Instead of rehashing everything Uncle Sam's Mistress said in her post I linked to above, I would encourage you to read that post before continuing through mine. I will also say that while most of what she talks about in that post I can completely relate to and feel like I could have written myself, there are some definite things she talks about that I have not experienced. While our experiences seem to be very similar, we each have our own stories and experiences.
This topic is one I've thought about blogging about many times, but, because I do use our names, I hesitate. This is also a topic that I've wanted to bring up in counseling, but again, never really had the courage to do it. Well, today I decided that if Uncle Sam's Mistress could be so candid I could do it too. Not only am I writing about it and sharing it with whoever happens to read it, but I also opened up with my counselor this afternoon. This brings me to my post. I really felt it was necessary to share some of what I learned today in my session.
For me, the lack of intimacy is a great loss. When I talk about intimacy, I mean sex, but I also mean that connection that comes along with it. The playfulness, the looks, the I know what you are thinking from across the room, the I can't wait till later, the physical touch, the sitting beside one another to watch a movie, the holding hands in the car. You know, all THAT stuff. So, this is the stuff I talked about today with my amazing counselor.
I think the thing that has scared me most about bringing this up with anyone is the fact that I KNOW it's not just my husband anymore that doesn't do these things. Or, that even finds these things hard to do. I know that I miss these things but I also know that I'm not initiating them anymore and not sure that I even want to. Physical touch is difficult for my husband, and rightfully so due to his PTSD. However, it shouldn't be so hard for me, I don't have the PTSD he has. At least this is what I thought, until today. While I do not have PTSD, I do have secondary PTSD which can make physical touch difficult for me. I am also a full time caregiver for my husband which also puts a damper on intimacy.
First let's talk about the caregiver portion of this equation. As a caregiver, especially one of our generation, we would normally be giving care to our kids, not our husbands. However, with the wars our generation has been part of, more and more of us are finding ourselves caring for our husbands. So, when I look at this, I can see that I am used to caring for my kids, but have been thrown into caring full time for my husband and have been doing so for 3 years now. So, it's only natural that I might start finding it difficult to see my husband in a sexual or desirous way. After all, I definitely would never look at my kids in this way. However, with this being said, it doesn't mean that I can't work on seeing my husband that way again. I just have to make a conscience effort to see him that way. I have to open myself up to be vulnerable to him again and swallow my stubborn pride to take the initiative myself. Now, I never said this was going to be easy, but realistically what I may have to do to regain this part of our lives.
Another part of this equation is that with PTSD and TBI, their brains simply do not work the same way they used to. Now I'm sure if you are living with someone with these injuries, logically you know this. That does not make it any less hurtful though, when we are rejected or treated more like a platonic roommate rather than a wife. As the uninjured partner here though, we have to make adjustments in our behaviors and actions to compensate for this change in our spouse. For example, we have to learn to ask for exactly what we want. For us, I really miss laying on the couch together and watching movies. We used to do this all the time and it NEVER happens anymore. Oh, we still watch movies, but I lay on the couch and he sits in his chair, which happen to be across the room from each other. So what I need to do, is tell him that I would really like or I really need, for him to sit on the couch with me to watch the movie. The worst he can do is say No. The reason I need to do this is because his brain makes the gray areas very fuzzy. He isn't able to pull out what I need if I don't tell him. He doesn't get implied meanings or those subtle hints that he could before injury. If I don't tell him what I need or want, he doesn't know it on his own. Seems pretty simple but again, something that takes a conscience effort on my part. This can also be as simple as telling him I need him to look at me while I tell him about my day or whatever it is. But, it can also be more in depth and detailed to meet any situation.
One of the other things that I find in my situation is that I regularly hold in my own feelings in order to protect my husband's. I think that if he really knew some of the things I feel he would take that on as guilt. He carries so much guilt as it is, I would never do anything to add to that. Therefore, I often find myself afraid to talk about certain things. Really this is unfair of me, because I am withholding valuable information from him and it is hurting our intimacy. I can't protect him from everything, and my feelings are my feelings. They are nothing he should feel guilty about. We both have to work on this so that he doesn't take my feelings on as guilt and so that I do not constantly try to protect him from my feelings. It just ends up being a vicious cycle that ends up hurting us both. I am working on ways to word things so that I still get my "stuff" across to him without making him uncomfortable or hurt. This is a huge one for me that is my issue more than it is his. I'm also actively working on this issue and trying to implement it into our lives.
The last part I want to talk about right now is that all of this is going to take time and patience. None of this is going to change overnight, unlike the way our wounded warriors seemed to have changed so quickly. It also is not going to be easy to make these conscience changes. However, I know that my husband and I deserve to have the intimacy back in our relationship, even if that means I have to pick up the slack. After all, I love him with all of my heart!