Who Am I? Deciding My Core Beliefs, Part 3

Who am I? What are my core beliefs? Why does it matter for this healing journey as I help my wife heal from her dissociative identity disorder?

This is the last entry in a series of 3 in which I try to explain the importance of that answer as I made the healing journey with my wife, my girls. Honestly, I’ve struggled how to finish this series in a way that makes sense and is helpful to the few SO’s who might be reading this.

As I’ve visited various d.i.d. and ptsd websites across the internet, I see a lot of SO’s and their mates in pain. I understand that pain. It still gnaws at me every single day. And yet, I feel like shouting ‘eureka’ when it comes to my wife’s healing, Attachment theory and some of the other concepts I’ve shared on this blog have made our experience so very, very different than the kind that was portrayed on The United States of Tara. The chaos that consumes so many relationships touched by d.i.d. is but a distant memory for us. Additionally, we simply never had any ‘alters’ who ran around like loose cannons doing their own thing…ever. And yet I’ve been wholesale rejected and blacklisted by the sites and groups desiring to help trauma victims and their families. It’s been very discouraging to say the least.

I do understand that much of the reaction is because we took the road less traveled* instead of the prevailing model espoused by ISSTD and the biomedical model of mental health in general. But, maybe it’s more than that. Maybe the reaction to what my wife and I have found to be so helpful is also because I tried to put the cart before the horse so to speak. Maybe I’m telling others the ‘cure’ without explaining the necessary changes I had to undergo before the cure was even available for my wife… because in a very real way, we, the SO’s, will be a significant part of the cure.

I never forgot past ISSTD president, Peter Barach’s words that d.i.d. at its foundation is an attachment disorder*. In many ways his words have proven true in our experience. I learned to undo my wife’s attachment issues by securely attaching each and every person in her system to myself. And yet securely attaching all the traumatized and disparate girls in my wife’s system required me to become that completely-safe companion that I compared to the oversized pet dog previously. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect; however. Just recently I had to seek the forgiveness of some of the girls when I blew up at them: I let the pain of our temporary celibacy cause me to vent on them for an unrelated issue, sigh. But when I do screw up, I quickly apologize. And I don’t make it a habit.

But being a ‘completely safe person’ means more than I don’t hit my wife and rarely yell at her. It’s how I interact with each and every one of the girls. It’s how I validate them and treat them respectfully. It’s the time that I give them every night at home. It’s why I allowed each of them to impact me and my life because I valued who they were. I valued their opinions. I valued their presence in my life.



Who Am I? Deciding My Core Beliefs, Part 2

In part one of this discussion, I tried to share some of the questions I began to grapple with as I helped my wife heal from dissociative identity disorder. The stress from this healing journey has caused me to examine core issues that often go to the foundation of my self-identity. Maybe as I show you how I was willing to change and adapt and grow as I struggled to be a good healing companion to all my girls, it will help you where you are struggling.

In part one I said I was “white, middle-class, conservative evangelical Christian, midwestern, conservative politically, male, and American.”. Here are a few ways that I have changed.

“White.” Well, I can’t change that, and yet as Alley has healed and matured, she’s become a social justice warrior. She’s passionately liberal on many issues, and because I love and respect her, I allowed her to open my eyes to the perspectives of my fellow Americans of color. I live in a little, midwestern town where we have few minorities. It’s easy for me to be insulated from the larger cultural issues in our country. But it was one shift of many for me.

“Middle Class.” This is another area in which Alley and the other girls have stretched and moved me toward the center of the spectrum as they shared various social justice concerns with me. My love and respect for her and the other girls meant I was willing to give due consideration to things outside the narrow upbringing I had had. I learned that there were valid reasons why so many people now need government assistance as the 1% has taken a larger and larger share of the economic pie here and elsewhere in the world. I still believe in the values of the Protestant work ethic but I now also understand how the playing field can be tilted unfairly toward certain groups and against others. And I can also appreciate those who are unable to work because of emotional/mental disabilities.

“Conservative evangelical Christian.” Perhaps nowhere have I changed more than in this area. As always Alley was partially responsible for some of the changes as she showed me inconsistencies and blatant hypocrisies within the Christian Right. But it was far more than that. I had struggled with many doubts for decades. Why won’t God heal my wife? Where are all the miracles the Bible promises? What do I do when my wife simply can’t have sex with me for a loooooooooong time? Does the Bible have anything helpful to say about my distressed marriage? And so much more.

Little by little I began to replace a theology and worldview that simply didn’t line up with anything I had experienced my entire life nor saw in any of the people surrounding me. Slowly I moved to one that significantly helped me be a better healing companion for my wife. I stopped looking for the miracles from without which never came, as I became the miracle my wife needed to heal. I had spent decades crying out for a miracle from a God who claimed to be a compassionate father, and I finally realized, I was on my own like when Aslan takes leave of Narnia at times. And yet I believe I was equipped to handle whatever needs my wife has in her healing journey (Genesis 1:28), and so I’ve walked in that belief as I’ve seen her heal in ways the experts claim is impossible.

