Dear Ms Vicki,
I am a former U.S. Marine and served in Desert Storm. I met my wife after Desert Storm. She too served in the Marine Corps in Desert Storm. We got married and started a family. I am a police officer and now my wife is active duty National Guard. She deployed to Iraq in 03-04. Now she is in Afghanistan. We were best friends before we dated and always shared everything. Prior to her deploying to Iraq she totally shut down and closed myself and our sons off. When she returned our marriage was in shambles. We worked it out and decided to make another go of it. Things were tough, but we slowly progressed and things seemed so much better. Well, until a year and a half ago.
She was one of five people in her unit who were advised that they would be deployed in October 2011. She began to bury herself in her work, not coming home at night until 8 and 9 at night. Sometimes she would ask me to come and sit with her at her office at the armory. She didn't want to talk but just wanted me to sit there with her. She quit sharing her feelings again and began to shut the boys out. I know this is a way for her to cope with the deployment, but she seems to feel extremely guilty about leaving the family. She was abused as a child and came from a broken home. When we were friends she said her biggest dream was to be the best mom and wife. I think in her mind she is failing. My teenage sons have confronted her about how she has shut us out. Her response is to get angry and say everything is my fault. She says the same thing she says to me when I try to explain to her what she is doing not only to me but our sons. It seems to be touching everything in our life. She acts as if sex is something to check off on her to-do list. While we both enjoy the sex as soon as it is over she is up and out of bed to finish what she thinks needs to be done. We used to kiss, have foreplay and enjoy one another. I would love to have that passion back. I would love to have my best friend back. Hell, I feel like a woman sometimes.
As I said above, my wife comes from a broken home and was abused sexually and physically as a child. As a former sex crimes detective I am aware of the problems women have later in life who have been abused and know how to deal with those issues. In Desert Storm her unit was hit with SCUDs and had to stay in MOPP level 4 and 5 for extended periods. She cannot deal with confined spaces and often times wakes up screaming when trapped by the sheets and tells me she feels like she is in her MOPP gear. In Iraq, she had four mortars hit within 50 feet of her and luckily was untouched by the shrapnel. Another time an RPG penetrated the wall of the room she was in but did not detonate; it was three feet from her. I have tried to help her deal with these things as I know they were traumatic. I have been involved in shootings, taken human life, been stabbed and come close to death on several occasions. But, it is like she doesn't want to listen to me on how to deal with her problems.
What I don't know how to do is deal with a wife who refuses to get any kind of help and communicate with me because "she is fine." Ms Vicki, I hope you can help me, I love her very much. Last deployment I think I crowded her and did not give her any space. I lost my temper in frustration and said things I shouldn't have, and even mentioned divorce, something I don't want. This deployment she has tried a little harder to be close to us. Before she left she made sure every weekend the four of us did something together. Unfortunately she never wanted to do anything when it came to just the two of us, the boys always had to be involved. Now that she is in Afghanistan she has her own cell phone, but has only called four times in two months. She emails every day though. She has SKYPE on her computer yet has not wanted to do it. On Christmas she called us when we were opening presents and I described what was going on. She cried the entire time but managed to stick with it. I know it was tough on her since she hates to cry in front of anyone, including me. I think she is trying but I do know she isn't communicating like she used to. She will talk but it is mostly about work but never about her feelings for me or the boys. I know she has to keep her mind on her mission but I fear when she returns she will not open up and let the hurt out. The only time she seems normal is when she takes a lortab for her severe migraines and for a couple of hours she is her old self. Pills are not the answer.
How do I start to try and heal her when she is 8000 miles away? Some say not to do anything but I don't want her to slip away. She said before she left that we are good and everything with us is fine. That was the extent of a two hour conversation about our marriage, with me doing most of the talking. Now I know if I bring up anything to do with her lack of communication to me she will say I am just trying to find fault in her. One last thing: Being in a man's world is tough on her. She is an E7 platoon Sergeant but often has problems with her superiors and those that work for her to take her seriously. She graduated honor graduate from her MOS school, PLDC, BNOC, and ANOC and has been recognized by a general on two different occasions for her work in disaster relief in front of her entire battalion. She is a tiny woman and I guess the good old boys in the Alabama Guard have a problem with little women who are Former Marines, and have served in three wars. Anyway she has brought her work home with her in that sense. She used to jump up in my arms, and liked when I opened doors for her, always said thank you when I offered to help her. Now all I get is "I can do it myself" or "What, you think I can't do it myself?" When I ask her why she doesn't jump up in my arms any more she just says it's stupid and I only want her to do it because that's what good little wives do.
Vicki, I have tried and tried to explain to her I love her and miss her jumping in my arms and that husbands and wives should always try to help one another and that there is no shame in her getting help from me when she needs it. I don't have a problem when she helps me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you respond and can help guide me. I know this email has jumped around a bit and you don't have every detail. But any help would be greatly appreciated. I miss the woman my wife was. I know deployments and war change people but she can at least try to open up her heart again. Life and death situations changed me, but the only thing it did was make me realize how much I lacked as a husband and father and wanted me to be better.
