Boundaries: None for me. Respecting Theirs

Boundaries are all the rage today. Alleylieu tells me that the people on her one forum are continually discussing books that promote the “necessity” of personal boundaries in a marriage. Amy caught the bug, too, and began trumpeting, “Daddy, I have a voice!” and “This is my boundary!” But as a spouse who is deeply involved in the healing process, what should my attitude about boundaries be?

What is a boundary? Boundaries let others know, “This is my space.” Sometimes we build a fence or wall if we want to reinforce the boundary from intruders. But other times a boundary is simply a marker. We may leave the boundary open, but it is our legal ace that we can use if someone misuses our generosity.

Recently I got into a prolonged discussion with Alleylieu. She wanted to know why I’m the only person she knows who doesn’t think boundaries are a good thing. She said even plenty of Christian teachers espouse the benefits of boundaries.

So I replied:

“Outside of a marriage some level of boundaries is always appropriate. There are some things I would never do with my son, with relatives or with a friend. Having sex with them is an example. The more distant the relationship I have with a person, emotionally speaking, the more boundaries will naturally be in place.

 But inside a healthy marriage boundaries have NO place. The Bible is clear that “the two shall become one flesh.” How can two people become one if they carve big sections of their marriage relationship up with “Do not enter”or “Watch Out” signs?

 That being said, I have never treated you girls (insiders) as my wife, and so I have respected the boundaries that you have set. I understand that “boundaries” and “having a voice” are important when you were never allowed to have them in the past. Right now they are part of your healing process as you learn that I am a safe person for you.

 But boundaries should never be the goal in a marriage. So you girls have NEVER heard me tell you that I have any boundaries. Whatever you need, it is my duty and pleasure to try to fulfill. And I hope some day that you will see the need for boundaries in your own life to no longer exist. Where there is complete trust and love, boundaries are unneeded: “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.”

Sometimes Amy or Alleylieu will give me a boundary that seems totally insignificant to me. And I don’t always “get it” right away that sometimes these are just little tests that they are giving me to see if I will respect their wishes unlike the abusers from the past. So no matter what my opinion may be of something they ask me NOT to do, it is important in the establishment of trust between us that I honor those requests without making them “demand, yell or cry” for me to listen to them.

As the husband of a DID wife, the guideline “boundaries: none for me, respecting theirs” serves me well. My girls need ALL of me they can get during this healing journey. But from their end they need me to give them space to heal from the trauma and verify that I won’t re-traumatize them. So to play games with them and withhold things that are within my power to provide them because they currently need boundaries while I don’t would slow the healing process. From a purely selfish perspective, for me to erect boundaries would be self defeating since my number one goal is my wife’s healing. But beyond that, when my wife gets done healing, I hope some day to have a soulmate. Life is meant to be shared. Marriage is to be the deepest level of sharing possible between two people. Boundaries have one purpose only in a relationship: to keep others out. I can do without them between me and my wife.


Sam, I Am


25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roguesophia
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 19:09:38

    That is romantic.

    I hope all goes well for you and your wife.



  2. undercoverdid
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 23:20:19

    Boundaries are a tough issue- we have a very hard time having boundaries and don’t like to make them and really don’t like to enforce them, yet we find we get hurt a lot I guess with all that is going on. It’s not something we understand very well and are struggling with- but in some ways are using more lately to avoid getting hurt as much- can’t say it’s working…sorry I’m rambling! Thanks for opening up the topic, I have to say I wish things were different.


    • Sam Ruck
      Jul 26, 2010 @ 23:40:37

      Hey LH,

      with what your husband is doing, I totally understand why you are using more boundaries. I understand his struggles, too! Fortunately my girls don’t have too many explicit boundaries. Amy’s one verbalized boundary to me is “no tickling.” Any time I’m tempted she’s quick to say, “Daddy. No tickling! That’s my boundary!”

      And Alleylieu gave me one, but at first I was too dense to take it seriously. She wanted to back away from the rather benign physical affection I had been giving her (kiss on the forehead) and wanted me to shake hands when I told her goodbye as I left for work. At first I blew it off, then it hit me that this was important to her so I began “shaking hands goodbye” and I could tell how important it was to her for me to honor her desire. She wants to learn physical affection in a way that she is comfortable. And right now that’s it, though she does like it when I shake her hand and then turn her hand over so I can kiss the back side like “a gentleman does a lady.”




      • undercoverdid
        Jul 27, 2010 @ 22:43:40

        That’s really special- I’m very glad you are able to do that for them. I asked him once if he would be able to go slower to help me “catch up” and he pretty much blew me off, I knew he didn’t get what I was saying.

