Tag Archives: Soldiers

Trauma and PTSD’s effect on marriage

sad man morgefileHaving recently celebrated the Fourth of July in the U.S., we remember and honor those in the military. However, in recent years many of those vets are coming home with significant trauma and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that can significantly impact their relationships and marriages.

In addition to soldiers, other survivors of trauma, such as survivors of childhood sexual abuse or survivors of disasters, terrible accidents or kidnapping, can also experience PTSD. Even those who suffer grief, particularly sudden and unnatural deaths of a loved one, can experience PTSD. Sufferers can experience great emotional and sometimes physical pain. These after-effects can impact the way the individual functions in everyday life, and they can certainly affect the survivor’s marriage.

Symptoms of PTSD can include nightmares, depression, trouble sleeping, feeling jittery or irritated, dependence on drugs or alcohol, feeling like you’re in danger, and more. Read PTSD symptoms here. The symptoms following trauma are normal; when they last more than three months, they are considered PTSD. Survivors may experience a loss of interest in social activities, hobbies, sex, and relationships. They may feel distanced from others, numbness, or hyper-vigilance and on guard, and unable to relax and be intimate. They may struggle with anger, improper impulses, memories of the trauma (re-experiencing the trauma), decision-making, and concentration. Work and daily activities can become a struggle.

The partner/spouse can feel isolated and alienated and frustrated from the inability to work through the problems together. They may even fear the actions of the survivor. Therefore, the partner may distance him or herself from the survivor, adding to the marital discord. However, a sense of companionship can help alleviate feelings of isolation.

A therapist trained in dealing with PTSD can be a big help to the individual survivor as well as the spouse. If the survivor is not willing to admit problems with PTSD, the spouse may want to insist on marital counseling, because PTSD does increase the rate of divorce. Both therapy and medications have been successful in treating individuals who have PTSD.

For the wellbeing of both partners, a support network of helping professionals and community support can be beneficial. Some individuals feel a sense of guilt or shame or fear in asking for help. According to PsychCentral, PTSD is treatable. “Psychotherapy involves helping the trauma become processed and integrated so that it ultimately functions as other memories do, in the background, rather than with a life of its own.”

Therapy for PTSD initially focuses on coping and comfort, restoring a feeling of safety, calming the nervous system, and educating the person about what they are experiencing and why and – through the process of talking – interrupting the natural cycle of avoidance (which actually perpetuates PTSD symptoms though it is initially adaptive and self-protective).

Therapy provides a safe place for trauma survivors to tell their story, feel less isolated, and tolerate knowing what happened…Through treatment, survivors begin to make sense of what happened and how it affected them, understand themselves and the world again in light of it, and ultimately restore relationships and connections in their lives.” According to PsychCentral, “Successful treatment of PTSD allows the traumatic feelings and memories to become conscious and integrated – or digested – so that the symptoms are no longer needed and eventually go away. This process of integration allows the trauma to become a part of normal memory rather than something to be perpetually feared and avoided, interfering with normal life, and frozen in time. Recovery involves feeling empowered, reestablishing a connection to oneself, feelings, and other people, and finding meaning in life again. Recovery allows patients to heal so that they can resume living.”

According to SheKnows.com, individuals with PTSD can create and maintain successful intimate relationships by: 1.Establishing a personal support network that will help the survivor cope with PTSD while he or she maintains or rebuilds family and friend relationships with dedication, perseverance, hard work, and commitment. 2. Sharing feelings honestly and openly with an attitude of respect and compassion 3. Continually strengthening problem-solving and communication skills 4. Including playfulness, spontaneity, relaxation, and mutual enjoyment in the relationship

Thankfully, trauma doesn’t always have the last word. Many individuals and couples find they experience recovery and even growth after coping with a traumatic experience. The Generous Husband blog recently wrote about the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG), which means the changes or growth that occur after an individual or a couple has overcome a traumatic event. “Disaster does not have to ruin you or your marriage,” Paul writes, adding that tragedy can end well. Those who experience PTG experience one or more of the following: 1) Spiritual growth 2) improved relationship with others 3) See new possibilities/goals for life 4) improvement in self-image or 5) a new more positive view on life.

PTSD and trauma can make married life challenging difficult, but help is available. There is hope for a life beyond the trauma–a life that once again includes happiness and joy.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here. Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Support Military Marriages as Troops Return

As 40,000 U.S. military troops return home from war, the soldiers have many challenges with reintegration from jobs to dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, the military divorce rate has grown 42 percent since the start of the Afghan-Iraq wars began in 2001, according to Fox News.

