The Vacillator Love Style

If you’ve been following my series on love styles, then you have a clear idea of what a secure connector, avoider, and pleaser are. Today, we’re going to begin the first in the series of the vacillator love style.

Am I a Vacillator?

Read the following statements and consider, do these resonate with me? Are a good amount of them true of me most of the time? If so, you might be a vacillator. You can take the quiz to be sure.

  • I am a very passionate person who feels things deeply.
  • I seems to me no has ever really understood what I need.
  • My love relationship(s) tend to be intense and romantic at first.
  • I am almost always disappointed in relationships, hoping for more than I receive.
  • I can easily recall long lists of ways people I care about have hurt or disappointed me.
  • People’s attempts to meet my needs are often too little, too late.
  • I want far more connection with my spouse than I have and can easily sense distance in the relationship.
  • I feel my spouse should pursue me more often with more passion.
  • I tend to pick fights but don’t know why.
  • I make it very clear when I’m upset, and feel hurt if my spouse doesn’t pursue me.
  • I like the feeling of making up after a fight.
  • I tend to wait for people to pay attention to me.
  • I tend to write off people who hurt me.
  • I don’t like to be alone, but when my spouse is around, I feel angry and empty.
  • My parents drive me crazy.

(Information adapted from How We Love Workbook p.56)

What is a Vacillator?

Vacillators as Children

Vacillators grow up in a constant state of wanting and waiting. This likely developed from:

  • Having some connection or bonding that was inconsistent and unpredictable.
  • Longing for parental affection but feeling abandoned.
  • Receiving affection not based on their own needs but on the mood or need of the parent (usually by then, the child was too tired of waiting and angry to receive what is given).
  • Needing a parent to be close, stay engaged and give consistent attention.
  • Having a parent that at times would treat them like “the special one” overindulging them and giving them constant attention.
  • A parent communicating displeasure with family members indirectly by withdrawing and/or being hurtful rather than using words.

As a child, they grew very adept at reading the emotional ques of their parents. They learned to read between the lines of words, attitudes, body language, and behavior to try to figure out what to expect from their parent and how to respond to them. This became their measure of whether they were:

  • wanted/unwanted
  • liked/hated
  • accepted/rejected

Life Goal

Vacillators are on a quest to find the consistent, deliberate affection they longed for as a child.

Patterns that Hurt

Vacillators tend to idealize a new relationship. However, once life or the relationship becomes less than perfect, they lose interest. They may simply feel tired of it, but likely internalize anger about it as well.

Since they are very perceptive of emotional closeness and emotional distance in a relationship, they tend to spend a lot of time reading the mood of their spouse, calculating how likely it will be for their needs and desires to be met.

Their relational pattern is to put their date/fiance/spouse on a pedestal, falling in love quickly and idealizing them as the one who will finally give them all the attention they have waited their whole lives for. This idol soon topples and is replaced with disappointment and hurt, since no one can meet their high expectations.

High Level of Internal Conflict

Vacillators have a high level of internal conflict when it comes to relationships. They don’t like to be alone, and spend the time waiting for their needs to be met and feeling hurt over unmet desires. When their spouse gives them attention, they tend to replay the dance they did with their parents, feeling it is too little, too late, and being intensely angry.

They tend not to be aware of the underlying emotions behind their anger. Since they often communicate indirectly, they may use punishing behavior (rather than directly telling them), expecting their spouse to be able to sense what is wrong, identify the problem, and apologize and make it right. When the spouse doesn’t meet this expectation, their anger grows along with the record of wrongs they are keeping tabs on mentally.

It is a lot of push and pull. Come here; now go away. With characteristic passion and intensity, it is usually all or nothing. They either feel the relationship is going great, sensing they are valued, cared for, understood, and special; or they feel the relationship is terrible, sensing they are rejected, abandoned, unimportant, and invisible. This creates intense emotional stress for them and relational stress with others, who often feel they need to walk on eggshells with the vacillator.

Since the vacillator either sees something/someone as all good or all bad, when it’s “all bad”- boy is it bad for everyone. The vacillator will often extremely devalue people, saying things that significantly erode trust and that their loved ones will not forget. When the switch flips to “all good” again, the vacillator will often be completely oblivious to the reality that they have either significantly weakened or destroyed a relationship by their own tongue when they were feeling it was “all bad.” The vacillator moves on, acting as if nothing happened, not apologizing, but expecting everyone to follow suit and be happy. (After all- they feel all negativity in the relationship was caused by the bad qualities of the other person- so they deserved whatever was said). This lack of humility and awareness of others can be especially eroding to a vacillator’s closest relationships such as with spouses and children, sadly often resulting in the opposite of what a vacillator wants most: lasting love.

Time to Grow

If this is you, there is no need to stay here. No time is like the present to seek God with your whole heart for growth. No time is like the present to reduce the feelings of unrest and hurt that grow steadily with any relationship of value to you. Your brain can be rewired, and your life and relationships can be transformed as you grow into a secure connector. You can learn to see the good and bad in everything and to build up rather than tear down the relationships that matter most to you. You can learn to humble yourself and sincerely apologize. Transformational Parenting for the Vacillator dives into how to make steps toward this, how being a vacillator affects your parenting, and what you can do as a parent to help your children grow into emotionally whole adults.

You may be reading this because someone dear to you is a vacillator. If so, check out Help! I’m Married to a Vacillator. This one is great even if its not your spouse.

Naming Emotions

The first step in being able to improve your relationships is to be able to notice and name what you are really feeling. You may feel very angry and realize that deep inside you are feeling afraid of losing someone dear to you. If you’d like to expand your vocabulary for how to voice your emotions, check out Naming Emotions for Spouses and Kids.

The Comfort Circle

How can you connect (rather than fight) with your spouse over difficult topics and build new neurological patterns in your brain related to relationship as well as healthier patterns in your relationship? How can you teach your kids to do the same? Find out here: The Comfort Circle

Want To Know More?

Milan and Kay Yerkovich wrote a great book called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. The workbook quoted and drawn from in this post is very helpful and practical for taking steps toward growth. They have a whole series for singles, couples, counselors, etc at How We Love. (note, I’m not an affiliate or anything. I just have benefited from these resources and want to share).

You can read about all the Love Styles Here.

More Posts In the Series:

If you’d like to know more about love styles, check out the Entire Love Style Series.

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Photo Credit: Photo adapted from Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash.


The key teachings of this post are consolidated from Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s excellent resources:

  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style Enhance Your Marriage. Christian Audio.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Workbook: Making Deeper Connections in Marriage. Waterbrook: 2017.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting. How to End the Struggles and Tension. The Crown Publishing Group: 2011.

Copyright ©  2019 Angela Edmonds. All rights reserved.


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