For the Women in a War Veteran’s Life



The wives/partners/mothers/sisters who have a Vietnam Veteran loved one to care for, often suffer from whatI have called ‘The Splash Effects of PTSD’. The following responses are all to often found in these overlooked and forgotten ones in a Veteran’s life.

Pre-occupation With the Veteran

  • Constant tension and anxiety because she never “knows what he’ll do next”.
  • Critical or self-righteous, adopts a martyr attitude because of “what he has been through”.
  • Continual manipulation of the Veteran and/or circumstances to “be in control’ in a situation that is really out of control.

Isolation: May have few friends, or be unable to relate to friends as she would like to because:

  • the Veteran has alienated them with his attitude in the past
  • the Veteran has isolated the family and/or is jealous of them relating to others
  • she has alienated friends because of her constant “family hassles”
  • the friends and family she does have are always telling her to “get rid of him”
  • Constant thoughts of leaving the Veteran with very high and low points centred on the thoughts “because he needs me” or “he won’t be able to survive without me”
    • Fear of leaving the Veteran because of what he may do to himself and the family – feelings of being trapped.

Emotional Starvation

  • Sexual problems, feels that she cannot be truly intimate with her Veteran
  • Low self-esteem
  • Escapes into a fantasy world – TV, thoughts of having affairs, compulsive buying sprees, overeating, etc
    • May lean on children, friends, or mother too heavily for emotional support.


  • Sense of helplessness and hopelessness, “sick and tired of trying”
  • Sets self up for disappointments
  • A low self-esteem that results in poor personal appearance,untidy and unkept home, etc.

Anger and Other Related Emotions

  • Resentment and bitterness develop over the years, not only towards the Veteran, but others as well
  • Withdrawal from Veteran and family emotionally
  • Constant fear and anxiety
  • May provoke or instigate fights or arguments with the Veteran, or “takes it out on the kids”

Over Responsibility – YOU, The Enabler: In an attempt to keep the family stable, you may take over the financial and other responsibilities as well as being both the “wife” and “mother” roles, leading to such traits as:

  • Think and feel totally responsible for others
  • Perfectionism
  • Feel safest when giving
  • Nagging or silence
  • Peace at any price
  • Doing things out of a sense of duty
  • Feelings of anxiety, pity, guilt and the need to “help” husband and others
  • Constantly harried and pressured, time pressure
  • Takes blame for husband and children for ‘the spot’ they are in
  • Feelings of anger, victimisation, unappreciation and being used


  • Guilt for having married the Veteran, having the children, or if the Veteran leaves
  • Constant financial stress – never knowing how they will be able to pay mounting bills, how long he will work for this time, or be able to keep his job
  • Feeling that “it’s my fault” – and thinking, “If I were a better wife he would be different”
  • Feels guilty about just about everything
  • Fear of rejection
  • Feels that “if one more thing happens, I’ll go mad”
  • Over-commitment leading to constant time pressures

Emotional Explosion, or Projection

  • Kids may become severely withdrawn or demanding, disobedient,
  • hyperactive and even agitated.
  • Children may have taken over responsible roles to try to balance the family.
  • Children may have no friends, or less friends because of negative home
  • environment, leading to their own loss of self-esteem.
  • May try to find fulfillment in other worthy causes, including getting over-involved in club, children’s activities, or other “worthy” organisations

Denial: that…

  • she or the children have problems… “after all, in spite of the circumstances, look how well I have kept it all together”.
  • the husband has a problem, or totally blames the Veteran for all the problems.
  • the Lord Jesus Christ, or anyone else can help her husband or her family. “I have tried everything that I possibly can already and there is absolutely nothing that works”.


About Fred Grigg