At Root Counseling, we talk a lot about attachment because our attachment style is the root of our behaviors and our relationships with others. With couples, attachment styles play the biggest role in fights, infidelity, insecurity, jealously, addiction, negative coping skills, and how children are raised. AND... they also play the biggest role in healthy communication, love, security, friendship, sacrifice, healing, health, and raising children.
Thanks to the work of Milan and Kay Yerkovich, we're going to look at the different love styles. These love styles can also be known as attachment styles, but for couples. They're formed in childhood with our caregivers, and then we see them play out and reflect our relationship with our caregivers in childhood when we enter into a romantic relationship as adults.
As always with attachment, the goal is to understand our attachment style and move toward a secure attachment. We don't want to continue living in that insecure attachment style. The same is true with love styles. The goal is to understand our love style, and then move towards becoming a secure connector.
Homes that place a high value on independence and reliance on the self and a low value on affection creates Avoiders. People who are Avoiders grow up learning that they have to take care of themselves because no one else will. Because they received such little connection and emotional security from their parents, they learned to deal with their anxiety surrounding their lack of emotional connection by suppressing and restricting their feelings and needs. Avoiders, as adults, can appear to be disengaged or emotionally distant.
Signs You Might Be An Avoider:
In my family, we rarely talked about our feelings or emotions growing up.
It's not common for me to think about my own feelings or needs.
We didn't talk about personal issues in my family growing up.
Space is something I need often.
If I'm away from my spouse or family for awhile, I don't really miss them.
When children grow up with overly protective and critical parents, they become Pleasers. These children do whatever they can to be perceived as "good" by their parents so that they avoid triggering their reactive or anxious parent. Instead of receiving comfort, these kids are the comfort givers and spend a lot of their time making sure they appease their siblings and parents. When Pleasers become adults, they habitually monitor the moods of everyone around them in order to try to keep people happy. It's common for them to eventually become resentful but struggle to ask for what they want or express their emotions.
Signs You Might Be A Pleaser:
When someone is annoyed or upset with me, it causes me to become upset, so I do whatever I can to "keep the peace."
For the majority of my childhood, I was labeled "the good kid."
Conflict makes me feel uncomfortable, and I prefer to deal with it by giving in, ignoring it, or moving on quickly.
I have a hard time saying no or confronting someone else about something, and this causes me to lie sometimes.
Connection is something I seek with others, but because I'm scared of rejection, I will anticipate and meet the needs of others around me.
Vacillators grew up with parents who were unpredictable in regards to their behavior and ability to meet the emotional needs of their children. Because theses children didn't receive consistent parental affection and attention, they've developed feelings of abandonment. When the parent is ready to give affection and attention, it's common for the child to be too angry to accept it. When Vacillator's become adults, they make it their own quest to find the love they didn't receive as a child. Relationships become idealized, and they have high hopes for avoiding any and all feelings of abandonment and rejection. Because life isn't ideal, Vacillator's often feel let down, angry, and disappointed.
Signs You Might Be A Vacillator:
Sometimes, I pick a fight and I don't know why.
I've been told that people feel like they're walking on eggshells around me.
No one has ever really understood what I need.
In relationships, I often experience a high level of emotional stress and internal conflict.
I can tell when people start pulling away from me because I'm sensitive and perceptive.
Controllers experienced an immense amount of painful, vulnerable feelings in childhood. As adults, they become Controllers as a need to control those feelings from coming to the surface in their adult lives. When they have control, it means they have protection from those feelings of humiliation, fear, and helplessness they were forced to endure as children. Because anger is the one emotion Controllers don't view as vulnerable, they often use anger and intimidation to remain in charge of situations and people. They struggle having compassion for themselves regarding the trauma and suffering they endured as a child, and because of that, they have a difficult time seeing how their childhood trauma affects their adult relationships.
Signs You Might Be A Controller:
I either have to be in control or I will be controlled, and I would rather be in control.
When I was growing up, no one protected me from harm, so I had to learn how to tough it out and take care of myself.
The only emotion I feel the majority of the time is anger.
It wouldn't surprise me if people described me as intimidating.
I don't have many feelings about my childhood expect I would never go back to it.
If things aren't done a certain way, I get angry.
When homes are in chaos, children who are compliant learn to survive by trying to not be noticed. They'll appease, hide, and learn to tolerate the unacceptable and intolerable. They might not be fully present and choose to disconnect in order to alleviate the pain that's caused by parents who are angry, neglectful, and chaotic. For some kids, they'll build imaginary worlds in their mind to escape the abuse. When these children become adults, they become Victims who struggle with their self-worth and are often depressed, anxious, and going through the motions of life. They may even end up having a partner who is a Controller and tap into the same coping methods they used as a child to survive their adult relationship.
Signs You Might Be A Controller:
I feel drained of energy and like I'm just going through the motions. I'm tired.
I frequently feel like everything's my fault, and if I tried harder, life would get better.
Calm makes me anxious because I'm used to chaos. Something bad has to be just around the corner.
If I spoke up about my opinions, my partner would get angry with me.
The Secure Connector
Secure Connectors have a balance of receiving and giving in relationships. They're able to acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others without devaluing or idealizing. Secure Connectors are great at self-reflection and can communicate what they need and how they're feeling. Because their parents modeled how to resolve conflict, Secure Connectors know how to apologize when they're wrong, say no, and set boundaries. New situations are comfortable for them, and they're able to take healthy risks. When Secure Connectors become upset, they have the ability to seek connection and comfort from a human rather than a thing.
Signs You Might Be A Secure Connector:
It's easy for me to express my emotions. I have a wide range of emotions I can tap into and talk about.
Even if I know saying "no" to someone will upset them, I'm still able to do it.
It's not hard for me to ask for and receive help from others when I need it.
I'm not perfect, and I give space for people to disagree with me.
I love to play and have fun.
Curious what your love style might be? Click here to take the quiz created by How We Love.
At Root Counseling, we work with couples to understand how their attachment style & childhood impact their current relationship with their partner. To schedule an appointment, you can visit our therapists here.