FamilyLife This Week®

Up From the Past

with Ann Wilson, Julie Plagens, Leslie Leyland Fields | March 14, 2020
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Even as adults, we find experiences from childhood, tainting our decisions and behaviors. Dave and Ann Wilson, Ron Deal, Milan and Kay Yerkovich, Julie Plagens, and Leslie Leyland Fields tell how each of their pasts affected them negatively and how they dealt with it.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Michelle Hill

    Radio has been ingrained in Michelle for most of her life. This love for radio has taken her to various radio stations and ministries in places like Chicago, Alaska and other snow covered terrains like her hometown in north central Iowa. In 2005 she landed on staff with Cru/FamilyLife®. While at FamilyLife she has overseen the expansion of FamilyLife Today® internationally, assisted with the creation of Passport2Identity™-Womanhood and is now the host of FamilyLife This Week®. For the last 15+ years Michelle has been mentoring young women and is passionate about helping them find their identity in God. She also has a fascination for snowflakes and the color yellow. Michelle makes her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dave and Ann Wilson, Ron Deal, Milan and Kay Yerkovich, Julie Plagens, and Leslie Leyland Fields tell how each of their pasts affected them negatively and how they dealt with it.

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Up From the Past

With Ann Wilson, Julie Plagens, L...more
March 14, 2020
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Michelle: For those of you who are married, remember that joy?—that excitement for the future?—that happiness? FamilyLife Today host, Ann Wilson, remembers those days. She also remembers how surprised she was when the past crept up.

Ann: I think the biggest repercussion was the ability to resolve conflict in our relationship. I was 19 when we got married; Dave was 22, so we weren’t thinking about our past. We weren’t thinking all these things would affect our present. Yet, we would have our fights, and he would leave. That wasn’t my style. I grew up in a family that we would talk about everything. So when Dave would walk out of the room, it would make me furious—not thinking/not even having the thought—“Well, of course, he would leave and withdraw; because conflict is a bad thing to him.”

Michelle: We’re going to talk about avoiders and pleasers, controllers and victims, and how our past informs our present—and how to deal with that—on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, if you were listening last week, you heard how we were talking about where to put the pain. You know, there are some really hard things that we face in life. Just what do we do with that? How do we process it, express it, and where do we find hope? If you didn’t happen to listen to last week’s show, just go to our website,, and that will help you have better context for this week.

This week, we’re going to talk about: “Just what does that kind of pain leave us with? Do we automatically grow into a healthy adult? Or is there something that we need to be aware of?”

Ron Deal recently joined Dave and Ann, and Bob Lepine, on FamilyLife Today®, to continue probing into Dave’s growing-up years and to talk about how it affected his early adult years. Here’s Ann, talking about their early marriage.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Ann: The biggest repercussion was the ability to resolve conflict in our relationship. I was 19 when we got married; Dave was 22, so we weren’t thinking about our past. We weren’t thinking all these things would affect our present. Yet, we would have our fights and he would leave.

Ron: Yes.

Ann: That wasn’t my style. I grew up in a family that we would talk about everything. We would even yell at each other, but still feel secure in the love. We would talk about everything. So when Dave would walk out of the room, it would make me furious

Ron: Yes.

Ann: —not thinking/not even having the thought—“Well, of course, he would leave and withdraw; because conflict is a bad thing to him.”

Dave: Yes, I’m not even connecting those dots. She would follow me into the kitchen/wherever and say, “We’ve got to talk.”

Ron: —which probably just made it worse.

Dave: Oh!!

Ann: Worse.

Dave: I would be like: “Get outta here. What are we doing?”

Ron: Yes.

Dave: Because, now I know, I had this belief about conflict: “It is bad.

Ron: Right.

Dave: “You avoid it at all cost; it ended in divorce.”

Ron: Right.

Ann: I remember sitting on this bed—he left; he went upstairs; he closed the bedroom door, and he sat on the bed—I knocked open the bedroom door, and I sit right beside him. I put my hand on his leg; and I looked at him/I said, “We just need to talk.” He said: “What are you doing?! Get out of here!” I didn’t know what to do!

