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Ms. Vicki: Trouble at Home

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am a grandmother of two beautiful little boys (ages 1 and 3). Their father has been deployed for most of their little lives. He was not good at keeping in touch with them at all and unfortunately, they do not know him. Even when he was around, he was not really there and did not pay attention so they never made a real attachment to him. 

He just returned from Afghanistan after being gone for a year with hardly any contact. He now has very little contact with the children and tries to call now and then, but says about two words at a time and does not keep the 3-year old's attention. The little guy just wants to say "Bye" and go play. He just has no clue who "Daddy" is and has no interest. This is not because he doesn't understand the phone, because he will talk to people he knows. My daughter has custody of the children and her ex-husband has supervised visits until he makes some kind of relationship with them. This would be great, but now we are concerned because he makes comments about a possible brain injury from his last deployment where he suffered minor physical injuries but possibly more serious psychological injuries. He has not told his CO about his nervous condition whenever he hears loud noises. My daughter wants him to have a psychological examination before any unsupervised visits take place because she already has other concerns about how he will deal with the children while in his care besides his claim of nervousness. How would she go about making sure this is done? Also, this father is talking about being finished with the Army in two years. His track record is not so good with caring for these children. He is very aggressive if anyone tries to wake him; he is in another world and has let his child fall from his lap. (He melts into television or daydreams and is not aware of what is going on around him), he is oblivious when his son is trying to talk to him or play with him. He appears to be a very detached person. 

I'm not sure if this father has had issues from his first deployment to Iraq that have not been dealt with but it is very scary to think that he may have these children alone.  
What steps should my daughter take to make sure that her children are safe?

Sincerely,
Grandmother

Dear Grandmother,

I can understand your concerns for your grandchildren. You absolutely have every right to advocate for their care and safety. I applaud you for that. On the other hand, I will be careful not to imply that every servicemember with combat stress and/or PTSD will do harm to their children. My question is: Who is currently supervising the visits and who authorized it? Was it court-ordered supervision? If so, I would voice some concerns there. Two things: First, you can't make someone get treatment, especially if they have not done anything gravely inappropriate or illegal. Conversely, no one can stop you from voicing your concerns to his chain of command or to Child Protective Services. That's your right too.

There are many measures put in to place to help identify servicemembers with combat stress-related reactions. Upon redeployment it is mandatory that he attends post-deployment health reassessment. In these assessments servicemembers are asked many questions to help identify concerns so they can be referred for further services. If he is having difficulties at work his command should also make note of this and refer him. In an ideal situation the servicemember should self-refer to their primary care physician, who would then make referrals for them to go to behavioral health or they could simply go to behavioral health on their own for assistance. If your ex-son-in-law has family, i.e. parents, siblings or any other family members that have a relationship with him, perhaps your daughter could reach out to them and they could also talk to him and be supportive too. Again, if you have concerns you can begin to voice them to his command, to the court, and to CPS. You have every right to. Please stay in touch with updates.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Dear Ms. Vicki,

I feel that my marriage is in jeopardy. My wife and I have been together for 10 years and married for 5 years now. I don't know who to reach out or talk to about my wife and how she has changed since joining the military. I have to tell you it hasn't been all her, I have some issues as well with controlling behavior and trust. I haven't always been this way towards her. This only really started after she kicked me out our house and then went off and slept with another man not even one year after we were married. As I came back home she took it upon herself to tell me that she had done such a thing only after I suggested we go through counseling. The night she told me I told her that I loved her and I forgave her for what she had done, but after telling her this I would always bring it back up whenever we argued about anything. I know this is and was wrong, but it was my way of hurting her like she had hurt me. I never saw what it was doing to her on the inside. I have apologized to her continuously and I do know apologizing doesn't make it better.

My wife has cheated in this marriage more than once and I have been nothing more than a good husband and father despite the control and trust issues, and that wouldn't be there if she would only be the wife I married who wasn't influenced by outsiders. We have had more issues with her family getting in our business mentally and financially. Currently she has joined the Army and is now training in Texas and the kids and I are in Mississippi, and the separation is killing our marriage. She has stopped calling me and is now giving my phone time to another soldier, spending hours at a time on the phone with him, and just a few minutes on the phone with me. I checked the phone records and came across all of this valuable information. I have since found out who this person is (her platoon Sgt.). I have contacted her commander to have a no-contact order issued. She has since changed all of her passwords to every one of her account information I've had access to since we have been together. She has turned off my cell phone and shut me out. She never wants to listen to reason -- even after all of this I still am trying to save the little bit of this marriage we may have left to save. We both have threatened each other with the kids, using them as leverage and that's not right to put the kids in the middle of our problems. I have said to her that I wanted a divorce, but I only said that again because I thought it would hurt her the way she hurt me. I really DO NOT want a divorce. I love this woman and have for a very long time.  My wife and family is the only thing I have and want in my life. I don't know what to do. I need help...

Sincerely,
Hurting Husband

Dear Hurting Husband,

I will be very careful not to say anything to make matters worse or gas you up, but this is not good for you. You admit to having past control issues but you continue to exhibit the same behavior. You have become the checker, checking up on your wife's behavior to make sure she is not cheating, only when you discover that she is cheating you then realize that you can't control that either. Your wife is going to do exactly what she wants to do.

In my opinion, she is out of this marriage. She left both emotionally and physically a long time ago. What you must realize is that you cannot control her. She is a grown woman and is making her own choices. Here's the deal: someone has to take the high road, act maturely and choose to make wise decisions. It was Maya Angelou who said, "When you know better, you do better." Please consider yourself in the know right now. Stop doing "tit-for tat." In other words, she says or does something to hurt you so you follow with the same behavior. This is not good. It's also not good to use your children as pawn. It's not good for their self-worth or self-esteem. If you do this, it will mean you are controlling your children too.

I can really tell that this is sending you on a downward spiral. You deserve better. You have to see that your attempt to control this situation is not good and it's inappropriate. Let me be honest. I absolutely love and adore my husband. We were college sweethearts and he was my first everything. We have three beautiful sons together (sometimes they are a pain in the butt) but that's another story for another day. Anyway, I digressed (lol). I would never stay with any man that I didn't trust and who was disrespectful towards me. It can destroy you. While I love my husband, I love me too. You have to love yourself. So I said all of that to say this: Please call Military OneSource and they will connect you with a therapist or counselor in your local community. The services are free and many times you can get an appointment within three days. Their number is 800-342-9647. You could use the support and the insight to help you explore why you choose to try to control and even more why you want to stay with someone who you say has cheated in your marriage several times. Please reach out to your close family, friends and even spiritual help too. Understand that I am not blaming you at all. It takes two people to make a marriage and two people to ruin one too. I think you are at a decision crossroads. Your wife is in Texas and you are in Mississippi. I'm not telling you to file for divorce, but I do hope that you will choose to be good to you. Stay in touch with me and let me know what you decide to do. I wish you the best.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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