The Husband in a Therapeutic Relationship with his Wife

Recently I have been confronted with the idea that a husband should NOT be in a therapeutic relationship with his wife. This was specifically stated to me by a therapist on another site, and then I read it recently in a transcript here

Let me be clear: I don’t know if this is a general consensus among therapists, but since it seems to be a concern by some, I thought this issue is worth addressing.

Should a husband be in a therapeutic relationship with his wife as they deal with dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder? Well, anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time would expect my answer to be yes! But to do justice to this topic, I think I should qualify that ‘yes.’ There really are issues that should be considered before a husband and wife consider replicating what Karen and I have done.

First, when my wife and I began this journey together, I had a lot of anger and bitterness. I had spent 19 years in a relationship with her that was often one-side and left me feeling used and neglected. We had a cycle in our relationship in which I would try desperately hard to be the perfect husband in the hopes of her reciprocating and taking care of some of my needs. When that never happened, I would begin the downward spiral becoming more and more unhappy until I would stop trying to please her. Then I’d become pouting and petulant. This would last for a short while until I would pick myself back up and try again. I was always sure that if I was “just good enough” for her she would want to please me in response. Until 4 years ago, I never understood that it was the little girls who kept her from responding as a healthy woman typically would.

So near the beginning of this healing journey, I had to make a conscious decision to break my pattern of interaction with my wife. I came to the place where I decided I would meet my wife’s needs knowing that she could NOT meet my needs at this point in our relationship. That didn’t make it any easier to have unmet needs, but it broke the cycle of anger and bitterness that always followed my disappointment: I don’t expect my needs to be met currently, and so I’m rarely disappointed.

My parents gave me a gift for this journey that they never could have imagined. I always grew up feeling loved and secure in my family in spite of having typical middle child issues, lol! And that innate sense of love and security has enabled me to weather the sacrifice and self-denial that the little girls needed me to have while I met their needs for love, safety and belonging. When I scan the professional literature, it often assumes no one can deny his own needs, and if my childhood had left me emotionally needy, the literature might be right. But for the 4 years since the little girls have joined my life I have never once purposely violated their safety needs to satisfy my own even though I have bathed Sophia weekly, slept in the same bed with them, dressed in the same room and had (sporadic) sex with Karen.

So the first thing to determine is: do you have any personal issues that would keep you from being a safe person for your spouse and the insiders? You can’t help her until you deal with your own issues. It took me about a thousand pages of venting into my personal journal before I really was able to deal with most of my issues. That doesn’t mean I was NO help to Karen and the other girls, but the first year my help was erratic as I dealt with my own issues and often caused the girls more issues.

Safe also means non-manipulative. I’m essentially raising my wife via the little girls. These girls are the daughters I never had. I have to treat them just like I would normal daughters. I can’t manipulate them to become what I want. Sure they are going to pick up on my beliefs and worldviews some, but I have to let them develop according to their own personality. I can’t view this as a chance to “create” my personal sex goddess or any other secret fantasy I might have for my wife.

But once I had that crucial step done, my girls really began to make great strides in their healing. And why is that? Because I have access to my wife that NO ONE else has including herself. There are 7 (or 8?) girls that we know about in my wife’s network. I have the complete trust of 6 of them, and I’m currently in the process of connecting with the 7th. My 21-year old son has a good relationship with 5 of the girls. And coming in a distant last place in my girls’ counselor whom they love: she only has a relationship with 3 of the girls. Yes, 3!

Now I don’t know if this is typical in the marriages where the husband reaches out to the insiders like I have, but how is my wife’s counselor supposed to do the bulk of the therapy, if she has access to less than half of the girls in my wife’s network than I do and they only meet once a week? I have 24/7 access to all the girls in all the situations that life brings. So it makes sense that if I want a healthy wife someday, then I need to be the one doing the bulk of the therapy work with her.

Now the therapy work I do with my wife has nothing to do with the abuse in the past. That is the domain of my wife’s counselor per Karen’s choice. Instead, my work is the more important aspect of providing the little girls a happy childhood that has, at this point, literally overshadowed the trauma of the past. The girls no longer act like a trauma victim for the most part. I have also helped them feel safe in an emotionally intimate relationship with me. And with Ally, who currently “watches” while Karen and I have sex, I am modeling how a loving man uses sex to GIVE to his wife instead of TAKE from her. I am transforming the little girls with a much more powerful kind of therapy than merely talking with a counselor. I am giving them the experience of what a safe, meaningful and intimate relationship feels like at a level appropriate to where each girl currently is.

