Veterans and PTSD: What Spouses Need to Know

From strong emotional reactions and chronic anxiety to bouts of depression and insomnia, PTSD can affect veterans in a vast range of ways. For those married to veterans with PTSD, this illness can pose tremendous relationship challenges. If your loved one has returned home from combat with lingering ghosts of trauma, understanding this condition could be critical to both salvaging your union and helping your partner enjoy their civilian life.

Here are several things that spouses of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder need to know.

1. PTSD Can Have an Impact on the Entire Family

Although your spouse may be the only person in the household with PTSD, everyone in the family is likely affected. Research shows that veterans with PTSD are more likely to:

  • Get divorced
  • Struggle with parenting
  • Face ongoing marital tension.

Moreover, when their PTSD is left untreated, veterans also have a higher likelihood of reacting to frustrating and startling circumstances and events with verbal and physical aggression.

One of the best ways for couples to proactively protect their marriages is by keeping the lines of communication open. Encouraging your loved one to talk about their feelings and experiences and to seek professional help is far better than simply trying to sweep personality and behavioral changes under the proverbial rug.

When children are old enough to understand what PTSD means, they can participate in discussions and therapy sessions that help the family establish a healthy way of functioning.  

2. Avoidance May Become the New Norm in Your Household

Avoidance is among the most common management tactics for those living with this disorder. Your partner may purposefully stay away from large, crowded spaces, areas with unpredictable noise, and other triggers.

Over time, the partners and children of PTSD sufferers tend to find themselves avoiding the same triggers as well. Although this is a very considerate way for everyone to help stave episodes off, it’s okay for a veteran’s family to occasionally indulge in activities that might be too stressful for someone with PTSD.

Learning how to lead a balanced and normal life without subjecting your partner and kids to needless stress is essential. This way, your spouse won’t feel as though you are making excessive sacrifices. More importantly, they won’t feel pressured into using avoidance as a personal management strategy.

3. Getting Help Is Essential

Depression, frustration, and aggression can lead to scary and unpredictable living circumstances when veterans do not make a concerted effort to get the help they need. Veterans with PTSD can benefit from:

  • Individual counseling or talk therapy
  • Marriage counseling
  • Family counseling and parenting classes
  • Medication when deemed necessary
  • EMDR therapy and the EFT technique.

Veterans with PTSD and their spouses can also consider joining support groups. These groups are great places for sharing tips and advice. They also provide a sense of camaraderie that veterans need.

Struggling with PTSD can be a lonely experience, especially for someone who’s living with family members who’ve never personally dealt with PTSD themselves.

4. PTSD Is a Service-Connected Disorder

When PTSD results from time spent in combat, this disorder is considered a service-connected condition. As such, veterans who’ve been honorably discharged for a service-connected disability can seek disability benefits after being diagnosed.

You can tell your spouse to contact a lawyer for VA benefits to help them minimize the financial impact that this illness has on your family. Spouses of veterans with severe PTSD often wind up acting as sole breadwinners, even as they manage most parenting responsibilities.

Seeking disability benefits can alleviate financial stress and make it easier for veterans to get the counseling and support they so desperately need.

5. Recognizing the Signs of PTSD

Veterans may often return home feeling emotionally numb. This is perfectly normal. The return to civilian life can be troublesome, despite often being long-awaited.

However, you may notice your partner dealing with prolonged periods of stress and depression, bouts of insomnia, or sweat-inducing nightmares. These are all signs and symptoms of PTSD, and they should definitely be professionally assessed.


Helping your loved one get the PTSD treatment they need can be a vital step in protecting your marriage, your family, and your peace of mind. With proper diagnosis and care, veterans with lingering trauma can start rebuilding and ultimately enjoying their lives.

By seeking financial support for this service-connected disability, you and your partner can limit the financial burden of PTSD and have easier access to essential therapies.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

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