Core Pattern: Vacillator + Controller

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 deregulated.
  • 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 or others


3 Vacillator Vents Frustration

The Vacillator vents/protests/releases their tension. They assume their partner’s motives are to intentionally hurt them, and they match the Controllers 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.


5 Vacillator Returns Anger

The Vacillator matches the Controllers anger with their own. Any statements are black-and-white. They react with contempt and disgust.



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 or destroys the relationship.