Marriage is one of life’s greatest joys. War is one of its greatest sorrows. A veteran who returns home from war with PTSD faces the hardship of having these two relationships mixed together. PTSD casts its challenging symptoms onto every part of a veteran’s life, and marital and romantic relationships are no exception.
How PTSD Affects Marital and Romantic Relationships
- Divorce rates. The divorce rate for veterans with PTSD is two times greater than for veterans without PTSD.
- Parenting. Higher rates of parenting problems.
- Family. Poorer family adjustment.
- Interpersonal violence. More physical and verbal abuse exists in PTSD families, according to studies.
How to Help a Loved One Deal with PTSD
- Give social support. Don’t pressure them into talking about their experiences and let them take the lead with daily activities, but also do normal pre-PTSD activities with your loved one.
- Listen well. Communicate to them that you want to listen and you care. What is helpful is having someone who actively listens to them share how they’re feeling. Avoid giving your advice.
- Establish trust and safety. Commit to the relationship, reduce stress at home, make future plans, keep your promises, and speak encouraging words to your loved one.
- Address triggers. Know their triggers (what brings back memories of the past) so you can have a game plan if a flashback occurs. During a flashback or panic attack, tell them they are having an attack, remind them of their surroundings, encourage deep, slow breaths, and ask before touching them.
- Educate yourself. Know the body processes of the disorder and its stages.
- Set boundaries. Sit down with your loved one and discuss acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Keep in mind no one has the right to be abusive, even if he or she is suffering from PTSD.
- Get fit together. Fitness activities performed together strengthen the relationship and make the body feel better.
- Take time outs. The brain’s crisis response center can become overloaded. When disagreement or tension arises in the relationship, don’t push each other to the edge. Instead, take a 20-minute break so both brains can recharge.