        I’m treading a thin line right now, trying to figure out how to balance, juggle, whatever you call it. Today he asked if I’d noticed that he’d been more cold, I hadn’t but I had noticed I was more distant, but seemingly more happy. I wish I could just trust and love and not have to worry about boundaries. Yet boundaries seem to be necessary so I ride the fence LOL!

      • Sam Ruck
        Jul 28, 2010 @ 01:18:12


        maybe some day he could get a link to my blog. I don’t know why all of us have such a hard time listening to our spouses.

        I think I know what you mean about walking a fine line. I have had to let myself grow a little cold to help me deal with the pain. (It’s not a boundary per se, though. If my girls need something, I do my best to provide it.) It sounds like you and your husband are both doing the same thing.



  3. Brianna Lea Pruett
    Aug 05, 2010 @ 12:10:32

    I personally think it would be important for you to have boundaries as well as your wife. Just thought I would speak up on this.


  4. Brianna Lea Pruett
    Aug 05, 2010 @ 12:20:21

    Kids growing up need boundaries and structure. My current partner provides that to me and it is much healthier. Even my littlest parts know, that he is not their father. To me that would be unhealthy. When my partner is tired, and a little one of my parts wants to play, he says no, I am tired. It helps my parts learn about the real world. It helps them grow. You might try this. It may speed your wifes healing.


    • Sam Ruck
      Aug 05, 2010 @ 17:39:42

      Hi Brianna,

      Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure I would include being tired at a particular moment as a “boundary” per se. To me a boundary is more of a permanent thing. I don’t have sex with ANY of the insiders period. That’s a boundary. But when Sophia wants to squirt me with her water toy, if that brings her joy and hopefully healing as a result, I’m happy to let her do it.

      I guess I can’t “intelligently” discuss the current understanding of boundaries because I haven’t read the pop books that are out there. I just personally am coming at this from a deep belief in two people becoming “one flesh” like the Bible says. I try not to make this blog for Christians only, but like all of us, my core beliefs will seep into what I say and write.

      If you want to discuss this more, I’d be happy to do so. I don’t believe in my infallibility and maybe I have overreacted to something that I haven’t taken the time to adequately research. It just seems like boundaries are more about keeping others out than having this attitude: “It is my pleasure to satisfy the needs of my wife…who happens to also include a full network of girls.”




  5. Brianna Lea Pruett
    Aug 05, 2010 @ 23:05:01

    Well Sam, that last statement plain rocks. In a good way. I just know that for me, growing up, there were no boundaries at all, or they were totally arbitrary. I commend you for your sexual boundary. I thought about it for awhile, and I am very surprised that you allow one of your partners parts to think that you are her father. To me this seems like it would be incredibly sexually confusing for the body, who houses all of these parts, even if you are not having sex with any of the parts, they are all there, they are part of her. My opinion is that it is best not to role-play other relationships with parts. I would say, that saying, I am your friend, and you are a part of Karen, or something like that. You know what I mean? I think it is sweet that you try to develop a relationship with all of these magnified aspects of your wifes personality, and I would say it is best to remember that she is, after all, ONE woman, with perhaps many parts. I would say, be her partner, do not try to be her father. That would be harmful to me, if my partner were to take on that role. What do you think about this?


    • serafina
      Aug 06, 2010 @ 13:51:30

      I wanted to comment on what you said about Sam acting like a father being harmful to the kids. My partner is “mom” to my younger parts and actually it has been very helpful in making them feel safe. They know they have a “real” mom and my partner is their “other” mom. I have had great movement in my system especially with a younger part because she feels safe. My thought is always if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. I do think different things work for different people.
      Take gentle care,


  6. Brianna Lea Pruett
    Aug 05, 2010 @ 23:07:59

    And people do, in fact, of course, re-parent each other, nurture each other in relationships. And though I am not Christian, I do believe that husband and wife must flow and their spirits intertwine to some extent. So I can see doing fatherly, nurturing things for her and them, but saying or role-playing that verbally, in a stated manner, seems harmful ultimately to me. Think of what I say for a good while and tell me your thoughts on this. sincerely, Brianna


    • Sam Ruck
      Aug 06, 2010 @ 17:30:20


      In one letter you voiced concern about “confusion” in the body by allowing different parts, like Amy, call me daddy. If I understand DID correctly, by its very nature there is no confusion because Amy acts independently of the other girls (though as healing takes place the independence is becoming less). And for the record my wife is a “little” conflicted about Amy calling me daddy and yet she told me last night in response to your question that it has been extremely healing that I fill that role for Amy.

