Coping With a Spouse Who Has PTSD

FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

When the one you love has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), your entire world
begins to center around keeping your veteran happy and calm.  Unfortunately, every
depression, and anxiety.  You MUST take steps to protect yourself from the onslaught of
demands on your time and that will be one of the hardest things you do while dealing with

PTSD spouses tend to think one or more of the following:

If I love him enough, he’ll stop.

No, he won’t.  He needs professional help and no amount of coddling by you is going to
stop his behavior.  

I can “fix” this.

No, you can’t.  You cannot “fix” PTSD by yourself.  He needs a professional.

I need to do everything I can to make him happy.

You will NEVER be able to keep him happy.  Happiness is something he has to find on his
own through hard work, counseling, and maybe even medication.

I need to keep everything “perfect” to the outside world.

You are setting yourself up for failure.

Family Of A Vet understands.  We have literally been there (and in many ways, are still
there).  The problem with PTSD is it robs you of the thing your spouse fell in love with:
YOU.  The shell of a spouse you see in front of you is going to become you (see
Secondary PTSD) if you don’t do things to protect yourself NOW.

Give Yourself Permission to Grieve.

You have temporarily lost the soul of someone you care about deeply.  Give yourself
permission to grieve.  The ball of emotions inside you that is BEGGING to get out needs
release.  If you can get away from home to grieve, do so.  If not, put yourself somewhere
away from your children and away from your spouse and give yourself 15 minutes to cry,
scream into a pillow, weep, and fall apart.  That 15 minutes will be the best time you could
have EVER invested in yourself.

Give Yourself Permission to Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself.  Take a class.  Work out at the gym (burn calories AND reduce stress!)  
Learn to paint.  Pick those piano lessons back up.  Whatever it takes.  Rather than letting
this experience eat your soul, FEED YOUR SOUL.

Give Yourself Permission to Let It Go

During this time in your life, trying to juggle everything and being perfect is too much to
expect.  Make a list of what you “have” to do.  Some things are going to need to stay on
that list.  The kids need baths, laundry must be done, and dishes should definitely be
cleaned at some point.  The rest is negotiable.  So your house might get a little cluttered
and the ladies at Garden Club might wonder where you are.  It’s OKAY.  If they knew what
you were going through, they would understand.  If anyone asks questions, TELL THEM
THE TRUTH.  If you’re not comfortable spilling everything, you don’t have to say you’re
dealing with PTSD.  Tell them you’re going through a difficult time as a family.  You’re not
lying.  If they start asking questions, just ask them to pray for you.  It solves their need to
“help” without exposing your situation.

Invest Time in your Children

Your kids are as lost and confused as you are.  Go to the park.  Go to a movie.  Take them
swimming.  Whatever you do, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.  It’s a symbol of everything that’s
wrong to a child.  Go chase butterflies.  Go eat ice cream.  Just invest time in your personal
relationship so they don’t feel as lonely and isolated as you feel.

Find Someone You Trust with the Truth

You need to let this out.  Someone needs to be told.  You need a shoulder to cry on and
you KNOW I’m right.  Find someone you can trust.  A close friend or family member who
can help support you through this rough time.  Explain in advance that what you REALLY
need is someone to LISTEN.  Do NOT make your confidant someone who cannot
understand when to keep their mouth shut – your “secret” might become the latest town
gossip.  Do NOT make your confidant someone who is well known for their unsolicited
advice – your “friend” might end up with a bloody nose.  

If your spouse’s PTSD symptoms include rage, excessive anger, or physical or mental
abuse, then add the following to your “to-do” list:

Set Up Your Escape Plan NOW.

You may never need it, but if you do, it will already be in place.  Do it NOW.  Don’t wait until
things look “better” or “worse”.  DO IT NOW.  It will give you a certain peace of mind to
know you have a plan and it could save your life and the lives of your children. (
HERE for more information about designing an escape plan.)

Create an Avalon for your children NOW.

Right now, more than ever, your children need a place to escape.  If you have children,
create Avalon NOW so it is a comfortable hideaway for them.  You may never need to use
it as a safe place in an emergency situation, but if you do, you’ll be thankful it’s there.
CLICK HERE for more information about creating a safe "hideaway" for your children.)

And last but certainly not least, remember the most important thing we all learned when we
became military spouses: This Too Shall Pass.  While PTSD isn’t “curable,” your family can
learn to build a happy, healthy, peaceful life together.  Many, many families have already
done so.  So, take heart and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

This article was written by our own Heather Hummert, the wife of an OIF Veteran & Purple
Heart Recipient.  If you would like to contact Heather directly, you can e-mail her at
Heather -at- or

If you would like to help us build this site and reach out to other Veterans, their spouses,
and children, please e-mail us at Info -at- or

Don't miss these other articles about Real-Life Coping Skills for those of us living in a
"PTSD World":

Day-to-Day Skills for PTSD Households

Searching for "Normal" - Ideas to Make Life Easier

Dealing with "Nina" (Better Known as Your Nosy Neighbor)

Dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the Workplace

Helping Children Understand PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

How to Handle the Weeds of PTSD

Protecting Your Perimeter (Dealing With Paranoia & PTSD)

Marriage Tips for PTSD & TBI Families

Life Adaptations: How Technology is Your Friend

Helping Your PTSD Spouse: How to Handle PTSD Triggers in Social Settings

If you have questions or concerns about this site, please e-mail us at Info -at-
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