The way people behave in relationships as adults often comes from what they were taught during their childhood. If the family was supportive there’s a higher chance of the child developing healthy relationships in adulthood. Whereas, if the family was not supportive or present, the child might grow up to develop negative behaviors that can affect the way their future relationships develop.
The latter scenario is the case with the five love styles that Dr. Milan and Kay Yerkovich describe in their book How We Love. These love styles negatively impact the person’s relationships depriving them of being themselves and growing as a person and a couple.
But, not all is lost as there are ways to change or manage the impulses that these love styles create for the better.
A disclaimer before we begin, this article is meant for information and educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat anything. If you need advice or help regarding the topic depicted here please reach out to a mental health or relationship professional near you.
Keep reading to know how to change your love style, and have a better relationship.
1- The Pleaser
Do you always say yes to everything and everyone then find yourself completely exhausted? Pleasers are people who always agree with another person, show up for others, never argue, and always have other people’s backs. They make sure to keep the other person happy to avoid conflict because even the thought of a fight or an argument makes them stressed out and anxious.
In a previous YouTube video, Psych2Go discussed that the pleaser love style comes from childhood. If the child had overly protective, critical, or angry. The parents might have put extremely high standards that they wanted the child to meet, but if the child didn’t meet those standards the parent’s response would be overly negative. Which pushed the child into apologizing for things they couldn’t control or trying to soothe the parent.
The child did everything in their power to not get a negative response from their parents due to these reactions. And this carried on to adulthood, where the parents are replaced by friends or lovers.
The problem with acting this way is that by putting everyone before them, pleasers spend all of their energy on other people, forgetting to take care of themselves, and end up crashing or burnt out. According to new studies, stress (specifically the stress hormone) in high quantities and maintained for a long time will eventually cause health issues both physically, and mentally.
It is for the pleaser’s health that they need to learn how to stop pleasing and start taking care of themselves. It will be difficult but the more you practice it, the better you become at it.
An article on PsychCentral, a psychology website, suggests that the pleaser realize that they have a choice in the matter. Yes, there are other alternatives to saying yes all the time, even no is an alternative. Although it may be in conflict with your beliefs, and what you have been doing up until now, you do have a choice. You have power. Also, there are gentler ways of saying “no” and declining an invitation.
PsychCentral also points out that you need to prioritize and then set your boundaries. You cannot continue to give if you don’t take care of yourself first, for this reason, it is valid that you treat yourself and your own needs as priorities over anyone else’s. No matter what the other person says or does. Once you have prioritized, set your boundaries so that people don’t mess with you or your priorities.
Always enforce those boundaries as there will be people trying to test and push you to break you. Be true to yourself all the way, as the Clay Behavioral Health Center says in an article.
Become aware and remember that you can’t please everyone, just like you can’t save everyone. People have come with different perspectives and beliefs that are bound to clash at one point or another and that is not bad. Look at it as a way to learn tolerance, acceptance, and communicating effectively.
Another thing that is important to do to stop people-pleasing is to stop making excuses for yourself and others. Marta can carry her groceries to her house just fine without your help, she has done it a million times. Your friend’s arm won’t fall off if you can’t make it one day to meet them. No, you do not need help or solve other people’s problems, they can take care of themselves.
Think about it this way, if you are always helping or keeping others happy, then they will never learn how to do that themselves. And, what will happen the day you are no longer there? It is better to teach a man how to fish than to just feed him fish.
You are important, you are worthy, and you can overcome whatever conflict comes your way. Learn to trust yourself and your abilities. If you want to see more things that you can do to stop people-pleasing, check out the links and sources below.
2- The Victim
The victim grew up in a house where the parents were angry and violent. In order to not be caught up in that violence, the victim complied with all of their demands. This helped them stay in the background unnoticed, as explained by one of our Youtube videos.
Similar to the pleaser, victims try to get by without getting into conflict but due to their victim mentality that can be hard. This mentality can take form in different ways. Reverend Nancy Colier, who is also a psychotherapist, goes over three ways in a blog for Psychology Today.
Colier explains that victim mentality can come from an inability or unwillingness to take ownership of one’s own needs and wants. It can also come from feeling powerless and projecting onto another person, believing and blaming that another person is trying to control them. But they don’t do anything to look into themselves to see why they are feeling powerless.
Another way victim mentality can manifest is from a negative kind of narcissism where the person believes that everyone and everything is against them. In all scenarios the person gets triggered to feeling powerless just like they did when they were a child, not realizing that they can now do something about it.
