Veteran Marriage Struggles Post Discharge/Retirement - Premier Counseling
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Veteran Marriage Struggles Post Discharge/Retirement

By: David Teague, LPC

 

Veteran Marriage Struggles

 

Veteran marriage struggles post discharge or retirement are not uncommon, but can be emotionally taxing and difficult to talk about. There is already taboo and stigma attached to openly discussing marital problems, or problems within any union, but there are hurdles particular to veterans and their spouses/partners that need addressing.

 

Veteran marriages and unions can face a multitude of difficulties, ranging from the commonplace union struggles faced by any long term partners, to more severe, unique and situational obstacles.

Photo By Eric Ward

Souring Interpersonal Relationships

 

Veterans already have a laundry list of obstacles to face in the civilian world after serving time in active duty, but something less spoken about is how their unions may shift and change.

 

Time in the military is not conducive to honeymoon phases – marriages that outlast active duty service are made of tough stuff. Foundations of these relationships are so often forged in fire, so intense due to the uniquely personalized context in which they were formed that they struggle when there is a sudden break in tension.

 

Being the spouse of someone in active duty military can be very rewarding, but there are high prices to pay. There are long stretches of absences, deployments and detachments that can be dangerous, and it can be hard to find time for one’s marriage when one’s spouse is always being pulled in the direction of duty and obligation.

 

This does offer a spouse a clear idea of what to do, though; a good idea of how to be supportive, a fully fledged concept of what is expected of them, and rising to those challenges can be easy in comparison to the loose, structureless nature of civilian marriage.

 

Expectations are more vague, and there are no outside forces pulling or pushing one to or away from their spouse. This can leave anyone feeling confused, wrong-footed, anxious or bereft. 

 

The structures that helped to reinforce the dynamics within one’s union have now all vanished suddenly, and it’s up to those within the union to redefine who they are, what they are, where they’re going, and what they want.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger

What to be Aware of

 

There are signs as discussed in last week’s blog post to look out for in regard to your veteran’s mental health. There are more unique signs to be aware of within the context of a union, though, and that’s what we’ll discuss here.

 

Distance

 

Not the same as space; everyone needs some space once in a while. As much as we love our spouses and partners, spending every minute of every day with them can be exhausting and drain our social batteries. If, however, space has turned into an uncharacteristic drop in any time spent together at all, or outright avoidance, it’s time to talk about it.

 

Intimacy (or lack thereof)

 

Depending on multiple personal factors, there can be a sudden uptick or downtick in emotional and physical intimacy, post-discharge or retirement. If there isn’t a ready explanation for the up or downtick, it may be a sign of a distance worsening or a partner initiating more intimacy than is usual for them in the hopes of warding off emotional distance. Upticks aren’t always a good thing; it can sometimes be a sign that a person is seeking validation and reassurance that is difficult to verbalize.

 

Unkind Behaviors

 

A sudden influx of criticism, disdain/contempt, defensiveness and/or stonewalling are big red flags that the union is suffering. Any couple can experience these behaviors, but veterans in particular may be prone to them when there are aggravating factors such as Survivor’s Guilt, Hyper-vigilance, PTSD or CPTSD.

 

Unions are complex, each one so unique and full of personal history, no one article or website will have all the answers. If your union is suffering, please call our team to schedule an appointment. Couples counseling is available, with counselors like myself available to you who are uniquely prepared and educated on these matters to help you redefine your marriage within the civilian world again.



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