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How to Have a Better Sex Life by Understanding Your Love Style (Part 1 of 2)

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How to Have a Better Sex Life by Understanding Your Love Style (Part 1 of 2)

Counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich outline the four basic attachment styles (avoider, pleaser, vacillator, & chaotic) in terms of how each approaches marital intimacy and describe how the healing of your style can help overcome barriers to physical intimacy with your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 13, 2020

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Episode Summary

Counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich outline the four basic attachment styles (avoider, pleaser, vacillator, & chaotic) in terms of how each approaches marital intimacy and describe how the healing of your style can help overcome barriers to physical intimacy with your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 13, 2020

Episode Transcript

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll address one of the most richest, exciting, yet challenging aspects of married life. And that is physical intimacy. And, obviously, this is going to be a program for adults only as we hear from the personal experience and expertise of Milan and Kay Yerkovich.


Milan Yerkovich: And I told her, “I accept you just the way you are.” That was a turning point. I told…

Kay Yerkovich: And he meant sexually. We were talking about sex, and he said, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been sexually. I feel like we have a deeper, more emotional connection than we’ve ever had. If we just have this for the rest of our life, I’d be happy.”

End of Excerpt

John: This is Focus on the Family, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, intimacy between a husband and wife is so integral to the health and happiness of a marriage. It’s part of the fuel that keeps your relationship going strong over the years.

But when there’s tension or unmet expectations, your whole marriage feels like it’s out of whack. And it isn’t long before everything else begins to break down in your relationship. You stop communicating. There’s a distance and discomfort around your spouse, as well.

Maybe you stop trusting each other, and serious consequences can develop from that. Maybe infidelity or pornography. And let me just say this, as well. We tend not to talk about this in the Christian community. Somehow we want to figure it out on our own. And we think that’s appropriate. But I’m telling the world is blasting us and our children every day with messages about sexuality. And I’m just not going to take it. We have a beautiful plan for sexuality in God’s design. And we as Christians, we need to talk about it and construct it so that it is healthy and a healthy part of our relationship.

And we want to help your marriage thrive. That is why Focus is here. That’s why our guests, Milan and Kay Yerkovich, are here, and we’re going to get going.

John: And the Yerkoviches are counselors, radio hosts, speakers and authors. And they have a passion for helping couples experience stronger, healthier marriages. Milan is an ordained minister and pastoral counselor. And Kay is a licensed marriage and family therapist. And they’re probably best known for their love styles concept. And we’re going to hear more about that today and how those love styles impact physical intimacy in your marriage.

Jim: Milan and Kay, welcome back to Focus.

Milan: Well, we’re glad to be here.

Kay: So happy to be here, thank you.

Jim: It’s always good to have you here. You have so many wonderful insights.

Let me start – both of you responding from kind of a male perspective and female perspective about what I said in the opening in terms of the culture, how it’s bombarding us. And then we as Christians sometimes just put our fingers in our ears and we don’t want to talk about it with our kids, with others. Why is that? And is that healthy or unhealthy for us to take that perspective?

Milan: You know, in the very beginning, God created male and female. And he created them to have relationship. And so, the very fact that God created us as sexual beings where there’s a distinction between the two of us is the beginning. And it’s how it all started. And Satan is doing everything he can to take God’s design and break it apart, destroy it, blast it — he’s blasting marriage. He’s taking shots at everything that’s sacred – the church, our genders, sexuality. Everything is being been hit really, really hard.

Jim: And, Kay, just amplify this and, you know, the listeners – and I’m speaking to you, the listeners now (laughter). You’re gonna have three responses – that couple that feels like this is something you only share between each other, it’s not something you speak about in public. I get that. I disagree with that, but I understand that perspective. And maybe the other response is we desperately need this help. Thank you for covering it. I hope those in the first category can open their hearts to those in the second category, that actually talking about it is a good thing.

And then third – God’s design. You know, even with my teen boys, I talk about that commitment to marriage, to saving yourself, that God has an incredible gift for you on your wedding night. He’s intended that gift to be unwrapped at that point, not before. And that you need to honor that. And I think that is a healthy way to look at it. But, Kay, what’s your response? I mean, women particularly struggle talking about this topic.

