July 15, 2010

Combat Veterans and Romance: Patsy Cline, Chardonnay and Dusty Lingerie

It must be due to hormones, lack of sleep and lack of sex that has made me a little sensitive these last couple of days.....not that I am remotely grumpy, or hateful to anyone in my family....just little things irritate the piss out of me. I have been somewhat saddened by my husband's latest comments in regards to ending his fight of PTSD. Well, to be honest, it scares the hell out of me. I have been drifting around the last couple of days in sort of a funk and not really sure the direction I need to be going. Taking my own advice, I have tried to concentrate on the past and what made me fall in love with my husband to begin with. I try to remember all the positive things albeit they are slowly drifting away from my memory as PTSD eats away at them.

So a few glasses of wine and fifteen Patsy Cline songs later...these are the things that have bothered me the most the last couple of days.
We have two elderly families right next door on the left, and one single lady to the right. Now the elderly families are very sweet although every time we work outside, here the gentlemen come a' running. The only time we have it safe is at 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday when Judge Judy is on in the afternoons. Sometimes it's ok when my husband is in an alright mood, but other times it can be very frustrating because I stand there hoping to detour any negativity from my husband. They are sweet, wise and friendly guys who dearly love their spouses. One regularly eats out on their covered porch together in the evenings. His wife is not doing too good health wise, so going out sometimes is not an option. The other couple always walks hand in hand with the other to check the mail or just around their yard. I know right? In unison: Awwwwwwww.

My husband: "hell, it's too hot to be eating outside". While looking at the couple holding hands as they walk down the way to the mailman: "hmmmpf".

Single Lady next door seems to have an influx of boyfriends rotating out every couple of months. Once we get used to seeing one regularly, she gives him the boot and a new one comes in to play. Humorous I know, but at least she has some type of love life going on. Last night, we had just put the boys down to bed and were outside picking up toys that had been left behind. Outside, Single Lady and her new beau were on a blanket out in the back talking and looking up at the stars. She was lying down, he was laying beside her propped up on one elbow gazing down at her. My husband: "Can't freaking people do that crap in their homes? I can't wait till we get our G%$*%$# fence up so I don't have to look at the slut next door all the time". First off, I kind of stared at him for this outburst and said "well it's not like they are having sex in the yard and I think it's romantic. We used to do that stuff all the time". Him: " Get off my f^%$#*^ back". This hurt me a little because I didn't feel I was on his back in any way, and that one moment of romance witnessed was shot all to hell by my husband.

My husband was never a romantic, or made a huge show of loving me. What he did give me was enough during the dating period and throughout our marriage. Deployment made a huge show of love letters and phone calls of love talk......those helped me thrive in my single life of turmoil while he was gone and gave me something to relish until he came home. Every Christmas found a small piece of jewelry from "Santa" with a lovingly written card professing his emotions and heartfelt love for me. Small things were enough for me and satisfied me in ways I could not describe to my past relationships who showered me with meaningless items.

The last three years have left me with an empty heart filled only with bitterness, hurt and anger. Gone are the days where rose petals were scattered on the floor that led to the bedroom with candlelight. No longer are birthdays recognized, holidays are filled with animosity and humiliation, and if lucky, the few cards for Mother's Day or some other special occasion leaves me to open it finding only a lone signature of my husband. Lost are the days where every little minute spent you could not get enough of each other and sex was something that meant something and the wants and needs could never be filled. Gone are the days when newly married you called each other Mr and Mrs for days because we just couldn't believe we were married. Completely lost are the sincere "I love yous" and just hearing "baby".

My husband yesterday grumpily stated: "We need to get away for a couple of days-like when we went to Florida". Me: "that would be nice". All the while in my head I am thinking of all the things that happened in Florida. The angry outbursts in public because we ran into a non-English speaking, Middle Eastern looking group at a restaurant. Having to leave a sudden busy place because he is going off and acting out. Humiliated and hurt because he cussed me and yelled at me enough to make me cry. The solitude of walking on the beach with no one and watching him walk out in the tide on the sand alone and staring out. I thought back to the moment when I realized I was utterly alone in fighting whatever plagued my husband as I watched him. I had to guilt trip him into taking the photo of us together for which he summoned a smile. He was happy....I was not.

We don't have the extra money to go on such a trip because he is working less and less. Our savings which we invested in so eagerly for such trips or even a family trip to Disney Land. That savings account and one another has been depleted so low to make up for loss time and earnings. Such a trip for us would be like winning the lottery....ain't gonna happen. Then I have to think....would it be worth it to go somewhere alone together? Would it be worth the hassles and the heartache of disappointment?

Today as I was going through my closet in search of a lost t-shirt that I have been looking for and came across some lingerie shoved towards the back. It saddened me to see a fine layer of dust (which I believe is probably construction dust in a brand new closet but nevertheless dust) on top of the sleeves and pretty hangar. The story of my life I do believe. I could not remember when the last time I had this outfit on, or when my husband had purchased it. Hell, I can't even remember the last time I had my hair done up or wore lipstick.

