I speak from personal experience, living with my Vietnam Vet and letting my own fear, resentment and anger build to the point of explosion. Yes, on more than one occasion I found myself uncontrollably throwing things, breaking things, and sobbing or screaming uncontrollably…or both simultaneously. It is not a pretty picture, nor one that I proudly share with you. However, you are here because you are looking for support and solutions. So I share these embarrassing things with you to let you know that you are not alone…even the best, most well-intentioned, meek and mild spouse has found their breaking point.
I wanted to learn how to break the cycle, without resorting to behavior that would break the eggshells that I was so desperately trying to keep intact. I wanted to learn how to maintain a peaceful existence in my home, without destroying myself. I realized that when I continued to do things for my husband that he was perfectly capable of doing for himself, things that I did not want to do, and that each time I was doing it my resentment was building.
I began to feel taken advantage of, and began to look at my husband as being a lazy slob. This made me feel bad, because with a 100% disability rating I know that my husband does have problems. One day when again I counted over a dozen empty coke cans scattered through-out the house…sitting wherever he had happened to be when he finished the last drink I had had enough. He was fully capable of walking to the fridge to get a coke, but not capable of carrying the empty cans back to the kitchen and taking the required four, more steps past the fridge to put them in the recycle can? It was time to do something.
“So honey, there’s a lot of coke cans sitting around and it’s rather embarrassing when people come to visit. Are they left out because of your PTSD, or because you are just lazy?” I asked sweetly.
“Let’s chalk it up to my PTSD, he replied”
So now, I had two choices:
I could accept that this was how he was, and I couldn't do anything about it. I could only change my attitude, and try to become more compassionate and understanding. I could flip the way I looked at this by saying, “I get to serve my veteran, just like he served my country.”
Or, I could work on changing his behavior.
To help make this decision ask yourself these questions:
Is this something that your veteran is fully capable of doing for him or herself?
If yes, are you willing and able to continuing to do it for them, and change your attitude so you are giving service with a loving attitude?
Are you able to let go of the resentment so it doesn't consume you?
Are you ready to accept this as “another” item on your over-flowing to do list?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you have reached acceptance, and you can joyfully continue to pick-up after your vet.
I decided that this particular task – picking up his coke cans was totally within his capability, and that my doing it for him was a disservice to him, and created resentment for me. So, I needed to address it in a loving and compassionate way by asking for what I needed.
Here are the steps that worked for me:
Begin at a time when you are not angry. Start by saying something like this:
“Honey, I need you to pick up your ___________ (fill in the blank)
By _______ (give a time frame, several hours at least, or even a whole day)
Because ______________ (Give a reason and a specific time: Example: We have company coming tomorrow at 3:00pm).
Do not expect him to jump up and follow your request. If your vet is like mine, it will not be done until the very last minute. However, that’s ok. The object is to get them to do it.
In the meantime, if your vet does something that is a normal “chore” that you never have to ask him to do, thank him. Notice and recognize him for each thing that he routinely does without you asking.
Now, in your most kind and loving voice, continue to remind him, “honey its noon, we have company coming in three hours, I need you to ______. You may have to continue doing this up to the very last moment. But continue to be kind and loving in your requests.
Once they finally comply with your request, thank him generously. Let him know how much you appreciate his help.
Each time he continues to pick up that item without you having to ask, recognize his efforts, and praise him.
Sometimes I get tired of asking, and I try hard not to sound or feel like a nag. So, I supplement my verbal reminders with a sticky note(s) on the object, or strategically place where they can’t miss it. Reminder: Honey, the cans need to be picked up by picked 3:00pm. Thanks!!! xxooo Love U.
I hope that you can adapt these suggestions to fit your own situation and find success in changing the cycle of resentment and anger when you find yourself doing too much, in your effort to avoid breaking the eggshells.
Submitted By: Debbie Sprague
Debbie Sprague is the wife of a disabled Vietnam Veteran. Debbie fought back when PTSD threatened to destroy her family. She is the author of A Stranger in My Bed: 8 Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and contributor to the #1 International Bestseller Wounded? Survive! Thrive!!! Debbie is an advocate for veterans and their families spreading the message of understanding, compassion, hope, and healing through her writing, speaking, training, and coaching. She is also a grass roots volunteer staff member with Family of a Vet.