How to Love Your Veteran – Part One

These first three are a few of the most important things to remember when loving your spouse with PTSD…

 

KNOW WHO THE BAD GUY IS…

A common problem between spouses in these situations is something so simple to fix, yet so many veteran marriages end in hate and divorce in large part for this reason. Blame. Blame is not a bad thing if you keep it focused on the right target, unfortunately so often couples begin to resent and blame each other for the struggles in their relationship. It can be difficult not to want to blame your spouse for what’s happened. Especially if your spouse says or does hurtful things out of anger or frustration, but you’ve got to remember they are struggling with something much more difficult than your average person. If you want to help and love your spouse you’ve got to remember who the bad guy is. It’s NOT your veteran. The good thing is it’s not hard to pick a better bad guy to blame…you can blame everything from the disorder itself, to the war, to the government who declared war. But don’t take it out on your husband, remember they didn’t ask for this, and they don’t want this any more than you do.

 

COMM-UN-I-CATE…

I’m no relationship expert but if I were asked what the most important thing in ANY relationship is I would yell COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION. It’s no differen’t here. If you or your spouse are not good communicators by nature then I’d advise pouring all your heart and soul into learning to be. Bad/Lack of communication is one of the top causes of broken relationships. It’s even more vital in a relationship involving PTSD, it can also be a lot harder. One of the most common struggles is that your veteran is not very open to communicate with you (or anyone). Either about his struggles and emotions or even just about anything when he’s dealing with issues in his head. As a supportive spouse you need to always stay hopeful and patient about this. The more you learn to support him better the more he’s going to trust and feel comfortable opening up to you. It can take a lot of time and patience but if you’re not already you may end up being the one person he can trust and open up to the most; it’s not always an easy job but it’s an important and humbling one. Communication covers such a mass variety of things I decided to write a post focusing on it specifically, you can read it here.

 

STAY POSITIVE…

Scientific studies have proven that if you force yourself to smile over and over when you’re sad or unhappy your brain will actually release the chemicals that make us happy, thus eventually turning that fake smile into a real one. It is amazing what kind of power our minds have over our bodies if we would just use it. No, no one can be 100% positive and bubbly all the time, but keep your mind set in the belief that the glass is always half full and you will be pleasantly surprised by the change in your life and those around you. It took me a long time to learn this lesson but I believe that happiness is a choice. A choice to stay positive and face life with our heads held high even through the worst of times. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘smiles are contagious’ then you also know happiness and positivity are contagious as well. By the same nature negative energy can bring everyone around you down. Your veteran is going to have a harder time sometimes being positive and happy, the negative energy from his struggle can in turn make it harder for you to stay positive and happy. But if you stay strong I promise your relentless positivety WILL carry over into his life and you will in turn BOTH be more relaxed, happier, and healthier.

 

You can now read the other end of the spectrum on my new post ‘How to Love Your Military Spouse – Part One’!

 

 

 

 

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180 Degrees

This is quite a bit out of order but it’s going to take me a little time to get the blog all set up and I have several posts to make. Regardless this is something that happened recently and seemed like a good start. This post is just to give a little insight..

I am a very lucky woman that my husband opens up to me and trusts me with his emotions stemming from PTSD as well as he does. Having been with my husband for two years now I tend to think I’ve got him all figured out. When you’re around someone long enough you pick up on a lot of things almost on a self conscious level. Their body language and tone of voice give off all sorts of cues that you learn to notice and read without much thought, thus knowing them so intimately you can (hopefully) learn to react to their cues in the best ways possible.

For example, when I get overly stressed (or am tired and hungry) I often tend to breakdown faster than a four year old without a nap on Christmas day. My husband, bless his heart, has to put up with me..but he does an amazing job. He can pick up on my body language and triggers pulling the pieces together before I fall apart at all. He’s the best kind of medicine as far as I’m concerned. Similarly, I can tell better than anyone when he’s off his game. I can often tell if he had nightmares the night prior before even HE notices his mood change in the morning. All by the cues I’ve learned to pick up without much hesitation or confusion.

This week however, was different. Like I said I’m lucky my husband is so open with me. He has shared many stories and feelings with me about his time in Iraq and the Corp, but even he isn’t always able to open up to me completely. I don’t think anyone ever could after going through even half of what our men and women have gone through over there. A couple days ago a man that deployed with my husband shared a story on his blog about an RPG that had hit their humvee in Iraq. I recognized the story as one my husband had told me about, only this was from another Marine’s perspective. It was a little indescribable how it felt to read it from someone else’s point of view. I had never heard anything about his time in the Corp from anyone but him. I guess I could call it humbling, and since I have always been very curious and interested in his past it felt good to learn even more about my husband.

Typically when my husband has a “bad day”, by this I am referring to PTSD, it starts in the morning when he wakes up and lasts most of the day. Sometimes it can happen later if he naps and has nightmares..those seem to be his biggest triggers. Usually. Other times it can stem from talking too much about the war. I can usually pick up quickly on his body language and verbal cues and redirect the conversation before it has any lasting effect on the day. That afternoon, however, I did not pick up on it fast enough. When he picked me up from work that day I told him about the blog post and how it was really interesting for me to hear it from another perspective. (Rather than hearing my husband tell me what happened in a humble no-big-deal kinda way, I got to read one of his fellow marines give thanks and credit to my husband and a few other ‘brothers’ for saving their lives that day). It made me proud to hear confirmation from others that he is the hero I look up to everyday.

Something in the seemingly harmless information I shared with him, mixed with what things he could have already been dealing with in his head that day, triggered a very quick 180 degree turn in his mood. He went from normal and happy to very quiet and dejected in a matter of a sentence. Let me stop and give a brief description of my husband. He’s a very strong man. Your typical broad shouldered, defined farmer’s muscles, strong square jawline, rough hands kinda guy. Along with a presence that demands obedience in a room. He is very much an alpha male. And he’s fought, front lines, in the bloodiest battle of BOTH the wars. He is a scout, infantryman, he is a Marine…..This strong man, my husband, went suddenly silent, and was on the verge of shaky tears by the time we got to the first stop light. Listen. This man does not cry.

I quickly went into my comforting wife mode, apologizing and asking what was wrong.

“It’s ok…I’m just remembering, and those are memories I just can’t handle today.” He’d responded evenly.

Normally, like I said, I’d have time to catch on and stop a change before it happens, but this time I did not. I learned another quick lesson that day. I do NOT in fact have it “all figured out”. Sometimes because I am so used to my husband and he has come so far with his PTSD and healing, I can forget that he still has to battle this every single day. Sure some days are easier than others, but it is not something that just comes and goes. It is always there in the back of his mind. He works daily to fit back into this thing we call ‘civilian life’. This is the invisible battle.

I believe that learning to cope and to be there for your spouse is something that grows and changes constantly even in your average everyday marriages. Learning how to be there for your spouse who may have PTSD or TBI is no different. It is important to learn from mistakes and experiences, but one must always remember we will never have it all figured out. But that is ok. I am a firm believer that as long as someone always genuinely tries their best to be better they can not fail. Learning to be the best for your loved one is an organic ever-growing process.