Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Truncated Libido

(Trigger warning. This talk about sex is pretty generic, but please use care.)

My wife and I have been married for over 26 years. Sex has always been a source of stress for both of us. But until we began the healing journey for her dissociative identity disorder 6 years ago, I never understood the reasons for our troubles. This entry emanates from our personal experience, and I would love comments from others about their own experiences even if they differ from ours.

As I tried to do some research for this subject, I realized how little information was available on the internet that would apply to couples touched by d.i.d. I included a few links at the end of this entry, but I found the information very unsatisfactory.

I included Jung’s framework as a place to start this topic:

Jung’s definition of libido differed significantly from Freud’s… Jung was convinced that libido derived from a broader series of factors (Craig, 1998, p.132). Jung proposed what he termed a genetic definition of libido (Nagy, 1991, p.127) and considered that every striving and every desire, should be included in the concept of libido…Jung considered psychic libido as a unified, progressive force leading from the core of an organism and dividing off into the tributary energies needed to maintain those complex functions of an organism (Nagy, 1991, p.127). 1

I appreciate that Jung recognized a person’s libido as the sum of one’s strivings and desires, but in his understanding of libido I see a glaring problem for someone with d.i.d: there’s no way to have a unified anything until the dissociative walls are completely down and everyone within the network has learned to work together. A compounding problem for us personally is that all 6 little girls in my wife’s network were frozen inside for decades, and so the abilities which they control were arrested in their development as I noted here. And then finally, I am still helping a couple of the girls deal with the last vestiges of the trauma related to the original sexual abuse. So we have 3 significant factors affecting my wife’s sexual libido as the term is popularly understood: dissociation, arrested development, and the residual effects of trauma. But in this entry I want to focus mainly on how dissociation and arrested development hamper the libido of a person with d.i.d. as there is plenty of literature on the effects of trauma to one’s sex drive.

Only one person relates to me as my wife in my wife’s network: Karen. I talked about her role as the host here and the limitations she faces because of the d.i.d. Placation, being disconnected from emotions and the body, being overly concerned with safety thru repetition and other factors do not make for a healthy sex partner. But to be empathetic to her plight, she isn’t able to enjoy sex herself. She tells me she rarely wants sex and never feels anything except stress after we are done, even though she regularly has an orgasm. And if I ask her to try something outside her narrow rules for intimacy, she will tell me “I can’t”, and I believe her literal words now that I understand what’s happening.

The first culprit is the dissociation. The little girls control key parts of the desires and abilities that most normal adults have. Those are all the drives which make sex fun, connecting and exciting. These are the abilities which each little girl controls and which make for a healthy drive concerning sex:

–One girl controls the desire to be and feel sexy. She also controls the desire to please others including me.

–Another girl controls the desire for romance. She loves the setting of an event: food, wine, candles, music, and pretty lingerie for me and her are within her sphere of control. She (with girl number one) also has updated my wife’s entire wardrobe so that she can feel pretty, sexy and hot!

–Another girl loves to have fun and be daring. She wants to play games and have adventures.

–A fourth girl I call my little tigress. She innocently displays the animal attraction that Hollywood loves to play up in its sex scenes.

–The fifth girl displays the signs of ‘skin hunger’2,3. At first I thought her needs solely had to do with the trauma, but her desire to be in my embrace never diminished even though she is largely past the trauma now. She literally would have me hold her all day if circumstances allowed. She tells me being in my arms is the best place in the world. She also is the only girl (including Karen) to initiate physical affection back to me.

–And the last girl is obsessed with feeling safe and clean. She proclaims that I make her safe and clean.

So what healthy person wants to give up the ability to feel one of these aspects within his/her personality? I want to experience sex in its fullness. I would not willingly give up any of these aspects, and yet Karen has never experienced any of these sides of intimacy. Is it any wonder she rarely wants to have sex with me? She isn’t being selfish or unloving. She simply doesn’t get to experience the best parts of sex because the other girls control those areas! The dissociation keeps these drives from the only girl currently willing to relate to me as my wife.

