How Your Childhood Affects Your Love Style
by Rebecca Hieronymi
We all have a choice in becoming the people we strive to be, however, our childhoods do shape us to a certain extent. The behavioral patterns we form at a young age influence the way we express ourselves as adults and how we react to different situations. Marriage and Family counselors, Dr. Malen and Kay Yerkovich, found that everyone has a certain love style based on their upbringing. By understanding how we love we can learn how our love style affects our relationships. Dr. Malen and Kay Yerkovich identified ‘5 Love Styles’:
1. The Pleaser – Children who grow up in a home with an overly protective or angry and critical parent, often learn to do everything they can to be on their best behavior so as not to provoke a response from their parent. Rather than receiving comfort from their parent, they instead spend their time and energy comforting their reactive parent. As adults, Pleasers are uncomfortable with conflict and often deal with disagreements by giving in quickly. They have a hard time saying “no” and sometimes lie about their feelings to avoid difficult conversations. When Pleasers believe that they are letting someone down, they can have a breakdown and flee from relationships. Pleasers must learn to be honest about their feelings rather than trying to do what they think is expected of them in order to sustain healthy stable relationships.
2. The Victim – A person with this love style likely grew up in a chaotic home and had to learn to survive by putting less attention on themselves to stay under the radar. Since being fully present is painful for them, they often create an imaginary world to cope with the danger they face on a daily basis. They often develop low self-esteem and struggle with anxiety and depression. They may even end up marrying controlling partners who mirror the same behaviors as their parents. Since Victims are so used to chaos and stress, when they do experience calmness it actually makes them feel uneasy because they are anticipating the next blow-up. In order for Victims to have healthy stable relationships, they must learn self-love and to stand up for themselves when a situation calls for it.
3. The Controller – When a child grows up in a home where there wasn’t a lot of protection, they learn to “toughen up” and take care of themselves. In their adulthood, they often need to feel in control at all times to prevent the feeling of vulnerability they experienced in their childhood. People with this love style believe that if they are always in control, they can avoid experiencing negative feelings of fear, humiliation, and helplessness. Controllers need to learn how to let go, trust others, and manage their anger if they want to form stable long-lasting relationships.
4. The Vacillator –Children who grow up in a home with an unpredictable parent learn that their needs are not their parent’s top priority. They often develop a deep fear of abandonment because they did not have consistent affection from their parent. Vacillators have a tendency to idealize new relationships. However, when they feel let down or disappointed, they can become dejected, doubtful, and feel misunderstood. They can also be extremely sensitive to people’s moods, leading to a lot of internal conflict and emotional stress within their relationships. Vacillators need to learn how to pace themselves and get to know someone before committing too soon and getting hurt by their own expectations.
5. The Avoider – Children who grow up in a home that values independence and self-reliance and having little to no comfort from their parent, learn to take care of themselves at a very young age. To cope with their anxieties and to survive, they put their feelings and needs on hold. Avoiders tend to rely on logic and detachment more than their emotions. Avoiders must learn how to open up and express their emotions honestly in order to cultivate healthy and long-lasting relationships.
Which Love Style do you identify with? When you are able to recognize your love style and how it affects your relationships, you can create new healthy patterns of behavior. Always remember you have a right to be free from all forms of abuse. If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help.
Please contact us locally at 256.574.5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000, or at our website www.csna.org. Advocates provide free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.