Ron: Yes, so there’s a mechanism in him that he grew up doing a lot of. Of course, he just continued to do that; that is, that in the face of conflict and stress and a really hard situation, you just withdraw. You pull away; you retreat; you go back to where it’s safe.

It wasn’t safe to be with you in the conflict; so of course, he would retreat.

I can totally see how—from your point of view: “Family: we stay engaged. We talk this out. Even if it’s hard, we stay,”—that must have meant that: “He doesn’t love me or something.”

Now, you said a minute ago, “I would get furious.” I’m wondering if you were really afraid, “He’s leaving.”

Ann: To be truthful, I wasn’t afraid he would leave; but I think I disrespected it. I thought, “What kind of a man leaves?” To me, it appeared to be weakness, which—think about how that relayed to Dave.

Ron: Yes.

Ann: What a horrible thing for me to relay to him: “I think you’re weak.”

Ron: Right.

Dave: —which made him withdraw even more.


Michelle: Well, it’s obvious that the Wilsons have had a lot of communication over the years, and they have moved past that place. Just as they were talking about their early marriage, our growing-up years really do affect how we do this adult-thing well. Dave’s the avoider and Ann—she’s not the avoider.

You know, there is this thing called emotional attachment. It gauges how well we attach or communicate to one another. We all pick up habits and communication patterns, growing up, that we may not think about—like Dave’s avoiding conflict. Maybe your style isn’t avoiding; maybe it’s about controlling or pleasing.

Milan and Kay Yerkovich love to help couples work through these types of communication pitfalls. Milan is a pastoral counselor, and Kay is a marriage and family therapist. Together, they write books and minister to couples and help them better understand each other through their love styles.

Here’s Kay, talking about those love styles.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Kay: Avoiders flee; they detach. Pleasers freeze, and get scared, and try to make you happy. The ambivalent Vacillators protest, but with no resolution—they’re just telling you what’s wrong with you.

Bob: Yes.

Kay: And then, the chaotic folks that come from the very traumatic homes—the Controllers just get angry. They have no other emotions under that anger; it’s just always anger. The victims just learn to tolerate the intolerable, so they tolerate the intolerable.

With all of these ways of managing stress, there really can’t be a decent conversation—where two people sit down, who aren’t fighting, aren’t fleeing, and aren’t freezing—and they are able to sit down and talk about difficult subjects or, when there is a hurt, they’re able to repair it. Those are very important skills that you either learn, growing up, or you don’t.

Bob: Milan, I want to go back through these five categories—make sure I’ve got them in my mind.

Milan: Okay; so you have the Avoider—

Bob: Right.

Milan: —which is the emotionally-distant person, who flees when there is distress,—

Bob: Okay.

Milan: —or trouble, or struggle. They want to get out of Dodge.

Bob: ESPN and just tune out—go passive.

Milan: That’s right.

Bob: Right.

Milan: That’s right; but then we stop and ask, “Does that resemble Jesus? Was He emotionally avoidant?” The answer is, “No, He wasn’t.”

Bob: Right.

Milan: And we’re supposed to grow up to resemble Christ. Kay had to ask herself, “Does this resemble—this Avoider—resemble Jesus?” And the answer was, “No.”

And then there’s the Pleaser.

Bob: That was you.

Milan: That was me, who was very fear-based—proximity seeker—but for the purpose of knowing that I’m okay/other-dependent for my view of self.

Bob: Yes.

Milan: “If you’re smiling, then I’m smiling.”

Bob: Yes.

Milan: “If you like me, I like me.”

Bob: Right.

Milan: “If not, I’m in trouble. It’s not you; it’s me—I’m in trouble.”

Then there’s this ambivalent/preoccupied person, that we call the Vacillator. They are perpetually ruminating about closeness and distance in relationship. They obsess on it, because they’re worried about separation and distance. Then they get angry; and they’re the protestor, who wants things to be a certain way: “You didn’t make it that way, so you’re in trouble.”

