People with DID/OSDD can have healthy, loving, wonderful relationships in their lives. Relationships can and will, however, face their own unique challenges due to the disorder, which we will talk about here. This way you know what you might need to be prepared for, what techniques you might need to employ, etc to have a healthy relationship while navigating this disorder.
Taking Responsibility For Amnesia
It can be hard to take responsibility for something you don’t remember. To remember that you don’t remember things is very counterintuitive and you need to give yourself grace here because you will forget that you have amnesia. The issue and what will cause problems comes in when it can cause cases of unintentional gaslighting. Cases of “I never did that.” or “I never said that!” When – in fact – in the person’s experience who you’re speaking to, you did, and claiming that you didn’t is a case of gaslighting – though unintentional, still harmful. This is why taking your time and recognizing that you have amnesia is very important. Still, having grace with yourself is very important because it’s very natural to have these reactions to hearing things that ‘you’ did and having no memory of them. Amnesia is a shocking thing to deal with and it’s reasonable to be confused and not fully calm and levelheaded in those moments – it’s just something to be aware of and cognsant that this can have the effects of gaslighting on the people around you over time and taking that responsibility is important.
System responsibility is the acceptance that regardless of which alter took what action, every alter within the system needs to take accountability for the actions that the body took. If an alter within the system hurt someone else, even if the host doesn’t remember that and didn’t do it themselves, they need to apologize, take accountability, and take the steps to make that right and ensure it doesn’t happen again. This may feel unfair and take some time to come to terms with, but it’s essential to functioning and ethical living as a system. This is another reason to work hard towards integration (not fusion necessarily), but working on lowering those amnesiac barriers and increasing communication and cooperation between alters.
Why is system responsibility particularly necessary in relation to maintaining healthy relationships?
System responsibility is absolutely essential to the maintenance, respect, and integrity of any relationship in a system’s life, It’s absolutely essential as a system to recognize how your system affects others. You need to recognize as well that while your system is separated by amnesia, you are all part of one whole. This leaves you with a responsibility to act as such, and to take responsibility for and clean up any messes any other parts of that whole might create. It certainly may not feel fair but it also does create an extra reason for you to work extra hard on communication and cohesion between alters so issues don’t come up.
Ultimately, however, your system will almost certainly affect those close to you, and if that affect is ever a negative one due to any alters actions, that is every alter in the systems’ responsibility to make right. You can’t guarantee that alter who did the thing will fix their actions. You can’t even guarantee they’ll front again anytime soon. You need to deal with the issue and help the person who was hurt by your body’s actions.
Communication is essential to all relationships, but there are specific ways that communication is necessary when you are a system.
Communication in Intimacy
It is essential that if you are being intimate with anyone, you have open and active communication if and when any other alter comes anywhere near the front. It is so important to stay aware of whether or not anyone else is switching in, because that can be a sign that you might be getting triggered. Additionally, not only does the person you’re engaging with deserve to know who they’re sleeping with, but also the person who switches in also might not consent to this activity. It’s essential to stop, communicate, reassess, and gauge consent.
At what point should I tell someone I’m dating that I have DID?
It can be very scary to breach this subject with a new partner. Any mental health subjects can be scary to bring up – but DID, particularly due to the stigma surrounding it and the complex nature of the disorder, can be especially frightening. There is no clear answer for when you should tell someone. It’s going to be different system to system, and truly there is no ‘should’. It’s just when is it right for you. If they’re the right person for you they won’t be scared off and they won’t react in a hostile way.
Different Alters will have Different Relationships
It’s important to know that different alters in your system will have different types of relationships with the people in your life and it’s important to make those people aware of that. They should not expect the other alters in your system to treat them in the same way you do. They should not expect the same familiarity, the same affection, the same physicality, etc. It’s also important to remind the people in your system that they don’t owe the people in your life those same affections and while masking is helpful, comfortability and safety are also very important and especially when someone knows you’re a system, being able to remove yourself and give yourself that comfortable distance is important and those in your life should understand and respect that.
The first time someone witnesses a switch/meets another alter
The first time someone meets another alter in your system (and knows it) or witnesses a switch is often a big moment. There can often be a lot of anxiety tied to how they’ll react to seeing a switch or meeting another alter, a feeling of vulnerability, and of wanting to hide. Hopefully the person you’re around is understanding and accepting and kind to the other alter in your system and reacts well. Afterwards, it’s good to talk to them and see if they had any questions or had anything they wanted to talk to you about. It’s also a good idea to check with the alter who switched in because that can be a lot to be the first alter that person may have met aside from the host.