The Vacillator grew up with a parent who connects in sporadic and unpredictable ways or more blatantly connects then abandons the child by leaving the family. It’s more about the parents needs than the child’s needs. These kids get enough connection to make them desire more so the longing for connection is kindled, but they end up waiting and wondering when the parent might show them some attention again. By the time parents are in the mood to connect, the child is tired of waiting and may be too angry to receive.

As adults, vacillators are on a quest to find gratifying, consistent connection they missed as kids. They idealize new relationships thinking—I have found it! As soon as real life sets in and they have to wait for their spouse to be available, vacillators become angry and critical and focus on the problems in their spouse. Vacillators don’t recognize their childhood pain is a big part of their current reactivity. People married to vacillators say, “I feel like I’m walking on egg shells and getting a mixed message….come here…..go away. I can’t do enough to make my spouse happy.”

The Vacillator

The Vacillator

From Parents

Sporadic, inconsistent attention based on parent’s needs and moods. More about a parent’s needs than a child’s needs. Child must wait for time and attention. Waiting magnifies a child’s longing for connection and makes them angry. Child feels ambivalent—”I want you, but I’m mad that I must wait and it’s never on my terms.”

Vacillator Adult Intimacy

Desires intense connection that they can feel. Idealizes, and then devalues. Easily disappointed and feels abandoned and betrayed when others differ or want space. More likely to display anger than hurt.


To have the” ideal” relationship (then it would be pain free). Highly sensitive, craves attention. Mistakes intensity for intimacy. Devalues when disappointed and the intense “good” feelings are gone.


To feel special, exclusive, seen and understood. Avoids criticism as it means, “I’m flawed, unlovable.” Shame is at the core.

Prominent Feeling

Anxious if close (they will leave). Anxious if apart (abandoned, not seen, do they want me?). Shows anger. Underneath the anger the child feels confused and disappointed. Sadness and grief are underdeveloped. Ruminates on past hurts and desired outcomes (rehearses and reviews). Preoccupied.


Separation is difficult. Feels abandoned when made to wait for attention or when others depart. Easily feels overlooked, disregarded, and misunderstood.

Response to Stress

Fights/protests. Build-up of anxiety eventually releases in an angry outburst. Vacillators will say “I feel better,” after being angry. Mixed messages: “Come here (I need you),” or “go away (I’m mad).” When frightened, they will abandon others first before they can be abandoned.

The Vacillator – Awareness and Reflection Skills

What is Self-Awareness?

The ability to internally reflect, understand and evaluate inner responses and outward behaviors. Can communicate this awareness to others.

Vacillator’s Self Awareness
Others-focused since childhood. Only aware of how others hurt or anger them. Little awareness or ability to reflect on how their wounds and behaviors contribute to relational dynamics. 

What is Others-Awareness?

The ability to reflect on, ask about and describe internal feelings, thoughts, and reactions of others. Able to put self in another’s shoes and see from their perspective.

Vacillator’s Others-Awareness

Little ability to put themselves in another’s shoes or put aside their own feelings to listen to and understand the perspective of another. Preoccupied with how others hurt or anger them.

Comfort Level in Dealing with Negative/ Painful Emotions

The ability to control reactivity when recognizing and responding to negative emotions in self and others.

How Vacillator Deals with Negative Emotions
Angry, but unaware of underlying emotions in self. Little awareness of the impact of their anger on others. Sees own emotions as valid and others’ negative emotions as invalid.

Still Have Some Questions?

Most people have similar questions about the results of their quiz. Here are some questions we are asked most often about love styles and quiz results.