People ask: is it nurture or nature? There is enough evidence to validate it is both. We come into this world with a specific temperament. According to Milan and Kay Yerkovich, in their book How We Love, temperament coupled with the nurturing environment will produce several “love styles:” where we all learn to protect ourselves and the uncomfortable anxiety which comes when vital emotional needs are not being met: the avoider, the pleaser, the vacillator, the controller and the victim. Those that are avoiders, learn early in life to minimize their feelings, grow up independent, and go about meeting their own needs through much of their life and they don’t “need” a lot of “warm fuzzies.” Pleasers learn to be cautious, careful, and try hard to meet everyone’s expectations in an attempt to avoid criticism and keep peace. Thus they are always seeking connection. The Vacillators discovered early that sometimes caretakers were available and sometimes they were not. They learned to read others and wait and wait for that connection that they so desperately longed for and needed, but by the time it came they were too angry to accept it (too little too late). Consequently their love style seems to be hot then cold, then hot again. They vacillate between wanting connection and then pulling away. But alas, they will then feel the same abandonment they felt as children and the cycle starts all over again. Then there are the controllers and the victims. These types of children learn to hide their fears behind anger by acting out or detaching and complying. We have always heard it said “opposites attract.” This is very true in the physical world, where science class taught us about the chemical bonds of positive and negatively charged ions, but it also occurs in our relationships repeatedly. My thought is that all this opposite stuff is orchestrated by God. I took a phrase from John Eldridge. He called it a Divine Conspiracy. I agree. Why is it that the out-going bubbly people-lover extrovert will be attracted to the quieter, calmer individual or the more high-strung individual will end up with someone who is notoriously laid back to the point that sometimes you want to take their pulse just to see if they are still present and accounted for? Why is it that someone who is a penny pincher, saving their money for a rainy day, will often get hooked up with someone who thinks a penny will burn a hole in their pocket if it sits there very long? Or take this one…someone who likes the rules, wants and expects the children to obey quickly, first time and with a smile whose guardrails are pretty narrow, gets attracted to someone whose guardrails are somewhere out in left field. Here’s my theory. God does this on purpose because he wants us to be balanced. It’s a Divine Conspiracy. Stepping out of the “old way” and into a “new way” of life will be the most painful and yet the most rewarding thing you will ever do.
Here’s how it works. Two people growing up in their family of origin each pack an emotional suitcase. First person follows the rules, saves their money and likes order. Second person believes rules are to be broken, money is to be spent and chaos is their middle name. So through the years they each begin to pack their suitcase. The rule-follower packs everything in nice and neat, expecting, no demanding, that others play the game of life by their rules. When that doesn’t happen, somebody’s unhappy and then before you know it, everybody’s unhappy. The free-spirited, anything goes person, throws it all in, could care less about order or the future…let’s have fun now! Regardless, all these behaviors serve a purpose; they are a reaction to minimize anxiety prompted by pain and hurt when our emotional needs were not being met. This will work to a certain degree until these two people get married and the differences that brought them together unbeknown to them begin to rub off the veneer that was plastered on to create a pseudo self. If the washing machine of life stays on the gentle cycle things can function well for a while. But alas…life does happen, and it does get hectic. Suddenly we find ourselves in the spin cycle of life, and the suitcases fling open and all the stuff inside gets all over everyone…kids included …which is where you learned your scripts, and yes, you are passing it right along to your children as well. So, what happens? You come out of the end zones to butt heads on the 50 and then go back to your respective end zones to lick your wounds and point your finger at the other while negative thoughts of blame play over and over in your mind about how “wrong” they were. Then once things settle down the crazy cycle starts again usually the same old song and dance with a different flavor. The truth is that each of you has what the other needs. The rule-follower, tight wad, control freak needs to loosen up; and the chaotic, free-spirited, live for today spouse, needs to tighten up. God, as I stated, is all about balance and order. Why is it that the person you vowed to spend the rest of your life with can frustrate you more than any other person you know. When this happens we quickly come to the following conclusions: 1) It must be them…and 2) I must have married the wrong person. Actually neither of those is completely true. Our primary relationships growing up cause our own injurious scripts to be written on our heart resulting in our broken love styles bubbling up to the surface where they collide in an all-out frontal assault with the opposing love style specifically orchestrated to reprogram your way of relating. The problems you encounter in your marriage did not start there. They started long ago, and you and your spouse are dancing to the tune you both learned in your family of origin.
Is there any hope for us? I’m asked this frequently. My response is, “as long as there is breath, there is hope!” The pain can be productive if we can harness it for the purpose God intended. It is important to emphasize the need to refrain from pointing and laying blame on parents, or other significant care-givers in our developmental years. We all grow up with hurts and pains and needs that may not get met because life is what it is…it’s no one’s fault; it just is. The reality is this: “If you think the problem is ‘out there,’ that’s the problem.” Change can begin when you turn the mirror around and begin to look at self.
If you can discover your love style and why you and your spouse learn what the triggers are the send you over the edge in a reactionary state rather than responding , you will realize how the two of you can meet one another's needs and make life happen. It will be the best gift you give to yourself and your spouse. Learn to do life on the 50 and figure out God brought the two of you together and how to make it work for you instead of against you.