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When Marriages Fail As A Result Of War: A look at complications due to Head Trauma

Updated on April 28, 2017
Juliet Stewart profile image

Juliet Austin- Is a retired Rehabilitation Counselor, her writing attempts to address issues most Families experience.

War: The Actual Cost To Families

There's not a Day that goes by, that I don't miss my lover, the Man I thought would be my companion, my Husband, for the rest of my Life. He taught me about love, respect, what it meant to be loved unconditionally.

So many times we hear of Marriages failing because of lack of attention, infidelity, by one or both partners. Not so in our case, (Although I'm sure we were not a minority as it concerns Fidelity). I loved my Husband of 23 Years and for me, there was no one else. As it also was for him, when it came to loving me. A loving Father and Husband, none compared. He was my World, we lived for each other, our Children, and nothing Life threw at us made a difference as long as we were Together. He, despite everything designed to create enemies of us; remains my best Friend. Although he is no longer mine. still now though we are Divorced, his belief and continued support in and of me, is unshakeable.

I Pledge Allegiance To the Flag.

People who make the Military their career are often times prone to enduring physical, Mental and Emotional Disabling Conditions while in service. It is fairly unusual to have a Soldier who leaves service without any injury be it Physical, Mental or Emotional. The bombing of the World Trade Center and what we the American People were told was a loud call to action for the patriotic-minded. My Husband was no different, we, he and I proudly served in the Military in the mid-80's. My Children the Young Men we raised also felt the pull of Patriotism. It was this mindset that propelled them to serve, that call to Arm. My Husband re-enlisted in the Military after 9-11 as a Truck driver. While in service he sustained not only a head injury but because of the nature of the catastrophic impact of a war-torn region, he fractured not only his cervical spine but his lumbar spine as well. He came home to me with a deviated septum, rashes on his skin that the Military has yet to compensate him for. Due to the nature of his Disability, he could no longer accomplish the things he was used to doing normally. There is a multitude of issues that result from having a physical disability as well as a head injury. Physical Therapy and Medication are necessary for recovery in order for the Soldier to lead a somewhat normal Life.

Family Dynamics

Military Families learn really fast what it is to be Married to a service Member. We experience stress and loneliness. In return, however, we also develop strength in our abilities to be the Head of the household, to take care of their Children, the house, to manage the Finances, and in some cases how to move a household, to a new location without the help of the often missing Service member. We learn how to accessing services within the Community and become Socially adept at representing our spouses in Various ways when the spouse is called to duty, be it training, or overseas deployment; in Peace Time or when War is said to be justifiable. From attending necessary Military functions to fixing a leaky toilet, you name it they've done it.

Unlike Civilian spouses (Spouse's, Male or Female not Married to Service Members), we don't get to dictate or suggest to our spouses a Day off from Work or argue because our spouses will miss Holiday's, Birthday's or other special occasions, it's futile. There is a saying in the Military, and a truer one has yet to be found, it's funny but sadly true. "If the Military had wanted you to have a Family, they would have issued you one". To get the joke you'd have to understand that Like a Family trying to show no favoritism. Everything, from underwear to uniform, is issued. It's the Military way of ensuring we have all dressed alike and have access to everything, equally and similarly.

Are you my Dad/Are you my Mom?

Military Men often times are deployed during the birth of a Child as it was in my case, but I'm not alone in that respect. In 1990, my Husbands unit deployed, he left during my sixth Month of Pregnancy and our Daughter was born, three Months prior to his return.

Female Soldiers, at times, have to leave their newborn at home in order to do what is required of them Militarily. No one is spared the difficult choice. Soldiers, make a choice when they enter any branch of service, they, do not go into it blindly, they know the cost to the Families left behind, and the possible result of devoting fidelity, to protecting the U.S.A.

What About The Children?

Children of Military Service Men or Women, struggle with adapting to a one Parent household, as often times, the Service Man or Woman can be deployed to a Country, or another part of the United States, that is unable to facilitate for Family travel. The Children, depending on the age or length of time between deployment, will not recognize the missing parent, upon his or her return, and has difficulty, engaging that parent in communication.

