Core Pattern: Vacillator + Pleaser

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


1 Vacillator Tension Builds

The Vacillator’s anxiety/tension begin to build.

Anxiety Triggers

  • Idealization leads to disappointment
  • Becomes preoccupied with relational closeness/distance and ruminates on desired outcomes and past hurts
  • Feels abandoned when others differ or separate
  • Address problems with complaints rather than requests
  • Departure of others triggers abandonment anxiety. Disappointed if reunions are not ideal.


2 Vacillator Vents

The Vacillator vents their frustration and anxiety, assuming their partner’s intent is to hurt them.


3 Pleaser Responds

The Pleaser panics/freezes. They may lie to avoid further conflict, or try to minimize the complaints or put a positive spin on them. The Pleaser believes that the Vacillator should be satisfied by their “niceness”.


4 Vacillator Escalates

The Vacillator feels dismissed & misunderstood. They want “real” not “nice”; truth, not lies. The Vacillator escalates, protesting angrily.


5 Pleaser Attempts to Appease

Anxious about Vacillator’s anger, the Pleaser scurries to do nice things to appease the Vacillator and stem the anger… but does so while avoiding the problem.


6 Vacillator Escalates Further

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 Pleaser is Dejected

The Pleaser’s anxiety intensifies and they become frantic. They feel dejected, thinking “I can never do it right!”


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 Pleaser Waits

The Pleaser waits for the Vacillator to re-engage, and is relieved when they finally do. The Pleaser redoubles their efforts to please, in the hopes of avoiding another outburst.


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.