But how do we answer the objections that “a spouse should never have a therapeutic relationship in a healthy marriage”? I think the answer lies in the criticism: someone with a deep-seated personality disorder like d.i.d. is not able to have a healthy marriage relationship. My wife has many wonderful qualities and she loves me the best she can, but she has NEVER been able to give herself freely and unreservedly like I can. Intimacy is scary and invasive to her, whereas it is safe and connecting to me. And a healthy marriage is built upon a foundation of love and sacrificial giving in the most intimate of relationships.

So my answer to the critics is I don’t want a therapeutic relationship with my wife, but I love her and I have a connection with all the girls in her network that no one else has. I have been charged to “cherish, nourish and give myself up for her,” and that means short term, I will be the main therapeutic agent in her life until she is healthy. Karen readily recognizes this truth. Once the girls are done healing, we will be able to establish the relationship on healthier, equal terms.


Sam, I Am


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeffssong
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 08:23:09

    Now Sam – how are all those therapists and counselors gonna make a buck if you do all their work for them? (wry smile). It would be scary to them to think a non-professional like you might actually be able to make a positive – even HEALING – difference in someone with DID. After all, if you can do it then anybody can do it – and where’s that leave them? Out in the gutter holding their hands out for charity donations? They aren’t going to ‘let’ you do that, you know – and if it means denying your successes, telling you you are wrong, and trying to convince others of their worldview (that DID is only treatable by psychiatrists, IF it is treatable at all).

    Personally Sam I think you are doing a wonderful job. “We” have been working with our alter, “13” on this: growing him ‘up’ and raising him to both see and treat my wife in a more adult fashion. “We” keep shoving him ‘up’ there during making love in order to reinforce this thing: that “he” is a grown human being, and it is okay to do this thing. (Yeah, we’re being careful, and not over-traumatizing anyone.) My wife was somewhat amused the first time (she didn’t know) – and the 2nd time it got a little better; and this 3rd time – well, ‘he’ is seeing her more and more as ‘his wife’ and less as a girlfriend (which is good, considering he was seeing her as ‘mom’ at the very beginning). There’s still progress to be made (he’s a suicidal cutter and while not ‘very strong’ strong enough that sometimes it makes it difficult to control his depression and accompanying urges). Having the WIFE accept him as a ‘person’ helps a great big bit; ‘we’ keep telling ‘him’ how cutting us harms her as well (we’ll see – even NOW I feel this deep seated urge to cut – and a deep and darkening depression – without any cause.) Again: he needs some therapy, which we have been working on inside. (we set up a ‘room’ for him and ‘us’; looks straight out of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, LOL – fitting.)

    Anyway: WE think you are doing the right thing. And we wish you ALL the best, Karen & girls included. 🙂


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 24, 2012 @ 12:37:45

      Hi Jeff and all,

      I understand why you are so negative about therapists and I don’t fault you for that. However, Karen and the little girls really have had a very GOOD experience with their counselor. So I hope my blog doesn’t come off as ANTI-therapists. I guess my hope is that therapists would come to see that they need to partner with the spouse, friends and family members in a d.i.d. person’s life in order to maximize the therapeutic benefit. I haven’t found d.i.d. that “complicated” to heal as the literature likes to suggest it is: the trauma victim when supplied with lots of love, safety and acceptance seems to heal “naturally” (at least in the case of my girls). However, I have found d.i.d. extremely “difficult” to heal, meaning that it takes me a ton of work and effort to undo the lies, the dissociation, and a lot of self-denial on my part because my needs as a husband will often clash with the needs of the little girls to heal.

      I see a key role for therapists to play in the healing process, but it’s not the one they typically play now.

      Good and healing thoughts to you, Jeff and all!



  2. Bourbon
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 22:25:29

    This post is enlightening 🙂


  3. subtlekate
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 20:28:50

    This is a brilliant post. Thank you for making it. My fiance has a theraputic relationship with us.


  4. Sandra (@SandraHeretic)
    May 26, 2013 @ 20:46:08

    Bah! Any relationship worth the effort to maintain IS a therapeutic relationship, whether that be marriage, friendship, colleagues, teacher/student, or parent/child, even doctor/patient and therapist/client. Every relationship, in order to flourish most beautifully, is one in which both partners are fully “seen”, accepted, and given unconditional positive regard (NOT, I note here, a free pass to do whatever they want). Everyone deserves to be accorded full respect for the dignity and uniqueness of their individuality, their humanity, their likeness of God. Any relationship that works from that premise (consciously or not) will bring healing to both partners.

    Furthermore, it is the therapeutic relationship ITSELF that is the primary healing agent, regardless of the stated purpose of the relationship, the modality of therapy, or anything else. The only except I have ever been able to think of is, possibly, and only possibly, a surgeon. But I wouldn’t take a bet on even that being largely about the relationship.


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