      I’m not a professional and I haven’t read much of the literature out there. But largely I have let the golden rule define how I interact with the insider girls: treating them how I would want to be treated if I were a child.

      My wife said she recently watched a show that kind of validates the method I have been intuitively doing. I think the theory says that a child who grows up in an environment where core needs are never met will never grow emotionally past that stage until those needs ARE met. And intuitively I have been doing that. I see my part in the healing process as providing the various little girls the happy, safe and loving childhood they never had.

      If Amy wants a daddy, then I can be that for her. It’s not a “role play.” I treat her as a daddy would in EVERY sense of the word. And she responds exactly as a 7 year old would. And even though I do, she has still slowly come to “own” her own parents as she has received more healing and come to understand that her own parents didn’t “hate” her because they neglected her; they were just lost in their own personal pain.

      As a “singleton” I can simultaneously act on multifaceted levels so I have no confusion calling Amy my daughter while “seeing” the body of my wife. And so far, though my wife cannot do the same, all the girls have voiced their absolute LOVE of how I interact with them. Moreover, the ladies working with them in a more “therapeutic” manner have all voiced happiness with the extremely rapid progress they are making. I have no past experience to judge this against, so I try very hard to listen to my wife, her girls, and the feedback from the ladies helping her. I ‘know’ how we are doing things is unorthodox, but it’s part of the reason why I wanted to start this blog in case anyone else would find this a viable alternative for them. I think there are many ways to get healed. I just try to listen to lots of feedback from my girls and hope they are honest with me.




  7. Brianna Lea Pruett
    Aug 06, 2010 @ 19:52:21

    Sam, this makes sense. Thanks for being honest about your wife having some reservations about it at some point. I guess I have dealt with it differently, being american indian and a person who loves elder people, I have adopted different people (and actually, on that note, different parts of me have adopted different elder people, ha) on the outside to fill this role. I think too my little ones are very co-present and aware of what is going on, I have poly-fragmentation that I am healing from sex-slave programming, and most of the time, I have about 5 or 6 co-present parts working together, and like your wife, as I heal they become less independent and more of the same essential energy.

    So my little ones know when I am having sex, nothing is hidden from them, down to the baby ones, who are care-taken by the older ones, every fragmented part that is me, knows what is going on, especially because I have an inner meeting every day. So I think because of that, the little ones would not go for my partner being their dad. They know who their dad was, a part of the difficult experiences, and though there are many conflicting feelings about that person, he remains the biological father in the awareness of all.

    *a child who grows up in an environment where core needs are never met will never grow emotionally past that stage until those needs ARE met.*

    So true.


  8. Sam Ruck
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 21:03:33

    I have continued to reflect on this entry a lot. Because of my stance of having no boundaries for myself (among other reasons) I was blacklisted from the DID blogroll here on wordpress. I always take criticism seriously even if I do not change my position. So I asked Amy, “Honey, I was told that I ought to have some boundaries. What boundaries should I have with you girls?” Amy was horrified. She understood that if I began erecting boundaries in my marriage that they would suffer loss. And that’s my point. Boundaries may offer safety, but they come at a cost: loss of intimacy.

    Trust me, this marriage is very painful to me even though I love all my girls. Sometimes I would love to erect some boundaries to give myself some “off limits” areas into which I could retreat. But I am supposed to be “one flesh” with my wife. So I hope some day, when healing is mostly done, that boundaries will be a thing of the past.


    Sam, I Am


  9. Trackback: Boundaries: Moving toward Healthier Ones « Loving My DID Girl(s)
  10. jones
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 02:06:25

    Hi, random bypasser here. It seems to me that boundaries would be extremely important in protecting you from exhaustion, isolation and despair (burn-out type issues). Boundaries are where you define and protect your own needs for time away from the relationship and its demands, for outside interests, for other friendships, and for your partner to get some of her needs met somewhere beyond you too.

    If you don’t find ways to do this, you may well find a backlash of anger inside you when your partner doesn’t hurry up and heal in time for your needs to be met. Because – what if ‘one day’ doesn’t come? Your needs are probably about balanced, mature intimacy, balanced workload contributions to the relationship, limits to the immersion in ‘therapy’-type concerns, and so on.

