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Discovering Your Love Style (Part 2 of 2)

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Discovering Your Love Style (Part 2 of 2)

Counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich offer helpful insights on learning how you show love to others, particularly your spouse, and explain what steps you can take toward loving like God does and breaking negative patterns to create a deeper, richer marriage. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 8, 2016

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich offer helpful insights on learning how you show love to others, particularly your spouse, and explain what steps you can take toward loving like God does and breaking negative patterns to create a deeper, richer marriage. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 8, 2016

Episode Transcript



Mr. Milan Yerkovich: I t was hard to feel like I could capture you or that I could pull you into a place that I could feel as though there was something substantive and meaningful. I appreciate the point Kay made, because a lot of times a person who’s married to an avoider would believe that they are just holding out. But truly, Kay did not have the words to be able to describe how she felt.

End of Teaser:

John Fuller: Milan Yerkovich, describing how he and his wife, Kay got stuck in their marriage as a result of something they call “differing love styles” and you’ll find out more about identifying those styles and improving your marriage relationship today on this Best of 2016 “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Last time I learned so much from Milan and Kay Yerkovich. If you, the listener didn’t hear the first part of this discussion, you gotta get the CD or the download or listen on the Focus app, because it does set the stage for the discussion we’re about to hear today.

We talked about the love styles Milan and Kay identified and John, you were just referring to and those styles open your eyes and give you a different perspective toward the conflict you may be having in your marriage. And it’s probably a pattern that’s repeating itself and so, it helps you identify that pattern and to correct it. It’s a refreshing way to look at those things that the enemy wants to use against us. And if you can acknowledge them and learn to grow more secure in who you are, you can have stronger marriages and stronger relationships and that in the end, is what it’s all about.

John: And Milan and Kay have extensive experience. They’ve been married almost 40 years and they counseled couples. They write; they speak and their book, How We Love: Discover Your Love Style and Enhance Your Marriage is the basis for this Best of 2016 “Focus on the Family” conversation.


Jim: It was so interesting last time to talk about these styles and for those who did not hear them, can I ask you to quickly recap those? There’s five. Kay, why don’t you hit ’em?

Kay Yerkovich: All right, the avoider is the emotionally distant and detached person. The pleaser is the nice, good spouse, who always wants harmony and doesn’t want to really do anything that’s too difficult emotionally. They don’t like conflict. The vacillator is the protestor. They have very ideal standards and when they’re disappointed, they’re upset. They protest and they want to always get right back up to ideal, so they can be moody. It’s all good or it’s all bad. It’s not a lot of middle ground.

And then we ended talking about the controller and the victim and these folks come from really difficult homes where there’s abuse; there’s neglect and the kind of feisty kids become controllers and more compliant kids in these homes can become victims and they have a hard time asserting themselves as adults.

Jim: And all these things that we learn in childhood, we then take into marriages (Laughing), which is the problem.

Kay: That’s exactly right and often I was the avoider for 15 years and didn’t even understand that, that was what was animating me, because I never really looked back to my childhood to say, was there an emotional connection in my family or not?

Jim: And in all of that, we talked last time about seeing God and His hand in all of this and again, if you didn’t hear that, you really need to download it or get the CD. The one, the goal is the secure attached person. Talk about that quickly.

Kay: Well, the goal is to, when we identify our broken style, is to move in a process of sanctification toward a secure connector, who really is Christ. But the secure connector, if we want a great model of it, we look at Jesus. He wasn’t emotionally avoidant. He connected to people from heart to heart. He talked about His own feelings in the Garden and He asked the people to be with Him. He didn’t suffer alone. And Jesus also wasn’t a pleaser. He could stand up to the Pharisees and say, no. Jesus, He could protest appropriately, but He wasn’t critical and always pointing the finger somewhere else as though someone else is the problem.

And then, as far as the controller or the victim, Jesus was only the victim one day and that was on the Cross and it was because He chose to be. None of these [other] styles exemplify who we want to be become like. And so, we’re growing toward the secure connector, who is like Christ.

Jim: We left off last time and I mentioned that vacillator and that in your book, How We Love, you mentioned the vacillator is most prone to that affair. That really was interesting to me. The vacillator, as you just described, is that person that’s hot or cold, highly emotional one way or the other. Why are they more prone, Milan, to an affair?

Milan: Well, what happens is, is the vacillator starts off looking at all relationships in a highly idealistic mode. If they fall in love with someone–and again, this isn’t about gender, this is male or female—if they fall in love with somebody, they are the most amazing thing on the planet. There’s nothing wrong with them. There [are] no red flags and so, they’re all in.