But if that isn’t enough to ruin a healthy libido, my wife (all of them) has to contend with the arrested development (see link above) of the desires that each little girl controls. At this moment there’s a lot of physical affection occurring between me and the little girls but it is all on the level of an elementary child to new teenager. That means we constantly kiss…with closed mouths. I give non-sexualized hugs, baths and when I pinch her butt. I make a point of letting my hands affectionately roam all over my wife’s body from head to toe, but it’s always non-sexualized with the little girls. Furthermore, to all the girls the exchange of any body fluids is totally gross which is highly unconducive when it comes to sex. In fact, none of the drives which the little girls control have been sexualized like happens during adolescence and young adulthood for healthy people.4

And that, at least in our case, is how d.i.d has affected my wife’s libido. I’ll be honest: I’ve struggled to break the impasse the little girls have allowing their desires to mature naturally. Only recently has one of my girlfriends begun cautiously exploring a very tiny part of sexual foreplay. But she is always sure to jump inside when the main event begins.

And so I hope that my little essay on this subject might help others understand some of the dynamics going on when a person with d.i.d. approaches sex. I’m sure you noticed I didn’t even discuss how the original trauma affects sex because at this point most of that is behind us, and I’ve read plenty of articles dealing with that. These 3 factors can make sex a toxic experience for both partners in a committed relationship. But maybe with understanding there can be empathy and eventually healing for both mates.

Blessings,

Sam

1 ukessays.com, essays, jungsory-of-personality.php

2 everything2.com, skin hunger

3 psychologytoday.com, blog, affectionado, What Lack of Affection Can do to You

4 mentalhelp.net, Oswalt, The Development of Adolescent Sexuality

sexuality.about.com, sex_drive

wikipedia.org, Libido

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thereisarainbow
    Sep 19, 2014 @ 06:43:24

    This is so interesting…to read a husband’s perspective. Thank you for posting this article 🙂

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Sep 19, 2014 @ 16:26:05

      Hi Rainbow,

      thanks for visiting my blog! And thanks for taking the time to comment. Even though I see the ‘hits’ my blog gets each day, these notes are the things that help me feel less isolated and more connected to others out there facing the same things as we are. Good luck to you and your husband.

      Reply

  2. flowerofthewoods
    Sep 19, 2014 @ 12:57:31

    I have the same sort of division in regards to sexual things — one girl knows how to be attractive, another wants physical touch, etc. We often feel insecurity, since a lot of our girls compare their abilities with each other and downplay their own strengths.

    I think that there are two things that have helped me work with having my sexuality split up: First, I made a personal vow to always take care of my husband’s needs, and second, the stubbornness to muscle my way through problems that arise. I put a lot of energy into getting my personalities to see sex as desirable, and they need a lot of maintenance or else they tend to regress.

    I’ll probably never experience sex the same way that it’s described in romance novels, but I don’t think that I’ll ever want to. Each of my personalities experiences it differently, with the focus being on the elements that each girl enjoys and what she’s good at.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Sep 19, 2014 @ 17:19:05

      Flower,

      thanks for taking the time to add your experience to these comments. I really appreciate it! do you have little children in your network that you got to see sex as ‘desirable’ or only older ones? If you don’t want to comment, that’s ok. I just wish I knew how to help my girls get over seeing sex as icky. I think that’s the biggest problem right now. Anytime my mouth is even slightly open all the older girls complain that I get ‘spit’ on them, ooy vey! 😦
      Sam

      Reply

      • flowerofthewoods
        Sep 19, 2014 @ 18:40:13

        Emmy, who identifies as being seven, likes to pretend that she’s a pretty princess bride on her wedding night. The girls younger than her just aren’t interested, but everyone older enjoys sex.

        I couldn’t really say what it is that I do, exactly, other than I think a lot about the positive aspects of it in a very sappy-romantic sort of way.

      • Sam Ruck
        Sep 19, 2014 @ 18:49:39

        Thanks for sharing!

  3. Glenn
    Sep 19, 2014 @ 13:21:13

    Yes. This is very good and helpful. I am in very similar situation. Even if trauma is dealt with on some level intellectually, I don’t think it is dealt with completely. So the memory is dealt with but the physical trauma is not. I believe that this aspect is what causes someone with DID to not be able to mature in that area. I am hoping that I am correct in that assumption for my sake.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Sep 19, 2014 @ 18:26:31

      Hey Glen,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I think the typical method takes an intellectual approach to healing the trauma mostly dealing with the host and the few who are willing to front for the therapists. But as spouses we have the chance to deal on a deeper, emotional level. Tina was the last girl to come out and she held the deepest issues of all the girls.