    Good parents, therapists and partners all have boundaries of one sort or another. They protect the individuality of each partner, so that as well as intimacy, both have internal resources to draw on and the strength to draw on them, rather than drowning in enmeshment and a blended identity of mutual dysfunction. I get that you want to be ‘one flesh’, but I have the feeling after reading here that there is some significantly less healthy stuff loading onto that particular biblical mandate. Without boundaries, kids don’t grow up, and therapy patients don’t heal. Why would they even want to?


    • Sam Ruck
      Jan 13, 2013 @ 08:19:07

      Hi Jones,

      thanks for swinging by. My marriage has been dysfunctional from the first 3 months; that’s just what having a partner with d.i.d. does to it. It’s like having a quadriplegic spouse (one who can’t do anything for herself) with one big difference: she CAN get better.

      So I have the option: go slow and maaaaaaaaybe we’ll get done with her healing when I hit 50 or even later, or give it everything I’ve got. Her disorder has already ruined most of my plans/hopes for my life. I’m just trying to reclaim a chance for both of us to be happy before it’s too late to matter.

      As for your last paragraph my wife isn’t my “child” or “patient” even though practically speaking, I have to treat her like both to help her heal. I understand my stance isn’t common, and I have to laugh that this culture would be calling me the dysfunctional one. In spite of my wife’s disorder I probably still have a better relationship with my wife than most people I know; it’s just a lot more challenging to do so.

      Take care,



  11. jones
    Jan 14, 2013 @ 06:08:19

    Hi Sam,

    When I said I saw some less healthy stuff in the ‘one flesh’ idea, I didn’t mean less healthy than hypothetical ‘healthy’ people. I’m sorry if that came off as judgemental. There’s plenty of dysfunction in most of the relationships I know, including my own, which also has more healthy and less healthy parts to it.

    I understand the imperative to get as much healing as you can in your lives as quickly as possible. I would suggest, from my lay perspective (which includes a lot of therapy and a lot of reading of many others’ relationship and therapy experiences), that boundaries appropriately handled should speed things up rather than slow them down. But you and I may understand boundaries in different ways. For you they are about distance; I’m talking about each partner having an individuated core self (selves?) that is oriented in its own needs, care and healthy self-protection as a first base. You are willing to give this to your partner (at least while you see her as healing) but you refuse it for yourself.

    It’s quite right that your wife is neither your child nor your patient – but surely a lot of the same principles apply, because those roles define the dynamic between you? So think of some comparisons: when a parent sets bed-time, a kid may complain. But bed-time means the parent gets time to recharge and do adult stuff, which means they don’t get so grumpy and tired. And the child comes to trust and depend upon the routine, which allows them proper sleep, predictability, and the *safety* of knowing that the adult is taking care of the big picture, by caring for themselves (don your own face-mask first…).The child also learns that they can be safe in their own company and their own bed in these circumstances – that’s a building block for greater independence later on, when it’s needed.

    In therapy, a therapist who tries to be 100% available 24-7 usually gets quickly exhausted and resentful, and loses perspective on the relationship at hand, too. I’ve heard many accounts of clients who have suffered as a result of this kind of over-extension. No matter how good the therapist’s intentions, they will fail at some point, because no adult can ever 100% meet another adult’s emotional needs. If the therapist is not on top of exactly how much they can realistically offer, then the failures will be unpredictable and can be catastrophic, setting progress back a long way. Failures from the therapist might take the form of erratic contact, erratic temper, mixed messages or (in the worst cases) a total melt-down of the therapist’s ability to keep caring, resulting in patient abandonment or other aggressive behaviour. For someone who is so emotionally vulnerable, this can be disastrous.

    And on the flip side, the client who never encounters their therapist’s boundaries doesn’t ever get the opportunity to draw on their own resources and experience the growth of independence. Nor do they learn things like how to hear and respect another’s ‘no’ and be okay. Or that in a relationship, their needs must be balanced with the other’s needs. For operating in the world, this is essential stuff. Good luck.


    • Sam Ruck
      Jan 14, 2013 @ 09:48:46

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks for continuing to dialogue. I know the subject of boundaries is all the rage in this culture, and I know my stance is definitely out of vogue. And as I’ve read your comments, I’m trying to think if I “100%” have no boundaries. Probably not, but I don’t have many, and none that I can think of that are inflexible. I also realize that even though therapist and child dynamics are part of my (unhealthy) marriage right now, I don’t see them as defining my marriage. First and foremost I am a husband; I just happen to be called upon to help my wife heal in a pretty all-inclusive way.

