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

1. Vacillator's Tension Builds

The Vacillator's anxiety/tension builds due to:

  • Idealization, which leads to disappointment.
  • Preoccupation with relational closeness/distance; ruminating on desired outcomes and past hurts.
  • Feeling abandoned when others differ or separate.
  • Addressing problems with complaints rather than requests.
  • Arrivals/departures, or waiting for the spouse to engage causes tension inside the Vacillator.

2. Vacillator Vents

Disappointment causes the Vacillator to vent or protest which lowers their anxiety, then moves from idealizing to devaluing. The Vacillator is likely to assume their partner’s motives are to intentionally hurt them. Most vacillators are not aware their anger releases anxiety and rarely share more vulnerable feelings. Vacillators may also relieve feelings of dissatification by becoming part of a new crusade, planning a trip, wanting to move, etc.

3. Avoider Stunned

The Vacillator’s vent catches the Avoider off-guard. They may ask “What just happened?” The avoider reacts defensively, minimizing the issue; they believe the Vacillator is too emotional and has expectations that are unreasonable. Having no emotional connection or comfort growing up, the Avoider is dismissive of the Vacillators distress. Avoiders resist new ideas, crusades moves, etc.

4. Vacillator is Hurt

The Vacillator feels dismissed, invisible, and/or misunderstood. Angry and flooded with emotion, they react, escalating the situation.

5. Avoider Overwhelmed

The Avoider is overwhelmed by the Vacillator’s emotional display and sees them as unreasonable. The Avoider will often feel a fight or flight response.

6. Vacillator Triggered

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. Avoider Triggered

The Avoider reacts by shutting down and/or retreating. They may make themselves busy with tasks, or simply leave the presence of the Vacillator..

8. Vacillator Reflects

Ultimately, the Vacillator’s anxiety has been relieved through anger. They may express their displeasure by pouting or sulking. Privately, 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 but this is a private experience and is rarely shared. The vacillator blames others and doesn’t realize these feeling originated in their childhood.

9. Avoider Waits It Out

The Avoider simply waits for Vacillator to “get over it”; there is no real resolution. When the Vacillator re-engages, the family complies, acting like nothing happened even through they are suffering and upset due to the angry outburst.


The cycle repeats and prevents a close, satisfying relationships. Problems are rarely resolved.

Break the Cycle

Core Patterns: Vacillator + Avoider

Your Core Pattern is the enemy not your partner. This Audio file and PDF provides an in-depth look at Vacillator–Avoider Core Pattern. It includes a circular diagram of this Core Pattern, explanations and all applicable interventions to exit this destructive, reactive dance.