Attachment Theory and Adult Attachment: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

As my wife and I have traveled together to heal her dissociative identity disorder these last 5 years, I unknowingly followed the basic tenets of attachment theory. As I assumed the role of the little girls’ primary attachment figure, they began to heal and mature. I watched as they began the paradigmatic shift from trauma victim, not to abuse survivor, but simply to normal and healthy girls. It has truly been one of the most wonderful and rewarding transformations to watch.

But as I studied attachment theory, I began to understand why my girls were doing so well; and yet I was struggling so deeply. Why did they not need anti-depressives and anti-psychotics, and yet I was seeking my uncle who is a pharmacist for herbal anti-depressants for me? Why were my girls not suicidal, but I regularly was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits? Why did I have such wild mood swings all the time? The answers are found in attachment theory.

Attachment theory makes it clear that no matter how old a person is the need for strong attachment relationships never diminishes. A healthy childhood is important, but a secure attachment base as a child does not make one impervious to the healthy need of attachment relationships as an adult. And so I began to realize that  my wife, my girls, were doing so phenomenally because I was providing them with a strong attachment relationship, yet I was deeply foundering because I had no one to meet my own attachment needs. My wife desperately needed me to help her heal, but she was in no position to meet my needs these last 5 years. Frankly she has never met my attachment needs since the day we were married because of how d.i.d. fractured Karen and the other girls.

I have really struggled to find others in my life to help meet some of my attachment needs which should have been naturally met by my wife. My first family and my in-laws for various reasons have been unable to be part of my wife’s healing. And my girls’ demand for absolute privacy made seeking out help even more difficult.  The short of it is I’ve had very few people to partially fill the void that a healthy wife would naturally fill.

I think the strength of any therapeutic methodology is based upon the weakest link. And in the case of what I have been doing to help my wife heal, the lack of attachment figures for me is the weakest link. I’ve never found anyone to replace the desperate need I have for a healthy wife. This methodology has been beyond fantastic for my girls: I’ve been told their progress is unparalleled. But the lack of a replacement, attachment figure for me while my wife heals has devastated me.

But, you know, knowledge is power. And at least now I understand why this journey has been so hard for me. This newfound knowledge has helped me with the emotional storms that constantly assail me. Now I understand the source of the storms, and I can seek to meet the needs underlying those storms through the various girls as much as they are able to safely do so. And I also understand what to tell others who would follow our steps. This is a pitfall in our methodology; you MUST find others to help support you while you support your spouse. But any spouse who has a d.i.d. mate probably already understands the many attachment needs that go unfilled.

But on a little happier note, as I began to research adult attachment relationships, I found the following list of how properly attached romantic couples act. They display the following traits:

both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsive

both engage in close, intimate, bodily contact

both feel insecure when the other is inaccessible

both share discoveries with one another

both play with one another’s facial features and exhibit a mutual fascination and preoccupation with one another

both engage in “baby talk” (R.C.Fraley)

As I read this list it made me ache all over, wishing I had that kind of a healthy relationship with my wife. So I sent the list to Karen and all the girls to read it, and for the first time in 25 years, ALL the girls have begun exhibiting one of the traits: they now will touch my face affectionately. It’s not a big thing, but each time one of them does it, it helps to ease the deep ache in my heart just a little and gives me hope that someday they may fulfill more of these common traits of properly attached couples like I do for them.

Attachment theory and healing d.i.d. have gone hand in hand for me and my girls. It has adequately explained my girls’ wonderful progress and also explained why I struggle in some ways worse than they have. But it also gives me hope for that day when my wife is fully healed and we can enter into the properly-attached, romantic relationship for which both of us have always longed.

Blessings,

Sam, I Am

http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxious%E2%80%93avoidant_attachment#Attachment_patterns

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_adults

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. K-Faith
    Feb 16, 2013 @ 03:15:18

    Profound

    Reply

  2. complicatedwaltz
    Feb 17, 2013 @ 13:24:23

    What a caring partner you are! I hope your relationship continues to grow. I’ve found that trusting in my husband and allowing myself to be nurtured and loved, and returning that, is one of life’s greatest rewards. Do you think working together with a therapist might improve your love language?

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 18, 2013 @ 09:59:34

      Hi,

      I’m guessing you don’t have d.i.d. Unfortunately marriage counseling is kind of irrelevant right now. I’m dealing with much bigger issues than us not understanding each other’s love languages, I’m not trying to belittle your comment at all. but right now it’s like my wife has been in a car accident, and I’ve just got to help her walk, go to the bathroom, feed herself, etc. I hope some day she’ll be healed enough that we progress to love languages. I know the various girls’ love languages, but d.i.d. has kept them from caring about mine.

      Thanks for stopping by…

      Sam

      Reply

      • complicatedwaltz
        Feb 21, 2013 @ 03:18:47

        Sorry, no I don’t have D.I.D. I’m just a wife, mother, survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I understand that my past brings a great deal of…what’s the word…baggage…(?)…to the table. And my husband has his baggage, too. A past of ghosts and hurt. We all are comprised of our pasts, and the way we see the world now has a lot to do with the lenses we have at our disposal.
        But I am not a complete idiot, and realize that traditional “marriage counseling” isn’t what is on your agenda right now. I do think having a caring professional there for all of you, to help mediate the conversation and flow, could lay the foundation for the future, however.
        Or not. ?? This is just my opinion, and what I imagine I would want for myself, my husband, and my marriage, if our marriage was as complex as yours sounds. I admire your dedication and love for your wife.

      • Sam Ruck
        Feb 21, 2013 @ 17:34:46

        I’m sure a good counselor might help, but as I read the blogs of others who have d.i.d., the ones that actually understand our situation are few and far between. So I’ve got a journal that’s pushing 3600 pages. It’s a very empathetic listener and has helped me work thru the many painful things that go with having a spouse with this disorder while also helping her heal.

        Sam

  3. complicatedwaltz
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 03:24:02

    And I just read your “Note” sidebar — you’ve said that you’d like more support for spouses… what do you think would be helpful?

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 21, 2013 @ 17:50:37

      What would be helpful?
      A counselor who included me in the healing journey since I’m doing most of the heavy lifting on this journey anyway. I’m there 24/7, not my wife’s counselor and yet I’m never included in any way in their sessions.

      It would have also been helpful to have a good counselor to help me, but money is tight, so like I said in my other response, I’ve got a good journal to help me thru this.

      I would love a support group like PODS in the UK for spouses, but they only accept people from the UK and I just don’t have time to start something similar in the States because I’m still in the middle of helping my girls heal. Maybe when they are done healing, I’ll try.

      It would have been nice for my methodology to have been validated by the professional community and d.i.d. community. But I’m treated like a fringe lunatic even though my wife says she is so far past the majority of those with d.i.d. that she no longer frequents those internet forums because they attack her and what we are doing and try to pull her back to their level because they can’t believe her progress. So I keep putting articles out out of some sense of need even though I feel like packing it up and shutting this blog down.

      Sam

      Reply

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