Anger and the Love Styles

Wisdom to ponder:

Proverbs 19:11
A man’s (or woman’s) discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

Anger and the Love Styles:

This month we are looking at anger and how each of the love styles handles the emotion of anger.  Last week we talked about the avoider and the pleaser.  This week we look at the vacillator and the last week in January we will discuss the controller and victim.


Several situations serve as triggers to make vacillators angry.  Because they experienced unpredictable connection as kids and were often made to wait, they often become angry when they are made to wait for time and attention.

You might understand the vacillators in your life and have more compassion for them if you think of it this way.

Remember the behaviorist, Skinner who discovered he could shape the behavior or rats by rewarding certain behaviors?

He also discovered he could extinguish the behavior by ceasing to reward the behaviors.

Then he played around with intermittent reinforcement.

Skinner  experimented with what happens when intermittent rewards are given at regular intervals (like every third time the rat hits the food bar he gets a treat verses irregular intervals (the rat gets a treat on the second hit, then the sixteenth, then the fifth, …etc.)

The more unpredictable the reward the harder the rats tried.

Then Skinner stopped offering food altogether (to extinguish the behavior) to the rats who had received the food in an irregular and unpredictable fashion.

Instead of giving up, as he expected the rats drove themselves crazy compulsively hitting the lever to get food even though nothing was coming their way.

Skinner made a discovery that surprised him.

Irregularly rewarded behavior was the HARDEST of all to eradicate.  WOW!  Don’t miss that, because that’s EXACTLY what happened to vacillators growing up.

They never knew exactly when their attempts to get attention would work.  Sometimes the first try.  Sometimes the fifth.  Sometimes fifteen tries would get them absolutely nothing.

Avoiders got so little reinforcement, they just quit wanting.

Pleasers learned to focus on others and tried to shape their caretaker’s behavior by being good.

Vacillators got intermittent attention and they were hooked.  Keep trying….it will work….eventually.   After having to work so hard for something so unpredictable as kids, vacillators became angry, but they couldn’t stop trying.

Unknowingly they are still in this pursuit as adults.  The drive to find intense, REGULAR connection they can FEEL is relentless.   You are the food lever and they are pushing, pushing, pushing, trying to get you to respond.

Back to Marie’s Question at the Beginning of the Month.

I read your book and I’m trying to figure out what love style fits my husband.  We have been married five years and lately he’s so easily angered that I don’t know what to think. 

How can I figure out why he’s so mad all the time?  Do you think his anger related to his love style?  Marie

Answer to Marie

Marie, if your husband is a vacillator his anger might be related to his love style.

Does he have a high need for your time and attention?

Is he frustrated and upset if you are unavailable or he has to wait or feels disappointed?

Did he idealize you when you were dating and had more time to spend together?

Is his anger about your inability to respond adequately to his needs?


If so, imagine how frustrating his experience as a child may have been.  We highly recommend you go through the chapter for the vacillator in the workbook.  There is a section for the spouse of the vacillator with some practical ideas about how to help the vacillator.

Milan and Kay


PS:   A Note from Kay:  Sometimes you come across a book that seems to speak just to you and your problems. “The Gospel According to Job” by Mike Mason is such a book.