Core Pattern: Controller + Avoider

Core Patterns tend to manifest as predictable, cyclical behavior patterns. Below is the pattern common to relationships where partners have the Controller + Avoider love styles, respectively.


1 Controller Builds Up Tension

Non-compliance causes the Controller to start building up tension. Controllers are rigid, easily angered, and deregulated. For the Controller, compliance and control create predictability, while unpredictability is a reminder of childhood trauma that can leave them feeling vulnerable. As a defense against those vulnerable feelings, the Controller falls back to anger. It’s safer to control the other partner than connect, and the Controller has no empathy for themselves or others.


2 Controller Vents

having built up tension to a breaking point, the Controller vents and/or rages.

When a Controller’s control is threatened or stress is high, they tend to vent by rage.


3 Avoider is Surprised

The Avoider is caught off-guard by the controller’s anger and will react by minimizing the problem (e.g. “It’s no big deal! What’s the problem?”). The Avoider lacks insight or empathy for controller’s childhood wounds as well as their own wounds.


4 Controller Escalates

Feeling dismissed, the Controller escalates, demanding acknowledgement and compliance.

  • May become physically and/or emotionally abusive.
  • Is detached from own childhood trauma, so lacks empathy for self or others.


5 Avoider Detaches

Feeling unjustly accused, the Avoider becomes evasive and looks for ways to detach and leave the presence of the Controller. They may comply just enough to get the Controller to leave him/her alone. Ultimately, the Avoider increases their distancing behavior.


6 Controller Compensates

Controllers dislike the Avoider’s increased distance since it limits the Controllers ability to monitor them. To compensate, the Controller may:

  • Apologize while excusing, blaming, and minimizing the severity of their reactivity
  • Promise it won’t happen again
  • Temporarily become an underdog, begging for another chance
  • Never actually admit wrongdoing


As the relationship progresses and the cycle repeats, the Avoider will distance themselves more and more. Eventually, the Avoider may want to leave, but is fearful that the Controller may retaliate.