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Supporting Your Veteran Spouse with PTSD: Building Trust, Reducing Stress, and Creating a Healing Home"

In 2016, after eight deployments, we hit a wall. I hit a wall. This picture captures a pivotal moment in our relationship when I chose to see through someone else's eyes to take one step closer to my husband, Joe.

I soon realized that deep inside me, there was resentment and anger towards the Army, my husband, and the life I was living. It was a difficult realization to face, as it shattered the image I had held of the military lifestyle as one of admiration and honor. But I couldn't let it consume me any longer—I knew I had to fight to regain that sense of pride when I looked at my husband. The trauma had taken its toll, and I had lost sight of my purpose.

In order to find my way back to that place of pride and admiration, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. It began with listening to the stories of others—a female military member, a spouse who had lost her husband, a veteran whose wife had left him. Each of these stories, over the course of several years, stirred my heart and rekindled feelings of compassion and sorrow. I started mourning for them and their struggles.

While this process didn't heal everything instantly, it did bring me one step closer to showing up for my husband. I realized that being available and present in the midst of our own troubles and hurts was crucial for rebuilding a sense of safety. When your spouse has PTSD, it becomes even more important to ensure they feel safe with you. I challenge anyone on a healing journey like mine to take time for themselves, seek help, and strive to be fully present for their spouse.

Recognizing and acknowledging the resentment and anger I held towards the Army, my husband, and our life together was a difficult but necessary step. Through a journey of self-discovery, listening to the stories of others, and rediscovering compassion, I started to rebuild the admiration and pride I once had. While it's a process that takes time, it brings us closer to showing up for our spouses and creating an environment of safety and support. Remember to prioritize self-care and seek help so that you can be fully present for your loved one as they navigate their healing journey.

Living with a spouse who has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be challenging for military families. As a supportive partner, it is important to understand how to recognize the signs of PTSD, create a less stressful environment at home, prioritize responsibilities that align with healthy healing conditions, and engage in seasonal activities that reduce overstimulation. By implementing these strategies, you can help rebuild trust and provide the necessary support for your loved one's healing journey.

Understanding the Signs of PTSD:

  • Educating yourself about the symptoms and triggers of PTSD is crucial in supporting your spouse effectively. Common signs of PTSD may include nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, irritability, and emotional withdrawal. By recognizing these indicators, you can respond with empathy and understanding, avoiding potential triggers and creating a safe space for your spouse.

Creating a Less Stressful Environment:

  • Living in a calm and peaceful environment can significantly aid in reducing stress for individuals with PTSD. Consider implementing the following suggestions to foster a soothing atmosphere at home:

a. Establish routines: Structure and predictability can help create a sense of stability. Establish daily routines that include specific times for meals, relaxation, and sleep.

b. Encourage open communication: Create an atmosphere of trust and openness where your spouse feels comfortable expressing their emotions and concerns. Encourage regular check-ins to discuss their feelings and any challenges they may be facing.

c. Designate a personal sanctuary: Create a designated space within your home where your spouse can retreat when they need some alone time. This area should be free from noise, distractions, and triggers, providing a safe haven for relaxation and reflection.

Prioritizing Responsibilities Aligned with Healthy Healing Conditions:

  • In order to support your spouse's healing journey, it's essential to prioritize responsibilities and commitments that align with healthy healing conditions. Consider the following suggestions:

a. Seek professional help: Encourage your spouse to seek therapy or counseling from mental health professionals experienced in treating PTSD. Offer your support in finding the right resources and accompanying them to appointments, if needed.

b. Delegate responsibilities: Share household tasks and responsibilities to alleviate stress and create a more manageable workload for both of you. This allows your spouse to focus on their healing without feeling overwhelmed by additional pressures.

c. Establish boundaries: Recognize your own limits and communicate openly about what you can and cannot handle. Setting clear boundaries ensures you can support your spouse effectively while maintaining your own well-being.

Engaging in Seasonal Activities to Reduce Overstimulation:

  • Participating in seasonal activities can provide opportunities for relaxation, connection, and reduced overstimulation. Consider the following suggestions:

a. Nature walks and outdoor activities: Spending time in nature has a calming effect and promotes relaxation. Plan nature walks, picnics, or other outdoor activities that your spouse finds enjoyable.

b. Mindfulness and meditation: Encourage your spouse to engage in mindfulness exercises or meditation practices. These activities can help reduce stress, promote emotional well-being, and enhance their ability to cope with triggers.

c. Creative outlets: Engaging in creative activities, such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument, can be therapeutic and help channel emotions in a positive way. Encourage your spouse to explore creative outlets that interest them.

Supporting a military spouse with PTSD requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to creating a healing environment. By knowing what to look for, creating a less stressful home, prioritizing responsibilities that align with healthy healing conditions, and engaging in seasonal activities, you can play a crucial role in rebuilding trust and supporting your loved one's journey toward recovery.

Remember, we are here uniting the line between you and your spouse.

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