The Intimate Eight

Lusting for Life

When we turn to the intimate subtype, also called the relational or sexual subtype of the Eight, we see that the central concerns of the Eight are focused on one or a few persons. Remember, the central preoccupations of the Eight are dominance, power and vengeance. The world view is that the universe is hostile, so it's a good thing I'm strong. I better see who is on my side in the battle, I better know who has the power and nobody is going to watch out for me, so I better watch out for myself.

But the watching out for myself is tricky. In one sense they watch out for themselves in the sense of battling anyone who gets in their way. They will take on any enemy, fight any battle. In another sense, they don't take care of themselves at all; they don't nurture the soft side of themselves. They will feed the poor and hungry and then not take care of their own health. The reason they do this is that they project their own nurture needs onto another, take care of those others and then don't realize they have unmet nurture needs themselves.

Given this preoccupation with power, taking care of others, and surviving in a hostile world, what happens when this energy is focused on one person, usually the sexual partner?

They are prone to suspicion because the world is not to be trusted in general. They often have a need to completely control and almost possess the sexual partner. (If you possess them, then you have all the power and that's the way it has to be). In order to get past the suspicion, they usually put the partner through a lot of tests. Just to see what they will do: how much can I really count on them in the clutch?

After the tests are past and passed, the Eight wants utter reliability, a large amount of stability and of course, loyalty (the Social Eights want loyalty to the group, the intimate Eight wants loyalty to the partnership). Sometimes if the testing goes on too long, the relationship can become abrasive and lose the necessary tenderness to allow them to stay together. If the partner can get past the tests, then the allegiance of the intimate Eight is total, at least for long periods. Periodic "check ups" are probably predictable.

The lust for life and the drive for power that are common to all Eights show up in a desire for sexual intensity. Eights will often pick a fight just to ratchet up the emotional temperature. They will lose interest in a dull relationship. Their usual style of direct forceful communication manifests itself in their physical desires also. The word for the Eight is lust, but whereas lust in the scholastic tradition of the capital sins was sexual desire, the Enneagram tradition means lust for life, a hunger for physical intensity in all areas of life and love.

The sexual/intimate subtype chooses partners other than sexual and bonds totally with them, too. Therapists can only be trusted after testing but then they are trusted utterly. Same with business partners, some athletic teams of one or two. I've seen it among hunters who have implicit confidence in the other (and of course hunting is symbolic, too). Sometimes the dominance theme will flip and the Eight will surrender, revealing the soft side of the personality. This is especially common among healthier Eights. It reminds me of the powerful dogs who bare their throats when they have had all the fighting they can take.

Eights, like all the anger types, have trouble thinking clearly, even when they are highly intelligent. The fighting they initiate is in the service of truth. They want to get at your honest feelings, your real posture in life, your values -- what you will and won't stand up for and stand for. (A Five will observe someone, a Six will psyche them out but an Eight digs out the innards to see what's really there!)


  1. Most of the movie intimate subtypes seem to be women. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a good Eight in the Fabulous Baker Boys, Laura San Giacomo plays a strong intimate subtype Eight as Karen in Sex, Lies and Videotape. In The Last Seduction, a intimate subtype Eight gets away with her style.
  2. If you want to see a good Eight therapist in action, read Fritz Perls and his Gestalt Therapy. Gestalt Therapist. Patzia Gally says "Gestalt therapy clearly reflects both the high and the low side of Eight. First, it is centered on action, experiencing the vent, not talking about something, but acting it, reliving it with role-playing, hot seat, acting "as if." ...The therapist must be authentic, not necessarily empathic. It can reach the low side when it gets aggressive and invasive and boundaries are pushed..."


  1. How comfortable are you with your partner's independence?
  2. Can they make their own decisions?
  3. How about money? How closely do they have to report or reveal their spending habits to you?

Here's a mantra for you: unless your partner grows, s/he goes...