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Marriage: the long haul – attachment styles


By Mark and Jan Yokers

Our marriage problems started long before we were ever married. Finding this out and discovering the roots of our unhealthy responses with our spouse or any close relationship is vital. (It is so crucial if we want to grow in maturity in those close relationships.) None of us has it “all together.” We can all learn and grow. It’s an amazing journey if both spouses believe this and pursue maturity. The following is a description of the two love styles we can form from being raised in a chaotic atmosphere:

The Controller
“I don’t like being outside of my comfort zone, so I always make sure I’m the one in charge. That way I know for sure that I won’t be taken advantage of.”

More about the Controller
Controllers need control to keep the vulnerable, painful feelings they experienced during childhood from surfacing in their adult lives. Having control means having protection from the overwhelming feelings of fear, humiliation, and helplessness they had to endure as kids. Anger is the one emotion that is not vulnerable, so intimidation and anger are often used to stay in charge. Control may be highly rigid or more sporadic and unpredictable, but Controllers rarely realize the real reason they need to be in charge. They rarely have compassion for themselves regarding the suffering they endured as children and therefore minimize the impact of their childhood trauma and its effects on their adult relationships.

Are you a Controller?
If these statements resonate with you, you might be a Controller.
• No one protected me from harm when I was growing up, so I had to get tough and take care of myself.
• Life has taught me to either “be in control” or “be controlled.”
• People would probably describe me as intimidating.
• Anger is really the only emotion I feel.
• Things need to be done a certain way, or I get angry.
• I have few feelings about my childhood, except I’m glad it’s over because I wouldn’t go back.

The Victim
“I keep my needs quiet, and honestly, I’m not even sure what my needs are. It’s safer when I just go with the flow—there’s less opportunity for a blow-up.”

More about the Victim
In chaotic homes, compliant kids survive by trying to stay under the radar. They hide, appease, and learn to tolerate the intolerable. At times they may disconnect (not be fully present) to lessen the pain caused by their neglectful, angry, chaotic parent(s). Some kids build whole imaginary worlds in their heads where they can escape the pain of abuse. As adults, victims lack a sense of self-worth and are often anxious, depressed, and just going through the motions. They may replicate their childhood home environment by marrying a Controller and using the same coping methods they learned as kids (compliance and retreat) to get along.

Are you a Victim?
If these statements resonate with you, you might be a Victim.
• Growing up, I experienced a great deal of intense anger and stress from a parent or parents.
• I’m used to chaos, and calm makes me anxious because something bad is always just around the corner.
• If I spoke up more and had stronger opinions, my spouse (or other significant relationships) would be even angrier.
• I feel like I’m just “going through the motions,” and I’m tired and out of energy.
• I often believe everything is my fault and think if I tried harder, things would be better.

If you are new to this series about love styles, we encourage you to read
Article 8, the Avoider Love Style, the Pleaser Love Style, and Article 9, The Vacillator Love Style. Then you will be familiar with all five Love Styles.

Most everyone likes a freebie! So if you want to find out your love style, you can take the free quiz at https://howwelove.com/love-style-quiz/

Next time we will write about the Secure Connector who says, “I am comfortable with myself and with others, able to handle conflict, negative emotions, and both giving and receiving. When I need help, I’m not afraid to ask for it.” This is the goal of someone who wants to become healthy in their relationships. There’s always hope, and we are excited to offer help!

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