Then there’s this chaotic/disorganized home which, according to one researcher, is a home where there is fright without solutions for the child. The child tries many different things, including, maybe, all these aforementioned styles. As adults, often flip either into the controlling, dominating person as an adult, or the person who remains perpetually the victim and the child.

These would be what we call the insecure attachment styles. The secure attachment, which is what we’re trying to grow into, which is the growth into the image of Christ—Christ was securely attached. We want to grow more into His image, and that’s what the journey of our sanctification is all about: is maturing so we look more like Christ.

Bob: And that secure attachment looks like what?

Milan: Jesus.

Bob: Okay, so it looks like Jesus! What’s it look like in your marriage?

Milan: Okay; Kay, do you want to share a thought on that?

Kay: Yes, I will. We actually have an assessment online. It’s an assessment of a Secure Connector, but I’ll just give you some examples of things that I had to learn to do to become a Secure Connector.

A Secure Connector can name eight feelings they have on a regular basis. I couldn’t do that previous to our work. A Secure Connector can repair when there’s a rupture. A Secure Connector can have a conversation and control their reactivity, whether it’s fight, flight, freeze, or whatever. They’re able to control that and stay present. A Secure Connector is a good listener; they’re able to draw another person out. A Secure Connector is a good receiver as well as a good giver. He [Milan] was a great giver, but a terrible receiver. I couldn’t do either.

When you, the Avoider, marry someone of a different style, you will create a core pattern—or a bad dance—that we can predict before you ever tell us what it is. And this is what explained that core dance we were talking about in our marriage,

where it’s that same repetitive cycle. You’re thinking, “Where is this coming from?” It’s really coming from broken attachment styles. God created attachment. Really, what researchers did, is just look at how sin plays out.

Dennis: Yes, they just discovered how two people connect with each other.

Kay: Right! It’s really two histories colliding—

Milan: Yes.

Kay: —two ways of being trained colliding in a marriage.


Michelle: Kay Yerkovich and her husband Milan, talking about those attachment styles and, really, the broken attachment styles that we bring with us into our lives. Those attachments—they tend to be broken because of sin—the sin that lives in us and the sin that’s living in a broken world.

Kay and Milan are trying to help others understand their love style and their attachment style to get beyond and to truly love as Jesus loved. Now, they have a quiz on their website that would help you and your spouse, if you have one, understand just what your attachment style is and how to really become a Secure Connector.

I found out that I am a Pleaser. Of course, you probably knew that. I already knew that, because most personality tests that I take score me high in the harmonizing and peacemaking tendencies.

You can, of course, find that quiz, online, at—that’s It might take 15 minutes; but it will help you understand yourself better, and probably your spouse, if you’re married.

Hey, we need to take a break; but when we come back, we’re going to continue talking about how the past affects the present if we don’t deal with it. Stay tuned. I’ll be back.

Keith: [Sound engineer] You’re a harmonizer?

Michelle: Yes. [Laughter]

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We’ve been talking today about how our childhood affects our future/our present in so many ways. We’ve been talking about love styles and just the effect of living in a broken world—the effects of sin.

You know, Dave and Ann Wilson, hosts of FamilyLife Today—they’ve been married for 40 years! They made it through those early, rocky stages of marriage. They grew and they learned from each other. They shook off some of those sin issues. I just found it encouraging when I found this audio clip of Dave giving some advice to his younger self. Here’s Dave.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Dave: What I know now, I wish that I would have known then—and it is this: “You are loved. You are actually secure, even if it’s only your mom’s love you can feel at this point or see tangibly; it’s real.

Ron: Yes, yes.

Dave: “And there’s a heavenly Father that’s there, even though your earthly father—you can’t see it or feel it—I didn’t know that then; I wish I’d have known it then,” and “You don’t have to become your dad.”

Ron: Yes.