Kay: I completely agree. You know, when we do this workshop in churches we often ask how many people in the audience feel that they had a good sex education from their parents. And it’s, like, one percent.

Jim: One percent.

Kay: One percent…

Jim: That’s terrible.

Kay: …Of the people. It’s terrible! And so, no wonder we struggle because no one’s really teaching us anything before we get married. And then after we get married, you know, it’s – it’s this taboo subject. And…

Jim: Right.

Kay: And so how can you learn to communicate and grow if – if everything’s so secretive? And it’s God’s design so…

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: …It shouldn’t be a secretive subject.

Jim: And I think we need to look at it that way as Christians. I mean, this is a beautiful thing that God has done. It’s not a dirty thing. It’s not an ugly thing. This is the Song of Solomon – something to be celebrated. So, let’s get into it.

Um, outline for us some of the common struggles couples have in their intimacy today. And maybe there’s nothing new under the sun. I don’t know if you’ve looked at this historically. But you say that sex is the great exposer. So, what do you mean by that?

Milan: Well, sex – and our comfort with it or the lack of comfort or the distress that’s created in the relationship or the tension that is created over the subject of sex is one of those – it’s like kids. It’s like work. It’s like a lot of things in life. But it is one of those things that exposes our broken parts, our…

Jim: Right.

Milan: …Weak parts. It – it’s a stressor. And so, it is this beautiful thing, but it’s also a stressor. It’s simultaneously…

John: Yeah.

Milan: …Both. And so, Kay, we – we experienced that as being something that would expose, in us, weak places.

Kay: Absolutely. I mean, I definitely exposed our lack of sex education.

Milan: Uh-hm.

Kay: It exposed our inability to really communicate about difficult subjects.

Milan: Uh-hm.

Kay: It, I think, really exposed our level of honesty. Um, how much we could communicate. And, you know, it – the things that pull up weakness feels terrible, but it’s an opportunity for growth.

You know, when you – when you hit a rough spot, it’s – it’s never pleasant. But some of our hardest first conversations and our most honest conversations were about sex. And it was a game changer. But boy, I remember how hard those first conversations were where we began to be honest.

Jim: Yeah. You point to Genesis 3 and the fall of mankind. That’s a big statement. How does the sin of Adam and Eve mirror the experience of many couples in their physical and emotional, uh, intimacy?

Milan: It is very natural. Well, first of all, we have a fallen nature. We were made in the image and likeness of God. Yet, after the fall, there’s a brokenness to us. And, uh, that brokenness means we don’t operate well. As C.S. Lewis said, we’re made in the image and likeness of God. But the image is bent or marred.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Milan: And so, with that brokenness, we find ourselves, uh, doing… Well, we struggle then to control our sexuality. One of the biggest problems with males is – with a broken nature – I don’t know what to do with my sexuality. And so much of the New Testament is about learning to control my sexuality…

Jim: Right.

Milan: …So that it’s holy and not worldly. But then there’s this concept, too, that we’re just like Adam and Eve, and we hide, and we’re fearful, and we blame. And so, in that way, we are very similar to Adam and Eve because we tend to want to project our frustrations onto the other person.

Jim: You know, Milan, that’s a powerful statement. And how do we do that? What are some of the examples of how an – an unhealthy projection occurs? I mean, we’re kind of jumping into it, but let’s go there.

Milan: Well, first of all, I had to learn to take a very hard look at myself. What was my orientation towards sexuality? I had to face my reality. How the world had shaped me, how the culture had shaped me.

Jim: Mm-hm.

Milan: And I would have to say that through my adolescent years and through my college and my first few years of marriage, sexuality was out of proportion in my head. It was at a place where it had too much dominance and – and priority of thought. And then that was not fair then in our relationship here…

Jim: Right.

Milan: …Because sexuality had this very high attention level in my mind. But then when Kay was expected to try to keep up with that…

Jim: Right.

Milan: …It was not fair.

Jim: Yeah. And we want to get into the core, which is, uh, the love styles – that concept.

Kay: Right.

