Celebrating 100 Episodes: Dissociation in Marriage

On last week’s episode, Dr. Dan Allender celebrated and reflected on the first 100 episodes of the Allender Center Podcast. To mark that milestone, we have been gathering feedback about listeners’ experiences with this podcast, and one of the questions that stood out was about how we engage the realities of dissociation, both in our own lives and in our relationships.

So, because nothing says celebration like “Let’s talk about dissociation,” Dan is joined by his wife, Becky Allender, a former guest of the podcast and frequent writer on our blog, to talk about how they have experienced the effects of dissociation in their marriage, ultimately choosing connection over isolation.

Becky: “As we’ve aged, and as technology has become a bigger part of our lives, it’s harder than it was to be completely present with one another.”

Distractions are a form of guided dissociation.

Dissociation, says Dan, is about more than distraction. It is about disconnecting from a core reality that we don’t want to address. “The engagement with the harm of life brings us to a point where we separate, divide from, shut down the world around us.”

Attachment does not grow without face-to-face connection with each other, but so often that connection seems impossibly vulnerable and difficult, especially in light of the chaos of life and the pain of past harm. So we often end up diverting our gaze and turning to distraction. Dan and Becky talk about how, in their own marriage, that distraction has taken the form of social media, work, travel, cross-stitching, and Robert Ludlum novels.

Dan: “In many ways trauma, even vicarious trauma, disrupts your ability to be fluidly engaged in relationships with others.”

When disconnection and dissociation occur in a marriage, it is far too easy to turn to resentment, contempt, and isolation. Instead Dan and Becky reflect on what they have learned about intentionality, invitation, and the ability to know when to give each other space and when to strive for connection.

Dan: “What I would hope for is that any couple or any person engaging dissociation would not generalize it to a point of saying it’s inevitable, but there are seasons when you do need space and time to come back to yourself, and to your partner, and to know when to disrupt, when to call forth. Part of that is just the playful engagement of failure, knowing that if good hearts are there for one another, there will be a re-engagement.”

Dan and all of us at The Allender Center love the opportunity to hear your feedback (like the question that prompted this episode) and to wrestle with your questions and responses. If you would like to share a story about your experience listening to the podcast, offer feedback, or suggest future topics, please email Content Coordinator Beau Denton at bdenton@theseattleschool.edu.