Focus on the Family Broadcast

Discovering Your Love Style (Part 2 of 2)

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


Milan Yerkovich: Well, it 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 we… A person who’s married to an avoider would believe that they are just holding out that truly, Kay, did not have the words to be able to describe how she felt.

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John Fuller: That’s Milan Yerkovich and he’s reflecting on how he and his wife, Kay, got kind of stuck in their marriage as a result of something that they call their love style. And, uh, you’ll find out more about love styles and improving your marital relationship today on Focus on the Family with your host Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us, I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, John, last time I learned so much. And if, uh, you didn’t hear the discussion we had last time with the Yerkovich’s you should go back and listen to it, because it sets the kind of the basis for the, uh, further discussion we’re going to have today. And we talked about those love styles that John referred to. And it really is an interesting way to look at the conflict that you’re having probably in your marriage. Now, we know there are great marriages. You guys are probably doing the right thing, whether you know it or not, if your relationship is strong. Uh, but we talked about those things that we learn in our childhood that really anchor us down. They weigh us down. I think the Apostle Paul is talking out that. But when we’re new in Christ, this is the area where the Lord wants to, uh, help us grow, to become more secure in who we are, made in the image of God. And, uh, it is a refreshing way to look at those things that the enemy wants to use against us. And if we can acknowledge them and learn to grow more secure in who we are, uh, we can have stronger marriages and stronger relationships. And that’s what it’s all about.

John: And Milan and Kay have written and spoken extensively on this subject. And, uh, they’ve been married themselves almost 40 years. Uh, they counsel couples. And one of the books they’ve written is called How We Love, Discover your Love Style and Enhance Your Marriage. And Jim, we should mention there’s a love style assessment. And, uh, our listeners can find a link for that on our website.

Jim: Well, let me welcome you both back.

Kay Yerkovich: Oh, thank you.

Milan: Thank you.

Kay: It’s good to be here

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

Kay: All right. The avoider is the emotionally distant and detached person. The pleaser is the, 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, um, 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. There’s not a lot of middle ground. And then we ended, uh, 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 the more compliant kids, and these homes can become victims. And, uh, they have a hard time asserting themselves as adults.

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

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

Jim: And in, in all of that, we talked last time about, uh, seeing God and his hand in all of this. And, uh, again, if you didn’t hear that, you really need to download it or get the CD. Uh, 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 towards a secure connector who really is Christ. But the secure connector, we want a great model of it, we look at Jesus. Um, he wasn’t emotionally avoidant. Um, he connected to people from heart to heart. He talked about his own feelings in the garden. He asked for people to be with him. He didn’t suffer alone. And, um, Jesus also wasn’t the pleaser. He could stand up to the Pharisees and say, no. Uh, Jesus, wasn’t the… He could protest appropriately, but he, he wasn’t critical and always pointing the finger somewhere else as though someone else is the problem. And then as the controller, the victim, um, Jesus was only the victim one day. And that was on the cross, and it was because he chose to be. So when you look at Jesus, he’s really, doesn’t… None of these styles exemplify who we want to become like. And so we’re, we’re growing towards the secure connector who’s like Christ.

Jim: Yeah. Um, 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-

Kay: Mm-hmm.

Jim: …highly emotional in 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. no, there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s 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, 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 in all bad place. And John Gottman, who’s done a ton of research in the area of, of marriage, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse that they referred 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, you were not the person I was… You know, you’re, you’re not the soulmate I thought you were, uh, 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 split, and now you’re all bad. In that state, they’re sitting in church and they’re watching a person lead worship, and they think, wow, that person would be great, that person looks ideal. And, uh… 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, 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, um, when they marry. Uh, last time you self-disclosed that you were a avoider/pleaser in your marriage combo.

Milan: Recovering.

Jim: Recovering, right? Okay. Um, I think Jean and I probably fit in that category as well.

Milan: Okay.

Jim: 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. As you can tend to see yourself operate with any one of these attributes at any given time. And that might, might be my chaotic past. I don’t know.

