1. Tension Builds in the Controller
Non-compliance causes the Controller to build stress and tension. Controllers can be rigid, easily angered, and intimidating. 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. Controlling their partner keeps things predictable and safe for the Controller. Controllers did not experience vulnerable, safe connection growing up. Relationships were not safe as a child and therefore do not feel safe now. The Controller has no empathy for themselves or the ways they suffered as a child and therefore lack empathy for others. There are always many uncomforted wounds inside the Controller that have never been addressed.
2. Controller Vents
As tension builds to a breaking point, the Controller vents and/or rages. Feelings of anxiety, shame or threat are quickly replaced with anger.
3. Avoider is Surprised
The Avoider is caught off-guard by the Controller’s anger and will react by minimizing the problem (“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 and can’t remember the how it felt to be the object of another’s rage during their own childhood. Anger feels justified.
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 Controlle'rs 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. This pattern blocks close connection and makes resolving problems nearly impossible.
Break the Cycle
Core Patterns: Controller + Avoider
Your core pattern is the enemy, not your spouse! This audio file and PDF provides an in-depth look at Controller-Avoider Attachment Core Pattern. It includes a diagram of this Core Pattern, explanations of the predictable interactions and all applicable interventions to move out of this destructive, reactive cycle.