Every person we date, and every relationship we have is unique and requires us to learn and grow. Dating someone with dissociative identity disorder can feel confusing because of all of the complicated emotions and brand new scenarios you find yourself in, but it can be deeply rewarding. And with a bit of mental adjusting and getting used to relationships can be very stable and long lasting.
1. Educate yourself.
It can be a scary experience receiving a DID diagnosis, and having a supportive an educated partner can help tremendously. Mental illness has been shedding a lot of stigma in the recent years, but it’s nowhere near gone. This is especially apparent with DID, and your partner is most likely struggling to accept themselves and experiencing external stigma and judgment from other people. You can learn ways to help provide a safe understanding space where they can feel accepted and able to express themselves freely. Educate yourself through online articles, books, videos, and talking to your partner/ other people with DID. Additionally, you may find it helpful to educate yourself on the common misconceptions of DID just so you are well prepared to help your S.O. navigate telling others about it, as well as ensuring you don’t hold any of these misconceptions.
2. Embrace having unique relationships with each alter.
If your S.O. is like most people with DID, their different alters will want different things out life, and therefore your relationship! Alters can have varying sexualities, genders, and ages, which all are factors in romantic relationships. One of their alters may want to date you, and some might just want to be friends. Additionally, child parts can form various attachments such as friendship, or caregiver roles with you. You should embrace each alters unique personality as a new part of your partner to get to know, and extend love and value to them all. As always, the most important thing is communication. It may be beneficial to sit down with your SO and talk to them about how each alter sees you, and which ones it is okay to be sexual and romantic with.
3. Jumping off from the last point, don’t have sex with the child alters.
These parts of your S.O. should not be exposed to adult things. Child alters are vulnerable parts of your S.O. that need love and care, just the same as other children. It is important to treat them that way, and to know involving them in sexual activities will hurt them. These child parts may be hold trauma memories and may have difficulty expressing their feelings, but you can slowly build a loving, trusting relationship that will benefit all of you.
4. Know that switching alters isn’t always optional.
You may want to spend more time with one part of your S.O., but find that part fronting less and less. Try to shift your view from only dating one or two alters, to being a friend and partner to the system as a whole, and do what will promote healing for your partner. After all you aren’t really interacting with totally different people, they are just fragmented parts of one whole being. Your S.O. may not feel in control of who is fronting yet, and may be experiencing a great about of distress from having to share their body’s time. Also know that usually if you want to talk to an alter who is not present, you can ask them to come listen for a moment, and tell them something that way.
5. Don’t take advantage of the hyper-sexual alter.
Sometimes alters are created for the purpose of meeting an abusers sexual needs, and even if the abuser is gone, the alter remains. They might be hypersexual and vulnerable to re-victimization and other negative experiences. Talk to your S.O. about this alter and learn their individual boundaries.
6. Hold everyone responsible.
Psychologists most recent view of DID suggest viewing the person as a complete singular person with fragmented parts of themselves. It can be confusing to experience this fragmentation, and many DID patients experience a loss of control, and additionally their alters can have conflicting goals. Despite this confusion and loss of control, it’s healing for you and your S.O. to remember they are all one system, and they are accountable for all of their alters actions. This simplifies the logistics and holds everyone to their word. In the end, as a system, they have to meet their responsibilities, including relationship ones.
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