I released myself from the unrelenting guilt that assaulted me from all the do’s and don’ts when my wife simply never has cared for sex. I wish I were better, but I just wasn’t ever good enough to figure out how to not need sex, and the Church’s stance on sex and sexuality does nothing to help those of us in an untenable situation. If there’s one area that will cause the end of my life, it is the pain and heartache of a nearly non-existent sexlife when I saved myself for my wife and got nothing for it. And so I struggled to find a morality and ethics on sex that would help me cope with our dysfunctional marriage and yet do the least possible damage to it until my wife, hopefully, is in a better place to take care of me, sigh…

It’s impossible to overstate the shift that I experienced in my perspective as a Christian, and how extremely difficult it was to deal with so many areas of the ‘faith’ that I was taught my entire life. So many things simply didn’t line up with reality no matter how desperately hard I had tried to be the best and most consistent Christian I could possibly be. On top of that are all the warnings and threats one finds in the Bible and the Church should anyone ‘fall away.’ And yet when I was done, in many ways, I feel I am more consistently following its deepest truth to live the Golden Rule as I love and help my wife heal than I ever did when I was following a long list of do’s and don’ts. And unlike so many who question their faith and then come to passionately hate it, I have no such animosity for Christianity. I simply try to embrace the best in it and ignore the rest.


Who Am I? Deciding My Core Beliefs, Part 1

My wife and I have been on the healing journey for her dissociative identity disorder the last 10 years. It’s been a long journey. In the beginning there was chaos as the other girls started to join us. But there was also chaos because of my own issues.

Recently I’ve corresponded with a couple of different SO’s, and as I answered some questions, I realized I was giving them answers based on where I am today, not where I was at the start of this journey. And I wondered if my answers would overwhelm them. It took me a couple of years to slowly become the kind of man I needed to be to help my wife heal. In the process, I finally became the kind of man I can respect when I look in the mirror. I’d like to discuss that process some.

Looking back over the last 10 years of our journey, there was one, over-arching issue that I would say was critical for me to resolve in regard to myself. The answer to this question was critical for the success of our journey: who am I?

I’ve written about aspects of that question here and elsewhere on this blog, but those older entries are all part of the larger question: “Who am I?” It’s a question that is more important than most of us realize. Like most of us, I grew up unthinkingly: I simply absorbed the culture in which I was raised, or, for others, they may have reacted to the way they were raised and went the opposite direction. Whatever was the case for you, for me it meant that I was white, middle-class, conservative evangelical Christian, midwestern, conservative politically, male, and American. Of course, not all of the caricatures of those various labels were true of me, but enough were to give you a pretty good idea of what kind of a man I was. I guess the most atypical thing about me was my obsession to understand how a good marriage worked and how men and women were supposed to relate to each other. Maybe I chalk that up to my own ailing marriage and my desperation to see it fixed.

But as my wife and I began our healing journey together, I was confronted with issues which stretched me in all kinds of ways and tore at the very core of what I thought it meant to be “white, middle-class, conservative evangelical Christian, midwestern, conservative politically, male and American.” I’m sure any SO reading this will understand the extreme nature of d.i.d. and all the issues we must confront as we live in what most of our culture considers ‘the stuff of movies.’

I don’t know how I would have made it thru the massive clarification in my core values if I hadn’t been journaling daily, frantically, trying to make sense of my life. The difficulty of the situation was increased because I wanted to simultaneously help my wife heal from the massive trauma she experienced as a child. I’ve written in the past that she often spent much of her counseling sessions in the beginning of our journey dealing with the fallout from my weekly blowups rather than moving forward in her own healing. She did make progress, but it was only once I settled the answers to my own issues that I was able to assist her better and we made consistent forward progress.

Whether we like it or not, we, you and I, the SO’s will set the tone for the relationship and the tone of the healing journey. It’s not the fault of our loved ones. Despite the empowerment movement in psychology and counseling today, with d.i.d. it’s just too much to expect them to completely own their healing and also be 100% responsible for all the actions of all the ‘alters’ until significant healing and connection has taken place. I remember telling myself, “Someone has to be the adult, and right now she can’t.” So, like it or not, I had to grow up to help her.


How I Stay

Awhile back I posted an entry entitled Why I Stay here (and a related one here). In it I gave 4 reasons why I have decided to stick it out with my wife on our joint journey to see her dissociative identity disorder healed. But the battle to stay, when so many spouses leave, is a daily, sometimes minute by minute battle for me. I never seem to deal with it once and for all. So I wanted to look at some more things that have helped me to deal with the massive, secondary trauma that my wife’s disorder brings my way. There are reasons that I stay. I listed them in the entry I linked above. But in the end I simply choose to stay. Lots of people have broken their vows. Societal and religious pressure actually push us toward self-fulfillment, not sacrificial giving nowadays. None of the reasons I gave before are insurmountable if I want to run; but I choose to stay.