Colier gives a few ways that people can overcome that victim mentality and start seeing the good in life. In this article, we will take a look at just five of those as described in Colier’s post. If you wish to know more please go to the links below.
- Take ownership and responsibility for your own needs and wants. Determine what you want and what’s important to you. Name it, and do what you need to do to make it happen — for yourself. Don’t waste time blaming or getting angry at those who don’t want or need the same things you do, don’t wait for them to come on board or help you get what you want. Get busy taking care of what’s important to you, and leave the others out of it.
- Practice saying “no.” If you don’t want to do something and don’t (realistically) have to do it, don’t do it. Remember that you are allowed to have needs, just like other people.
- Stop blaming. When you hear yourself going into blame stories, whether against other people, the world, life, whomever… say “stop” to yourself out loud, and actually, turn your attention away from your blaming thoughts.
- Become aware of the root of your sense of powerlessness. Before you construct the next narrative on who’s stealing your power, get curious about the underlying feelings of powerlessness that precede all situations.
- Practice gratitude. Victim mentality focuses you on your suffering, specifically what you’re not getting. Try flipping your perspective and focusing on something that matters to you, that you do enjoy, and that you do “get.” Shift your attention from what you’re missing to what you have.
Practicing gratitude can take on different forms, you can check out our past article where we talk about gratitude journaling, to get some ideas.
3- The Vacillator
Do you look for constant attention from your partner? Do you feel crushed when you don’t get that attention? It might be that you have a Vacillator love style.
The vacillator love style is created when a child doesn’t get the attention they consistently needed from their parents. The parents weren’t there for them, ignored them, or were always busy with something else. This made them feel unseen, uncared for, and like they didn’t have a voice.
“This inconsistency is what makes the vacillator hyper-focused on this attention”, says life coach Sarah Abbott, in her video.
As adults, they seek this attention that was never given to them by their parents. At the same time, they struggle with indecisiveness when a relationship presents itself because their idealizations get crushed by realities they didn’t expect. Which makes them be fixed on their partner’s imperfections. This can end up with the vacillator acting negatively towards their partner or wanting to end things.
Another way this can manifest is that the vacillator lets the attention and affection in but suddenly rejects it. Then lets it in again, and rejects it again. Because they fear that the connection won’t last, or they wonder when they will get the connection in the first place. This can go on in cycles and can destroy a relationship.
Vacillators usually have anger issues that hide their sadness and they can be explosive. Vacillators also fear abandonment due to their own experiences with their parents.
So how can we stop being vacillators? Here are a few ways you can work on changing or improving this love style.
One of the ways you can start working on changing your vacillator love style is to become aware of yourself and self-reflect. If you are not aware of your own actions, patterns, and reasons for doing all of these you cannot heal.
Work on grieving and accepting the situation with your parents. Forgiving and letting that go, will open doors for you to let in people that matter.
Communication and learning different perspectives will help you determine whether or not the scenarios in your head are true. There are a lot of things that can set vacillators off to start blaming others with little information. Work on getting the entire story, not just what you think is happening or what you think they are thinking about you. Odds are it’s not what you were expecting.
Learn to focus and be present. One of the things that vacillators learn from their parents is inconsistency. If you want to improve, learn how to pay attention to the people and things around you. Be in the present without judging or jumping to conclusions. Work to understand and expand yourself.
Don’t be a mind reader. What you see isn’t always what you get, so when in doubt ask. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of thinking or feeling like you’re being abandoned again. Ask what is going on, and how you can help.
Learn how to be by yourself. You won’t always have people around you to connect to. It is ok to be by one’s self from time to time. Learn how to take care of yourself and self-soothe so you do not go off on others for no apparent reason.
4- The Controller
The controller usually likes to take control of relationships to avoid the negative experiences you had as a child. Controlling the relationship or the situation allows you to stop exposure to negative emotions that leave you feeling vulnerable.
Controllers come from families or homes where there wasn’t much of a sense of protection or comfort. To get that structure and protection back, controllers look to control relationships and others.
The thing is, in life, you can’t control everything. You can’t control things outside of yourself nor can you truly control other people. When controllers feel that things are getting out of hand they show their emotions in anger. But that can quickly turn into abuse if their anger gets out of hand or they realize they can have the illusion of control by manipulation.
To be able to manage or change being a controller, Sharon Martin, a licensed psychotherapist suggests challenging the fear you have around losing control, practicing acceptance, practicing flexibility, and trying a mantra.
To deal with fear, more often than not, we must face it head-on. Going through this will help us see what is on the other side of not being able to control things. What if, we can’t? Are we going to stand there and do nothing or look for a solution?