Jim: So, let’s get the listener involved that way and describe the love styles that you talk about. Um, provide that quick overview and describe each of the love styles.

Kay: Well, we’re gonna discuss five, and they all contrast to what we would call the secure connector, which is where we’re headed. But we have…

Jim: That’s the healthiest.

Kay: That’s the healthiest.

Jim: Right.

Kay: We have the avoider, the pleaser, the vacillator, the controller and the victim.

Jim: OK.

Kay: And I was the avoider, which is the emotionally distant. Usually avoiders grow up in homes where there’s not a lot of emotional connection, there’s not, uh, memories of comfort. There’s just not a depth of vulnerability.

Jim: Let me ask you – because some of the listeners are saying, OK, this is a lot of psychology. But this is how God has wired us. Uh, there’s predictable patterns here…

Kay: Yes.

Jim: …Because we’re created and – and that’s what you’re describing from a Biblical concept. It…

Kay: Absolutely. God…

Jim: These are the behaviors that you see in biblical people.

Kay: That’s right.

Jim: Um, this is the same thing.

Kay: God created attachment. He created, you know, a baby’s brain to develop through relationship.

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: And so sometimes those networks are built in the brain in a very positive way. But we’re all broken parents. There’s no perfect parents. So, we – we usually end up with some issues around attachment that, luckily, some great researchers just observed patterns and wrote them down for us. And for Milan and I, understanding those patterns gave us a real hold on where we needed to grow…

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: …And – and develop as people.

Jim: And I didn’t want people to check out with the descriptions. So, the avoider is that – what it describes – somebody who’s emotionally detached. They’re…

Kay: Right.

Jim: …Avoiding that kind of contact. They’re fearful of it, perhaps.

Kay: Yeah, it’s just – there’s kind of an unspoken rule in the home of the avoider – don’t be too needy and figure it out on your own.

Jim: And this was you.

Kay: And this was me. So, we think of that as sort of being a male profile, but we see female and male avoiders. And from a sexual perspective, uh, my home wasn’t affectionate. There wasn’t a high level of vulnerability.

And then I get married and, all of a sudden, the day is – you know, we’re married now, so everything’s fine. Everything – you’re supposed to – it’s supposed to be wonderful. But for the avoider woman, there’s this – oh, my – that’s a big leap…

Jim: Right.

Kay: …From no level of vulnerability to being intimate with someone. And I think what happened for years is we tried to have a sexual connection and vulnerability. And the goal would be to be naked and not ashamed. But we had no ability to be emotionally naked and not ashamed.

Jim: Huh.

Kay: So, there was a big mismatch that we didn’t understand for the first 15 years.

Jim: So that’s avoider. Go through the other three.

Kay: OK. The pleaser is the child that is the good kid. Um, they end up usually being the good kid ’cause perhaps there’s a critical or an angry parent, or perhaps there’s a kind of unruly sibling. But they take the role of pleasing the parent. And as adults, pleasers tend to lack the ability to say no. They lack the ability to set boundaries. They are anxious inside. And if you’re OK, then they’re OK. So, they’re very attentive, but it’s all for the purpose of making you smile so that they can feel good inside…

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: …And calm.

Jim: And, Milan, that was your profile, right?

Kay: Yeah.

Milan: Yes, it was, um… (Laughter) until 32 years ago when I decided to change it to become more secure because I realized that didn’t resemble Jesus, and it also was not a healthy place to be. So…

Jim: It seems that way. You know, a Christian could rationalize that a pleaser is very biblical.

Milan: Well, no, it isn’t because they’re the perpetual caretaker, rescuer. They get fused and enmeshed with people.

Jim: Right.

Milan: And they struggle to differentiate between you and me. So, they don’t have a sense of separateness. And so, they can’t separate from other people. So, they’re proximity seekers, and they’re only happy if they’re with somebody close.

Jim: And what you’re saying is your sense of worth as a pleaser was dependent upon those people around you being happy.

Milan: Thank you.

Kay: That’s right.

Jim: If you can make them…

Milan: That’s exactly right.

Jim: …Happy than you – you felt good about yourself.