The Children tend to be Socially maladjusted, more prevalent in older Children, the Children find themselves caught up in relocating, from State to State or to Other Countries, a move that they neither want or need, but are powerless to stop. They learn to not voice opinions as it relates to moving and losing Friends.

Ultimately the longer the Parent continues with their Military Service the more the Children will show signs of deprived Social skills when it concerns Friendships. They learn at a very Young age not to try to have lasting relationships because at some point they will have to relocate.

They tend to be more focused academically or in competitive sports. But as stated previously lack social skills. Most of the time concentration is on achieving, to make the missing parent proud. They strive for acceptance from that Parent.

The majority of Soldiers, come back complaining of hearing loss, Head Injury, knee, ankle, back, spinal cord Injuries, Loss of limb(s), and P.T.S.D. symptoms. To name a few. These Injuries are life changing. Often times Soldiers/Veterans are made to feel Guilty for simply being alive, during a time when there are Families who have suffered drastically due to the death of a loved one. They tend to internalize their own issues and are often quoted as saying, just how fortunate they are that they didn't die.

Physically disabling conditions are especially difficult to deal with, pain management sometimes doesn't work, as it relates to Veterans with chronic pain. Chronic pain can be described as pain lasting longer than a Year, the frequency of occurrence is constant with no expectations of change or improvement, without the use of Medication/steroids. Medication though helpful also has its drawbacks.

Managed Care through Pain Medication and Muscle relaxants.

Muscle relaxant's, or anti-Inflammatory Medication, has drawbacks, although strong enough to combat the kind of pain associated with a spinal cord injury, can leave one in a Mental fog, (patients who take muscle relaxants described the feeling of weightlessness, or floating instead of walking, in slow motion) although able to move around and perform daily living functions, it often times renders the user incapable of operating a Motor vehicle, for fear of falling asleep behind the wheels. Although necessary, it decreases the individuals' ability to socialize.

Pain Medication/ Steriods can be helpful also at combatting pain. They, however, have various side effects, which leads to the need for other Medication to combat other Problems which may occur.

Grieving For Loss of Self: At Least you are not Dead.

There are different types of Death, Death Physically and Emotionally. Veterans who suffer the loss of Limb, or Physical incapacitating disabilities, also go through a period of mourning for their loss of abilities. Often times not recognizing the signs.

At Least You Made It Home Alive

In my opinion, although well intentioned, these words uttered at dinner tables, in Hospital hallway, are the most insensitive words one can utter to a Soldier that has been to war. "At least you're not dead". A soldier returning home with a multitude of problems doesn't feel he/she has a right to grieve, for the loss of former self. Those words imply, that the suffering, pain and emotional death they are experiencing that major life changing Disability. Is really not that big of a deal.

As one Veteran indicated " The Military it seems is always trying to minimize the effects of a disability to keep the compensation down, and will make statements regarding age and appearance as if appearance indicates how much trauma a person has suffered.

"You don't look disabled". Stated another is a statement that rankles when asked why that particular statement offended? He replied, " Because a Person who doesn't look disabled has a tougher time explaining to someone looking only on the outside has no idea what a ticking time bomb I have on the inside".

Death is a final stage of Life. We mourn the loss of every Soldier lost to war, and the cost to the Parents and Family members should not be diminished. However, every Soldier who has been in a Warzone, experiences death Daily, they relive the experience in Nightmares, often times having survivors guilt.

Survivors Guilt: defined by as taken from the A.P.A. (American Psychological Association). is A deep sense of guilt, combined often with feelings of numbness and loss of interest in life, felt by those who have survived some catastrophe.