In First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, I wrote about one couple (The Stoners) who experienced a year-long Iraq deployment and the resulting challenges that ensued. Thanks in part to an extremely supportive community and family, they maintained a strong marriage after the deployment and despite the challenges of reintegrating, which included changing roles for the parents and reconnecting with the four children.  The book includes many tips for helping with military separations and reintegrations, but today’s post is really about how we can support these military families.

Thousands of soldiers have endured more than one deployment with several years of separation from spouses and children. As they and others have attested, the happy reunions are buttressed with struggles. Dennis Rainey, CEO of FamilyLife, has written about how the anticipation and happiness of coming home is generally followed by a brief honeymoon period, but that the 90 days following are crucial for these military families.

“The most common pitfalls during this post-deployment period include maintaining unrealistic expectations, rushing the transition, renegotiating roles, and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Rainey. These couples need resources and support to help during the transition period.

If you know a military couple, offer to help in a tangible way, such as with babysitting, meals, yard work, assisting with a job search, or offering a supportive ear. If you don’t know of a military family to help, visit FinallyHometoFamily.org.

I would like to personally thank the soldiers or family members reading this for their service and sacrifice. It is my hope that our nation will welcome troops home with grace and generosity, and that we will all assist their families experience through a difficult transition.

Not all soldiers will come home in perfect health, unfortunately. A friend recently sent me a video of a police officer who was shot in the line of duty and how that has affected his family. It’s worth watching, and his recovery is nothing short of miraculous. Those who protect our nation both inside and outside of the U.S. deserve our support and encouragement.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope and Inspiration for your Marriage, available in print, Kindle, Nook, iBook, Sony and PDF versions.

Giving Military Marriages a Boost

As if it isn’t enough that soldiers risk their lives from our country, they also risk their marriages due to long separations and the stress that accompanies active military service. I’ve had requests from some service members for tips on keeping the home fires burning, as well as how to effectively reunite the family after a tour of duty. Thankfully, two in-depth interviews with exemplary military families helped shed some light on this topic. Any families enduring a long separation could use some of these tips.

Before the soldier leaves:

  1. Enlist the help of family, friends, church members and neighbors to help support the family while the soldier is away. Make a list of concrete ways your family will need help, from lawn or home maintenance to babysitting or grocery shopping.
  2. The spouse at home may need to learn to accept help, even when he or she hasn’t in the past. It helps to focus on the support and love rather on the negative circumstances of being separated from the spouse.
  3. Invite letters, care packages and prayers and provide simple guidelines that would be helpful for the soldier or unit.
  4. Give the immediate family plenty of alone time prior to the deployment.

While the soldier is away:

  1. Consider a blog to help keep family and friends updated on your own schedule. This prevents having to repeat updates on the soldier or unit (for the soldier and spouse at home) and keeps the soldier updated on the family.
  2. Remember phone calls can be inconvenient for one or both spouses. Plan a convenient time if phone calls are important.
  3. Play upbeat, fun music to keep the house from getting somber. Plan fun activities with friends or family.
  4. Use videoconferencing only if it makes sense for your family. For some spouses it is too painful. For young children, they may not understand why mommy or daddy is on the screen, but they can’t touch them.
  5. Focus on the positive aspects of your spouse and your life. Keep negative news at bay by turning off the news and keeping TVs out of the bedrooms.  
  6. Keep precious reminders of loved ones close at hand—a special letter, a photo of each family member, perhaps a special piece of jewelry or memento.
  7. The traveling spouse may still be able to handle certain home responsibilities, such as banking, with online services.
  8.  Young children who don’t have a concrete understanding of time could make a paper chain with a link for each day the soldier will be away. Invite them to send pictures and letters to their absent parent.
  9. Reach out to support groups or other spouses in similar circumstances.

When the soldier returns:

  1. Plan a welcome-home celebration to thank everyone who has offered support and to honor the soldier for his or her service.
  2. Be patient. Particularly when the soldier has been gone for a lengthy tour, the family has often adapted to his or her absence, and the soldier may no longer feel as if he or she fits in as before. The at-home spouse became the leader and took the role of two parents, so time to assimilate is needed. Give the immediate family space and time to sort this out. Children may also need time to sort through their emotions.
  3. Be sensitive to soldier’s sleep needs. The soldier has just returned from a different world and may be battling anxiety, nightmares, difficult sleep patterns or may awaken disoriented after having just returned.
  4. Express your gratitude and praise to the spouse who cared for the family as well as to the soldier who performed in the field.
  5. Stress can often bring a couple closer together. Use the experience as a catalyst for recognizing and appreciating what is truly important to you both.

Two in-depth military profiles will be shared in my upcoming book, From First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, Secrets of Successful Marriages. Contact me if you would like to stay updated on the book’s progress. Special thanks to all members of the military, single and married.