Love Styles

posted by Bethel Kids | Feb 16, 2021

Written by Mary Billings

Each person’s childhood experiences form the roots of who they are; continuing to inform the way that person responds to others or expresses love, even far into adulthood. The result of all these experiences is actually very predictable because people tend to fall into one of five special categories: called “Love Styles”.

A recent Focus on the Family broadcast had a helpful interview with a married couple who are counselors. They explained the different love styles and gave advice on parenting the different styles. I highly recommend listening.  

The Love Styles are explained and expounded upon at How We Love.

Coming from homes that are often low in affection, but which place a high value on independence and self-reliance, the Avoider grows up learning only to take care of themselves. To deal with the anxiety of having so little comfort and nurturing from their parents, they have learned to restrict their feelings and suppress their needs. As an adult, Avoiders can seem emotionally distant or unengaged.

Pleasers usually grow up in a home with a parent who is overly protective, angry, and/or critical. Pleaser children do everything they can to “be good” and avoid troubling their highly-reactive parent; they learn to spend their energy comforting or appeasing their parent, instead of receiving comfort themselves. As adults, Pleasers tend to continually monitor the moods of those around them in an attempt to keep everyone happy. However, this can lead to resentment, an emotion that can break down a relationship or drive a Pleaser to leave.

Growing up with an unpredictable parent, Vacillators’ needs aren’t a top priority. Without consistent parental affection, they develop feelings of abandonment, and by the time the parent feels like giving again, their child is tired of waiting and too angry to receive. As adults, Vacillators are on a quest to find the consistent love they never received as children. They idealize new relationships, but then get tired of it once life (and the relationship) gets less than perfect.

Controllers need control to ensure that the vulnerable, negative feelings they experienced in childhood remain suppressed from their adult lives. Having control means having protection from feelings like fear, humiliation, and helplessness; however, anger is the one emotion that is not vulnerable, and so anger and intimidation are often used as means to maintain control. While control can be either highly rigid or sporadic and unpredictable, Controllers rarely realize the true reason they feel the need to be in charge.

Kids survive a chaotic home environment by trying to “stay under the radar”, making themselves as invisible as possible. They’ll hide and appease, learning how to escape into their own heads to lessen the pain from their angry, violent, chaotic parents. Victims lack a sense of self-worth or personhood and are often anxious and depressed. Rather than engage, they’ll resort to just “going through the motions” in order to get by. Victims may emulate their childhood home environment by pursuing a relationship with a Controller. When children are involved in such a relationship, the Victim may even inflict their suppressed anger on their children whenever the Controller is not present.

While the Love Styles represent different types of emotional injury, Secure Connectors, on the other hand, are comfortable with reciprocity; balanced giving, and receiving in relationships. They can describe strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others without idealizing or devaluating them. Skilled at self-reflection, Secure Connectors are able to clearly and easily communicate their feelings and needs. Resolving conflict was likely modeled for them growing up, so they know they’re not perfect and can apologize when wrong. Setting boundaries and saying “no” is also no problem for a Secure Connector. They are comfortable with new situations, can take risks, and delay gratification. When upset, Secure Connectors can easily seek help and comfort.

When we understand our own style, our spouse’s style, and our kids’ styles, we can better parent, help, and comfort our kids. The goal is to become and model a Secure Connector and to build a legacy of Secure Connectors for your family’s future generations.

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