To Listen or Not? Dealing With Combat Stories

It's been almost five years since my husband returned from his 15 month tour to Iraq. He has deployed three times since then, but that tour will always stand out in our mind as the hardest. The year following was the most intense in terms of dealing with the after effects of that tour. But even now, years later, it still comes back to haunt us.

My husband shares bits and pieces of his experiences with me periodically. The other night, on the heels of Memorial Day, he told me a particularly poignant story. This one, like most of these memories, made my insides ache. It may have taken place five or six years ago, but the pain is so fresh.

As his wife, it puts me between a rock and a hard place. I want so desperately for him to keep sharing these memories. I want to share the pain with him, know as much as I can about the 15 months that we were apart. I want him to know that he can open up to me. I want to support him because I know that as much as it will be painful to hear about the things he has seen, he was the one that had to actually experience those events.

But at the same time, it leaves a lump in my chest. Whenever he shares his experiences, I take on part of that emotional burden.

Does your combat vet talk to you about his or her wartime experiences? How do you handle these difficult conversations?

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