And they’re really intoxicated with this falling in love state and really not knowing this, the vacillator, male or female, is in love with being in love. They love the euphoria of being in love. And what happens is, is that these euphoric states don’t last forever. And then if you all of a sudden start doing things that disappoint me and fall short of my ideals, then I can think I got duped. I can think that you fooled me. I can think that you beguiled me, that you just hooked me in, only to find out there’s really a bait and switch here.

When that happens, the vacillator devalues their spouse to typically an all-bad place and John Gottman, who’s done a ton of research in the area of marriage, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse that they refer to is the horseman of contempt. And this contemptuousness and this disdain begins to kick in. So, if you’ve made your spouse all bad, then basically it leaves you very susceptible to finding a new ideal person.

Jim: What are those phrases that the vacillator will use in that state? Give me that example.

Milan: Well, they’ll say that, you know, you’re all bad and you’re not the soul mate I thought you were. You have disappointed me chronically. What I thought you were is not what you are. The idealized version of how I had imagined you, in reality is now no longer what I see you to be.

So, now what they do is, they do a good-bad flip and now you’re all bad. In that state, they’re sitting in church and they’re watching the person lead worship and they think, wow! That person would be great. That person looks ideal. And or the preacher, he is so amazing or she is such a great teacher. And all of a sudden, they start to fall in love with an ideal again. And so, they just start the process all over again. And so, they’re very prone to affairs because of the idealism and the level of contempt and disdain to which they take their spouses. They struggle to have this middle ground of good and bad both in themselves and others.

Jim: So, let’s talk about those combos, when they marry. Last time you self-disclosed that you were avoider-pleaser in your marriage combo.

Milan: Recovering.

Jim: (Laughing) Recovering, right, okay. I think Jean and I probably fit in that category, as well, although I think we have our secure moments. And that’s one of the qualifiers though, because you can tend to operate, at least where I’m sitting and maybe that’s one of my issues, is you can tend to see yourself operate with any one of these attributes at any given time. And that might be my chaotic past, I don’t know.

Kay: I think, yeah, people from really difficult backgrounds got good at trying everything. (Laughter) And it really makes sense. Now that’s not a bad thing. actually shows me that’s a smart child who’s really trying everything they can to survive in a very difficult environment. But I think in a marriage relationship, generally you have one thing that dominates that causes this core pattern.

Jim: So, let’s talk about a few of those that you’ve seen in your counseling. Just begin to express ’em and John and I will jump in with questions.

Milan: Okay.

Kay: Well, let’s talk about what is a core pattern.

Milan: Okay, go ahead.

Kay: A core pattern is two histories colliding. So, my history caused me to be an avoider. Your history caused you to be a pleaser. And when those collide in marriage, you get a very predictable core pattern. And for us, that pattern was, you’re always chasing around and asking me how am I? Am I mad? Am I fine? And my answer was—

Jim: And you’re irritated.

Kay: –constantly, “Fine. I’m good. Why do you keep asking me that? I just said it five minutes ago. I’m good.”

Milan: But why did I chase? You see, Kay is an introvert and was an avoider, okay. So, avoider-introvert would be two things that would pull a person away. In that state, she was quiet. In my home growing up, quiet meant there was a storm coming. Or quiet meant that it was the five days after the storm where nobody talked. So, if Kay was quiet or distant, it began to trigger me. That’s why I chased you around to ask you how are you? Are you mad at me? Is everything okay? Are you sure you’re okay?

And that was this nauseating chase scene of the pursuer, distance and it was born out of fear and getting triggered until I could turn to Kay and say, “Your silence triggers me and terrifies me.” And she looked at me and she said, “What?”

Kay: Yeah.

Milan: My “introvertism” or my need to be quiet–

Jim: Yeah.

Milan: –terrifies you?

Jim: Yeah, I could feel that.

Milan: And I feel even teary right now saying that, because it was so terrifying to have silence. Her silence really caused me to feel this terror and dread.

Jim: Which could catapult you into asking that question more and more, which frustrates you more and more.

Kay: Totally.

John: You probably felt suffocated by the constant question, right?

Kay: There we have the core pattern.

Jim: And then you’re in that cycle of destruction really.

Kay: Fifteen years of it and he was pastor. We did Bible studies. We prayed. We worked on these superficial symptoms. I tried to be more affectionate. He tried to ask me less often. But until we understood the root was attachment and we started working at the root and I took ownership of that avoider part of me and he took ownership of the pleaser and we began to individually work on our sanctification in that way.

