Four externalizes their pain in order to ease their inner sense of envy or inferiority. This can show up in angry outbursts, blaming, or tirades of frustration.
Healthy Sexual Fours have strengthened their ability to be with their inner suffering, rather than externalizing it or being offended. They realize that their sweet, tender feelings are just as significant as their competitive desires. They are creative, forgiving, revelatory, inspiring, and self-aware. Unhealthy Fours are intensely envious, jealous, and hateful. They have no qualms sabotaging others pursuits in order to get revenge for their own sense of shame. They are elitist and superior, being arrogant or offended by things far too easily.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual Four Enneatype:
- Highly competitive
- Believe that they have suffered so much that others should suffer as well
- Envious and jealous of others’ successes
- Crave intense relationships
- Feel inferior but want to feel superior
- Externalize their pain through anger
- Are more assertive than the other two subtypes (Self-Preservation or Social)
- Are individualistic and romantic
- Creative and imaginative
Sexual 5 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To be competent and knowledgeable
Basic Fear: To be incompetent and without resources
The Sexual Five is intensely imaginative and passionate, creating mental utopias and visions of the ideal partnership. They long for a near mystical union – a connection, or merging, with someone that can result in unconditional love. They want to be completely transparent with this person, sharing their secrets and being shared with in return. While they may appear cool and self-assured on the outside, they often worry that they lack the social skills to get close to others. At first glance, they may appear reserved and analytical, like typical Fives. But deep down, they are much more emotionally intense and romantic. They long for someone who can accept their strangeness and live up to the inner vision they have of a relationship. These Fives are often sensitive and will recoil and disappear when they feel misunderstood or unappreciated. When they feel accepted and understood, they can be talkative and open. In fact, these Fives are probably the most romantic and emotionally nuanced of the Fives.
When healthy, Sexual Fives are loving, authentic, visionary, and perceptive. They have deep insights into others and are constantly learning and growing. Unhealthy Sexual Fives are self-destructive, isolated, impossible to please, and prone to dangerous or unhealthy sexual experimentation. They may be voyeuristic rather than pursing real connection for themselves.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual 5 Enneatype:
- Focuses on finding the ideal relationship
- Places a high value on one-on-one connection
- Deeply imaginative
- Shares with full transparency when they think they’ve found a partnership
- Has a romantic, sensitive side
- Has a rich inner world of lush fantasies
- Often looks like a type Four
- Innovative and perceptive
Sexual 6 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To have security and guidance
Basic Fear: To be unsupported and without guidance
Sexual Sixes face their underlying fears and doubts by becoming aggressive, risk-taking, and challenging. They believe it’s them against the world and they’ll hardly ever let their guard down for fear that others will manipulate or cheat them. Because they tend to be so suspicious of any treachery from others, they can seem like they’re always about to explode. There’s tension and aggressiveness in their energy that can be intimidating and stressful to others. But this tension is really hiding an underlying fear of being weak or duped. They build up their strength, both emotional and physical, and often strive to have endurance and wherewithal to deal with any struggle or adversity. They may go to the gym, lift weights, or otherwise test themselves against the elements to ensure their strength and attractiveness. You’ll also notice that with this Six there’s a contrarian nature when they speak. If everyone is agreeing with something, they’ll disagree. If everyone’s disagreeing with something, they’ll agree. They tend to play devil’s advocate and argue with a ferocity that is almost impossible to win against.
At healthy levels, these Sixes are courageous, valiant, protective, reliable, and self-reliant. At unhealthy levels, they are combative, dominating, depressive, and erratic. They may lash out impulsively at others and become violent or obsessed with watching their perceived enemies for any sign of attack.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual 6 Enneatype:
- Turns against fear and leans into strength
- Tends to be impulsive
- Strives to be physically strong and attractive
- When feeling fear, runs towards it, to fight it off
- Often intimidating in order to frighten away enemies
- Often contrarian
- May like to disrupt things or stir up trouble
- Can mistype as a type 8
- When healthy is extremely loyal and reliable
Sexual 7 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To have freedom and happiness
Basic Fear: To be trapped in pain, or to miss out
Sexual Sevens are imaginative and idealistic, always envisioning possibilities that could be on the horizon. True dreamers at heart, they strive to be optimistic no matter what life hurls their way. At the same time, they can easily feel trapped and overwhelmed when life feels mundane or repetitive. These types idealize themselves, the world around them, and especially their relationships. The world of fantasy is almost always more thrilling than everyday life; as such they can be restless and impulsive, embellishing everyday life to make it seem more intoxicating. Planning, improvising, envisioning – these are the things that occupy their time.