Dave: In many ways, my withdrawal, even that I brought into my marriage, was a copy of the sins of the father: “The man I don’t want to become, I’m becoming,”—

Ron: Yes.

Dave: —in many different ways. That could have been avoided if I had known I was truly, truly loved. I just didn’t know it.

Ann: I think I would have—if I was sitting across from me—I would have reminded myself that marriage is this beautiful agony. It’s beautiful in the fact that you learn how to love someone unconditionally, and that doesn’t come naturally or easily. The agony is it’s a mirror, and it’s showing you your weaknesses and flaws.

I think, before I got married, I would have never thought that I would be an angry person and I would ever yell. She was always deep down there; it was just the pressure of marriage exposed it.

Ron: Yes.

Ann: So I think I would have told myself, “Be patient, and don’t be surprised.” Here’s the biggest thing: “Don’t expect Dave to meet all of my needs, and don’t expect Dave to be just like you.” It’s beautiful the way God made Dave. Us having to figure out this whole conflict resolution pattern became one of the best things in our marriage.

I would say: “Take your time. Don’t be surprised at the baggage you’re going to discover; but be looking, and then go to God and say: ‘God, I can’t do this. Give me wisdom.’ James 1 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God and He gives generously to anyone who asks.’”


Michelle: What great words from Dave and Ann Wilson, encouraging us that God is always working; He’s always working in our lives.

You know, for some children, like Dave, who was dealing with abandonment and fear of conflict; for other children, they’re dealing with abusive parents or hard parents. Still yet others are dealing with parents, who have very high expectations of their children. Whatever pattern you came from, you probably did learn from that. Unfortunately, sometimes it follows you into your adulthood.

That’s what happened with Julie Plagens. She knows this well. Her dad was a successful businessman, who switched to ministry that became successful. He had high expectations on Julie and her siblings—very high expectations. In fact, at times, they were unhealthy expectations. Here’s Julie.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Julie: My parents were at the end of their rope when I was little. I saw the end of what it looks like after you have everything and not God. You have to realize both of my parents did not come from believers. They went from one big life—after they closed the restaurant down, my dad ended up as the janitor in our church. Several years later, he became associate pastor. I went from one very big life to another very big life. I was in fish bowl after fish bowl, and a lot of pressure to perform. When you have children, growing up, and you're in the ministry, the last thing you want your kids to do is start embarrassing the family.

I grew up as a very high-achiever: I made honor roll; cheerleader; you know, Who's Who—all the things that you do. My sisters were even more amazing: valedictorian, captain of the cheerleading squad. All three of us were high-achievers. We were pretty much—that's the only box we were allowed to check. It was severe; it was hard.

I can understand my parents, though, because it is very difficult when you have a ministry family. Everybody is watching; you don't have margin for error.

Dave: When you say, “It was hard,” there's emotion there. What is that? What are you remembering? What are you feeling?

Julie: There were some threats: “You do this or that”; you know? It was hard that way—fear. I think my parents would go back and do it differently now.

Ann: You were all very image-conscious—

Julie: Very much; yes.

Ann: —your parents were—which made you very aware of what people felt or thought about you?

Julie: Yes; and any kind of, maybe, disgruntled behavior—you know, any type of feeling, thinking, opposing—was shut down very quickly. That was not really allowed at my house. It was, you know, “This is the way we're doing things,” and “You need to get in line and do it now.”

I had one way to cope, and that was stuffing my emotions. To go back and answer your question, you get 40 years of stuffing, and you get sick.

Bob: Take us to the point where you came and said, “It's not healthy for me to have an ongoing relationship with my family.”

Julie: I started tracing back—it was more around 18-20 years old that I started having health problems; they just kind of progressed. By the time I was 40, I had really been having some major stomach issues.

Ann: You're married at this point.

Julie: I'm married with two children. I was really sick. After about three months of losing 30 pounds, I went to the doctor; and they did a colonoscopy. I woke up, and the nurse was in there alone with me. She said: “You have Crohn's disease. You are going to lose your colon. You're going to have a bag the rest of your life, and it is irreversible.” And she walked out.