I crave attention from my husband. When Veteran's speak about PTSD and this "adrenaline rush" they need often after coming home, they say we as spouses can't understand. I beg to differ. I would compare this to the little butterflies in the stomach when you see your husband suddenly turn around and smile or the rush of passion that you feel out of the blue for no reason for each other. The only difference is, is that I am not self-destructing in seeking my rushes because I would not know where to seek to begin with. I used to think that his negative attention would be sufficient enough but now what I miss the most is just the romance, love and nurturing you have in a relationship within a marriage.

Out of all the issues, the symptoms, and the topsy turvy world we live in as Combat PTSD spouses, this has to be the hardest parts of it one must endure......One site stated that "you must grieve for what you loss and move on". How does one do this, really? Do you ever get used to not being loved in the same way? I just wish I could have my husband back, who will come to me and hold me when times get bad. There are days where I just am not strong enough for the both of us. Grrr....I hate days like this where I feel the need to hear Patsy Cline's mournful songs and shame on me for too many glasses of wine. Occasionally though, it must be done for my sake. Better to let it out than keep it in......

Knocking The Dust Off The Wine Bottle At Least,

~Uncle Sam's Mistress~


  1. Dear Mistress and wife of PTSD. We have been married 28 years, most all of it "ruined" by PTSD. Your man still lives and loves you. This past winter my husband had an affair because he lost faith in me as I suffered for several years with secondary PTSD and "depression" which for spouses of warriors is often really extreme confusion. I have learned a tremendous amount these past few months which has helped the rebirth of our marriage. I say rebirth because the most important thing I have learned here at A Soldier's Perspective, is the permanancy of PTSD. The damage to our brains though doesn't have to be exhibited by the frustrated vocabulary, the too loud commentary, the direct criticism of those extra pounds and sloppy outfits, the blank looks and distant thoughts. There are now new aspects of our relationship as I grow in wisdom Iand am more and more able to incorporate new communication skills and understandings into our relationship. My greatest error was to relegate my husband's "needs" and "lost abilities" to my role as carer. I lost sight of what a wife is as the children were growing up. I placed the needs of my husband into my mommy routine instead of keeping my man insight of this woman that I am. This frustrated my husband terribly because he had already left one mother. My role as wife, as helpmate, as confidante is very different from that of mother. I am learning today how important tending to my own needs and preferences it is for both my mental health and our relationship. My husband doesn't want a mirror following him around reflecting his pain, frustration and misery. He wants a lovely woman to look at, one that beams up at him, smiling at the man who belongs to only her, telling him straight how good it is that he is there in her life and how no one else could replace him. I've learned that when he goes on and on and on about anything he is afraid that I will go away and when I assure him that I am staying with him, even though bad things are happening around us, he can quiet himself and feel safe. I am learning to tell him my fears and confusions instead of going silent and motionless so he doesn't have to interpret my posturing as disapproval. I am learning the benefits of taking the time to look good, giving my very visual man something at home to see without me expecting anything from him but a moments companionship. It is a hard row to hoe but more and more those prenuptual looks are returning between us and hugging is meaningful and real. I pray for you and your husband and all of us "ruined" by PTSD.
    Joan Marie

  2. Joan Marie, thank you for the wonderful comment you left. This is a real eye opener especially for those of us who are caring more motherly like than a wife. It's hard to find your place when you stay lost and mostly confused, so its very easy to slip into a role that best fits the situation. Sometimes its very hard to get out once you have been in it for a while. I appreciate the advice and will keep that as my new focus. Thanks again....

  3. Dear Wife of PTSD,
    My husband of 19 years came home from Iraq - or so I thought. He retired after 21+ years in the service and seemed to transition into civilian life with few hiccups. Little did I know the past 2 years I would watch an amazing man slowly deteriorate to someone I didnt even know. Our children were the first to point this out. He no longer was happy- he was quick to anger and just was not the same. This last year has been the worst. He finaly came home one day and just said that he wasnt happy anymore - did not love me- no longer wanted a family or a wife and left.
    I have been beating myself up for this past year wondering where I had failed - what was I not doing ? It became apparent that I was alone in this marrige - I felt like a widow..yes he was physically in the same house as me but it was like living with a ghost.
    Many of our friends could not believe when he left- we were always described as the perfect fun family..for goodness sakes we never fought. We worked hard together to get where we were. In 3 years our youngest would be moving out of the house.
    He immediatly filed for divorce....he wanted nothing to do with us and wanted everything ended Now!
    This last month I also discovered he has been having an affair for quite awhile......
    Nonetheless....I never dreamed of getting divorced here were no reasons nothing was making sense- I love this man, he was an amazing person who did everything for his family. He was always willing to help others and was just an all around good guy.
    This past weekend (Im blessed he has been going to counseling) he finally revealed to me that he has PTSD. He said by no means is this an excuse for what he has done, but now my eyes are opened.