At healthy levels, Sexual Sevens have learned to be content even with everyday life. They are truly joyful, enthusiastic, imaginative, hopeful, and productive. At unhealthy levels, they are fickle, fearful of any commitment, reckless, neglectful of responsibilities, and prone to falling for crazy schemes.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual 7 Enneatype:
- Imaginative and idealistic
- Constantly looking for something new and extraordinary
- Enjoys fantasizing, often more than reality
- Sees life through rose-colored glasses much of the time
- Wants to try everything. Can be indecisive.
- Trusting and hopeful
- Often jumps from one activity to another
Sexual 8 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To be in control and to have autonomy
Basic Fear: To be vulnerable or controlled by others
Sexual Eights are the most rebellious of the subtypes. This subtype has a natural distaste for rules and isn’t afraid to go against the grain of convention. Some Enneagram experts believe that Sexual Eights weren’t respected or nurtured as children so they decided to disrespect authority in turn. Their hope is to dominate their environment, get what they want, and control and possess the things (and sometimes the people) around them. While they can be deeply loving and devoted, they also can struggle with intimacy; seeing it as a risk that could be exploited by others. These Eights enjoy a good debate and won’t shy away from conflict or confrontation. People who seem overly ‘nice’ or congenial often make them suspicious and impatient. Because these Eights are so competitive and direct, they get frustrated with people who are oversensitive and easily hurt. They like a challenge and anything won too easily isn’t as highly valued by them. For this reason, they enjoy the thrill of the chase in relationships. Once they do find their ideal partner they want to feel a mutual devotion of mind, body, and spirit in the relationship.
At healthy levels, Sexual Eights are heroic, self-reliant, forgiving, and protective. At unhealthy levels, Sexual Eights are possessive of others, jealous, and dominating or controlling.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual 8 Enneatype:
- Rebellious and anti-authoritarian
- More emotional than the other subtypes
- Doesn’t mind being seen as “bad”
- Contrarian nature
- Demands loyalty from loved ones
- Tries to attain pleasure
- Action-oriented more than contemplative
- May see intimacy as a struggle for control
- Pragmatic and enterprising
Sexual 9 Enneagram Type
Basic Desire: To have inner peace and stability
Basic Fear: To have inner fragmentation or conflict
Sexual Nines strive to merge with another person that they admire, either through a romantic relationship or a friendship. These Nines can struggle to have a strong sense of self because they often live out their dreams and fantasies through another person instead of through their own life. They often have fantasies of the things they will do with another individual – imagining their future spouse, a best friend, or even a religion that they can unify with. Because of this, they tend to notice and absorb the feelings of the other more than their own individual feelings. They can even adopt behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of another without realizing they’re doing it. Their anger can be easily sparked if their relationship with the other is threatened, and when this happens they can become surprisingly sassy and outspoken or passive-aggressive. These are the kinds of people who use “we” instead of “I” in decisions or say “our life” instead of “my life” because they think of everything they do in relationship to the partner (be it a spouse, best friend, or God) they are doing it with.
Healthy Sexual Nines have done the hard work of separating themselves from others enough to find their own true identity. They learn to stop erasing themselves and filling themselves in with another person’s personality. Because of this, they are self-possessed while still having the empathetic, comforting, and peaceful presence that tends to come naturally to this type. Unhealthy Sexual Nines are so tied to another individual that they become codependent, self-abandoning, repressed, and neglectful of themselves. They tune out the negatives of their partner or other and can get stuck in abusive or unhealthy relationships.
Key Characteristics of the Sexual 9 Enneatype:
- They merge inside relationships
- They can lack a sense of self
- May be so focused on meeting the needs of others that they lose track of their own needs
- Empathetic and emotionally aware
- Thinks in terms of “we” instead of “I”
- Can physically sense what others are going through
Want to Find Out About the Social and Self-Preservation Subtypes? Find the links below:
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you identify with any of these subtypes? Let us know your thoughts and insights in the comments!
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