Kay: I, I think, yeah, people from really difficult backgrounds got good at trying everything.

Jim: (laughs). Right.

Kay: And it really makes sense. Now that’s not a bad thing. It, it actually shows me that’s a child with a lot of… 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. Uh, just begin to express them 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.

Milan: Mm-hmm.

Kay: 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 me around and asking me, how am I? Am I mad? Am I fine? And my answer was constantly,

Jim: And you’re irritated.

Kay: fine, I’m good, why do you keep asking me that? I just said it five minutes ago. I’m good. And then-

Milan: But, but why did I chase? You see Kay was an… Is, 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/distancer, 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, it’s-

Milan: Terrifies you?

Jim: Yeah, I could, I could feel that.

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

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

Kay: Absolutely.

John: You 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: 15 years of it. And we, he was a 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, uh, 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 dialogues up with using that feeling word list we talked about in the last broadcast, a soul word list to say, what am I feeling? I could use words like terrified and scared and anxious and overwhelmed. And all these different feelings that I feel when you, when you turn your back and walk in the other direction. And then one day I saw, I said, “God, I need to understand Kay better.” And I tell this story in the book, but I ask God to help me see Kay differently. And then that day God was one of the most miraculous answers to prayer I ever had. I saw the little girl, seven-year-old little girl sitting on the end of her bed all by herself, nobody to talk to, highly sensitive, nobody 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.

Jim: Yeah.

Milan: She was still inside. Help me love her Lord, there.

Jim: Yeah. 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, um, they’re more skeptical. You can really 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 PhD 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, um, and you, you tolerate that level of knowing each other.

Kay: Right.

Jim: But to have true intimacy, and that’s what you’re talking about, Godlike 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 think, more in love with each other.

Milan: Oh, that’s absolutely true. One of the biggest mistakes the church makes is believing that, 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 box cars. 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 collides.

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

John: This is Focus on the Family. That’s Kay Yerkovich. And she and her husband, Milan, are the authors of the book, How We Love. And you can find out more about that when you go online. Look for us at And as we pick it back up with Milan and Kay, I had just shared, um, how a few days earlier, my wife, Dena, and I had a little disagreement and she called me out for going silent on her. Now, Jim asked Kay to explain my reaction.

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

Jim: laughs.

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-

Milan: Mm-hmm.

Kay: …they started way before you even knew your spouse or met your spouse. You developed these relational 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, and somewhere… You’re saying somewhere in my past that imprint was kind of made and I’ve carried that into the relationship. Obviously, we, we don’t live there, but that was a moment where we’re living there.

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

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

Milan: The number one couple to come into a couple’s counseling session is the vacillator/avoider. And the vacillator/avoider is the number one couple because one’s proximity seeker and the other one is a distancer. And the avoider, like John, I flee, I go, I shut down, the, the vacillator wants to pursue. Do you want to role play that really quick?

Jim: Do it.

Kay: Oh sure.

Milan: Hey, I’m home.

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

Milan: You know what? Um, I’m looking for the mail, uh, (laughs).

Kay: I’ve been waiting all day, honey, come here, I want to show you something.

Milan: Wait a minute. It, it is, it’s from the mortgage company. It has mortgage on the top.

Kay: I know, I know, you always look at the mail. That’s the first thing every day.

Milan: I know, but this is really time sensitive. I have, 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 right now?

Jim: (laughs). Okay. This is way too close.

Kay: Okay. Wait a minute. You know what? 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. Then you’ll notice me. Oh, okay, I’m a piece of mail. Now, do you see me?

Milan: Look, I just-

Kay: Okay. You know what? I don’t want to show you anything. Never mind. I’m done. Forget it.

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

Jim: Huh.

Milan: Uh, I wonder if she’s going to have sex tonight.

Kay: No (laughs)

Milan: (laughs).

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 am, I’ve been ruminating all day about homecoming and how’s that going to look and what I’m going to 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 going to show you. I don’t know why vacillators love those two words. I’m done, they say it all the time.

John: Those opposite qualities were attractive-

Kay: Absolutely.

