Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stigma of the Spouse: Why Am I the Bad Guy?

Guess I'm just sort of in a ranting kind of funk lately! Not sure what it is, but there are just some things lately that I really feel the need to get off of my chest. Today, it happens to be the fact that as a spouse and full time caregiver for my wounded warrior, I am often viewed as the bad guy. I'm not sure what this stigma is all about, but I'm about to lay out my two cents on this topic!

Thankfully I personally have not experienced this a lot, until recently. I don't think I've still really had a lot of this, but I do know that many spouses have. While I have made the choice that I am in my marriage for the long haul, for better or for worse, I understand that many spouses just can't make that same choice. As I've written about before, it is EXTREMELY difficult being married to someone who only remotely resembles the person you married. I also understand that every marriage is different. I think a lot of it depends on how strong the foundation of the marriage was before injury. If there were some pretty major problems before injury, should a spouse be required to stick it out just because their husband was sent to war and came home a new person? Each person has to make these decisions for themselves and they are not easy decisions to make, either way. Yes the soldier made huge sacrifices for our nation and will pay that price the rest of their life. However, the part that is often overlooked is that the spouse and/or kids have also made huge sacrifices that are going to continue the rest of their lives as well. I do not believe that it is possible to be so closely touched by war and not be changed. So then, why should the spouse be judged or looked down upon because they couldn't make their marriage work? Last time I checked, a marriage takes 2! (I really think it takes 3 cause I know I wouldn't still be here without God!)

Another side to this is that you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I have a friend who recently split from her husband and that is what she said about it. On the outside, he looks like he has it all together and has made the best of his life since his injury. However, he doesn't admit or address the PTSD issues that do plague him. He can hold it together until he's at home and she is the one that takes the brunt of it. I'm sure that they are not the only ones. She hung in there as long as she could, but just couldn't do it anymore. There is no reason she should ever feel or be looked at as the bad guy. Every situation is different and each has their own set of dynamics that only the couple know about. That doesn't make it ok for anyone looking in to judge either of them.

Everyday I see the support our wounded warriors receive because of their selfless sacrifice to our country. I think this is amazing and really think that there should be a lot more! I don't however see much support for the spouses, except for the support we give one another and the couple of organizations there for them like Operation Homefront's Wounded Warrior Wives. I am here to tell you that the spouses and families of these heroes are towing the line every single day. They are sacrificing enormous amounts to love and support their wounded warrior who is generally seen as a hero. Well in this spouse's eyes, the family members are heroes too. They deserve just as much support and respect as the wounded warrior receives. Many of us have given up so much of our own needs, dreams, and careers, in order to take care of our wounded warrior. Why then, are we the bad guys when anything goes wrong? Is it because we are the one not injured? Or, is it because we didn't sacrifice for our nation? Is it because we are not a hero protecting our freedoms? Well, I can tell you this for sure. If it weren't for the love and support from the families at home, these soldiers would not be able to do what they do for our country. Therefore, soldiers and their families should be given the same respect and support they all deserve.

Personally, I have felt this judgement from some of the people at the program my husband is currently at. The 20th of this month will make his 4 month anniversary there and up until last week, I had not received one bit of communication from anyone there other than my husband. (And that communication was simply a phone call to my cell phone when his counselor wanted to have a marriage counseling session right then, on the phone, with no consideration as to what I had going on.) I understand that they want him to regain his independence, and so do I. I understand that for this to happen he has to really step up to the plate and I have to let him. However, I don't think this justifies no communication for the spouse who has been there for him 24/7 for the last 3 years! I felt it when I was there helping him settle in but I just couldn't exactly put my finger on what it was. Well, I figured it out. They really have become very jaded when it comes to spouses. I recently had a conversation with a volunteer there whom we have become very good friends with and she shed some light on it for me. She explained that it is very seldom that they have a guy come through with a supportive wife. If they are still married, they rarely have a spouse who is still there for the right reasons. Therefore, they really do not communicate with anyone other than the wounded warrior. However, they do offer counseling for couples and families, but other than this it really is all on the warrior to convey anything.

