Post-traumatic stress order, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can negatively affect one’s mental health and one’s marriage as well.
PTSD can create problems with trust, intimacy, communication and problem-solving — all of which are essential to maintaining healthy, loving relationships.
Many therapists who counsel people with PTSD prescribe individual counseling, plus couples counseling. Keep in mind that a good therapist will recommend couples counseling be done by another therapist to avoid a conflict of interest.
Since individual counseling and couples counseling can get expensive, some therapists recommend couples attend a Gottman marriage workshops as an alternative to couples counseling sessions.
Before looking at how trauma negatively affects a relationship and how to rebuild a successful relationship, let’s look at the causes and effects of PTSD.
Causes of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD may occur in people who experienced or witnessed an upsetting traumatic event such as:
- A serious accident,
- Physical or sexual assault,
- Military combat,
- Natural disaster,
- Terrorist attacks,
- Miscarriage or the death of a child,
- Severe health problems, and
- Childhood physical or mental abuse.
Prolonged exposure to moderate stress may also cause PTSD.
PTSD can also occur in people who are indirectly exposed to a traumatic event. For example, a friend who learns of a violent death of a loved one or a trial lawyer who is handling a case of child neglect and abuse may have PTSD.
Signs of Trauma
According to MayoClinic.org, symptoms of PTSD may start “within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event.”
Signs of PTSD may include:
- Reoccurring and disturbing memories of the traumatic event,
- Reliving the event and becoming emotionally or physically distressed,
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships,
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb,
- Addictive behaviors or self-destructive behavior (excessive drinking, gambling, pornography or substance abuse),
- Frequent mood swings or outbursts of anger,
- Loss of interest in things he or she once enjoyed,
- Feeling hopeless and negative about the future,
- Feeling detached from the spouse and family members,
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares,
- Feeling anxious or worried, and always being “on guard,”
- Feeling guilty or shame, and
- Trouble concentrating.
Impact of Trauma on Relationships
The symptoms of PTSD can devastate a marriage. The abnormal behavior of the trauma survivor may trigger feelings of anger, helplessness, frustration, depression and anxiety in the partner as well. In some cases, PTSD has led to verbal or physical violence.
The research on divorce rates for people diagnosed with PTSD are staggering.
- Thirty-eight percent of Vietnam veteran marriages failed within six months of the veteran’s return from Southeast Asia.
- Veterans with PTSD are more likely to report marital or relationship problems, higher levels of parenting problems, and generally poorer family adjustment than veterans without PTSD.
- Nearly 50 percent of PTSD veterans’ marriages end in divorce and they are three times more likely to have multiple marriages end in divorce.
Dealing with Trauma in Your Relationship
If you or your partner is suffering from a traumatic condition, seek professional help. Therapy and medications have been successful in treating people suffering from PTSD.
Treatment is essential for the relationship to survive. Both partners and the relationship need to recover from living with PTSD. PTSD partners should seek a therapist who trained in partner recovery.
Through both partners’ commitment and perseverance, a relationship can overcome the damaging effects of PTSD.
- Attend individuals and couples counseling sessions regularly. Be compliant with treatments.
- Learn and practice self-soothing methods to de-escalate conflicts as you both problem- solve the underlying issues.
- Avoid behaviors that can lead to addictions such as alcohol, drugs and pornography.
- Learn to share your feelings with those close to you. If you are on the receiving end of such open and honest communication, do not judge. Just listen.
- Be friends again! Integrate fun into your life and relationship.
- Live a healthy life. Exercise and meditate for at least 30 minutes a day. Eat a proper diet. Practice healthy sleep behavior.
- Participate in social activities and reconnect with friends.
Again, a Gottman marriage workshop can be a big help. A Gottman marriage workshop has shown to:
- Achieve results similar to those of 6 months of marital therapy and
- Produced positive results for 94% of those who attend.
The Gottman marriage workshop is based on the Gottman Couples Therapy Method, one of the most popular types of couples therapy among clinicians and couples. The Gottman Method addresses the seven pillars of establishing a sound, healthy relationship. Many of the concepts deal with PTSD-related symptoms such as a lack of intimacy, friendship and communication.
People with PTSD who seek professional help often combine individual counseling with marriage counseling and/or a couples workshop. By attending a couples retreat with their loved one, healing of the relationship can begin.Remember, you are both worth the time and dedication required for successful treatment.