Milan: But iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. So, we talked to each other about our fears, how we scared each other. We entered into very real dialogue using that feelings word list we talked about in the last broadcast, a soul word list to say, what am I feeling? And I could use words like “terrified” and “scared” and “anxious” and “overwhelmed” and all these different feelings that I feel when you turn your back and walk in the other direction.

And then, one day I said, “God, I need to understand Kay better. And I tell this story in the book, but I asked God to help me see Kay differently and then that day, it was one of the most miraculous answers to prayer I ever had. I saw the little girl, 7-year-old little girl sittin’ on the end of her bed all by herself, nobody to talk to, highly sensitive, nobody ever asking her how she was. And I realized she learned to be alone. She learned not to engage and that’s who was inside the adult Kay. She was still inside. Help me to love her, Lord there.

Jim: And you know, again, those that had painful childhoods that understand this, our heart feels what you’re saying. Others that may have had different experiences, they’re more skeptical. You can really [think], come on; those childhood experiences, really? Is it that simple? But you’re saying yes, it is actually.

Kay: Well, we say you should have a Ph.D. in your spouse’s childhood.

Jim: Interesting.

Kay: And I’ll tell you why. You are the sum total of your history and for the first 15 years of our marriage, I have to say we never had any discussions about our childhood or how it related to our current relationship. And that was the key that unlocked compassion, because when I heard those memories and I understood how really frightened he was, instead of being annoyed by his pursuing, I began to feel compassion. Well, oh, no wonder you do that.

So, I think understanding your spouse’s history is the key to having compassion, because usually the thing that they do that just bugs you the most, has a childhood wound sitting under it.

Jim: Yeah. There is that challenge I think in a lot of relationships, that you think you know each other. And you tolerate that level of knowing each other.

Kay: Right.

Jim: But to have true intimacy and that’s what you’re talking about, God-like intimacy, you know, the Scripture says He knows everything about our heart.

Kay: Right.

Jim: He knows our thoughts–

Kay: Right.

Jim: –and all of that.

Kay: Right.

Jim: So, what you’re really going for is a deeper level of intimacy in the marriage, so you are vulnerable toward each other, trusting of each other and therefore, you end up, I say more in love with each other.

Milan: Oh, that’s absolutely true. In 2 Corinthians, “If any man is in Christ, he’s a new creature. The old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come.” Well, God doesn’t erase your C drive. He doesn’t erase your history. He doesn’t clear out all those boxcars.

We bring our entire history. We bring our educations. We bring our experience. You know, we bring our regional accents with us wherever we go. That isn’t gone. Our position in Christ is new, completely new and positionally, He has erased and eradicated our sin, but these histories we bring with us. So, when you say, we have colliding histories, Kay, it is all of us that collide.

Kay: And we have to learn how to grow out of those and until we identify what’s broken, how do we grow up?

John: And an excellent way that you can learn what your style is, what those issues are from your childhood that you’re bringing into your current relationship, the book, How We Love, that we will link over to the love style assessment. We’ve got a CD of this entire two-part broadcast for you, all of this and more at

And I’ll just say, I’m identifying a little bit with you, Kay, because just a few days ago, my wife said, “Oh, you’re gonna go silent on me, are ya?”

Kay: Oh, there you go.

John: And I just thought, yeah, I am going silent on you. (Laughter)

Jim: Well, what does that mean?

Kay: Well, my guess is, you learned to go silent way before you met your wife.

John: Possibly, yeah.

Kay: And so, you know, when you think about well, where did I first learn to go silent? And why was I learning to go silent? You know, and you go back in history, because generally we tell couples all the time, look, your marriage problems didn’t start in your marriage. They started way before you even knew your spouse or met your spouse. You developed these relationships styles before you married.

John: Yeah, I think in that moment, I had made a quick assessment and determined that it’s a no-win situation, so just be quiet.

Jim: Take your ball and go home.

John: Yeah and you’re saying, somewhere in my past, that imprint was kinda made and I’ve carried that into the relationship. Obviously, we don’t live there, but that was a moment where we—

Kay: Sure.

John:were livin’ there.

Kay: Absolutely and we all have our ways of coping and that’s just one way of coping that works as a child. It just doesn’t work as an adult.

Jim: Give us another combination that you’ve seen where there’s trouble.

Milan: The No. 1 couple to come into a couples’ counseling session is the vacillator-avoider. And the vacillator-avoider’s the No. 1 couple, because one’s a proximity seeker and the other one is a distancer. The avoider, like John, I flee. I go. I shut down. The vacillator wants to pursue. You want to role play that really quick?

Jim: Do it.

Kay: Oh, sure.

Milan: Okay, I’m home.

Kay: Hi, hi, I can’t wait to show you something.

Milan: You know what. I’m lookin’ for the mail.