Because of this jaded perspective on spouses, I have felt the stigma. I must say that it is not a good feeling and it really makes me feel for those spouses who have made the difficult decision that in order to take care of themselves, they could not stay in their marriage. After all, anyone who knows anything about being a caregiver knows that in order to be a caregiver, we must first take care of ourselves. Please then, do not judge those who have to leave a marriage in order to do this. It's not an easy decision either way, and neither choice deserves judgement. Or, if a spouse is simply venting about their husband/wife, do not just assume that it must be the spouse's fault and never the fault of the veteran. As with all of life, it is still a two way street!

Even Now......Gina


  1. I couldn't have said this better myself. I have thought about inpatient programs and what it means for the family. It is all fine and well while they are there but if the family isn't taught the same skills how will it work when they come home? With our retreats we hope later down the road to add a whole family component because we all need to know how to react. We are wounded too, emotionally by all that we have been through. Thanks for writing this. I am going to share it.

  2. Thanks! It's one of those topics that has hit me several times recently and I've actually had several conversations about this with one of my good friends. Today, it was time to blog about it. From what I've read, you're retreats seem to be very valuable and I'm sure that any program you guys put out will be fantastic! Thanks for all you do!!

  3. Gina
    I am really sorry to hear that you were treated this way. When Chris went through the program the communication was pretty limited but it was because he was in intensive treatment and was just out of jail. We felt it was best for our family to let him have time. I was called by his counselor weekly and then went for a family week where we were in intensive therapy together. Chris was able to call me when he wanted though with no restrictions. It makes me sad that maybe someone may be feeding him some line he doesn't need to hear. You are a bad ass wife!

    I agree with you 100% on the other topic of judgement. I made the choice in the beginning that I would not judge if a spouse couldn't stay in their marriage. We have been married for 14 years and our marriage was shaken at the very core. It came to a place where we were at the end and by the grace of God we pulled back and took the time to use the resources, family and friends we had to help us. I am so blessed to have you and many other amazing women who I can call and talk to without judgement. We have each other and really that is how I have made it through almost 7 years of this.

    You are an amazing person who brings light to others and I for one am glad I met you. I know God brought you in my life for a reason.

  4. Thanks Renee!! I don't think they are feeding it to him, I think it's just the way they treat the spouses in general. He doesn't seem to notice it at all. He is able to call me anytime and we talk daily. It's just I have no communication whatsoever with anyone who works with him. And, this is my only complaint with the program! He is doing amazing and making huge strides! I'm excited to see him!! I also know that no program is perfect, this just happens to be where they need to improve. I'm still deciding how to approach it with them.

    I'm also so glad to have you in my life! The support you have given me and the resources you share amaze me! You are a trooper, and inspiration, and a true friend! Thanks for the comment!!

  5. Great job Gina! We love you and your precious family! We are thrilled to see the progress Allen is making!! People who havent lived in our shoes have a hard time understanding...it's frustrating. The other thing I have been dealing with is friends/ some family who don't understand yet are judgemental towards my husband for things he does. I may not like everything he does but I still feel very protective for him. They just dont "get it".... I get really irritated when they make little comments about things he does or says that they dont like....not sure if this is making sense but its frustrating. I know I have my friends like you and others that DO understand...Im thankful for that. =) Love ya girl

  6. Thanks Ams and we love you and your family too!! I completely get "it"! I always feel like I am having to protect everyone, not just Allen, but also everyone else who comes in contact with him. I feel like I am always trying to make everything ok or clean everything up. I've learned recently that this isn't my job. Even though I am his caregiver, I can't protect him from the world nor can I protect the world from him. It doesn't make it any easier, but I have to stop and remind myself of this all the time. One of these days, hopefully it will just become what I know as the truth. Hang in there girl and call me if you ever need me! I miss you!!

  7. Oh Gina I commend you for an excellent post, Kuddos for you. My husband is attending a neuro rehab center for the past 11 months and one thing that I did is that I requested a meeting with teh Administrator, the medical director and therapist and gave them a HIPPA waiver and said " My husband has a Brain Injury and I am the one who take him home when you are done for the day so I have to be involve or you will ahve me here everyday". I completely understand your feeling, it is so easy to judge but until you don't wear our shoes as caregivers people should not stereotype. Thanks for telling your story, now I just hope providers read it and make a concious decision to make room for us, the one that are sacrificing so much. Hugs to you!

  8. Thanks for the comment and support TBI Army Wife. I always appreciate positive comments and knowing that someone, sometimes anyone, gets "it". As members of the wounded warrior community, we are definitely in a group of amazing people! Keep on fighting for your husband!!