Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Active" Listening

My hubby and I are going to “Family Counseling” at our local Vet Center. Truthfully, it’s been an interesting process… I’m learning things about myself and my own impact on our marriage that I never would have realized without the input of our counselor, Melissa.

Since the divorce rate among PTSD households is much higher than the national average, I figure that some of you might also need the following info. I’m trying to convince Melissa to start contributing to FOV… but until then, my paraphrased versions of the tools and info she’s giving us will have to do. Sorry J.

For the last two sessions, we’ve been working on developing “active listening” skills. The communication level between my husband and I has really gone down since his last deployment. While I’ve been so focused on making sure I wasn’t saying things to trigger his PTSD, I’ve forgotten to tell him many other things. It’s just been easier to not talk. Dangerous, dangerous territory for a marriage to enter.

So, we’re rebuilding our communication skills… with new tools to help with PTSD and TBI. First step – active listening.

The process sounds a little drawn out, but it really does help. To make explaining this easier, I’m going to say the husband goes first and the wife second, but you can do it in either order. The basics are this…

#1 – You start with a leading question that both spouses will answer (“What is the heaviest thing on your mind lately?”).

#2 – The husband answers that question… giving details about why it’s on their mind so much, what their concerns are, etc. While he’s speaking the wife should look him in the eyes, not let her mind wander to other topics (“Did I finish that load of laundry?,” “When was his next appointment?”, etc.), and not interrupt J

#3 – When the husband has finished, the wife then repeats back to him what she heard him say (“So what I heard you say is…”)

#4 – Then the husband corrects or clarifies anything that the wife missed, etc.

#5 – Then the wife asks any questions or expresses opinions about what he said.

#6 - Finally, you repeat steps #2 - #5 with the wife going first.

Again, I know it sounds really long and like a lot of work… but, it REALLY helps. We’ve done it every few days since our last session and are finding out things about each other (what’s really bugging us) with the extra bonus of actually making headway. And, for the first time in almost two years, I feel like my hubby is really hearing me.

Still a little unsure?? Just try it! It can’t hurt J

Loneliness & Living with a Struggling Veteran

Have heard similiar comments from many spouses of Veterans lately about how "alone" or "lonely" they feel as they learn to live with their hero spouse who is suffering from PTSD or TBI (or both).

I freely admit I often feel that way... feel like one woman against the world... trying to figure out how in the heck to keep all of the "balls in the air" while helping my dear hubby navigate civilian life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mild TBI.

It's funny, in a sarcastic kind of way, how much our marriage after combat has changed. My hubby and I met in high school (I know it's cliche'!) and spent years together not only as husband and wife, but as best friends. We literally talked about everything... from the mundane daily chores to future hopes and dreams to embarassing moments that we'd never confess to another person. Now, I often feel alone without his willing ear.

I have noticed lately, though, that the advice of my wise friend (a Vietnam Veteran's wife and founder of the Vietnam Veteran Wives organization) about learning to cope with PTSD has helped. She told me almost a year ago that I had a choice to make... PTSD could take me under, make me miserable and destroy my marriage -OR- I could find ways to gain strength and support from others who were facing the same struggles, pull myself up, and decide to live a happy (though different than I'd planned) life with a hero. Somehow, I guess that effort and concious choice has made living is "PTSD world" not quite so lonely. I know now without a doubt that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are struggling to support Veterans with PTSD or TBI. I know I'm not alone... even when loneliness tries to creep in.

I think as a "new" generation of Veterans, spouses, and other loved ones, we all have that choice to make. We're going to have to DECIDE to make it... that the battle for our marriages, futures, and happiness is worth the effort. Not saying it's easy, and it's definitely not always fun... but it's worth it!!!!! So, next time you're lonely... remind yourself that you and 500,000+ Veterans and families are all "alone" in this together :) (and I'll do the same!)

Welcome to the FOV Blog!

Well, the staff at FOV ( is always looking for new ways to reach out to Veterans and families. Recently, one of the many "friends" of FOV suggested a blog. What a great idea! So... here we go... hopefully we'll soon be blogging away :)