Although it is a conscious effort and choice on our part in becoming the people we strive to be, it is without a doubt that our childhoods shape us to a certain extent. How we choose to react to different situations and the way we express ourselves are behavioral patterns that are formed starting at a very young age when we first began to learn how to make sense of our immediate environment. Marriage and family counselors Dr. Milan and Kay Yerkovich discovered that everyone has a certain love style based on their upbringing.
A love style is comprised of our tendencies and inclinations of how we respond to our romantic partners. By understanding how we love, we can learn how our love styles affect our relationships. Psych2Go shares with you Dr. Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s 5 love styles:
1. The Pleaser
The pleaser often grows up in a home with an overly protective or angry critical parent. As children, pleasers do everything they can to “be good” and on their best behavior, so as not to provoke a negative response from their parent. Pleaser children don’t receive comfort. Instead, they spend their time and energy giving comfort to their reactive parent.
Pleasers are uncomfortable with conflict and deal with disagreements by often giving in or making up for them quickly. They usually have a hard time saying no and because they want to minimize conflict, they may not be truthful and lie to avoid difficult confrontations. As pleaser children grow into adults, they learn to read the moods of others around them to make sure they can keep everyone happy. However, when pleasers feel stressed or that they are continuously letting someone down, they can have a break down and flee from relationships.
In the past, I have dated a pleaser. He grew up being the perfect role model in school, earned the academic title of being valedictorian, and went to two Ivy League schools both for his undergraduate and graduate studies. While it seems like someone like him is well put together and has it all figured out, I noticed that he was painfully uncomfortable with conflict. Instead of talking about what bothered him, he would ignore me for days without any warning and often saw problems as the end of something, rather than wanting to work them out. He cared more about the opinions of his close friends and family members that it seemed like he was at a total loss when I asked him what his own personal opinions were.
Pleasers often spread themselves thin trying to be everything to everyone when it’s not realistic. And instead of forming healthy boundaries for themselves to build a strong independent self, they focus more on the needs and desires of others. In order for pleasers to cultivate stable relationships, they have to be honest about their own feelings, rather than what “should be” or what is expected of them.
2. The Victim
The victim often grows up in a chaotic home. Victims learn to be compliant in order to survive by putting less attention on themselves as much as possible so that they can stay under the radar. To deal with their angry violent parents, victim children learn at a very young age to hide and stay quiet. Because being fully present is painful for them, victim children often build an imaginary world in their heads to cope with the dangers they face on a daily basis.
Victims have low self-esteem and usually struggle with anxiety and depression. They may end up marrying controllers who mirror the same behaviors they dealt with in their childhood home environment. Victims learn to cope by relying on compliancy and going with the flow. They are used to chaos and stressful situations so much that when they do experience calmness, it actually makes them feel uneasy as they anticipate for the next biggest blow-up. In order for victims to cultivate healthy, stable relationships, they have to learn self-love and learn how to stand up for themselves when a situation calls for it, instead of letting their partner walk all over them.
3. The Controller
The controller usually grows up in a home where there wasn’t a sense of protection built, so they learn to toughen up and take care of themselves. Controllers need to feel in control at all times to keep the vulnerability they experienced in their childhood from revealing in their adulthood. To these people, having control means protection from experiencing negative feelings of fear, humiliation, and helplessness.
Controllers don’t associate anger as being vulnerable, so they use it as a weapon to remain in power. Controllers have rigid tendencies, but may also be sporadic and unpredictable. They don’t like stepping out of their comfort zones, because it makes them feel vulnerable and stripped of protection. Controllers prefer to solve problems on their own and like getting things done in a certain manner, otherwise they get angry. In order for controllers to form stable, long-lasting relationships, they need to learn how to let go, trust others, and keep their anger at bay.
4. The Vacillator
The vacillator often grows up with an unpredictable parent. As children, vacillators learned that their needs aren’t their parent’s top priority. Without consistent affection from their parent, vacillators develop a deep fear of abandonment.
However, when the parent finally feels like giving their time and attention to them, vacillators are usually too angry and tired to receive it. As vacillators enter adulthood, they try to find the consistent love they were deprived of as children. Vacillators have a tendency to idealize new relationships, but once they feel let down or disappointed, they grow dejected and doubtful.
Vacillators often feel misunderstood and experience a lot of internal conflict and emotional stress within their relationships. They can be extremely sensitive and perceptive, which allows them to detect even the slightest change in others and know when people are pulling away. In order for vacillators to cultivate healthy, stable relationships, they need to learn how to pace themselves and get to know someone first before committing too soon and getting hurt by their own expectations.
5. The Avoider
The avoider often grows up in a less affectionate home that values independence and self-reliance. As children, avoiders learned to take care of themselves starting at a very young age and put their feelings and needs on hold to deal with their anxieties of having little to no comfort and nurturance from their parents. Avoiders tend to like their space and rely on logic and detachment more than their emotions. They get uncomfortable when people around them experience intense emotional ups and downs. In order for avoiders to cultivate healthy, long-lasting relationships, they need to learn how to open up and express their emotions honestly.
I’m currently dating an avoider and it’s actually going great. He learned a lot from his past relationship and did a lot of self-reflecting. As someone who has difficulty managing my emotions and letting them control so much of my life, he’s been teaching me how to monitor them and use all the negative intensity as learning experiences I can grow from. In return, I try to show him that it’s okay and essential to grow attached and be emotionally vulnerable.
To figure out which love style pertains to you, you can take the quiz here. Try not to over-think your answers and be as honest as possible. Depending on your results, you could score high on more than one love style. If you find that this is the case, read the descriptions of both love styles and ask yourself which one you seem to identify more with. Remember that this is a model meant to help people understand how they love, rather than an attempt to box us up in categories. Love is an ever-changing experience, just like how people are fluid and filled with many complicated layers.
Which love style do you have? Leave a comment down below!
Also, to learn about why we are attracted to certain individuals over others, be sure to check out Dr. Helen Fisher’s 4 Love Types!
Yerkovich, M., & Yerkovich, K. (2017). How We Love. Retrieved September 28, 2017.