It challenges us to have faith, keep an open mind, be creative, and become flexible. Being flexible is important because a lot of the times things don’t go our way. Remember that we can’t control things outside of ourselves as much as we try. Become aware that sometimes there is more than one way to do things, you just have to have patience and look for it.
It is ok to fail or not have control over everything. Think of it as a lesson that can help you the next time you face something similar.
Practice accepting that you can only control yourself, that it’s ok if nothing is perfect, and that you have what it takes to overcome whatever comes your way. You are stronger than you think, you just need the flexibility to open up and try new ideas.
When it comes to the mantra, Martin explains that it helps you keep your goals in front of and clear to you as you navigate towards changing your thinking patterns and cycles.
5- The Avoider
Do you tend to avoid feelings and interactions with others? Avoiders do not necessarily engage with emotions because they want to protect themselves. Sometimes they come off as distant, unengaged, and independent. They sometimes feel uncomfortable when other people are expressing their emotions.
Avoiders grew up in homes where there wasn’t much affection given, not even when they got hurt. Instead, they were pushed into being independent and alone.
This distance that they create in relationships can cause problems when the other person starts feeling alone, uncared for, and not understood. How can we fix this then?
Julie K. Jones, a doctor and licensed professional counselor gives a few ways in which one can less avoidant in a relationship in her PsychCentral article.
The first one is to understand where this avoidance comes from. Understanding this will help you know and plan for how to address these issues. The second way is, to be honest to yourself about the avoidant behavior but not judge yourself for it.
“Recognizing that you or your partner are acting in an avoidant way is also recognizing that the issue is important and meaningful, and that’s a good thing”, says Jones in her article, “We can be honest that avoidance isn’t a constructive strategy while also appreciating that the behavior arises from an individual’s apprehension about something they value and are anxious about damaging.”
The third point Jones makes is to learn how to tell the difference between personality and actual chronic avoidance. Some types of personalities may seem avoidant to others due to not being able to handle highly assertive individuals or needing their thinking time before tackling an issue. This is different from someone that purposely looks for alternatives or excuses to not deal with or do something.
The fourth point is knowing how much avoidant behavior you can handle and to chose your battles. In a relationship, it is easy to focus only on the behavior rather than the cause of that behavior or the issue at hand. Do not lose focus as that can end up exacerbating the behavior and making matters worse.
And finally, get an outside perspective. Behaviors and relationships are sometimes difficult to address so looking for a relationship expert, family and marriage therapist, or a psychologist can help you see things from a different perspective and give you tools or practices to do to make things better.
Changing patterns, behaviors, and the way we think can be difficult. Although we have listed here a few things you can do on your own to start the process, we strongly recommend that you reach out to mental health or relationship professionals for more support and help.
Despite how hard it may seem, it is possible to turn these negative styles into positive ones with a lot of work and time. Don’t give up and keep going. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones.
Do you relate to any of these styles? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more about psychology, relationships, and love.
A. (2020, 15 February). I’m a Vacillator. What now? Sip Life Slowly and Enjoy It. https://siplifeslowly.com/2020/02/17/im-a-vacillator-what-now/
Abbott, S. [Sarah Abbott Life Coaching]. (2020, 11 January). The Vacillator. . .It’s Never a Dull Moment with Us Around! [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlLM4cpbWb4
Colier, N. (2018, 12 January). Are You Ready To Stop Feeling Like a Victim? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201801/are-you-ready-stop-feeling-victim
Jones, J. K. (2018, 7 March). Gain Confidence and Express Yourself: 5 Ways to Be Less Avoidant in Your Relationship. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/gain-confidence-and-express-yourself-5-ways-to-be-less-avoidant-in-your-relationship#3
K. (2021, 8 julio). 13 Ways to Stop Being a People-Pleaser. Clay Behavioral Health Center. https://ccbhc.org/13-ways-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser/
Lebow, H. I. (2021, 20 julio). 18 Tips to Stop Being a People-Pleaser. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/health/tips-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser#tips
Martin, S. (2021, 3 March). How To Stop Being Controlling. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/conquering-codependency/202103/how-stop-being-controlling
firstname.lastname@example.org. (2017, 7 julio). Marriage Love Styles and How to Demystify Them: Part 3. GROW Counseling. https://growcounseling.com/marriage-styles-demystify-part-3/
Psych2Go. (2021, 24 October). How Your Childhood Influence The Way You Express Love (love styles) [Vídeo]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCHbhDxBLko&t=261s