Kay: That’s an impossible job.

Jim: Right. That’s not a – a healthy place to be.

Kay: No.

Jim: All right, No. 3 – avoider, pleaser…

Kay: Vacillator is the person who had inconsistent connections. So, as adults, they are very in and out, back and forth, everything’s good, everything’s bad. That inconsistent connection creates a longing for connection that is never quite fulfilled. And their idealistic expectations are there because if they can just make their world ideal, then nobody – they’re not gonna have to feel any pain. But, of course, the world’s not ideal…

John: Yeah.

Kay: …So they’re often disappointed.

Jim: OK – that’s fair. Someone’s attaching to that right now. When they’re listening, they’re going that’s me.

Kay: Right.

Jim: What’s another style?

Kay: The last one would be the more difficult chaotic home. And in this home, there’s no rhyme or reason to connection. In my home, it worked to be the avoider. It worked for him to be the pleaser. In this home, nothing works. There’s fright without solutions. There may be abuse – um, physical, emotional.

And so, this is where – a home where trauma happens. And, of course, trauma affects our adult relationships. And the more feisty kids grow up to be controllers where they control their world so they don’t have to feel childhood pain. I don’t think a lot of controllers know why they need so much control, but it’s about staying away from vulnerable emotions. And the – the more easygoing, uh, temperament may become the victim where they’re just used to tolerating the intolerable, and that’s what they’ve been raised with. And so – but trauma keeps these two folks stuck in, um, unresolved pain.

Jim: Right. And to give an example of how this can work to – next time, I want to get deeper into your personal story. But, uh, where did the two of your styles clash – the avoider and the pleaser? You’ve touched on that a little bit, but give us more examples, especially in this area of intimacy.

Milan: Well, there were twofold. Number one would be if I had a hyperinflated sexual mind where I was – I actually call it sexually obese.

Jim: Right.

Milan: If you think about it too much, it becomes inflated, it becomes overweight, it becomes too big. And then that is a burden for a person who – and Kay didn’t mention this when she talked about the avoider, but there was also a lack of touch…

Jim: No hugging.

Milan: …In her home. No hugging.

Jim: Right.

Milan: There was a lack of affection. So, sexuality’s very touch-oriented, and so that was a difficult challenge for her.

Number two, for the pleaser, as a proximity seeker, sexuality became a way to help ease anxiety. So, it wasn’t a purely a sexual desire. It was a way to create closeness to make myself feel better. So, it was disingenuous, if you will. And that was a part of the stress.

Kay: And that’s just how that played out in our sexual relationship …

Milan: Correct.

Kay: But in general, you were the chaser, and I was the avoider. And you were always wanting to know if I was OK. And avoider’s always fine. But if I wasn’t in a good mood, you got very anxious.

Milan: Right.

Kay: So, there’s a core pattern that gets created as these histories collide.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And our guests today are Kay and Milan Yerkovich. And they’ve written a book called How We Love, which describes these different love styles that we’ve been talking about so far.

And if you and your spouse are experiencing an unhealthy “collision” in your love life, please contact us. We have caring Christian counselors who can help. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Milan and Kay, I want to go back and cover the other three categories you’ve identified — the vacillator, the controller and the victim.

Describe these so our listeners can hook into the descriptions and maybe understand themselves better. So, the vacillator — how does that personality manifest itself in marriage and within this area of intimacy?

Milan: OK. Well, first of all, it’s not a personality type. It is…

Jim: OK.

Milan: It is our experience from being in an attachment experience as a child, infant into adolescence. So, Kay, how would you, therefore, describe…

Kay: I would say it’s a wound.

Milan: It is a wound. But then…

Kay: The vacillator?

Milan: Yeah.

Kay: The vacillator is someone who has everyone has to meet an ideal standard. And that’s to keep their childhood pain at bay. So, what happens in their relationships is they’re always disappointed because no one’s ideal, so they’re always protesting.

You need to do this. You know, they’re protesting to their kids, they’re protesting to their spouse. You need to do this. You need to do that. And what people feel living with a vacillator is I can never please, it’s never good enough. And so, whether they’re married to an avoider or a pleaser, the very thing they hope for, which is connection, they sabotage with their anger and protesting.

