Love Styles and Boundaries

Vacillators and Boundaries

Let’s begin by reviewing what boundaries are all about.  Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written extensively on the topic of boundaries.

The following overview is taken from the book by Cloud, Changes that Heal.  He devotes a chapter on boundaries.


Boundaries are the ability to maintain one’s own identity and selfhood while connecting with others.

An intimate relationship needs both vulnerability and closeness as well as the freedom to move apart and be separate.

In a healthy relationship, each person is supportive and encourages the uniqueness and
growth of the other.

In other words, closeness does not equal sameness.


Thinking about a relationship with no (or few) boundaries will help us better understand boundaries.

An enmeshed or fused relationship is an unhealthy bond in which boundaries are violated and any individuality, separateness, or differences are viewed as a threat and are not easily tolerated.

Dependence may be exaggerated and the ability to function independently is limited.

Vacillators and Boundaries

Vacillator’s go back and forth between boundaries that are too rigid and too soft.

When things are good and idealized their boundaries are often too soft or lacking.

When disappointment sets in and they are angry, a vacillator’s boundaries may become rigid and too extreme.

Let me explain.

In new situations Vacillators tend to idealize and ignore red flags that, if seen, might make them a bit more cautious and willing to say “no”.

Vacillators crave change and new situations because it is easy to idealize and get excited about something new.

New means there are no disappointments yet.

In new situations vacillators ignore red flags and see only the good.

When vacillators are getting some intense “good” feelings whether from a new church, new relationship, new pregnancy, new job, new move, (etc) their boundaries are too soft.

The “good” feelings are a great distraction from any problems in their life.

Noticing any potential problems, red flags or probable disappointments would kill the good feelings.

To set boundaries one must see and anticipate potential problems.

Ignoring red flags makes this impossible.

Let me share an example.

I worked with a vacillator who constantly changed jobs.

Early on in a job interview, she (it could have been a he) would enthusiastically believe whatever she was told about the new company without questioning anything or looking for potential problems.

She idealized anything new and her enthusiasm was contagious so she often got the “new” job.

She accepted any terms (straight commission, no insurance etc.) telling me, “They will promote me when they see what a good job I do.”

She promised the moon, set no limits, never negotiated; she just impulsively “dove in”.

Of course it did not take long for problems to develop and disappointments to set in.

She was so “blindsided” when she encountered difficulties that she overreacted and became rigid in her boundaries.

“I’m quitting tomorrow.

How do you expect people to live on straight commission?

I can’t even pay my rent.”

Before long she was angry discontent and looking for a new job.

Here is a growth tip for vacillators.

Own the fact that you crave something new idealizing the outcome.

Look for potential problems.

Look for and write down red flags.

Try to discover what the potential problems and disappoints will be.

Be cautious.

Set some limits.

When you are angry and reactive that is not the time to announce your boundaries.

Sit on it.

Process it.

Think about it.

Set sad, not mad.

Share the hurt.

Be reasonable rather than overreacting.

You are way more likely to be heard and respected if you take this approach.

Love and blessings,

Milan & Kay

Next Week: Continued Discussion of Boundaries and the Love Styles – Controllers and Victims and Boundaries..