If you take an in-depth look into your current or past relationships, you might notice that you tend to display the same kind of behavior in all your relationships.

Some of you will realize that you are always trying to please your partner, others will realize they are constantly trying to assert control over their partners, you might notice that you usually have an idealized picture of what your lover should be, and so on.

This does not happen by chance. Instead, it is a direct result of your experiences as you grew up.

Our experiences during childhood play a very huge role in our lives.

They form the roots of who we grow to be and are the basis on which we react to different situations in adulthood, including our love lives.

Since the moment our minds become capable of understanding the world in the slightest way possible and forming memories, we start watching how the people closest to us – our parents or caregivers – relate to us and to each other.

In essence, it is like they are writing a script for us to follow once we grow up.

Throughout our lives, we continue relying on this script to guide us when it comes to issues such as understanding what love is, expressing our love to others, and our reactions to those who love us.

In other words, our childhood experiences and the scripts that our parents or caregivers wrote for us can be used to predict how we express and respond to love during our adulthood.

Based on these scripts, most of us can be divided into distinct categories based on how we give and express love.

These categories are known as love styles, and according to Dr. Millan and Kay Yerkovich, there are five love styles, namely the pleaser, the victim, the controller, the vacillator, and the avoider.

A love style is essential a set of inclinations and tendencies of how we associate and relate to our romantic partners.

Learning how your specific love style affects your romantic relationships can help you have cultivate better relationships.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the five love styles.


The people who fall within this category grew up in homes with parents who were either angry and critical or overly protective.

The pleaser might also have grown up in families with distressed parents or very wild siblings.

Growing up, the pleaser is usually the “good kid.”

They do everything within their ability to be on their best behavior in order not to provoke their parents, who will usually react angrily and harshly to any perceived misdeed.

Rather than receiving comfort from their parents, children who turn out to be pleasers are the ones who give comfort to their reactive parents.

On the outside, pleasers may seem to be well put together, like they have everything figured out.

In school, they are usually role models that other students are encouraged to emulate.

They are usually very nice, have a giving nature, and are usually very committed, which is what spouses of pleasers get attracted to in the first place.

Despite the demeanor of someone who has everything all figured out, pleasers are very uncomfortable with conflict.

When they find themselves in a disagreement, they try to end the disagreement quickly by either making up for the disagreement or giving in.

When they are bothered by something or angry with their spouse, they might resort to passive aggressiveness rather than directly addressing the situation, since this might potentially lead to a confrontation.

Sometimes, they might even lie about what they feel in order to avoid a confrontation.

When problems arise, instead of trying to work things out, they see the problem as the end of something.

Pleasers are very anxious about making other people upset, and as they grow up, they learn to read the moods of others and behave in ways that ensure they can keep everyone happy.

Pleasers have a hard time saying no and do not have any personal boundaries.

As a result, they will often put the needs of others before their own. They will spread themselves thin handling the requests of others, even when this means abandoning their own.

Pleasers also care too much about the opinions of family members and other people close to them, and might appear not to have any opinions of their own.

In order to build stable relationships, people who find themselves in this category should learn to be honest about their own feelings, wants and needs.

They have to learn how to maintain personal boundaries, and most importantly, they need to learn how to stand up for themselves and do what feels right to them instead of what is expected of them.

Are you a pleaser?

To know if you fall under this category, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you say that you were described as the “good kid” for most or all of your childhood?
  • Do you feel anxious when someone is annoyed or upset because of something you did, to the extent that you have become good at “keeping the peace?”
  • Do you try to build connections and avoid rejection by anticipating the needs of others and fulfilling them?
  • Does conflict make you uneasy to the extent that you quickly make up for disagreements or quickly give in just to move on from the conflict?
  • Do you have trouble saying no to others?
  • Do you ever find yourself being less truthful just to avoid confrontations?

If your answer to most of these questions is yes, then you might be a pleaser.


The people who fall under this category usually grew up in very chaotic homes, with one or both parents being very angry and violent.

From a very young age, victims learn that the best way to survive is to be compliant and to stay under the radar so that they don’t attract a lot of attention to themselves.

They learn to hide and stay quiet whenever the violent parent is around, because they know the parent might get triggered by anything and take out his or her anger on them.

Very often, because of the trauma of growing with an angry and violent parent, children who grow to be victims build imaginary worlds inside their minds where they can escape to when the reality within the home becomes too unbearable.

Due to the trauma of growing up in chaotic environments, victims often have low self-esteem and do not have their own opinions or an adult voice. They may also struggle with anxiety and depression.

