There are many different effects of military PTSD on marriage. In fact, study on marriage and divorce following military deployment in Afghanistan found that veterans were more likely to get divorced than their peers. Although individual circumstances vary, the reason for this is thought to be largely due to the traumatic experiences involved in active service. A rising number of veterans live with PTSD, and this can make it difficult for them to adjust to life back home, causing a knock-on effect on their relationships. If you or your spouse is a military veteran navigating PTSD, being aware of its role in your relationship difficulties could be key to saving your marriage. Even if you decide that divorce is your best course of action, understanding your mental health will help you to process the divorce and deal with the practicalities.
Understanding the Effects of Military PTSD on Marriage
It is estimated that 30% of combat veterans will experience PTSD at some point during their lives, which can lead to a number of different symptoms, including addiction, numbing, avoidance, anxiety, and reliving traumas. These symptoms can create problems in a marriage, affecting communication, intimacy, and trust. Under these circumstances, a spouse can feel unconnected to their partner, experiencing feelings of isolation and frustration at being unable to help.
Stress in the marriage can further be exacerbated by a loss of earnings if a veteran is unable to work due to disability or long-term illness as a result of their deployment. If this is the case, your VA disability rating should be 100%, which will entitle you to full compensation. Be sure to check your VA disability ratings closely, as the amount of compensation you’re entitled to could take considerable pressure off your relationship.
If your PTSD symptoms include angry outbursts, these too can have a negative effect on your marriage. Your spouse may feel on edge, and your trauma can have a knock-on effect on their mental health. This isn’t your fault, but it’s important to be aware of it, as this will help the two of you navigate the problems in your marriage.
Working on Your Marriage
Accepting your PTSD diagnosis is the first step in saving your relationship. If you and your spouse are committed to making the marriage work, attend both individual and couples counseling. Do your best to be honest with your partner and share your feelings with them. Work with your therapist on the communication in your relationship, and learn relaxation techniques. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been found consistently to be the most effective treatment for PTSD: receiving this treatment can give you the skills to understand and change your behavior patterns, which can result in significant improvements in your relationship. Your local VA center will have information about all the treatment options available to you. Recognize that there is no shame in pursuing them: you have lived through deeply traumatic circumstances, and it is important to accept help from trained professionals.
If there is too much tension at home, you could consider living apart for a short period while you continue to work on your relationship. This will take you out of the daily stress in the relationship and allow you to work on the larger issues. If you have children, you may need to draft a separation agreement for this time, establishing a parenting plan for the time you’re apart.
When Divorce is the Best Course of Action
No matter how hard you work at a marriage, sometimes divorce is the best option for all parties. If you decide it’s time to end the marriage, meet with your attorney to draft a settlement. Bear in mind that there are some different rules for military divorce, so if you are still in service, you’ll need to check the rules for if you’re redeployed. There are also specific rules for dividing a military pension: your attorney will be able to advise you on this.
It’s important that you continue your therapy throughout the divorce process. While couples therapy may no longer be appropriate, your marriage is only one of the things that have been affected by your trauma, and its breakdown is likely to add to your stress. In order to rebuild your life as quickly as possible, it’s important that you continue to receive help for your PTSD.
Readjusting to life back home can be extremely difficult for veterans, and the traumatic experiences you have lived through can have a significant impact on your marriage. If you’re determined to save your relationship, seek therapy and support, and continue to utilize these services if you feel that a divorce is the best outcome for the two of you.
Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.