Bob: Wow.

Dave: That was it.

Julie: That was it. And so this is my destiny; I'm supposed to live the rest of my life this way. I was sitting there, thinking, “I can't do this.” I started thinking how I got here. I realized how much bitterness and anger I had inside of me, and how much I had been stuffing my whole life. It was at that point I realized that, I only did not have bitterness, but I was just filled with hatred; and it was toward my parents.


Michelle: That’s tough! That’s Julie Plagens sharing about her story and her style/her love style. Did you catch that?—she’s a stuffer. Stuffing is what took her on a hard spiritual journey, and she got physically ill.

You know, whatever pit you find yourself in right now, there is a way out. My friend, Leslie Leyland Fields—she was in a similar pit because of her past. She had a terrible relationship with her father. Her first step in reconciling, or trying to reconcile, with him was to take her children on a very long trip to meet the grandfather they didn’t know. Here’s Leslie.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Leslie: We flew down to Florida for them to meet their grandfather for the first time. I knew it was the first time, and it was probably also the last time. I hadn’t talked about my father very much; they knew nothing about him. They—you know, they weren’t particularly interested; but I knew that, for future reference, they just needed to meet him.

By the end of that visit—I was there/we were there, together, for about four hours—and my father was resistant. He did not talk to me; he didn’t look at me. At the end of those four hours, I determined: “That’s it! I’m done. I am really done.” I wiped the dust off my feet, and I went back home. I thought: “The door is closed. I’m done.”


Michelle: She tried; right?! Leslie Leyland Fields tried; she tried to reconcile with her dad, and he wasn’t having it. She had every right to give up; right? But Leslie made another faithful choice.

Step two of the reconciliation: she checked into her father’s past and talked with family members. She got some empathy for who her father was and who he had become. Then, she flew back down to Florida to talk with her dad again—and was able to be there at his bedside when he passed away. All of this has changed Leslie—changed her for the better—God changed her! Here’s Leslie again.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Leslie: Forgiven people must be forgiving people. I hope that we can start right there in our families. I have to say, my life has been changed. Forgiving my father has changed my life, because it is turning me into a person who wants to forgive, who is ready and quick to forgive. I’m not perfect. Watch! Someone is going to hear this broadcast, and they are going to test me. They are going to—[Laughter]—please don’t do that! [Laughter]

But God showed me His heart of mercy toward my father. My father was given people—Christians, all along his path—right up until the moment he died. That’s how much God loved my father. He gave him unending moments of mercy to lead him to Himself.


Michelle: You know, Leslie’s entire story is a very powerful story. I covered that in a previous show. You can go and hear her entire story at; that’s

You know, wherever you are coming from today, sometimes those past hurts are ones that really can start taking us down. I was talking with someone just last night—someone who had lost their dad not so long ago—their dad’s death really sent them in a tailspin. It wasn’t because they were close; it was because of some unresolved issues.

That story doesn’t just belong to my friend. It could be shared honestly and truthfully from many people’s standpoints, maybe even yours. If that’s you, you might have a tendency to get stuck in the past. I ask you/I challenge you to break free! Ask God to give you wisdom to break those old patterns that might be plaguing you. Do what Jesus said, and what Leslie did: forgive.

Hey, if you’re a mom or a dad, you remember when your baby was about a year and starting to stand on those chubby little legs? They were so unsteady at first; and they fell a lot, and they toppled over. You probably had this desire to make sure that all the sharp corners were filed down in your house, and you added extra pillows in different places so they wouldn’t get hurt. Do you remember those feelings—those feelings of anxiety and worry that your child’s not going to live another day because, well, you bought the wrong safety gate?—and it broke, and they fell down the stairs. Well, we’re going to talk about parenting anxiety on the next FamilyLife This Week. I hope you can join us for that.

Hey, I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our team today. Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today in Little Rock, Arkansas, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.


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