- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband recently asked me for a divorce. We have been married two years and have a 10-month-old son. I have two kids from a previous marriage who live with us, and he has two children who do not live with us.

My husband is having trouble coping with what he went through when he was deployed before we married. He says I would never understand because I wasn’t there. He says he lost a lot of friends and did stuff that was against his beliefs. He recently had back surgery and is supposed to leave for Korea soon.

I do not know what to do. I don’t want a divorce, but he says I really do not have a choice. I have been to counseling several times, but he has only been once because of work - he is an Army MP. The counselor suggests that he see a counselor who can help him with his problems, but I guess he’s not ready to go. I was just hoping for some advice. I think your column is great and will help a lot of people. - B.C.

Dear B.C.,

Thanks for writing and I’m sorry to hear about your marriage. It sounds like you have been trying to make your marriage work by seeking counseling and showing support for your husband. Marriage counseling will only work when two people are committed.

I have to be honest; from your report, your husband has said he is not interested in marital counseling. It also sounds as if he is detached emotionally from you and the marriage. I know this is a hard thing for you to accept, but don’t be in denial. The counselor was right; your husband does need individual counseling to start confronting some of the pain he endured while in combat. However, we can’t make him.

My suggestion is for you to get some individual counseling for support, guidance and to have a listening ear. I do hope it can get easier for you day by day. Just hang in there.

Reader responses to previous columns:

• “I just want to tell you that I appreciate what you are doing for the troops. I am a Vietnam vet with [post-traumatic stress disorder] who served between 1967 and 1981. There was no one there for me when I got out. I went to bed and woke up with the resentment for more than 10 years. I tried to wash it away with alcohol and that only made it grow bigger. I thank God a couple of fellow veterans got me to ask for help. Us vets don’t like to admit that we need help, but we do. So keep up the good work and don’t let them get you down!” - A Vietnam Vet

• “Regarding your Aug. 17 column [in which a wife was concerned about her husband’s erratic behavior], you’re right about those PTSD tests. Of course the soldiers are going to lie! Did you know that children lost in the woods will often run and hide from the people looking for them? They do, because everything and everyone is a threat.

“These soldiers have spent a year or more carrying real weapons, seeing real people get really blown apart, killed or maimed for life. The ones who aren’t killed know one thing - that they have, so far, stayed alive. So they swerve to avoid a crumpled box on the side of the road - in Iowa - because they know that boxes on the side of the road, or recently dug up places in the road contain [improvised explosive devices] that blow Humvees and soldiers apart.

“No one in their right mind would drive near one, and yet here is his wife telling him he is the one with a problem! Do you see? You have to meet him in his reality. He knows he isn’t in a war zone anymore, he knows the box by the road in Iowa probably isn’t an IED, but he cannot turn off the powerful rush of hormones and sirens in his head and body that scream bloody, mortal danger.

“It will help spouses to understand that their mates may be saying and doing crazy things, but they are not crazy. If you act as if you think they’re mentally ill, they will tune you out. After all, you have not managed to stay alive using these same coping tactics, but they have - so what do you know, huh? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know you have to start where the soldier is.” - Bill Smith

• Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]


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