Jim: Kay, let me ask you and Milan, when you describe the vacillator, what’s popping up in my head is many of us in the church.

Milan: Oh, all these are – we’re all in the church.

Jim: But this one particularly…

Milan: This is all…

Jim: …Because – and I don’t know the percentage. You do probably. But when you look at people – people that have a high standard, that, uh, want to live by rules – if we do these rules, then we are achieving our A-plus. That’s what I’m hearing you say. That sounds like, in a spiritual context, people in – in the faith, who want to do well.

Kay: Well…

Jim: Is there a connection there?

Kay: Well, I think we can spiritualize any of these attachment wounds and say, well, they’re fine because they have a spiritual basis. But the vacillator and their protest is usually unkind. It’s usually directed…

Jim: Harsh.

Kay: …Outward. They can criticize you, but you can’t criticize them. So, it’s not about not having a standard or a goal of something to grow, it’s about I want you to be perfect so that I don’t have to feel any pain.

Jim: Huh.

Kay: And I don’t think the vacillator always realizes that they have a lot of anxiety, um, about if everything’s good, then I’m gonna look good, and my family’s gonna look good, and there’s gonna be no pain. So…

Jim: But how does that play in the intimacy space?

Milan: Well, it plays out like this – that if the vacillator’s in a good place, and they’re like an off-on switch. And so that if they’re in the good place, and the switch is all good, then sex can be fun, it can be interesting, it could be intense, it could be highly passionate. Vacillators can be some of the most passionate people with respect to that intensity. And – but they mistake, if you will, intensity for intimacy. And so, intensity is what they’re craving and searching for. But then what happens is if anything has been spoiled…

Jim: Uh-hm.

Milan: …Uh, either in the day, or the week, or the vacation, or whatever the case may be…

Jim: Some imperfection.

Milan: …Some imperfection – boom, the switch goes off, and sex is off limits. You know, I don’t want to touch you, uh, don’t even think about it. And, uh…

Jim: Because you didn’t feed the dog on time.

Kay: It could be anything.

Jim: I mean, it’s just a totally…

Milan: It could be anything.

Jim: A disconnected thing.

Milan: It could be anything unrelated…

Jim: Yeah.

Milan: …To sex. I’m not – because right now, they see whoever is responsible for what they didn’t like as responsible for the bad act.

Jim: So, let’s hit that fourth, uh, unhealthy attachment difficulty, uh, typically born out of your childhood. And I get that. It’s that controller and victim mentality. Um, what does that look like, especially in the area of intimacy?

Kay: Well, the controller is going to control what happens sexually. And when – when I’ve worked with people who need high levels of control, noncompliance takes them back to feeling powerless, humiliated, um, afraid. And so, they’re always moving towards a position where I’m in control, and you do what I say. So, they…

Jim: That’s a very unhealthy situation.

Kay: It’s a very unhealthy situation. But we always have to remember when we are encountering these kinds of families – and there’s many of them in the church because God sees those wounds – that these are born out of tremendous hurts. This style, in particular – the controller – always has a horrific history underneath.

Jim: Interesting.

Kay: And so, their need for control can be very dominating and very hurtful to those around them. They often hook up with a victim, and they replay the roles that they grew up with – one has all the power, one is powerless.

Milan: But they’re also addicted to sexuality. If you’re a controller, they’re – they’re just filled with addictions, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, et cetera, et cetera. And sex is one of those addictions that, when I’m agitated inside, it is something that takes my mind off everything. And for a brief moment, I’m free from my agitations.

And so, sex then becomes a way to self-medicate. And that’s very common with especially a controller male. So, you’ll – you’ll see various addictions, including sexual addictions. And then with the compliance factor that Kay just mentioned, boom, sexuality is just whenever, whatever, however I want it, that’s what we’re gonna have.

Jim: The victim component of this?

Milan: The victim component says I’ve tolerated intolerable circumstances my whole life, so I have no voice, I have no ability to resist. And quite often, victims dissociate. That, which means they’re physically present, but their mind disconnects from the experience so that they’re actually not there.