Kay: I’ve been waiting all day, honey. Come here, I want—

Milan: Well, well—

Kay: –to show you something.

Milan: –well, well, wait a minute. It’s from the mortgage company and it has mortgage on the top.

Kay: I know; I know. You always look at the mail.

Milan: I know, but this—

Kay: –first thing every day.

Milan: –is really time sensitive. I have to send this in today.

Kay: I’ve been waiting all day.

Milan: You know what? Sometimes you throw the mail away.

Kay: Are you kidding me (Laughter) right now?

Jim: Okay, this is way too close. (Laughter)

John: It feels pretty believable.

Kay: Okay, wait a minute. You know what?

Milan: Sometimes you throw the mail away.

Kay: I know. I know.

Milan: We have to sign it and we have to fax it tonight. So, I know you’re excited about something now. Let me look in the trash here.

Kay: You know what? I get it. I’ll become a piece of mail and then you’ll notice me. Huh! Okay. I’m a piece of mail. Now do you see me?

Milan: Look, I just—

Kay: Okay, you know what.

Milan: –need this find [this].

Kay: I don’t want to show you anything. Never mind. I’m done. Forget it.

Milan: Look, I just need this mail. I know she threw it away.

Jim: Huh.

Milan: I wonder if she’s gonna want to have sex tonight?

Kay: No. (Laughter)

Jim: You don’t need a letter in the mail to answer that question. That is powerful. I mean, everybody’s identifying with a portion of that, I’m sure.

Kay: Okay, well, I’m the vacillator. I’ve been ruminating all day about homecoming and how’s that gonna look and then what I’m gonna show him and how excited I am and–

Jim: How excited he’ll be.

Kay: –and how excited he’ll be.

Milan: I’ll match her excitement.

Jim: Yeah.

Milan: And I didn’t and she’s deeply disappointed.

Kay: So, now it’s like forget it. I’m done. I’m not gonna show you. I don’t know why vacillators love those two words, “I’m done.” They say it all the time.

John: But those opposite qualities were attractive—

Kay: Absolutely.

John: –in the first place. Why?

Kay: Well, vacillators marry avoiders ’cause they’re consistent and they’re predictable and vacillators want predictable connection.

Milan: When we’re dating, we’re both involved in this intoxicated state called “in love.” And we have these chemicals going in our brain and so, there is …every time we see each other, there’s this delight and their brains light up with delights. Reality sets in and there’s refinance papers to sign and there’s stuff to do and there’s life to manage. And what happens is, I avert my gaze from the vacillator and the averted gaze causes them to get triggered (Sound of snapping fingers). And so–

Kay: That’s their childhood wound.

Milan: –that’s their childhood trigger, the averted gaze. I triggered the averted gaze. I turned. For audiences when we speak all over the United States and in the world, at a moment within that presentation, Kay and I will turn our backs on the whole audience and say, “What do you feel right now?” We’ll turn our back on the audience. And we get words like “betrayed,” “duped,” uh–

Kay: “Unseen.”

Milan: –“abandoned,” “unseen”–

Kay:” Invisible.”

Milan: –“invisible,” disrespected.”

Kay: All the vacillators answer the question. It’s really interesting.

Milan: And we say, well, you just personalized our behavior, didn’t you? I was just looking at the drum set really behind me on the stage, but you personalized it. You felt as though I was personally rejecting you. And in that personal rejection state there’s this (Sound of snapping fingers) high level of volatility and reactivity that causes this vibration to occur that then sets this friction into motion.

Jim: Well, again, what a great way to have discussion, I mean, in your marriage. These are the tools that people need to observe their behavior, know their own heart better.

Milan: Uh-hm.

Jim: I love that quote that one of the things for us as Christians is to know our heart as best as possible–

Kay: Yes.

Jim: –so that we can be true and I think objective in knowing ourselves and know what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are and this is one way to do it. How We Love, you talk about also that devastating combination of controller, who marries victim. Talk about that combination.

Milan: Well, Kay, maybe you could say a few words about this, as well, but they’re a natural couple to come together, because they both came from that chaotic background and they’re used to the dynamics of disorganization, of control, anger, addiction, etc. Why don’t you comment on that?

Kay: Well, the controller looks attractive because it’s generally in early dating, they make all the decisions. They, you know, they decide where you’re gonna go. It looks like you’re really being taken care of. And of course, that’s very attractive to the victim, who doesn’t have any really [a] voice or doesn’t have much of a sense of self of where they want to go.

And yet, you know, early into a relationship, these poor folks just didn’t have anything to really build on from their childhoods. Instead of getting a lot of good examples, they got a lot of negative examples. So, you know, we figure marriage is probably gonna be as easy or as difficult as your childhood, which sorta makes sense.