How do I stay? First, I stay by owning my decision to stay. The first year or two that we started this journey was filled with a LOT of anger on my part. I was tired of my needs being ignored and diminished and as the little girls joined us, a lot of things that I thought had been buried in the past resurrected themselves back into our marriage.

But at this point in our journey, after lots and lots of journaling, I’ve owned my decision to stay in my dysfunctional marriage. I think my anger was tied to my feelings of being trapped in this marriage by various forces. My anger was also linked to my feelings of being wronged in this marriage by my dysfunctional wife. But once I made the decision to stay in this marriage knowing what that meant, the anger began to dissipate because I had made an informed choice. More

Keeping Sight of the Forest

There’s an old adage about losing sight of the forest for all the trees when a person is focusing too much on specific problems and is missing the larger picture. As I’ve helped my wife heal from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, one of my key roles in this journey has been to keep sight of the forest for all my girls.

First I try to be an emotional compass for them. As I read other blogs by those with d.i.d., dealing with emotions is an overwhelming task by those who dissociated most feelings away in the face of trauma. As my girls, especially Karen, learned to deal with feelings from the past and even in the present, I had to help them not be overwhelmed. I need to be the calm and cool one, when they feel like everything is falling apart. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever lose it or become discouraged, but it does mean I can’t wallow in it like I used to. Whether or not it’s fair, my wife’s healing progress is directly tied to my emotional stability. When I can be strong for her, it gives all the girls the safety and stability they need to heal from the past and begin to move forward.

Another way that I keep sight of the forest for my wife is by being the one who understands the goal of healing. My wife has no idea what being emotionally healthy means. Karen especially has said this repeatedly: she doesn’t know what healing looks like. From the time of their earliest recollections they were abused and neglected. On top of that a lifetime of dissociation means the various girls in their network have little idea what co-operation truly means. Many times I will watch the various girls do things that are NOT healing. And they don’t even realize the results of their actions are to prolong the dissociation. So when I watch them doing something that detracts from the goal, I try to gently explain why another course of action will not only give them what they desire but also help them learn to work together better. I walk a fine line; trust me. No wife wants her husband to constantly correct her. Sometimes the little girls receive the suggestions better than Karen, and I never demand their obedience. I offer suggestions and then give them the complete freedom to accept or reject my suggestions. I never pout if they don’t listen to a suggestion!

Another way that I keep sight of the forest for my girls is by helping them to remember the progress that has been made. As we travel this healing journey together, I’ve noticed Karen especially has a very difficult time seeing all the progress she and the other girls have made. Many, many days she is discouraged that they aren’t done yet. And on those days, I have to be her cheerleader and remind her how phenomenally far they have all come.

In 4 years we have brought 6 little girls into our lives. Four of them largely are outsiders and are co-conscious/co-fronting with Karen. Sophia is half and half. And Tina we’re still working with to help her join the family. But all the girls have moved from broken little girls into “dancing fairies” as I like to envision them. They rarely act like abuse victims anymore and they are growing and developing intellectually, emotionally and socially, giving me hope that one day they will all become a healthy woman and wife. More

The Need to Go “Above and Beyond”

Helping my wife heal through dissociative identity disorder, a.k.a. multiple personality disorder, has been a fulltime job for the last four years. I’ve had to reprioritize my life, and everything except the essentials has largely been ignored. Moreover, the safety needs of the little girls have been paramount with me. At times I have been criticized for doing too much, but sometimes that’s exactly what the little girls need to heal and grow . Here’s an example.

Recently the girls went on their first-ever women’s scrapbooking retreat over the weekend. The little girls were excited at first. Then they started feeling nervous about being away from me for so long. So here are the things we did to help calm their fears.

We only have one car, and they insisted on driving it so that they could come home if they got too scared even though that would strand me at home. But then I arranged to have my uncle’s car available in case they needed a visit from me for “moral support.” We also got skype updated on our laptops and made sure we both knew how to use it before they left. And I promised to text and call them “lots and lots.” I was also prepared to email each of them daily. Essentially I was creating a “safety net” of sorts for them in their mind so that they would have the freedom to spread their wings and fly without fear of falling. I wanted to continuously be in contact with them so they wouldn’t feel the fear of our separation.

Since my wife was a trauma victim, I have discovered how important it is for the little girls to never feel “trapped” like they were when the abuse was occurring. So now when they are doing something new, I always help them map out multiple “escape routes” and also multiple support devices for them. This creates a “safety net” in their mind and allows them to focus on enjoying something that they would be otherwise afraid to try. More

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 http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/transcripts/living-day-to-day-with-didmpd/understanding-did/

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. More

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