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

1. Vacillator Tension Builds

The Vacillator’s anxiety/tension builds up 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.

2. Controller Tension Builds

Build-up tension. Controller builds up anxiety/tension due to:

  • Non-compliance.
  • Being rigid, easily angered, and unpredictable.
  • Desire for compliance/control create predictability. Unpredictability is a reminder of childhood trauma.
  • Anger being a defense against painful/vulnerable feelings.
  • Desiring control, not connection.
  • Having no empathy for self (childhood trauma) or others.

3. Vacillator Vents Frustration  (The Controller May Also Instigate the Event)

The Vacillator vents/protests/releases their tension. They assume their partner's motives are to intentionally hurt them, and they match the Controller's anger with their own anger. This can devolve into a shouting match with the possibility of violence.

4. Controller Threatened

Crisis point. Feeling that their control is threatened, the Controller uses anger and intimidation to regain control.  Their anger is more about wanting complaince than connection.

5. Vacillator Returns Anger

The Vacillator matches the Controller's anger with their own. Statements are black-and-white and eventually the Vacillator feels contempt and disgust.

6. Standoff

The crisis ends in a standoff. There is no resolution, but tension may die down. This is simply the calm before the next storm.


This cycle starts all over again and eventually may destroy the relationship.  Couple connects by fighting rather than sharing vulnerable emotions and needs.  Often this is the way they experienced connection as a child.

Break the Cycle

Core Patterns: Vacillator + Controller

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