    I now see why has has slowly distanced himself from us. I now understand his complete lack of intamacy. How can he posibly handle the resposiblilties of a family if he cant handle the past? They say hindsight is 20/20 and it truly is....things now make sense.
    He kept this hidden from me as well as himself for so long.

    PTSD has destroyed me - our marrige - as well as our children....... Before we found out it was PTSD we thought it was just a mid life crisis thing mixed with unhappiness with his job and just pure selfishness.

    He has alianated our oldest child...our youngest is now going though depression. The wonderful life we have had has all been destroyed!

    I pray daily that he will find his inner peace soon. I pray that these demons he is dealing with are destroyed.
    I am here for him- and do still love him- but I just dont know if he can hear me. Thankfully the hurtful words he used to say are now gone - but I wonder daily will I ever get him back...I miss my husband - I dont know this person he has become.

    Yes he is making an effort to now talk to us, but there is no inkling about an "us" in the future.
    The more I read about PTSD the more I understand and know that I need to work on patience....but like you- sometimes Im tired of being the strong person- I need a shoulder to cry on (Not my kids) but his.
    I know that I am a stong woman and this is a journey that I will accept and I know myself and my family will get through this - I dont know if we will be happy with the end results- but I am stubborn and will try my best!

    I truly feel robbed of my husband. The man I fell in love with is no longer here - He shows no response to any terms of endearment . He pulls away if I simply touch him.

    Yes he still does not live at home - I actually dont know where he lives. At this time I have stopped the divorce from my end - I dont know what he is doing.I cry all the time, before it was from anger - now its from confusion.

    From what I have been learning this is something we will have to deal with forever - I just wonder if he will ever see me for me -

    I wonder if he will ever come back.....

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been coming back to this story for a few hours now trying to find the right words to say to you. I don't have all the answers; no one does and I feel like I can't offer you anything but the knowledge of understanding. It is comforting to know that others are in the same situation as well as reading on this site the why's, the who's and so forth. Kinda like being sick for so long with no diagnosis, and then getting one. Although it may be a bad diagnosis, the relief of knowing what is causing so many problems can be a huge weight lifted. There are many stories like yours and sometimes they do suddenly find themselves back home, and sometimes they do not. Having affairs is simply a self-destructing method they use and often times I think its to punish everyone around them. Of course, no psychologist just my feelings on it. The fact that he is coming around now talking to you is a good sign. Now whether that turns into a reconciliation, I have no idea. I will say this though...you have spent some time now wondering if it was your fault and it's not. There is nothing that you could have done to change any of it. You need to start focusing on yourself and your children. I try to focus on the positives and bring up some of the negatives, but this is just from my family experiences. Some Vets come home and just take years before they wake up from their PTSD coma they are in. Some however stay on the path of self destruction and get so lost, they never find their way home. If it were me, I would have a nice sit down with him and explain the confusion you are in. If he feels he wants to reconcile, then he needs to tell you. Don't let him string you along with the whole "I am getting counseling and I have PTSD". Unfortunately, often times they are confused themselves but hurt the family worse and come away clean. PTSD is an illness and one they can't help, but intentionally stringing you along playing the PTSD card is definitely a no go. All you can do right now is be supportive of his counseling, let him know that you are there for him if he needs someone but in the same time let him know that you are completely confused. Don't expect an answer right away and do know that he needs to stay focused on his counseling and treatment. If he can't help himself, he won't be any good for you or your kids. Take this time away to focus on you hon. Find a counselor if you can and something you have wanted to do for a while and just haven't done so. Sounds like you need not only a shoulder, but a life that doesn't revolve around your husband and his problems. By doing this, you are helping yourself. Education is a good thing always, and from what you are saying you are realizing that hey, it wasn't me...it was him! This is your first step to healing yourself. I often wonder myself if my husband will ever wake up completely and ever be the same he was, and the answer looks like no. There will be some part of him that comes back, but are they ever really the same after war? No. What we are left with is what we must learn to cope with and try to understand. We can only hope for the best and expect the worst. I hope my understanding of your situation helps you some. I know not the magic 8 ball of answers, but I do know where you are coming from. It is ok not to be strong all the time, no shame in that. Take it one day at a time, have patience, but focus on yourself right now. Always here if you need a virtual hug~ USM

  5. Virtual Eight Ball of Answers, USM you are a spring of inspirations. Can I use this one too? I will give you credit as always. Knocked it out of the park again, dang you're good at this thing.


    Check and a go on all USM said. I would add that some veterans are so profoundly damaged that the best thing you can do is turn them loose. My childhood made me a thug, which made me the soldier who would save many lives. It was war that made me a monster and I turned that beast on my self, family and community. It was different 20 years ago, there was NO help then.

    If you choose to stay, from then on you must take it literally when he says for you to go to the fox hole. Thats what he means literally, not figuratively. But, can we all sit down together as a family and define what that means for your new clan? Yes, veteran and all members of the family have equal say in this pact. When agreed, all swear an oath to the others to protect, honor and serve one another. Code words are an important part of a safety plan in a Combat PTSD home.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee