Relationship Connection: My husband’s PTSD is destroying our family

Question

I am greatly struggling in either holding onto my marriage or learning to co-parent and divorce.

Recently, my husband has come to me and opened up a little bit about some severe post-traumatic stress disorder episodes he’s been having from his time overseas in the military. I have long suspected this has been bothering him but he denied it until about a week ago. He said he wanted to talk to someone so I did some research and connected him with a VA counselor, but he refused the appointment when it came time to go.

After I became pregnant with our second child, my husband started a physically intimate affair with a work colleague. I was clueless the first few months until the affair was revealed. Through this I have seen my husband change into an angry, disconnected person who can go into a rage at a second’s notice.

Prior to the discovery of the affair he was a loving and devoted father and husband. He is now in trouble at work, hasn’t given up the relationship and has filed for divorce.

I want him to seek help for the outbursts. I’m concerned about our 3-year-old and our new baby’s safety if he has a rage episode while they are in his care.

Honestly I believe that we could work through this if he would just get help for his anger and cut off the other woman.

I truly want to help him through this, but this roller coaster is not good for me, it’s not good for either of the kids and it’s truly killing our family. His job is our sole source of income as I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for four years. I have no idea whether I should hang in there through this or just leave and find peace.

Answer

Even though your husband suffers from PTSD, your most immediate priority is the safety of your children and yourself. Perhaps you already know this, but I need to point out an important reality: If your husband is raging and aggressive in the presence of your children, and you fail to protect them, it could lead to serious legal consequences for both of you.

As difficult as it may be, you may find that the only way you can protect your children is to separate from your husband. This may or may not motivate him to get the treatment he clearly needs, but that can’t be your biggest concern right now.

Make sure your children know that they are safe and won’t have to live in fear of their father’s aggressive outbursts.

I have tremendous compassion for those who, by no fault of their own, are traumatized by the brutality of combat. Their bodies and minds are constantly under stress, which makes it difficult to tolerate common stressors in families and other relationships.

However, even though you know the reasons he’s become a different person, if he isn’t going to create safe conditions for these children, you have to. The reasons don’t matter when it comes to safety.

I realize you have so much to worry about, as he’s headed in a direction that is dismantling the very foundation of your marriage and family. While you can put your foot down and demand that he stop his affair and begin behaving in a more committed way, his untreated PTSD will continue to produce ongoing spot fires that will have you running around futilely trying to create containment.

Your husband needs help and you need to structure your environment with your children in a way that protects them until he’s a safer person. He needs to understand that even though he may have serious emotional injuries from his military service, the fallout from these actions will create conditions that may separate him from his most important relationships.

Before you decide if you can stay in this relationship, first structure your environment so you can get more clarity about your next move.

Please recognize that your husband may or may not see how serious his condition is once he experiences you taking measures to protect yourself and your children. You want to keep your family together, so take the necessary measures, as difficult as they may be, to show your husband and your children that you aren’t going to allow these behaviors to hijack your safety and security.

You’ll make better decisions about your future when you’re not in the daily crossfire of ongoing betrayals.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

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Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Brian July 8, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I really sympathize with you, and with your husband. Look into the “Veterans Stress Project” and the documentary “Operation: Emotional Freedom”, and search for “tapping PTSD” on YouTube. I struggled with severe depression for 20 years and tried everything from medications and counseling to vitamins and exercise, and everything else under the sun. After three sessions of EFT (AKA tapping) it was gone. Gone, gone, gone. After about 7 years it hasn’t come back (before the best I could hope for was a few good months at a time). It looks far too simple to work, but was a miracle for me (and cost a grand total of $225 and 3 hours of my time). After a single session Vietnam Veterans that couldn’t tell a story about a war experience 30 years before without breaking down and crying like a baby could suddenly recall the experience without the negative emotions, as if they were describing a scene from a movie they’d seen. They go from not having a normal nights sleep in 30 years to sleeping through the night. I can’t say enough good about it. For me it was the emotional equivalent of a cure for cancer, and there was no downside, no dependency, no ongoing anything, and no big pharma.

  • starboss July 13, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    PTSD is not an excuse for bad behavior. I am a VietVet that abused workahol for 40 years to sublimated my demons. Now I work exclusively with combat vets and their families at the St. George Vet Center. Note that I said “and their families.” We are at 1664 South Dixie Drive (Dixie Commons Business Park) Bldg. “C” Suite #102. Drop in.
    If you throw a bunch of ultimatums, threats, and attitude at your man he will do what he’s trained to do; escalate until dominant. Please remember that you fight fire best by removing the oxygen, and in this case carbon dioxide via words, threats, and playing counselor. Drop in.
    The person a combat vet is most dangerous to is themselves, very occasionally alcohol, drugs, or knockdown dragon arguments can lead to family catastrophe, but only in EXTREME cases. We can do this, drop in.
    I respect the good doctor’s opinion, am skeptical about his personal growth training, yet feel that he’s got you drawing battle lines. Drop in.
    The snake oil guy? Nope. Drop in, ask for Bruce. No promises but lots of experience…

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