They feel powerless when it comes to effecting change in others.

Since they learnt to be compliant ever since childhood, victims will always go with the flow even during adulthood and will have a hard time resisting the influence of others or maintaining their personal boundaries.

Even in times of relative calmness, victims might still feel uneasy because they expect something nasty to blow up any minute.

Victims may dissociate from reality or fall into addiction as a way of dealing with problems in their lives. They might also display anger towards children.

The spouses of victims are initially attracted to them due to the victim’s compliance and non-resistance.

However, much later in the relationship, the spouse might start seeing them as a kid and start despising them because of their weakness.

Ironically, victims may end up in relationships with controllers who have the same behaviors the victim had to deal with when growing up.

In order to build stable, healthy relationships, victims should learn to standup for themselves instead of letting their partners manipulate and take advantage of them.

Are you a victim?

To know if you fall under this category, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • During your childhood, did one or both of your parents take out a great deal of their anger and stress on you?
  • Are you so used to chaos that calm situations make you uneasy because you expect something bad to happen any minute?
  • Do you feel that your spouse (or other people you have close relationships with) would get even angrier if you spoke up more or expressed your opinions more strongly?
  • Do you ever feel like you are just do things because they should be done, without any commitment or enthusiasm?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you might be a victim.


People who exhibit the controller love style grew up in homes where they were not given a lot of attention or any sense of protection.

Without the parent’s or caregiver’s protection, these children learnt that the only way to survive is to toughen up and learn how to take care of themselves.

They learn not to be dependent on anyone from a very young age.

Controllers feel the need to be in control at all times because this helps them keep away the feelings of fear, helplessness and humiliation.

If you take away their sense of control, they are usually left feeling very vulnerable.

Controllers have a strong tendency to display anger.

To them, anger is a weapon that they use to intimidate others and ensure that they don’t lose their power.

Controllers don’t have much empathy towards others, and will often demand compliance from others, even when the compliance may result in the other person getting hurt.

Owing to their need to always feel in control, people who exhibit this love style usually have very rigid tendencies.

They will expect things to be done in a certain manner and may get very angry if there is a deviation from their usual way of doing things.

Sometimes, however, they may act in sporadic and unpredictable ways. They might feel that the more unpredictable they are, the harder it is for others to control them.

Controllers like dealing with problems on their own, but they are usually very wary about stepping out of their comfort zone since doing so leaves them feeling vulnerable.

Controllers may find themselves struggling with various addictions.

The spouses of controllers are initially attracted to them because they like the controller’s decisiveness and their ability to take charge.

Deeper into the relationship, however, the spouse might start feeling afraid or abused.

In order to build stable, healthy and long lasting relationships, controllers need to learn how to trust others, how to relinquish control and how to control their anger.

Are you a controller?

To know if you fall under this category, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel like you had no one to protect you during your childhood, so you learnt how to take care of yourself from a very young age?
  • Do you feel that in life, you have to be in control, otherwise you will get controlled?
  • Do you prefer to handle your problems by yourself?
  • Would you say that there are people who find you to be intimidating?
  • Do you tend to get angry when things don’t get done how you expect?
  • When you think about your childhood, do you tend to feel glad that it’s over because you wouldn’t like to relive it?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you might be a controller.


Kids who grow up to become vacillators are often brought up by very unpredictable parents.

The parent gives the kid just enough attention to make them desire more, though the more is never forthcoming.

From a young age, these children learn that they are nowhere near their parent’s top priorities.

Due to this lack of consistent attention from their parents, these children become highly sensitive to signs of connection and rejection and develop a deep fear of being abandoned.

Due to the lack of attention, vacillators feel alone and misunderstood.

When they get to adulthood, vacillators get on a quest to find the consistent love and connection that they were deprived of during their childhood.

The result is that they tend to idealize new relationships.

When they get into a new relationship, they feel like they have found their soul mate and dedicate lots of time and attention to the relationship.

They feel that they will finally get the love and attention that they so much crave.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for their partner to live to the idealized image in the vacillator’s mind, so the vacillator becomes disappointed and start blaming and despising the partner because they feel the partner is not loving them as they should.

Even in adulthood, vacillators feel misunderstood and go through lots of stress and internal conflict within their relationships.

Due to their high sensitivity to signs of connection and rejection, they can will spot even the slightest change in their partners.

During the initial stages of a relationship, the spouse of a vacillator is attracted by the fact that the relationship feels to sizzling.

