"Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love." The prayer of St Francis (who was a combat vet) seemed like a bunch of crap when I first read it, but it has come to mean a lot to me.
A person with PTSD is not good at consoling, understanding, or loving, especially in the acute phases, which they often deny are happening. (So annoying).
We can seek to console them, understand them and love them, but we can't fix them or force them to get help.
That is why we as family members need each other. I belong to a number of online groups and also have tons of stuff I have written on the subject free at patiencepress.com.
We didn't cause it, we can't control it, and we can't cure it. Trying to do this can make us nuts. (If your vet is driving you crazy, you probably are a little nuts, and can't see it. I couldn't).
When we get help, we give them space to change. They may not change as fast as we'd like, but even tiny changes can give us hope, especially if we notice them instead of focusing on the annoying stuff. That was hard for me because I was brought up focusing on the bad stuff and thought that was what intelligent people did. Haha!
Principles of recovery for both:
Let go and let God (or the harmony of the universe, or whatever).
Work on yourself so you can tolerate other people's feelings, mistakes, and live happily yourself. There is a saying, Live and let live, but most people focus on letting the person who is having problems live. They don't focus on having a good life themselves. So everyday, when you get up, you can ask yourself, what can I do to have a good day today?
Respect what your veteran has been through. Respect what you have been through, too. This is hard. To vets I say, remember how you felt when someone was wounded? That is how we feel. We see you bleeding all over the place and we can't fix it and that hurts because we love you. Please respect that.
Progress not perfection.
Have compassion for each other. This is hard. It is hard coming back to civilian life and concerns. It is hard dealing with someone who is showing the effects of war.
Get help. You can start by reading (patiencepress.com) and talking to other people in your situation. There are even several 12 step programs for PTSD (combatvetsanonymous, PTSDanonymous) and stuff on my webpage about how to start one. Spouses can start their own. I also suggest Al-anon for spouses, substituting the word PTSD for alcoholism. If the vet is using addictions to get through the day, working the steps in the program for your addiction can really help. You can seek outside help at the Vet Center or VA, although getting into the system is slow and frustrating and they tend to medicate instead of talk. You can go through the military. Finding someone you can talk to is important.
I want to point out some family triggers that no one thinks about:
Your family is slow: slow people get killed or get other people killed.
Your family is insubordinate: gets people killed
Your family makes mistakes: ditto
Your wife is bossy: bosses can get people killed
Your spouse is controlling: being controlled can get you killed.
Being asked to do something can get you killed too, so when a spouse asks you to do anything, some unconscious process may take over and you don't do it-to save your life- but neither of you knows that and it leads to a lot of arguments. I noticed this with Bob. Eventually I decided he had done as many things he didn't want to do in Vietnam (flying into a hail of bullets) as he was capable of, and I just needed to leave him alone. Now he is pretty helpful, but it took a while.
So if you never take out the trash, is it shooting at you? No? So take it out. Of course you might be thinking, Is the trash shooting? No. Then it is not important... Two perspectives that can be reconciled with compassion and acceptance and laughing together.
Getting better takes time, and mostly it happens if you take the time to recover. More tomorrow.