Most individuals who study the Enneagram eventually ask themselves: “What kind of instinctual match would be the best for me in a romantic relationship?”
Of course individual preferences vary, but there are two main factors that determine how helpful and satisfying an instinctual match is for you in a romantic (long-term) relationship:
SX first people fare the best with someone who is actually not a fellow SX first individual. This may seem counterintuitive – because SX first people desire close intimacy so much, shouldn’t they be with another SX first person? But the opposite is true. We often desire what is not the best for us. With SX first people, they too late (or not at all) realize that a fellow SX first person brings a very similarly neurotic attitude towards SX into the relationship, which is rather counterproductive to the couple’s welfare. The shared obsession with SX intimacy can lead to isolation, addictions, and more. Additionally, SX first people have a tendency to “give their all” in romantic relationships, and can “lose” themselves in them, so it is best when their partner brings a much more balanced attitude towards SX into the relationship, so that neither one of them gets “burned out”. A person who is SX blindspot won’t be able to provide them with enough balanced intimacy, similarly to a fellow SX first person, as well as not value it enough. In contrast, SX secondary people have the most balanced view on intimacy and SX matters.
Following that, the best match for SX/SO is SP/SX, and for SX/SP it is SO/SX.
Because the issues revolving around SX are so emotionally taxing and potentially deeply scarring for SX first people, here is an exception when it comes to the principle of the same flow being always better than the opposite flow! As said previously, it is crucial that their SX neuroses are being calmed in a close relationship, because that is the only situation where this can actually happen in full.
That is why the second best match for SX/SO is SO/SX, and for SX/SP it is SP/SX.
SX last people may grow the most in a relationship with someone who is not a fellow SX last person. However, SX being their blindspot and therefore low on their list of relationship requirements, they will naturally gravitate towards to and feel the most comfortable with someone who shares all of their values and won’t try to “push” them for any special kind of intimacy.
Following that, the best match for SO/SP is SO/SP, and for SP/SO it is SP/SO.
Again, a reversal of the flow can be accepted or even appreciated when it serves to sooth the worries of the first instinct and both people are on the same page regarding which instincts matter (or rather, which one matters the least).
Therefore, the second best match for SO/SP is SP/SO, and for SP/SO it is SO/SP.
SX second people, as already mentioned several times in this article, have the most balanced attitude regarding SX. They do not need it like SX first people, nor do they preferably not have to deal with it like SX last people. In that manner, they are in a grey zone; it is not exactly clear what kind of match is the most beneficial for them, at least at first glance. Like the other stackings, they are best in a relationship with someone who is of the same flow. The stacking that would both support and guide them the best in the domain of their first instinct, as well as would be part of the same flow, is the SX blindspot stacking (either SP/SO or SO/SP respectively). Those stackings additionally bring an acceptable (SP/SO) or great (SO/SP) take on SP matters in the relationship, which is very important for a stable “home building”, a family life with children. However, not being SX blindspot themselves, the SX second person may find an issue with the lack of SX in their partner. It becomes apparent how for romantic relationships that do not involve children, the best match would be someone of both the same flow and without an SX blindspot. On the other hand, if the primary goal is having children and a stable home life, the best match would be the SX last individual of the same flow.
Following that, the best match for SO/SX is SP/SO (for family life) or otherwise SO/SX, and for SP/SX it is SO/SP (for family life) or otherwise SP/SX.
The worst matches are:
SX/SO with SP/SO, SX/SP with SO/SP, and SO/SX with SP/SX.
Why are they the worst? First, opposite flows. Secondly, even though they share the same secondary instinct, this commonality provides no benefits nor calming influence, and is overshadowed by the threatening occupations of the other’s first instinct, which is the other’s blindspot. What is one person’s neurotic obsession is the other’s least valued, and “falsely” flowing aspect. Neither person values what the other is the most concerned with, nor can either one person help the other with their weak spots. No wonder their instinctual desires, and hence their instinctual beings are the most opposite.
That is why I recommend people to avoid this kind of instinctual stacking match in dating. No matter how much the two may be infatuated with each other, the problems arising later in the long-term relationship are usually too difficult to resolve sensibly. Instinctual stackings do not change, so they are deeply embedded in someone’s psyche – trying to change someone’s flow or blindspot is a futile endeavor. Even if the people have a rather compatible intertype relation in Socionics, this intertype stacking match can have an underestimated, quite negative impact on their longterm happiness as a couple.*
Here the matches for each stacking, from most to least beneficial:
Sx/So: Sp/Sx > So/Sx > Sx/So > So/Sp > Sx/Sp > Sp/So
Sx/Sp: So/Sx > Sp/Sx > Sx/Sp > Sp/So > Sx/So > So/Sp
So/Sp: So/Sp > Sp/So > Sx/So > Sp/Sx > So/Sx > Sx/Sp
Sp/So: Sp/So > So/Sp > Sx/Sp > So/Sx > Sp/Sx > Sx/So
So/Sx: Sp/So or So/Sx > Sx/So > Sx/Sp > So/Sp > Sp/Sx
Sp/Sx: So/Sp or Sp/Sx > Sx/Sp > Sx/So > Sp/So > So/Sx
As the ranking shows, apart from the SX blindspot and same stacking matches, the match that is the most beneficial for you is not on an “equal” footing with you – you “get more” out of that match than the other person. For example, while the Sx/Sp individual benefits a lot from the balanced view on Sx from the So/Sx person, the latter does not get their So instinct-related neuroses soothed. However, the upside to this match is the fact that both people are in the same flow and hence have the same attitude towards life. It could be concluded that the ideal scenario for this match would include a healthy So/Sx individual – because in that instance, their amount of neuroses would be rather small and less significant. However, a couple like this will go through tough times when the So/Sx person becomes unhealthy – their So-related neuroses emerging, they will seek out help in that area, which the Sx/Sp person is unable and unwilling to give. In that respect, the exchange between Sx/Sp and Sp/Sx would be more stable and equal, both individuals benefitting from the other’s second instinct – but at the cost of moving “against” the other’s life direction in some way or another, being in opposite flows.
*An example of a Dual couple that has difficulties with their relationship because of an instinctual mismatch (Sx/Sp with So/Sp) is Robert Downey Jr with his wife Susan Downey. They have to go to couple’s therapy.