So it was with my then Husband, He had sustained a moderate Head injury in Iraq, along with having, PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and a fractured spine. The Husband that I knew was no longer, and the Man that came home to me was very different. It was obvious to me and to the Children that War had changed him. He was, as is indicative of Head Trauma, angry, and prone to outburst, he began to isolate himself, not wanting to participate in activities, of any kind. What I especially liked about my then Husband; was our ability to laugh at almost anything. He no longer laughed and saw everything as an insult. Now we argued about everything. He was verbally abusive, and seconds later acted as though the hurtful things he had just emitted hadn't been said, He couldn't understand why I cried, explanations became the norm for tears, and he would deny ever saying them. He was accusatory and prone to outburst even in Public. All that while experiencing physical pain, although unbearable for me. I understood and hoped that Counseling would be an option.There are certain Physical complications that were as a result of the spinal cord injury the physical implications can cause emotional problems within a Marriage and although I loved my Husband through the good and bad times he didn't understand what love meant. Love isn't about the sexual aspect of Marriage it's about communication, caring and being there for each other. He blamed me for his inability, which in turn made me feel like less of a Woman. It was very obvious to me if not to him that divorce was the only solution after several attempts to get him to seek help, he refused and drew further into himself becoming more verbally abusive daily.

There are certain Physical complications that were as a result of the spinal cord injury the physical implications can cause emotional problems within a Marriage and although I loved my Husband through the good and bad times he didn't understand what love meant. Love isn't about the sexual aspect of Marriage it's about communication, caring and being there for each other. He blamed me for his inability, which in turn made me feel like less of a Woman. It was very obvious to me if not to him that divorce was the only solution after several attempts to get him to seek help, he refused and drew further into himself becoming more verbally abusive daily. He couldn't understand that it was love that made me stay with him.

There is absolutely nothing for Men to be embarrassed by as it concerns problems with erectile dysfunction. A Woman who genuinely cares and loves know there is certain Medication that can help with the problem. Sometimes if the issue isn't due to a back injury or spinal cord injury. There may be other issues such as being overweight. Problems with testosterone, the list sometimes is daunting. It is never okay to self-diagnose sometimes the problems is a simple one. Never be ashamed it's not unusual for Men over the age of forty to experience this type of issue. sometimes age is the reason.

People who experience loss due to Death, Disability, or a long term relationship will experience?

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a. Counseling Only Works, If One Is Willing To Participate.

There were times I would beg and plead with my Husband to seek Counseling. However in his eyes, he was quite okay, and to him, nothing had changed. I found myself pulling away, and burying myself in books, and chores, If he was in one room I was in the other, however, that did not stop the barrage of Insults, he levied on a Daily basis. My preoccupation, with standing by my Husband, cost me. I was withdrawing from Friends and Family, things we did socially, I never knew when he would become agitated or angry.

b. A Good Support System Is Only As Good As It's Weakest Link.

Webster's Dictionary defines Support System as: "a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support".

The catch phrase support System, rallying around and including the individual in need, is a misrepresentation of what is expected from Family and Friends. It is a difficult undertaking, which brings guilt to the Family if they are unable to maintain the support.

In Counseling when we talk about a support system, we are in essence asking the Family, Friends Minister, and anyone who is involved in someone's Daily Life to be accountable, and provide the tools necessary to encourage n Individual in Need. We place the difficult task on the shoulders, of spouses, Children, and anyone who is directly associated. We forget sometimes that the Individual we are in support of may strongly resist.

Such is the case, in my own experience. And resist my Ex did, nothing I tried, suggest, seemed to reach him. He, the Man I had grown from Young Adulthood, into Womanhood with, was foreign to me. He was experiencing all these emotions, and pain, but so was I, in my own way.

Divorce Is Sometimes Necessary For Personal Growth

After three Years of watching him become less of himself. In his moment of true understanding and I say, love, my world as I knew it ended. My Husband, begged me for a divorce citing: "I'm making you unhappy, and I don't know how to fix it". Despite me assuring him, over and over that I still loved him as I did the Day we met. My Husband insisted, and I gave in.

In any event, it didn't work out for me and my Husband, however, this article may help other couples. I write this with his verbal permission at the time. He proudly posted it to his Facebook page after reading it. At the time he felt as I did that it was important to highlight some of the problems disabled Veterans face coming back from War. He understands the embarrassment and the difficulty associated with the stigma. Underneath all the complications we experienced he was and I hope still is a fighter for Veterans rights and Social Justice it is what we had in common and still Today what keeps me communicating with him and allows us to maintain our Friendship. That and the fact that we have Children that may need us to act and pretend at times be Adults.


American Psychological Association (APA):

survivor guilt. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved November 07, 2014, from website: guilt


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