Posts Tagged ‘DID and marriage’

In my last blog entry, I talked about the phenomenon of someone with dissociative identity disorder (DID) having alter parts that do not feeling married. This is disconcerting, to say the least, to both the host personality and the spouse. In the case of some people with DID (but certainly not all), an alter part might take over and have affairs because the alter part feels no connection with or commitment to the marriage.

My best advice is to focus upon healing from the underlying trauma and accept each part of yourself as “me,” even the parts that appear to be “betraying” your marriage. The truth of the matter is that every single part, even the “unfaithful” part, IS a part of you. The more you hate that part, the more you disconnect with it, and the more out of control your life is going to feel.

Instead, you need to reach out to those parts in love and acceptance, embracing them as “me” because they truly are a part of you. Invite those parts to share their stories with you. What memories and emotions do they carry? Those memories and emotions are yours. As you love and accept each part as you, you will begin to integrate with that part (which, to me, means to begin melting the internal ice that keeps you separate). As you begin to merge together, you will begin to see that both sides don’t have to be polar opposites.

You will begin to recognize that the parts that love, hate, and are indifferent toward your spouse are all parts of you. Ambivalence is normal in a marriage. The big difference is that those with DID feel each part separately, which makes it very hard to balance it all out. You need each part working together to understand why you feel ambivalent and what needs to change to meet your needs.

Try not to judge yourself harshly for betraying your marriage if you have done so while you lost time. Hating that part of yourself is only going to make things worse. Instead, open up dialogue with that part of yourself to understand why that alter part felt the need to go outside the marriage. What is missing? What is that part of yourself seeking? As you grow to understand the motivation behind the choice to look outside the marriage, you can figure out other ways to meet those needs. You might also find that your marriage is not as fabulous as you have tricked your host personality into believing.

Healing from DID takes a lot of courage, and marriage is just one more area that can get complicated. The more you can be open to understanding your truths and yourself, the more smoothly this part of healing will go.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Sorry to missing writing yesterday. We had yet another snowstorm here in North Carolina that really was no big deal. However, the school board overreacted and canceled schools yesterday, so I unexpectedly had my son to entertain all day.

My inbox has been flooded with comments about my series this week on marriage and dissociative identity disorder (DID). I guess this is another one of those issues that people don’t talk about much. One of the emails brought up a sticky point that I think we need to talk about. What do you do when you have parts that do not “feel married”?

Here is how this happens. As an example, my host personality fell in love with my husband and made the decision to marry him. Parts of myself fueled this decision because I had a history of committing to boyfriends as protection from being abused by college guys. Marrying hub was, to many of my parts, protection from my mother/abuser. I did not have a job offer when I graduated, so I would have had to live with my mother/abuser again if not for marrying hub. At no point did this reality factor into my host personality’s decision to marry hub, but this was a huge underlying factor to many of my other parts.

As I became aware of having alter parts, I learned that some of them loved hub, some hated hub (because of having to have sex), and others were pretty much indifferent to him. Because my host personality loved him so deeply, it was jarring to realize that I had parts of myself that did not. From what I understand, to those without DID, ambivalence is simply a normal part of life, but it wasn’t for me. I was used to being “all in” or “all out,” and it was disconcerting to feel love, hatred, and indifference toward the same person all at once.

I am fortunate that I stayed co-conscious after my host personality became aware of having alter parts. I also have a very strong belief system about “right and wrong,” so I feel confident that I did not do things that run contrary to my deep-seated morality (i.e., having an affair through an alter part). Not every person with DID is that lucky, though. Those who are very disconnected and lose time could have parts that are having affairs that the host personality does not even know about. As you can imagine, this is going to put a huge strain on even the strongest of marriages.

I will provide my advice for how to work through this ambivalence in tomorrow’s entry.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I talked about whether it is possible to stay married while healing from DID. My personal answer has been yes, although I seem to be in the minority. Just about every story of dissociative identity disorder (DID) I have read about has involved a divorce, which is quite disheartening to those of us who want to stay married to the person we married before healing from DID.

My experience was that I needed to face the question of, if I have to choose, will I choose healing or staying married? Once I chose healing, things got better. When I faced the reality that being healthy was even more important than staying married, I began to demand things of hub, and he loved me enough to change just enough for our marriage to continue working as I transformed into a healthier me.

Like most people with DID, I was a people-pleaser, so we always did what hub wanted to do. As I healed, I needed room in the marriage for me. I was no longer okay with being a reflection of what hub wanted me to be. I had my own personality, wants, and needs, and there needed to be room for them. Hub didn’t like it, but I learned to stand my ground, and slowly our marriage began to change. Today, our marriage is much healthier than it was before I began healing, and I no longer walk on eggshells worrying that one wrong move will drive hub away. If he goes, I know I will be okay.

I am not saying that things are perfect. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am still quite conflicted about sex. Also, we have very little emotional intimacy, which is why hub married a woman with DID in the first place. I wanted emotional distance so my “secret” would not be discovered, and hub has his own reasons for not wanting emotional intimacy. For now, I get what I need emotionally through friendships, so our marriage works well enough at this stage to keep going.

Whether or not to stay married when healing from DID is a personal decision. I don’t recommend it if you are in an abusive and/or toxic relationship. However, you don’t have to blow up every aspect of your life just because you are healing from DID. My experience has been that it is possible to remain married while healing from DID. The key is learning how to set & enforce boundaries and being married to someone who loves you enough to make at least a few changes to make room for you in the marriage.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Before I ever knew I had dissociative identity disorder (DID), I had read books about DID. I was always drawn to the topic of DID, even though I didn’t know why. One commonality I noticed in the DID books and movies (the few that I could find!) was that all of the books were about women who either divorced or never had a relationship. Divorce seemed to be part of the healing process. This really threw me into a tailspin because I don’t want to get divorced, but I did want to heal from DID. Did I really have to choose between my marriage or healing? Why couldn’t I have both?

I have been married for almost 18 years, and I have been in the process of recovering from DID for almost six of those years. I have managed to stay married while healing from DID, so I do not believe that divorce is an inevitability when you heal from DID.

That being said, healing from DID does put a major strain on a marriage, and you will have to make some tough choices if you want to stay married. The vast majority of DID survivors experienced sexual abuse, and healing from sexual abuse while in a sexual relationship can be very challenging. Most married people are not willing to live celibate lives for months or years, so you have to balance out your own needs with your spouse’s very legitimate needs for sex.

When I began healing from DID, losing my marriage simply was not an option. I was a stay-at-home mom of a young child, and I was determined that no matter what, I would stay married. This created such as deep conflict inside of myself that I thought I would burst. The problem was that our marriage could no longer stay the same as it always had been because I was no longer the same person who married my husband. For us to stay married, hub was going to have to make some changes.

I reached a place where I had to face the question – If I have to choose between healing from DID or staying married, which takes priority? I fought answering this question for months and wound up self-injuring repeatedly. I finally had to reach a place of recognizing that nothing, not even my marriage, could stand in the way of my healing. I decided that I would rather be healthy than have to “stay sick” to stay married. When I made this decision, my marriage began to change in positive ways. I will share more tomorrow.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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