      I don’t know why my girls aren’t maturing. It didn’t help when their counselor told them that the birthdays I had initiated for Amy were “unimportant.” Sigh. After that it’s been a ‘fight’ to get her to have anymore and the others never have had a birthday yet, though some of them are considering one now. I think birthdays are huge mental markers for us all. Amy started at 6 years old and is now 9. She’s changed incredibly, but she ought to be 12.

      Take care,

      Sam

      Reply

  4. Chris
    Sep 19, 2014 @ 20:56:09

    Sam, I agree that birthdays are huge markers in our life for change, eg : now I am older and I can ride my bike in the street, or drive a car…new challenges that can be looked forward to due to our new level of maturity. Likewise, I found myself frustrated at my wife’s birthday when her 8 year old alter refused to turn 9. I thought, how are we ever going to get back to a normal marriage , I am never going to be able to be intimate with my wife again if we just stay frozen in time even now that we are out and experiencing the world. Later I learned that starting at the age of 3, my wife was sexually abused by her uncle when he and her aunt came up from Kentucky and stayed the night for every birthday. In my normal life, birthdays meant good things, and marked times for new experiences. For my wife ,those same birthdays marked abuse, or change from one abuser to another. She correlates age markers with abuse markers. We had a much better birthday the next year when we just worried about cake. At least for us, we found more healing in setting new and more healthy ways to denote passages of time, beginning to enjoy chinese checkers together, taking small trips to the toy store or the pet store etc. Forming good memories, and seeing me as safe seems to be helping her to form new interests and to be growing emotionally. Been a long haul though. Keep the Faith

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Sep 19, 2014 @ 22:21:14

      Hi Chris.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. I can see why birthdays would be toxic for your situation. And I’m glad you’ve found other ways to move forward. For us the girls have continued to mature in spite of the lack of birthdays, but I still am sad that the power of the birthday was undermined by her counselor. But anytime I hit a wall, I just roll and keep moving. I refuse to get stuck in one direction if the girls resist something I am trying to do with them.

      Take care.
      Sam

      Reply

  5. Brett
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 04:47:54

    Prior to my wife’s DID diagnosis, she was masochistic nymphomaniac that wanted sex on a daily basis, and not just vanilla sex! She had associated traumatic, abusive sex with love and needed as much as possible!
    Since her alters have presented themselves, each one has taken on a specific sexual and/or intimate identity: the littles are off limits; some require constant close contact; another wants a sexual relationship but isn’t sure what to do; and yet another has become a multi-orgasmic Mistress who demands service.
    I have had to become aware of each alter’s sexual identity and must respect their different needs and wants, like every other aspect of their differentiated personalities.
    Incredibly interesting experience, but quite hard work too…

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Dec 05, 2014 @ 20:04:34

      Hi Brett,

      thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I can’t even imagine any of the girls in my wife’s network being like yours, maybe some day. I’m just trying to get them connected and then we’ll see who she wants to become when they are all together.

      Sam

      Reply

  6. Lizz
    Apr 20, 2015 @ 23:23:32

    Sam, I just want to thank you. My husband does not have a D.I.D. diagnosis. He has an autism diagnosis, but believes he can remember all of his past lives. Those “past lives” infiltrate our marriage almost continuously, and when it’s not the past lives, it’s the autism, which keeps him from touching anything oily or slippery; makes him OCD; makes it difficult for him to keep a job; makes it possible for him to ONLY see his own view point; makes him double check anything that is said to him (if you tell him there are three pairs of socks, he must go count them himself); makes him shut down if there are loud noises at all or any sort of bass from cars nearby; slows his libido to a standstill (and forget any sort of emotional connection); makes him unable to function well if the routine is disrupted. He has no history of trauma or abuse, so it’s impossible to find anything to heal. It’s… frustrating. Reading your blog has given me hope, and some sense of empowerment. I have been looking at the resources you list, and hopefully, will find a better way to work with my husband’s limitations.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Apr 20, 2015 @ 23:35:07

      Hi Lizz,
      I’m glad you found something of worth on my blog. Good luck to you. I know how frustrating it can be to feel helpless in the face of severe limitations with a spouse. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Sam

      Reply

  7. Trackback: Neural Plasticity and Dissociative Identity Disorder | Loving My DID Girl(s)

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