John: …in the first place. Why?

Kay: Well, vacillators marry avoiders because 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 our brain’s light up with delight. Reality sets in and there’s refinanced 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.

Jim: Huh.

Milan: It’s as though-

Kay: That’s their childhood.

Milan: …that’s their childhood triggered the averted gaze. I turn 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, what do you feel right now? We’ll turn our back on the audience. And we get words like betrayed, duped-

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 high level of volatility and reactivity that causes this, this vibration to occur, that then sets this friction into motion.

Jim: 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: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I love that quote that, uh, one of the things for us as Christians, um, 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 knowing where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are. And this is one way to do it. Uh, How We Love you talk about also that devastating combination of controller, uh, who marries victim.

Milan: Mm-hmm.

Jim: 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 generally in early dating, they make all the decisions, they, um, you know, they decide where you’re going to 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, really voice or doesn’t have, have much of a sense of self of where they want to go. Uh, 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 say your marriage is probably going to be as easy or as difficult as your childhood, which sort of 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, 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 going to happen again, and the victim always takes them back and the whole cycle repeats over and over and over again. So it’s-

Milan: So that cycle of abuse, Kay, can involve yelling and screaming and rage. The abuse can involve physical altercations, hitting, excessive disciplinary tactics. There was a sad story just a couple of years ago, uh, where, uh, 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. 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’s no filters and there’s no way to regulate or modulate the ways in which we control our lives and 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, when you think of that, the, 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.

Kay: It is an insight.

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

Kay: That’s exactly right.

Jim: And they grew up and have their issues.

Kay: And the sad part is the, the healing is difficult because this group has more unresolved trauma than any other group. And when we have a lot of unresolved trauma, we’re not going to do well, regulate our, 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: I really appreciate learning the concepts, uh, about these love styles that Milan and Kay Yerkovich have been sharing. Uh, this is Focus on the Family and what a great program today!

Jim: It is. It’s solid material. And when you start to think about and grasp your love style, you can really get in tune with your behavior in your relationship and make your marriage stronger, which is a good thing. Uh, this is why Focus on the Family exists. We want to help you have the best marriage possible for the sake of Christ. Let’s say it that way.

John: Mm-hmm. Right.

Jim: And, of course, uh, challenges arise. That’s being human and living a sinful world, but we can help you. We have caring Christian counselors on staff that will listen to you, pray with you, and offer insights on how you can move forward.

John: And beyond that, for those who are really struggling, we have our Hope Restored Marriage Intensives. Uh, those are really unparalleled. Uh, I might add that Dena and I had an opportunity attend one of those intensive sessions and it really helped, it changed our relationship, I think, for the rest of our lives for the better.

Jim: Well, we hear that, uh, time and again, John, about couples who have gone through those intensives. I love hearing about the marriages that have been saved through Hope Restored. God is doing some amazing things in that program. Couples on the brink of divorce come back stronger and better than ever. And again, the most important data point is that after two years we go back and survey those who attend and over 80% of them are still married and doing better. That’s outstanding. So if you need help in your marriage, uh, don’t shrink back, get in touch with us. Today may be the day that everything changes for you. Uh, we also have Milan and Kay’s great book, How We Love. You can order that directly from Focus on the Family and the proceeds all go back into ministry. We don’t pay shareholder dividends. When you sign up for a monthly pledge of any amount today, we’ll send you a copy of that book as our way of saying thank you for your support. And if that monthly commitment is too much, uh, we get that. We’ll send it to you for a one-time gift. And no amount is too small when it comes to saving marriages and helping families thrive.

John: And you can learn more about Hope Restored, uh, getting a copy of that book, How We Love and so much more when you get in touch with us here. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by Now, tomorrow we’re going to be hearing about how to pass your faith on to your children.


Adam Griffin: So it’s okay to let our kids see that mom and dad make mistakes too. It’s okay for mom and dad to confess and repent in front of their kids so that our kids can be prepared when they face a problem, when they fall short to go, okay, this is normal.

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How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage

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