I thought I was in a mono relationship, but my girlfriend is a system (she says she doesn't have DID but it's pretty close to it). I suppose if I'm dating everyone in her system it's polyamory. What can I do to make this relationship work?
I'm not an expert on multiplicity, but I do trauma work so I know more about it than the average singlet. For readers who may be confused: DID is "dissociative identity disorder" and is part of a category of dissociative disorders. They are caused by severe trauma early in life that prevents a person's identity from cohering. This creates multiple "alters," or different personalities, within one person, which developed in order to cope with the trauma. Other symptoms include memory issues, time loss, trauma flashbacks, and feeling 'detached' or 'unreal.' Someone with DID or OSDD may refer to themselves as a "system" or "multiple."
To my knowledge, dating someone who is a system does not necessarily mean you're dating all of their alters. Some of them may be too young, not interested in dating, or not interested in dating you.
The best thing to do is to talk to your girlfriend about this. What does she need to make this work? What is her best-case scenario? Are there alters she's especially concerned about, or who she wants you to develop specific relationships with? If so, how does she want you to do this? What are her triggers? What does she want you to do if she switches during an intimate moment? How can you support her through the experiences and symptoms of having a dissociative disorder?
Multiplicity is pretty serious and arises from major trauma, so if your girlfriend is not already working with a therapist well versed in dissociative disorders and trauma, please encourage her to see one or offer to help her find one. If she is already working with someone, ask her whether she'd like you to connect with her therapist to help support you and better understand what she needs from you as a partner.
Check out more resources here:
- DID Research
- Multiplicity and Me (run by a woman with DID who is in a relationship)
- The Labyrinth System Youtube (includes a few videos on dating as a system)
- The Healthy Place's tag for relationships and DID
- Handsome Hugs comic about DID
- The Significant Other's Guide to DID
- Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors