Sunday, August 29, 2010

When PTSD Leads Them Astray


I often search out other spouses who are suffering like I am.....perhaps to fulfill my own needs as far as acknowledgment of my own feelings and suffering.  Most of them blogging about their days, their struggles and everyday lives living with Combat PTSD. While I like what I read and is somewhat comforting, I am seeking the unspoken subjects that I have endured and struggled with. Surely, I am not the ONLY spouse who is dealing with the taboo subjects which derive from PTSD and all the hell it leaves in its wake! Is there some unwritten code we as spouses are supposed to follow and not talk about? Are we not allowed to address these issues with the comforting knowledge that it's ok to talk about it? I thought long and hard about all these "hush hush" topics, but am going to grab the reins and run with them anyway!

Such a a simple word that can bring a whole hell of a lot of problems upon a family and a marriage. One of those subjects no one wants to talk about in the open and one that I gather should not be blogged about. My story started once my husband came home from Iraq. As you know from my previous blogs, my husband was not acting remotely normal and our marriage basically dissolved into thin air because of his issues. Coupled with not getting help, let's just say our house was not a happy home. When I found out I was pregnant with our third child, the whole world turned upside down and he lost whatever sanity he did come home with. The paranoia and disillusions really screwed his head up into believing that I somehow had an affair and must have been at the same time he was home for me to be pregnant. There were a lot of hurtful comments, lot of hatred and resentment from both of us. There were so many times in my head that I had wished I had cheated because it would have made his anger, resentment and the trouble he was giving me, worth it. Strongly a firm believer in marriage vows and coming from a family whose parents had issues such as these, I could not believe he would ever think or accuse me of doing such a thing.

However, he went back to work, I did my own thing at home with our other children and somehow things just rocked along albeit badly. During this time, a friend we will call E, was calling or texting which wasn't out of the ordinary. I have some male acquaintances, he has some female ones. Never been an issue with us, and never had any reason not to trust him prior to war. He worked part-time with a buddy of his on his off days, so it wasn't out of the ordinary that he wasn't home. He was always available by phone should I need him and home when he was supposed to be. 

The texting every once in a blue moon began to become an every day thing. That daily thing turned into almost what I would say as an obsession. Constantly, he was on his phone texting and if not, then he was on the phone with her. Now I know her, she seems nice, married as well....and her husband is not one of our favorite people. Often, it was questions in regards to fixing something and he would walk her through it with me on the phone. Then the phone calls became more and more often with her just needing a friend to talk to or the fact she was depressed. Me, being the naive and big hearted person, told my husband that he needed to make sure she had a friendly ear to listen to her. Little did I know that this friendly ear was becoming more of an issue than what I thought. 

It must have been probably six months of a rocky marriage and arguments over seeking help, that a knock on my door came one day. It was E's husband. I was kind of shocked to see him there and knew they were having marital problems of their own, but over what, not sure. He asked if he could speak to me for a few minutes and I let him in. He then proceeded to tell me that for over six months, his wife and my husband were having an affair. I pretty much felt the whole world get knocked out from underneath me. I didn't understand at first and was really angry with this man for playing such a cruel joke. However, he proceeded to tell me that he felt I needed to know and gave me many details on days where my husband was supposedly working. He said he knew I was expecting again and felt that I needed to know what was going on. They had separated and he felt that I needed to know the whole story and save me the heartache he was going through. 

I was shocked but things began falling in place. There was one phone call which came during supper time. He spoke softly and soothingly to this unknown person. Little did he know that his volume was up so high on his phone (due to hearing loss) that I could hear every word and know that it was a woman. When he got off the phone, I asked him who it was and he said "Oh it was a guy from work wanting to know if I could swap days with him". I think at that moment I knew, but when I confronted him with his lies he swore up and down they were just friends and that he would never ever cheat on me. 

The days he was supposedly working, I never saw any extra on the checks but he always had bills paid on time or came up with extra money. I learned later he was tapping into our savings account to cover his ass on his lies. That evening of the visit from the bearer of information, I threw my husband out of the house. When he came home that day he was so cold, so indifferent and when I confronted him about E's husband, he said "Ok, so I had an affair so what!". That's it? That's all you have to give me? 

He then began to tell me it wasn't about sex, it was just needing someone to listen to him. LISTEN to him? I felt like I wanted to smack him upside the head because all I have done is been there for him, talking to him and trying to get him help. Then, I felt resentment and pure hatred for this man because here I am at seven months pregnant and he was accusing me of cheating on him! 

I really can't tell you how things went from there but on the verge of divorce and the baby, we somehow managed to find marriage counseling. We salvaged much of our relationship what was left of it, and after counseling, it seemed to help him and me coping with this "interference". My husband was a trust worthy man, and we don't lie to each other. I could not grasp the whole concept of what or who this person was after he came home from war. In counseling, he told me that he knew he could talk to me but could not tell me everything because he was afraid of what I would think of him. It wasn't that he was attracted to her or remotely had any feelings for her, it was just a punishment to himself and the high of "not getting caught". Was it all bullshit? An excuse or an easy way out? I don't know. Maybe its true, that it had nothing to do with me and was all about him.....perhaps it was just him playing the Iraqi/PTSD card. 

He wanted to be with me, and I wanted my husband back....looking back over the last three years since this has happened...I wondered where I would be now had I just simply closed that door in my life. The sex part doesn't bother me as much as the personal closeness he shared with her. I feel as if I was robbed. I was robbed of a memorable pregnancy, robbed of a memorable happy time of the birth of our son, and robbed because he could not talk to me. The one person who would never judge, always listen and who, used to think, we were best of friends. 

I don't think in my heart and mind, I have ever truly forgiven him. Although he has never spoken to her since that time, I still see her from time to time out in town. The humiliation becomes unbearable and always re-opens old wounds. When he opens his phone to text his buddies, or he receives one...I can't help but wonder if that's who he is talking to. If he leaves the house, then I often wonder if he is seeing someone. Let's face it, being married to a Combat PTSD veteran is hard enough and sometimes that trust is broken in other areas....adding this type of break makes one almost distrusting of them. He thinks I should just drop it, leave it in the past and keep moving forward. I try. That's what you do in marriages right? Keep moving forward and let the forgiveness come later. I can't even describe to him how much damage he has done to my self-esteem or how broken I really feel. 

I try not to think about any of this....leave it in the past and hope that with time, I heal and trust again. The other night he made a comment that bothered me and guess it rehashed the old hurt that was buried deep. He was outside and I called him in for supper. He was texting back and forth and like a parent, made him put down the phone to eat. We always used to joke about me or him having a monday night or friday night man or gal pre-war. It's been a long time since we have done that, and not thinking I said "tell your friday night gal you have to eat and you will get back to her" and I chuckled along with my kids. He jumped up from his seat and said "Well I have been there and done that, now haven't I?" I don't know if what he said was hurtful or the cold mean way he said it. Either way, it was a reminder I didn't need. I don't even know why he said it. I mean, if I was some callous cold hearted bitch who loved to rub it in his face all the time, or constantly nagged about his would be totally different. Unfortunately, I think the PTSD has taken all his good sense of humor and our playfulness with each other to whatever depths that it lives in. 

So that's so my story. Of course, wrapped up short and sweet without a bow on top but nevertheless written on my blog out in the open. I guess when it's days like this one where he is in a foul mood and hard to makes me wonder if he truly appreciates all that I do for him and still loves me as much as I do him. I wouldn't put my life on hold and spend each day in hell, if my heart still didn't feel something for him as strong as it was the day we met. It would just be nice to know something at least. I do know this was the first time and the only time this will happen. There are no more second chances left in me. Hopefully, this will reach another spouse and they will say "holy hell, I went through this too"! If I can accomplish that, then I am ok with bearing it all out here. 

Not ashamed to write it all,


  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. Your strength to put these hurtful words in print is a huge indicator of the woman of great strength that you are. I can't offer any advice or release in any way - but I can tell you that I am listening to you!

  2. Thanks USM,

    I'm right there with you, our story is almost identical to yours. Post-Iraq, married friend, I was pregnant at the caveat I guess is that her husband was in Iraq at the time which made me even angrier for some reason.

    When I found out, one of my first comments was: after all of these years of putting up with your crap, the one thing I thought I could count on was you being too lazy to deal with two women at once.
    At the time, it was rather toungue and cheek but I really was trying to voice the depth of the betrayal.
    Your sister in all of this PTSD pain,


  3. Renee, thank you! I don't feel strong at all! I feel like I have no strength but blogging does seem to help me cope with most of it and gives me a little boost. Perhaps its the whole release and knowing there are others who understand. I appreciate your listening to me...sometimes that's all we need...just an ear to vent! Thank you for reading!

  4. Anonymous...I can't tell you how much your post meant to me this evening! I chewed a while about this post and had that split second of "maybe I should just go back and delete it!". Thank you for coming forward and sharing your story with me and the others. I hate that this happened to you, but in the same sense am grateful to find someone else who knows the depth of the hurt, the betrayal and the heartache. I think I have become so desperate for someone to know what I am going through that it often becomes a constant thought in my head. How did you get through it all? Does it still hurt deep down inside? I don't even remember all that happened that day I found out...I don't even remember what happened afterwards, or how we even made it back together. Weird huh? Yet, there probably isn't a single week that goes by that his affira doesn't cross my mind. I wonder if it will ever go away? Do you have issues with trusting him?

  5. I wanted to write and say that I went through the same thing. I wasn't pregnant, but that's really the only difference. My soldier's PTSD has built a wall I doubt will ever come down. I think you're really strong and I can imagine how hard it was to write this post. Nobody knows what he did, and I was trying to protect him by hiding it. Now I'd be so embarrassed that it's become my own secret. We have a hard life.. you're not in this alone

  6. USM,

    "How did you get through it all? Does it still hurt deep down inside?"

    The depth of the pain is comparable to grieving the death of a loved one, IMHO. Instead, its a grieving for the person who once was and the love I knew we had. I'm still not through it. Experts say it takes 2-5 years to heal from the betrayal of infidelity. It has been 13 1/2 months since I found out. The affair itself took place on and off between Dec 07 and July 09 when I found out accidentally by seeing emails between them. I was blindsided, had no idea and my world fell apart.

    I still think about it every day. It's better than it was, I no longer get physically ill, have stopped losing weight although there isn't really any to lose at this point, but my hair still falls out in clumps and the grey hair has arrived and wrinkles galore (I am 33 and aged a lot this past year).

    I am absolutely traumatized.

    "I wonder if it will ever go away? Do you have issues with trusting him?"

    Honestly, I don't think it completely goes away, but does improve. The affairs had nothing to do with us, they were coping in an unhealthy way like thousands of vets before them who walked the same road.
    I trust him on some level today, but know he will never again hold the gift of unconditional, full trust from me he once had. He asked me to forgive him and I haven't been able to complete that step yet. When forgiveness comes it will be more for me than for him.

    I have a hard time letting go of the part that he had unprotected sex 4 times while I was pregnant and nursing, causing an infection that resulted in the premmature birth of our second child, leaving her in the NICU with breathing and intake issues for weeks.
    This will always infuriate me.

    The affair partner was nothing special, just something he used to get the high and discarded. Many have described affair sex as an adrenaline rush comparable to the thrill of war. My warrior sought that thrill desperately when he came back from Afghanistan and Iraq. 5 years later, while he still goes untreated, he no longer actively pursues that thrill.

    In the end, he gave a lot to serve his country and he took a lot from me too. In takes a lot of strength to be a PTSD caregiver and I was doing pretty well before the affair which cut deeply into that strength.

    USM and others, we are not alone. Many have walked in our shoes. I applaud you for loving your spouses and doing your best but don't put too much pressure on yourself to heal. Take your time and please know you did not do anything to deserve what happened to you.

    Sending lots of strength and many hugs your way, Anonymous

  7. First of all, let me say how very sorry I am that you had to go through this. I was cheated on in my 1st marriage. He wasn't a soldier and he had no PTSD, but he left me at the hospital the night I had our Daughter and began a physical relationship with his ex, they had an emotional relationship while I was pregnant. I know what it's like to not be able to enjoy your pregnancy, and I know what it's like to be in a pit of despair right after having a child. I will never be the same, I have not had another child, and I probably will never get to experience pregnancy or having a child again. When you said he robbed you of your pregnancy and happiness, you finally put words to how I have been feeling the last almost 11 years. My 2nd and last husband just came home from his 2nd deployment almost 6 months ago and I have no idea how to help him, or even how to help myself with his PTSD. I just wanted you to know that there are others out there who understand where you are coming from, and I am sending you a giant hug from Ohio.

  8. Thanks ladies for the comments and advice! Anonymous, I hate having to keep stuff like this a secret. It's like we are the ones who did something wrong...and we didn't do anything! I guess that's why I wanted to post this. Get it off my chest and finally breathe a little easier. I don't focus on his affair because I know now, it was the high he was seeking and not someone else. The problem I struggle with is my self esteem. I too have aged quite a bit and fortunately for hair coloring, I can hide much of the gray! Haha! I wish when all these politicians, government and the VA decide their "guidelines" for disability, that they would take into consideration how much damage is done to families. No one knows more than us the cost of freedom and our soldiers serving. Bexxx, the hardest part is getting help. He needs to get into the VA or the Vet Center for sure. Either one of these offer couple counseling too which is beneficial. Educate yourself on PTSD and what all it entails and thats a good starting point for helping the both of you. Check out my tabs above, like Family of a Vet. This should give you a good direction to go in. Always here if you want to chat as well....we all need Battle Buddies ourselves! Sending you all big hugs from TN.


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