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Within two months of his return from his first tour in Iraq, my husband began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.  At first I was confused.  I didn't know how to interpret his behavior or comments.   During the next two years, I experienced all the emotions involved in the grief process.  

I was angry at him for his lack of self-control, for hurting my feelings, for emotionally scarring the children, for embarrassing me in front of others, for denying the existence of a problem and for his refusal to get help.  Also, I was angry at the unseen entity, the invisible force that was holding my best friend, my lover, and my children's father hostage.

I wrestled with guilt.  I reasoned that if I were a better wife, I would be handling this crisis with more grace, forgiveness, and tenderness.  Frankly, I was sick and tired of it and wanted to walk out.  Part of me wanted to quit, to leave, to stop helping him, to stop loving him, to stop praying for him.  

At times I just wanted to scream and demand that he leave the military, believing that by putting this way of life behind us the pain would disappear eventually.  I resented having to worry that something might trigger painful memories for him. I got tired of trying, tired of listening, tired of trying to understand.  I had days when I just felt sorry for myself, for us as a couple and for our children.  On my better days, I believed that by assuming all responsibilities for the family and the house I would help him heal quicker.

 It's true.  I lost the man I married.  The one who deployed did not return home to me. Five years have now passed.  We have both benefited from individual counseling, the on-going prayer support of committed family and friends, and the healing that only time can bring.  

Take it from a military spouse who has been there.  We desperately need the love and patience of our family members and friends as we work to save our marriages and families which are caught in the crossfire of PTSD.  

 I've listed several ways that others can reach out to a military member or spouse who may feel confused or hopeless in these trials:

Reassurance- All relationships are at risk after trauma.  Your friend needs to reconnect with family members, friends and her community.  Reassure your friend of your love for her and of your commitment to walk through this valley by her side.  Remind her of God's unfailing love for her and His precious promises to her.  

Rest- Offer to care for your friend's children one afternoon a week.  Partner with a few others to do housework or yard work.  Invite her for quiet conversation and a cup of tea at your kitchen table.

Replenishment of Physical Needs- Surprise her with a gift certificate for a manicure or a pedicure.  Deliver a nourishing dinner to her door.

Renewed Outlook- Stay positive in all you say and do around your friend.  Be a good listener and keep a hope-filled attitude.

Patience- Your friend has been psychologically injured.  Like broken bones, wounded hearts must heal from the inside out.  This takes time and endurance.  An oyster can't produce a pearl overnight.

Prayer- Ask God for wisdom and creativity to help your friend know that she is not alone, that she is not crazy, and that healing is attainable.

I wish I could say that this journey from a PTSD diagnosis to complete healing is history for us.  It isn't.  Yet, I am grateful to be able to say that Mark and I are much better equipped to handle the situations that still sneak up on us.   I've learned so much on this journey about my husband, about myself and about what makes a marriage able to persevere after the trauma of combat stress.

It's true.  I lost the man I married.  The one who deployed did not return home to me.  And I accept and grieve that loss.  Today, we are learning how to rebuild our relationship from the foundation upward, to grow in affection and intimacy, and to laugh together again.  

We will never be the same couple that we were before the war.  As we rebuild, we are learning to work together in the wisdom and strength of God and to balance this labor of love with patience, times of rest and retreat.  I've learned from experience that marriage doesn't have to be another casualty of war.


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Apr 22, 2008
    • WOW Marshele, all of us “wives” (the non military ones) should just shut up and never complain again. I can’t even imagine the effect war has on soldiers, their families and relationships.

      My hat is off to you for keeping your family in tack and for being strong enough to deal with it all.

      Thank you for sharing.

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