Core Pattern: Vacillator + Avoider

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


1 Vacillator’s Tension Builds

The Vacillator’s anxiety/tension builds up due to:

  • Idealization, which leads to disappointment
  • Preoccupation with relational closeness/distance; ruminating on desired outcomes and past hurts
  • Feeling abandoned when others differ or separate
  • Addressing problems with complaints rather than requests
  • Arrivals/departures, or waiting for the spouse to engage


2 Vacillator Vents

The Vacillator vents or protests to lower anxiety, then moves from idealizing to devaluing. The Vacillator is likely to assume their partner’s motives are to hurt intentionally.


3 Avoider Stunned

The Vacillator’s vent catches the Avoider off-guard. They may ask “What just happened?” The avoider reacts defensively, minimizing the issue; they believe the Vacillator is too emotional and has trouble empathizing with them. Likewise, the Avoider is dismissive of feelings, pain, or new idealistic ideas or crusades.


4 Vacillator is Hurt

The Vacillator feels dismissed, invisible, and/or misunderstood. Angry and flooded with emotion, they react, escalating the situation.


5 Avoider Overwhelmed

The Avoider is overwhelmed by the Vacillator’s emotional display and sees them as unreasonable. The Avoider will often feel a fight or flight response.


6 Vacillator: Triggered

The Vacillator feels abandoned, which intensifies their feelings. Strong language might be used, they may threaten to leave or divorce. Internally, they begin to devalue their partner and, over time, may feel contempt and disgust for them.


7 Avoider: Triggered

The Avoider reacts by shutting down and/or retreating. They may make themselves busy with tasks, or simply leave.


8 Vacillator Reflects

Ultimately, the Vacillator’s anxiety is relieved through anger. They may express their displeasure by pouting or sulking. Privately, however, they will review the event and assign motives and intentions to the Avoider’s actions. Eventually, they may privately feel shame over their anger and/or words, and may feel unloveable.


9 Avoider Waits it Out

The Avoider simply waits for Vacillator to “get over it” – there is no real resolution. When the Vacillator re-engages, the family complies, acting like nothing happened.


Eventually, this cycle starts all over again or destroys the relationship.

Breaking the Cycle

If you are ready to break this destructive cycle, consider taking a look at the following offerings.