Thank You, JD
Your wife is very blessed to have you and your support. Every combat veteran will experience combat or operational stress. This stress can have positive effects, like promoting alertness and bonding, but it can also cause tension and strain that may have different adverse consequences depending on the person. As a result, your support is important. It is also very important that you take care of yourself and get the support and resources you need, too. I think you should consider speaking to a therapist or counselor for support. This is important because your experiences with your wife is taking your self-esteem away and perhaps even your self-worth too. I don't want her behavior to make you feel emasculated in any way.
I cannot say definitively what is going on with your wife. However, it is a normal reaction to close off from family and friends before a deployment as a way of dealing with the separation. The detriment to this behavior is the feelings of resentment by spouses, children and other loved ones. I hope you have the support of family and friends right now. It's important that you get the support you need because I do not want you to become vulnerable to seeking comfort in the arms of another woman to get your needs met. Continue to reach out to your wife and communicate with her. I know this is difficult because she has to know how you feel, but at the same time you are trying not to make her feel defensive. She needs space, but you need her! She has to know this.
Your wife should also consider speaking to a professional on base so she can begin to work through some of her own issues (combat stress, past abuse) that could be making her close off from her husband and family. I understand what she has experienced, it's been difficult. However, she has to be responsible for her behavior too. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. This resource is a great place to start:
Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) Outreach Center Phone: 866-966-1020. You can speak to a trained health resource consultant 24/7 for free. There is also a live chat at www.realwarriors.net/livechat
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki
Dear Ms. Vicki,
I have a question for you. My husband is an Iraq Vet post-9/11, I applied for caregiver benefits and both of my husband's doctors said that he did not qualify for these benefits. Now I have to go through an appeal to try and get these benefits. What can I do in order to be approved for these benefits? I never thought that we would be denied but we were. What can you suggest that I do? Any information would be great.
Thank you, SM
I am very sorry to hear that you were denied caregiver benefits. It sounds like the doctors are saying that his health condition or situation is not serious enough to warrant benefits. I know this must be stressful for you because obviously you believe his health and condition warrants the need for the benefits. From my knowledge, your next course of action would be to file the appeal and perhaps you should get the opinion of an outside physician. What I will do is forward your letter to my editor for print. Many times, our readers who have more information will write in and share with us. Thank you so much for writing to me and for reading the column. Please keep in touch with me with updates and give your husband my best.
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki
Dear Ms. Vicki,
I read your column earlier this week and thought that you might be able to help me understand and cope with a family member with mental illness. My daughter, a SSG asked (or should I say convinced) me to leave my home, job and vehicle to come to Germany to help her with her kids (she is separated from her spouse). I arrived in January of 2011 and was expected to care for a 4-year old because my daughter claimed that she could not afford daycare and household duties. I don't intend to jump around on this issue, but at this point I am very angry, because I was told that I would be taken care of financially and that my car (left in someone else's care) note would be paid for. At some point in time my daughter informed me that she would not pay my car note (shocked) and on occasion she was late making the storage bill ($98) payments. In the meantime, I was insulted on a daily basis, in front of her 4 and 5-year olds, and consistently told that I was getting free room and board and that I should basically do whatever she wanted me to do (WTF?). She didn't want me to eat her food and told me that she could not afford to feed me. I was subjected to eating 50-cent pasta dinners without meat (was she punishing me because I was overweight?). Sometimes she would leave 40 euro on the kitchen countertop and once she gave me 140 euro to get my hair braided. I kept the floors mopped and swept, fed the 4-year old 3-plus meals a day and tried to provide some recreation on a very limited budget. I was encouraged to get my German driver's license so that I could take her 5-year old to and from school when either she was out of the country visiting her boyfriend (not her husband) or had other important things to do.
We moved from the economy apartment in September to an Air Force base, where I am told to get the kids up every morning, fed and off to school. I was also told to get a job in a matter-of-fact way (did she give birth to me?) but was not given any resources to do so. I have decided that taking care of her children and cooking and cleaning is a job in which I only receive from her a sum of $200 per month ( I use this money to buy items for the home). She has become UNBEARABLE and I have decided to move out because she has refused to purchase an airline ticket for me to travel back to the US. What type of services can she benefit from -- no one seems to like her. She is rude to anyone that she thinks will not kick her ass. My main concern is that the children a provided a nurturing and loving home environment.
Sincerely, A Daughter's Hostage
Sadly, I often get letters from parents who give up their livelihoods and move to help their servicemember sons and daughters only to be abused when they get there. For this reason, I advise parents to be as supportive as possible but don't give up your employment, homes, cars etc. You have to maintain your own independence. This situation is not good. I don't know what's going on with your daughter or why she moved you to Germany to abuse you, but you cannot accept her behavior any longer. On the Air Force base you can find an Airmen and Family Readiness Center. You can walk in and ask to speak to one of the consultants who will be able to connect you to resources to help you.
I know that you would like to leave Germany and regain everything that you gave up to come and help your daughter and rightfully so. I truly hope you are able to do that. I am not supportive of your daughter's behavior. Just remember that she cannot keep you against your will. Moreover, I hope you are able to restore a good relationship with your daughter in spite of her actions. Of course you are concerned for your grandchildren -- any grandmother would be. However, in your letter you report that your daughter is mistreating you, not her children. For this reason, you should hold your daughter accountable for her actions against you. As a result, if she has to pay child care or pay for before- and after-school services then so be it. Yes, I'm concerned for the care of your grandchildren but I'm also concerned about your well-being too. Please let me know what you find out when you visit the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. I hope you are doing okay.
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki