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What It's Like to Be a Significant Other to Someone With Dissociative Identity Disorder

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My spouse has dissociative identity disorder (DID). In the DID world, I’m considered an “SO,” which stands for significant other. There’s not a lot of information available to understand DID (though recently there are more people talking about it) and even less information for or about the role of the significant other. Having been an SO for more than 25 years, I have identified five things I would like you to know about me and expect any other SO would as well.

1. We want to answer your questions.

We know you have them. We know you talk to each other and wonder — that you search online for articles to help you understand, but for some reason, you don’t feel comfortable asking us. Please know it is OK to ask. We want you to ask. We want to talk about our experiences, and we have questions too. If we don’t know the answer to your question, we’ll be pleased to say we don’t know in the hope that, if the question is asked enough, eventually an answer will be found.

2. We get lonely.

Before my husband’s diagnosis, the only way to explain his behavior would be to chalk it up to too much to drink, too little sleep or being a bit “eccentric.” I would grumble to family and friends and they would reciprocate with tales of woe from their own relationships. Once we learned the things I complained about were actually symptoms of an underlying condition — one that was complicated and uncommon — it was hard to find someone to trade stories with. The telling of my story often sounds so unreal to even my ears that there’s a temptation to simply keep to myself. It has been hard to find other significant others and there are times I have felt isolated from friends and family. Worse though is when my husband’s protective alters are present and turn away from me, sometimes expressing their hatred and disdain for my very existence.

3. We stay because we love.

There are things alters do and say that can be very hurtful. We fight with our partners and sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes we make them cry. In many ways, our relationship is similar to your own “normal” relationships. But we will be the first to admit it is difficult and it would be far easier to remove ourselves from the situation and leave our loved one to fend for themselves. In fact, this is probably the reason it is hard to find another SO to connect with — there is not a lot of us out there. Those of us who stay do so because our love for our loved one is greater than the challenges we face as an SO.

4. Our loved one is not dangerous.

Hollywood has sensationalized DID and created fear by suggesting alters are demons or beasts or serial killers. In reality, people who have DID are likely traumatized victims of childhood abuse. They are perhaps the most vulnerable and shattered of our society. We beg of you to not judge them or the things their alters say or do. Please have compassion and be forgiving. Know this is not a choice any more than it is a choice to be diagnosed with any physical illness.

5. It’s not all bad.

In some ways, it is actually quite awesome. My husband’s alters speak different languages, play musical instruments, know many pieces of random trivia. They each have specialized knowledge and experiences, and when they work together they can accomplish some really amazing things.

If you’d like to learn more about my journey as the significant other to a loved one with DID, I invite you to follow the blog

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Thinkstock photo via Dash_med

Originally published: August 23, 2017
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