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

1. Tension Builds in the Controller

Non-compliance causes stress and tension builds in the Controller. Controllers can be rigid, easily angered and unpredictable. 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 vulnerable feelings of anxiety, shame or abandonment, the Controller quickly falls back to anger. It's safer to control the other partner because they don't know how to connect. The Controller has no empathy for themselves as to the suffering experienced during their childhood and often have many uncomforted  wounds buried inside.

2. Controller Vents

As tension and stress build, the Controller vents and/or rages to regain compliance and predictability.

3. Victim Triggered (Fear)

Having learned to tolerate the intolerable during childhood, the Victim attempts to placate the Controller. However, the Victim has little or no voice in the relationship; they are child-like. Their experiences as a child left the Victim feeling unloveable, unworthy and full of shame.

4. Controller Escalates

Detached from their own childhood trauma, the Controller lacks empathy for themself or others, and may become physically or emotionally abusive. They are likely to resort to addictions to numb their pain.

5. Victim Freezes

Following the "incident", the Victim freezes or dissociates. They become depressed and/or detached, and may even threaten to leave the Controller but fear retaliation. Addictions may be used to numb pain. The victim believes it's all their fault just as they did as kids.

6. Controller Compensates

Controllers dislike the Victims increased distance and fear abandonment by the victim. 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 or change their behavior as promised.

7. Temporary Power-shift

The Victim now holds power for a short time. Denying reality, they tell themselves that the “calm” means the Controller will change. However, this “calm” only lasts until Controller’s tension builds once again.


The cycle repeats and prevents any satisfying connection or resolution of problems.

Break the Cycle

Core Patterns: Controller + Victim

The core pattern is the enemy, not your spouse! This audio file and PDF provides an in-depth look at Controller-Victim Core Pattern. It includes a circular diagram of this Core Pattern and all applicable interventions to exit this destructive dance.