Jim: Huh.

Milan: They don’t experience it. And so, it is common for us to hear in our offices that for victims, they get married and then all of a sudden, when they’re having a sexual intimacy moment with their spouse, they report that I’m not there. And so, there’s a dissociative element to the victim. And so, there’s no adult voice, and they have no ability to say to the other person, no, not today, or I can’t do that right now. Or it’s incongruous with my emotional state.

Jim: What would that victim childhood have been like, just to describe one that you’re familiar with?

Milan: Abusive, hurtful, beatings, uh, sexual abuse, uh, shaming, ridiculing, treated…

Jim: Powerless.

Milan: …Powerless, treated in unkind ways, making that particular child or all the children treated less kindly than you would treat your animals.

Jim: Right. Lastly, because we’re out of time, we’ve got to get to the secure connector. And that – in – in 15 seconds – and we’ll cover it more next time – but what’s the secure connector?

Milan: The secure connector has a voice. The secure connector has the ability to describe their inner state and ask you what’s going on in – inside you.

Jim: And you say Jesus was a secure connector.

Milan: Absolutely.

Jim: Yeah, he’s the model.

Milan: He is our model. And Paul, the apostle, in Ephesians 4, says we’re to grow up to look like him. And he tells us to put off the old man…

Jim: Yeah.

Milan: …Which is what I had to do, in order to more resemble Christ and grow up.

John: Hm.

Kay: That’s right. And the secure connector looks like Jesus because when you look at all these attachment styles, they don’t match what you see in the Lord. And so, the secure connector, especially sexually, is going to be able to be honest. They’re gonna negotiate a sexual encounter. They’re gonna talk during sex about what they like and what feels good and what doesn’t feel good.

Jim: And, of course, this is in the context of marriage with their spouse.

Kay: Absolutely.

Jim: Yes.

Kay: Uh, so they’re not gonna have some of the struggles because they grew up in a home, most likely, where there was some emotional vulnerability and where there were memories of comfort and where there was clear ability to resolve conflict.

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: And resolving conflict is a huge part of having a good sexual relationship.

Jim: Well, Milan and Kay — thank you so much for sharing these insights with us today. You’ve whet our appetite to learn more, and I’m sure our listeners are starting to see themselves in one of these categories.

But if our discussion today has stirred up some issues for you about your own marriage, I hope you’ll contact us here at Focus. We want to help you anyway we can. We can connect you with one of our Christian counselors. Or, if your relationship is facing severe challenges, we’ll point you to our Hope Restored program, where we offer intensive marriage counseling for those couples who are ready to call it quits. Let me encourage you – don’t give up! That’s our message today. No matter what challenges you may be dealing with, Focus on the Family is here to help you find godly solutions for your family.

John: Contact us right away by calling 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by

And I might mention that we have a special bundle of resources that the Yerkoviches have put together for us. It includes their book, How We Love, where they give a lot more detail about the love styles and how they interact with each other. And we also have an extra message from Milan and Kay about the five top things you need to have a healthier sex life. And then finally, an audio CD of our entire conversation with Yerkoviches, which includes what they’ll share next time.

Jim: And these are great tools. And we’ll give you that entire bundle when you make a monthly pledge of any amount to Focus on the Family today. A monthly pledge – it helps us better manage our ministry outreach throughout the year. Or if you can send a one-time gift, that’s great, too. Anything you can do will be deeply appreciated.

And Milan and Kay, let’s come back next time to continue this discussion. I’d like to delve more into your personal story. Can we do that?

Kay: Absolutely.

Milan: We’d love to.

Jim: All right.

John: Call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY to donate and get the resource bundle from the Yerkoviches. Or visit

Now coming up next time we’ll hear more from our guests about dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage.


Kay: I can’t do this anymore. Something has to change because I can’t keep up with you. And I don’t feel like I have a voice. I feel like if I say no, you get upset. Something has to change.

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Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

Being Seen by God

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, gives an update on the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, offering encouragement found in her book Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to be Noticed, Sara Hagerty describes how we can experience God in ordinary, everday moments, and how we can find our identity in Him apart from what we do.

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