So, these folks come together and they’re many times lacking just the basic stress regulation skills that you need.

Jim: What does that conflict look like in their marriage?

Kay: If anyone in the family doesn’t comply, the controller will be angry and intimidating to regain control. And generally, there’s then this explosion at some point, where everybody in the family is afraid and scared. And then the cycle of abuse, there’s this little window where the controller may come back and apologize and say, “I’m sorry; that’s never gonna happen again.” And the victim always takes them back and the whole cycle repeats over and over and over again.

Jim: Huh.

Milan: So that cycle of abuse, Kay, can involve yelling and screaming and rage. The abuse can involve physical altercations, hitting—

Kay: Right.

Milan: –excessive disciplinary tactics. There’s a sad story just a couple of years ago where a highly rigid controlling father was angry at his adopted daughter for not complying. She was having a hard time fitting in and he made her sleep outside. There was a cold snap. She froze to death. She died and this guy just, you know, had to discipline her, but it was unreasonable, you see.

Jim: Right.

Milan: This unreasonableness which there isn’t any way to regulate reason or the reactivity levels, that’s exceptionally high in this home, the chaotic disorganized home. There [are] no filters and there’s no way to regulate or modulate the ways in which we control our lives and the lives of others.

Kay: It’s a result of trauma.

Milan: It’s a result of trauma. I have no regulation filters.

Kay: Right.

Milan: I can’t control my reactivity.

Jim: When you think of that, the sins of the father being visited upon the next generation, I mean, it’s kind of an insight into what the Lord is saying there, isn’t it?

Kay: It is an insight and —

Jim: These are the behavior patterns that cause children to react—

Kay: –that’s exactly right.

Jim: –and they grow up and have their issues.

Kay: And the sad part is, the healing is difficult, because this group have [sic] more unresolved trauma than any other group and when we have a lot of unresolved trauma, we’re not going to do well regulating our own stress or setting boundaries. We just go to extremes of rage or extremes of dissociation and not being fully present. And the healing is really going back and remembering what it was like to be a child and finding people in your life who can comfort you and give you what you never got as a kid, someone who cares.


John: What a great conversation we enjoyed with Milan and Kay Yerkovich on this Best of 2016 “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.

Jim: Milan and Kay provided such solid material over the last couple days with these love styles and that’s the key. You’ve gotta really get to learn these and then apply ’em to your own lives. They spoke right to the heart, which is why so many people, I think, wrote or called and why it’s the “best of” this year.

Let me share one of those notes we received by e-mail from an anonymous woman where she said, “I love and appreciated hearing from your guests. As I sat here and listened to part two, emotions began to spring forth. I realized that I pushed everyone away who offered to serve, even though it’s something that I crave. I do believe God inspires people to talk about how to heal and ultimately come back to the Father who restores every broken place.”

I love that God’s healing touch can be found in conversations like this and that’s why we exist here at Focus on the Family, to strengthen marriages and help families thrive in the name of the Lord. It’s a high calling and we’re honored to be here for you.

And before we close out, I just want to take a moment to thank you for the prayer and financial support you’ve given this ministry, maybe over this past year or over many years. The truth is, we couldn’t help families and marriages the way we do without you. And if you haven’t given to Focus in a while, can I ask you to consider doing so? With Christmas just around the corner, many people are experiencing difficult times. Families are torn apart by crisis, depression, all kinds of things. Couples are on the brink of divorce, people facing grief; who knows what’s going on? But we are here for you and we’re here for family members or friends that need help.

Your year-end gift here to Focus on the Family will share a little bit of Christmas joy with these families who really need it. So, please give the gift of family today. And when you call us today, your gift will be doubled through a special matching challenge provided by a handful of generous friends. Any amount you give today will have twice the impact. That means a $50 gift will become $100 gift. And as our way of saying thank you for supporting Focus on the Family’s ministry efforts, I want to send you a copy of How We Love, by Milan and Kay Yerkovich, because I know it’s gonna help you in your marriage, as well.

John: Donate and learn more about the book, How We Love, as well as our Best of 2016 CD set at or when you call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Well, thanks for joining us today. Next time, we’ll have Lysa TerKeurst sharing about the deep pain of loneliness.


Mrs. Lysa TerKeurst: When you start feeling like everybody else is “more than” and you are “less than,” you start to pull away from deep heartfelt connections with other people. That creates loneliness.

End of Excerpt

John: You’ll hear from Lysa TerKeurst, her story of finding identity and acceptance in Christ and how you can do the same on the next “Focus on the Family,” as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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