From One Veteran’s Wife to Another

From One Veteran’s Wife to Another

“Spouses are the unseen heroes…” – Fred Dunning, Daily Press

If you’re the spouse of a veteran with PTSD, I’m so grateful you found my website. As the wife of a combat vet, I’ve needed a lot of support over the last five years. I hope my blog can be a source of support for you.

Unfortunately, help for veterans’ partners can be hard to find. It’s almost like people don’t see us.

“Family members can too often become the invisible folks, the forgotten ones.”

Keith Hurtle, chief program officer of Stop Soldier Suicide

Maybe you can relate. I know I can. As a woman in love with a person wounded by war, oftentimes I simply don’t know where to turn. People just don’t seem to understand the impact of PTSD on the spouse.

How Does PTSD Affect a Spouse?

What Science Has to Say

The reality, though, is our partners’ PTSD affects us in ways we may not even be aware of. Let’s look at a few scientific studies:

  • In one study, female partners of Vietnam War veterans with PTSD committed more family violence than their veteran spouses, or other females whose spouses didn’t struggle with PTSD.
  • Another study published by the Croatian Medical Journal showed that 32 of the 56 wives interviewed displayed six or more signs of secondary trauma.
  • Yet another study published by the Journal of Family Psychology showed that 23.7 percent of military wives surveyed warranted a diagnosis of PTSD.

The scientific results are in: our partners’ PTSD doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It has very real effects on our own lives and our own mental health. You can read more about these effects in my post, How Someone Else’s PTSD Can Change Us.

What We Have to Say

Science says one thing, but what do the wives on the front lines have to say?

Well, I can tell you what this wife has to say.

My husband fought in Iraqi Freedom from 2005-2006 in the 101st Airborne Division. I met him years after he was honorably discharged, but his PTSD has still affected our relationship in profound ways.

Employment issues, substance abuse, a brief separation, fights, communication issues, legal problems, parenting issues–my husband’s battle wounds always make their way to the surface, and the consequences can be dire.

There have been times I’ve felt confused, furious, betrayed, terrified, helpless, hopeless, numb, and alone.

There’ve also been times I’ve felt connected to my partner in a way I’ve never felt with anyone else in my life. He’s my soldier.

About four years into our relationship, he opened up to me about what happened to him in the war. The stories I’ve heard, I can never forget. The anger and grief I’ve experienced, I can never un-feel. The things I’ve learned have become my truth.

In a way, my husband’s burdens have become my own.

What I know today is, I’m not alone, and neither are you.

“I’ve always been one to help others, and I feel for them when they have problems. [My husband] never told me what he went through in Vietnam until he went to pieces.”

Barbara Browning, wife of a Vietnam veteran for 50 years

“We’re left to pick up all the pieces.”

Andrea Barreiro, wife of an Army 1st Sergeant

Thousands, maybe millions, of veterans’ spouses have stories to tell, and not a lot of opportunities to speak, much less get help for their own pain. I hope my blog can be a voice not only for myself and my own story, but for yours, too.

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