Post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t only affect the person suffering from PTSD. Often, this condition impacts entire families, and can put a particular strain on marriages and other committed relationships. Fortunately, you can learn ways to cope with the challenges of managing both PTSD and relationships with loved ones.
PTSD and Marriage
Because PTSD symptoms can result in difficulties with communication, emotional closeness, problem solving and trust, this condition can create severe challenges for marriages and romantic partnerships. According to the National Center for PTSD (2007), PTSD and marriage statistics involving Vietnam veterans show that:
- PTSD sufferers divorced twice as often as other veterans.
- Romantic relationships were of shorter duration for those with PTSD than those who didn’t have the condition.
- Those with PTSD were three times more likely to divorce more than once.
Inside PTSD Relationships
PTSD can change the nature of the way you and your partner relate to each other. Some PTSD relationship issues may include:
- A PTSD sufferer may lose interest in sex, as well as feel emotionally distant from his spouse. He may also lose interest in social activities he used to enjoy.
- Because PTSD sufferers may have difficulty cooperating, focusing and listening, spouses often feel that meaningful dialog and teamwork are impossible in their relationships.
- Living with someone who has PTSD can lead to secondary trauma, which causes symptoms similar to PTSD in the spouse or partner.
- PTSD sleep problems may prevent both the sufferer and partner from getting restful sleep, and can make sleeping together challenging.
- Those with PTSD may be angry and irritable, causing their spouses to feel controlled, tense or even afraid. Families of veterans with PTSD are at increased risk for physical violence and verbal aggression.
Additionally, PTSD may create a caregiver burden for spouses as they are forced to take on a larger share of household responsibilities such as childcare, housework or finances. Partners may also feel that they need to care for the person with PTSD.
Good Relationships and PTSD
Not everyone with PTSD experiences relationship difficulties. Some people with PTSD still enjoy healthy, supportive marriages and partnerships. If you have PTSD, a few ways to help keep your romantic relationship strong include:
- Build an effective support network to help you deal with PTSD.
- Develop problem-solving skills though education or therapy.
- Find ways to spend time being creative, playing or relaxing.
- Share honest feelings with your significant other in a caring, open and respectful way.
Effects of PTSD: Getting Help
If you are struggling in a relationship affected by PTSD, many types of help are available to get your relationship back on track. Some treatment options include:
- Anger management
- Assertiveness training
- Couples counseling
- Family education classes
- Family therapy.
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. (2010). Factsheets: PTSD and relationships. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from: http://www.svfreenyc.org/survivors_factsheet_107.html.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2010). Partners of veterans with PTSD: Common problems. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/partners-of-vets.asp.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2010). Relationships and PTSD. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/ptsd-and-relationships.asp.