Sometimes I am asked “why are you and Sam so happy?” and often times I laugh at that question. There are also times I am asked “how hard is it to live with PTSD?” and that questions leaves me scracthing my head because I don’t think it is hard. I think it is just something we have become use to in our relationship.
There are some statistics about PTSD and relationships that are upsetting. Average divorce rates in most Western countries hover around the 50% mark, but with PTSD relationships it climbs to 70%.
Sam and I have been in relationships that ended in divorce.
Only about 3 out of 10 marriages will survive longterm once PTSD enters the relationship, which is disheartening.
Many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed. There is damage that can be done when the PTSD symptoms negatively impact a family and the relationships in that family. Unfortunately the majority of the research conducted by the VA only involves female partners (typically wives) of male veterans. However, there is also evidence that there are problems for couples when the identified PTSD patient is female.
What are the negative effects? Parenting, family violence, divorce, aggression, and caregiver burden. There may be more verbal or physical aggression in these relationships. There might be stress in the home. Lower levels of happiness may be present, and there might even be social isolation.
It took me a long time to figure out that sometimes Sam was isolating.
I had to really evaluate what his symptoms did to our family.
I explained to the kids that sometimes we just get a fun night in instead of a night out.
I looked at myself and wondered if I could adjust to the depression, anxiety, and isolation.
We have had hard, serious conversations about PTSD. It is ugly. I hate PTSD. But, no matter what, our relationship is strong. I believe that is due to the way we communicate. Sure, there might be nights where Sam is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, but he always asks about my day, the kids, and we always ask him about his day.
We work together on house things like bills, cleaning, and taking care of all the dogs. Sam sometimes needs a break, and that is when he is most comfortable doing yard work, wood working, or being outside with Memphis. Camping is a way for Sam to relax. As much as I get worried about the RV being hooked up properly, having everything we need, Sam is in his element and he shines.
Sometimes veterans think or believe that they cannot feel love or happiness. I know that was the case at one point in Sam’s life. Listening, working together, and communication can change that.
Be willing to sit and listen. Be willing to have a hard conversation if you have to. Be willing to love.
I will never get tired of this picture. In fact, it is on our photo wall at home. This picture is one of my favorites because of our smiles (and the fact that we look like babies). This picture is love.