There is a lot of passion.

With time, however, the spouse starts feeling like they are not enough.

Regardless of what the spouse does, it doesn’t feel enough. This is because the vacillator’s expectations are based on an idealized version of their spouse.

This forces the spouse to act like they are walking on egg shells because they are fearful of the vacillator’s mood shifts.

In order to build stable and healthy relationships, the vacillator needs to learn how to pace themselves, how to take the time to know their partner before fully committing to the relationship, and how to have realistic expectations of a relationship so they don’t end up getting hurt by their own expectations.

Are you a vacillator?

To know if you fall under this category, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel like no one really understands you or your needs?
  • Are your relationships characterized by high levels of internal conflict and emotional stress?
  • Do you sometimes find yourself picking fights with your partner even if you are not sure the reason behind the fight?
  • Do others feel like they have to tread lightly whenever you are around to avoid upsetting you?
  • Are you highly sensitive to others such that you can easily tell when someone is pulling away from you?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you might be a vacillator.


People who exhibit this love style usually grew up in homes where affection and the expression of feelings and needs was either minimized or discouraged.

They grew up in performance based homes where independence and self-reliance were the only values being encouraged.

Since they do not receive much affection and comfort from their parents, these children learn that the only way to avoid feeling anxious about the lack of affection is to learn to restrict their feelings and avoid coming across as needy.

Avoiders learn to take care of themselves from a very young age. They also learn to approach situations based on logic and detachment rather than emotion.

They tend to feel uncomfortable dealing with the emotional ups and downs of people around them and love being given their own space.

Having grown in homes devoid of affection, avoiders are not very good at expressing their love verbally.

Instead, they might prefer expressive their love through non-verbal ways such as quality attention, giving of gifts and physical touch.

Sometimes, however, even physical touch might be a problem.

For instance, some avoiders might only be comfortable with physical touch during sex.

They will avoid other forms of physical affection such as hugging, cuddling or holding hands.

Avoiders might also prefer superficial conversations over deeper conversations meant to create a connection and can also be quite dismissive. Additionally, many avoiders have very low empathy.

Avoiders are usually focused on performance and solutions, and many of them become workaholics. They might spend all their time on their work or hobbies, to the extent that their partner might feel ignored.

During the early stages of a relationship, the spouse of an avoider is usually attracted by the sense of stability, responsibility and predictability in the avoider’s life.

With time, however, the spouse might feel like they are not needed, and that they are left out in decision-making.

The spouse can also feel like the avoider is indifferent or emotionally detached. In order to have healthy, stable and long lasting relationships, avoiders need to learn how to open up to their partners and freely express what their emotions.

Are you an avoider?

To know if you are an avoider, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you always say you are fine and try to quickly get over anything bad that might happen to you?
  • Growing up, do you feel like personal concerns were rarely ever discussed within your family?
  • Do you tend to feel happiest when those around you are also happy and don’t require anything from you?
  • Do you feel like you rarely ever think about your own feelings?
  • Do you prefer being given your space?
  • Do you rarely find yourself missing your spouse or family when they are away?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you might be an avoider.


The five love styles we looked at above show the different types of emotional injury people might go through their childhood and how this emotional injury affects their love life during adulthood.

Regardless of the kind of love style you currently exhibit, what you should aspire to be is a secure connector.

The secure connector is a person who is comfortable with giving and receiving love.

Secure connectors recognize both their strengths and weaknesses and those of others and can interact with their romantic partners without idealizing or devaluing.

They have no problem communicating their feelings and needs, they are good at resolving conflicts and are comfortable with setting and maintaining personal boundaries.

Because of these characteristics, secure connectors build the healthiest and most stable relationships.

Are you a secure connector?

  • To know if you are a secure connector, you should ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do you have a wide range of emotions that you have no problem expressing appropriately?
  • Do you recognize that you are not perfect and give your partner room to express themselves, even if it means disagreeing with you?
  • Are you comfortable saying no to others, even when you know it will make them upset?
  • Do you find it easy to ask for and receive help from others when you need it?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you might be a secure connector.


Our childhood experiences have a huge impact on how we express and receive love during childhood. Based on how you were brought up, majority of people will fall within the love styles discussed above.

Knowing your lifestyle and that of your lover is crucial because it helps you understand some of your tendencies and inclinations or those of your lover that might be affecting your relationship.

Ideally, you should aspire to transform yourself to a secure connector, such that you become comfortable expressing and receiving love and maintaining a healthy and respectful relationship with your partner.

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