      I don’t respect a lot that is called therapy today, especially the older models. But lately I’ve been reading a lot about the attachment model and it REALLY resonates with me. In fact, I’m considering revamping this blog in light of the fact that I seem to be instinctively following the attachment model. And in the beginning of the attachment model a parent 100% cares for the child and then slowly weans the child toward a healthy, but never completely unattached life. We are wired to live “securely attached” lives. Unfortunately because of my girls’ trauma, the “100% caring” phase is taking longer because I have to help them undo the trauma and attendant phobias first before they move to the “securely attached” phase. But I do believe they are getting there, if you read some of my other, more recent posts on their progress.

      I really don’t have a good answer for you. Just a few days ago in my personal journal I wrote (once again) how deeply, deeply tired I am of this. I feel like I can’t go on, literally carrying my girls thru the healing process, and yet to not go on means what? Divorce? Suicide? Permanent marital dysfunction? Those options don’t sound good so I keep going on how I’m going.

      I wish I had some better answers for you and me. My wife didn’t ask for this. I certainly didn’t expect this or dream of this kind of dysfunctional marriage. But here we are, trying to fix it, if possible.

      Take care,



  12. jones
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 08:45:17

    Well, I certainly heard that note of tiredness, which is why I thought it was worth writing something. I don’t believe it has to be all-or-nothing, which is kind of what you’re looking at with the no-boundaries-for-me vs divorce/suicide/etc stuff. Careful thought about, and work towards, appropriate boundaries could lead you to a happier in-between. If you keep reading around attachment-based therapy, you’ll see boundaries are an important part of that work. Because a lack of boundaries generally reinforces insecure attachment – it’s like trying to put up a tent from the inside with no tent poles to take the weight and give shape.

    I’ll be really straightforward here, for what it’s worth: I suspect that the reason the boundaries feel ‘wrong’ to you is that you and your wife are actually sharing certain aspects of dysfunction, though one partner is more visibly dysfunctional. That’s how it is in most (many would say all) unhealthy marriages, including mine. Possibly when you try to think of what aspects of your core self you might protect with a boundary, it’s confusing, because you don’t have an instinctive sense of your core self. Maybe you’re not even sure that there is one. The focus has all been on her for so, so long.

    If I were you I would start by trying to make a list of things you could do to refresh, recharge and feed your own individual soul, if you had the chance. And then look for small ways to get some of that in your life. You’ll need to work together with your wife and the girls to make that happen, but the list should be things for YOU. This is not selfishness. This is making sure there IS a you to sustain and contribute to the marriage. Otherwise you may be in danger of driving off a cliff, one way or another.


    • Sam Ruck
      Jan 15, 2013 @ 18:02:21


      I appreciate your concern. It’s obvious that boundaries is an issue near and dear to your heart, and I know that our culture no longer respects the person who gives up his life rescuing someone else. There are so many protocols for fire fighters, ems people, etc. to ONLY rescue someone else if you can do it without causing yourself any harm. It’s a cultural shift away from what we once emulated: “greater love has no one than this: to give up his life for another.”

      So I understand that we will never agree. In June I will “celebrate” 25 years with my wife. I am purposely taking an all or none approach. I understand the dangers, but as I’ve told my wife a few days ago, “I have no desire to die in a nursing home. I want to die on Mt. LeConte” (a trail we hike in the Smokies). I’ve already lost 25 years of hopes and dreams to my wife’s disorder: she has lost more years than that. So I’m going full throttle to help her thru the healing process so that maybe we can salvage what’s left of our lives. If I burn out, so be it. In a different life, I was smart enough to be anything I wanted. But my wife’s disorder changed my plans. So now I’m going to help her heal, or die trying.

      I understand that neither you nor this culture respects “giving one’s all” to someone else, but that’s where I am. I don’t judge you for taking a different course, and I really do appreciate the civil talk you have had with me. My stance on boundaries caused me to be blacklisted from many d.i.d. groups, but my girls are getting healed in a way that most people with d.i.d. can only dream about.

      Take care and I wish you all the happiness and healing in your marriage that I hope for mine as well.



  13. jones
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 22:53:11

    Hi Sam,

    I wish you the best too. Believe me, I understand and appreciate the value of sacrifice. I guess I was thinking more from the perspective of – if a firefighter were in the habit of entering burning buildings without donning his breathing apparatus, in the interests of ‘saving time’ – well, there’d be a problem there. But as you’ve written, perhaps you do have a few flexible ways to of keeping your own boundaries, and that is enough to get you through in the current situation. Certainly it seems like you guys are making real progress. I wish you stamina.

    Take care.


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