Husband With PTSD Has Become Physically, Emotionally Abusive

Ms. Vicki
Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am a wife of a lieutenant colonel in Army Reserve. We have been married for 25 years. The first 10 years were fairly normal with some ups and downs.

The next 10 years from 2001 until 2011, my husband served multiple deployments overseas for the most recent two wars. He seemed to be gone more than he was home. Those were very turbulent years. Among those deployments were two-year deployments to Afghanistan, and his last deployment was one year in Iraq.

I noticed within the first few weeks of him returning from those deployments that he had very little patience, was hypervigilant and also was much more of an angry person. I started counseling immediately to try to stay strong for my children, my husband,and myself due to his temper, mental and verbal abuse, as well as periodic physical abuse.

My children and I tried to get him to get help for what we thought was either a mid-life crisis or PTSD. He would not take medication, saying it made him a zombie. He wouldn't go to counseling, either. He said that counselors are quacks who just want your money.

Eventually, the domestic violence escalated to a bad physical assault on me -- so bad that I had to seek hospital treatment. My husband denied that he did what he did to me and told people I beat myself up. Things eventually caught up with him and he was arrested for what he did, but I was able to talk the district attorneys office into sentencing him to mandatory counseling instead of jail time.

I truly believe he is the way he is because of serving his country. He wasn't this way when I married him.

After the counseling, my husband started threatening me with divorce in order to control things even more. My self-esteem has been destroyed from the things he has said and done to me, but I don't want to give up on him, my marriage or my family.

He is done with his counseling now, but not much else has changed. He lies about things and takes me for granted. He keeps threatening to file for divorce.

I've never stopped loving him and I can't see my life without him, but he acts like he doesn't love me and he says that he is numb to me. I know that all of this fits the PTSD pattern.

Is there anything that can be done or anything out there that might be able to save my marriage? Thank you for your help!

-- Christine

Dear Christine,

Thank you so much for writing to me and for sharing your difficult experiences. I can see that you have been through a lot with your husband. You love him, and you want to save your marriage, I understand. However, I'm also concerned about your safety and your children's safety.

I know there are many service members with PTSD and combat-related reactions. Of course, we all know that sometimes war changes people, but that doesn't mean that your husband isn't responsible for his behavior.

He shouldn't be emotionally and physically abusive toward you or anyone. He has to accept responsibility for his behavior. Please let me say this: PTSD is an anxiety disorder. With it comes excitability/hypervigilance, irritability, moodiness. All of these symptoms can be controlled.

However, the physical and emotional abuse is something different. You and your children have to be safe. His reaction toward you and saying that he wants a divorce concerns me. He says that he is numb toward you. To me, this means he doesn't want to be married to you anymore. He is saying that the marriage is over and that he isn't connected emotionally to you anymore.

So my question for you is, why you are staying with someone who doesn't respect you and doesn't want to be with you? In my opinion, he's already saying the marriage is over. You're the only one fighting for the marriage.

I would encourage you to continue with counseling because you need the support. I would also encourage you to seek legal advice. He could be planning a divorce and you not even know it.

Keep in touch with me. I will be thinking about you.

-- Ms. Vicki

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