9 Signs of a Military Marriage that May Need Counseling

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Military marriages often face a unique set of challenges due to the demands and nature of service life.

These challenges can range from long periods of separation due to deployments, coping with the aftermath of combat experiences, adjusting to frequent relocations, or managing the stress and anxiety that often accompany military duties.

Such circumstances can put significant strain on a relationship, leading to a myriad of issues that may require professional help.

This article will discuss some signs that may indicate the need for counseling in a military marriage.

Recognizing the signs is important, as early intervention can prevent further deterioration of the relationship.


Donna Janiec, LPC, NCC

Donna Janiec, LPC, NCC

Colorado
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Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

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Melanie Klinke, MA, MFTC, LPCC

Melanie Klinke, MA, MFTC, LPCC

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Margot Bean, LCSW

Margot Bean, LCSW

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Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

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Heather Westbrook, LCSW

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Seth Boughton, SWC

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Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Colorado
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Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

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Abigail Corless, LPCC

Colorado
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Sign 1: Communication Breakdown

 A communication breakdown in a marriage is characterized by the consistent inability to effectively convey thoughts, feelings, and concerns to one another.

In a military marriage, this could manifest in various ways. For instance, a service member might struggle to articulate their experiences during deployment, leading to feelings of isolation.

Alternatively, the spouse at home might feel unable to express their worries or frustrations about the challenges they face alone, such as managing household duties or raising children single-handedly.

Such communication gaps can gradually erode the bond between partners, making it crucial to address them promptly.


Sign 2: Increased Conflict

Conflicts are natural in any relationship, including marriages. They typically arise from differences in opinion, unmet expectations, or misunderstandings.

However, when these conflicts become frequent and intense, they could signal deeper issues that need addressing.

In the context of a military marriage, the unique stresses associated with this lifestyle can exacerbate these conflicts.

Deployments, long periods of separation, the constant uncertainty, and the emotional toll of military duties can strain a relationship and ignite conflicts over issues that might seem insignificant under normal circumstances. 



Sign 3: Emotional Distance

 Emotional distance refers to a state where one or both partners in a relationship withdraw emotionally, reducing the amount of emotional intimacy and connection they share.

It can be characterized by a lack of affection, reduced conversation about personal matters, and a general feeling of being disconnected from each other's lives.

In a military marriage, deployments and military duties often necessitate physical separation, which, if not properly managed, can lead to emotional distance.

The service member might be physically away, dealing with the realities of their duty, while the partner at home juggles domestic responsibilities alone.

This physical distance and divergence of experiences can create an emotional gap, making both parties feel isolated and misunderstood.


Sign 4: Infidelity

Infidelity, or unfaithfulness in a marriage, usually refers to a spouse engaging in sexual or romantic activities outside the relationship without the other's consent.

It is a severe breach of trust that can cause immense emotional hurt and potentially lead to the dissolution of the marriage.

In the context of military marriages, the long periods of separation due to deployments and the emotional strains associated with military duties can sometimes make individuals vulnerable to infidelity.

The absence of a partner might lead to feelings of loneliness and emotional disconnect, which in turn might push one to seek comfort elsewhere.


Sign 5: Financial Stress

Financial stress is a common issue that can put significant strain on any marriage, but it is especially prevalent in military families.

The unique challenges of military life, such as frequent relocations and deployments, often lead to financial instability.

For instance, military families typically move every two to three years, and each move can set the average military family back about $5,000.

Additionally, 66% of active-duty family respondents reported having unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses related to their duties.

These financial pressures can lead to stress, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating, which can subsequently spill over into marital relationships, causing tension and conflict.


Sign 6: Difficulty Adjusting to Civilian Life

Transitioning from military to civilian life is often a significant challenge for service members and their spouses.

This process involves not only a change in lifestyle but also a shift in identity and purpose.

Service members may struggle with finding employment, reconnecting with family, and joining or creating a community outside of the military environment.

They might also face mental health issues and substance abuse problems as they try to cope with the transition.

For their spouses, the adjustment can be equally challenging. They must adapt to the absence of the structured military environment and support system and often have to take on new roles and responsibilities at home.

Therefore, it's crucial for both parties to communicate openly, seek support when needed, and work together during this challenging transition. 



Sign 7: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that can develop after an individual has been exposed to a distressing or horrifying event, either through direct experience or observation.

It's especially prevalent among military personnel who have been in combat zones or experienced traumatic events during service.

PTSD can significantly affect a marriage and family life, as the person suffering might become emotionally distant, irritable, or even aggressive.

Professional help and counseling are crucial in managing PTSD. Therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy have shown effectiveness in treating PTSD.

It's important for both the individual suffering from PTSD and their spouse to seek help, either together or separately, to navigate this challenging condition and its impact on their relationship.


Sign 8: Depression or Anxiety

Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are common among military personnel.

These conditions can manifest as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worry that persist for weeks or even months.

Depression and anxiety can have a profound impact on a marriage, leading to communication breakdown, withdrawal, or increased conflict.

It's crucial for both the individual experiencing these symptoms and their spouse to recognize these signs early.

Ignoring these signs or failing to seek help can exacerbate these conditions, leading to further personal distress and marital discord.


Sign 9: Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, defined as the misuse of alcohol or drugs, is a significant issue that can arise in a military context.

It often serves as an unhealthy coping mechanism for service members dealing with stress, trauma, or the difficulties of transitioning to civilian life.

It can also exacerbate existing mental health issues like depression or PTSD, further straining the relationship.

Counseling, both individual and couples therapy, can provide strategies to address the root causes of substance abuse and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

In severe cases, rehabilitation programs may be necessary.


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Conclusion

The unique challenges of military life can place considerable stress on marriages, leading to issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

However, recognizing the signs of these problems is the first step towards resolution.

Counseling plays a vital role in managing these issues, providing strategies to cope, heal, and rebuild relationships.

It offers a safe space for individuals and couples to express their feelings, understand each other better, and work towards a healthier relationship.

 

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April 20th, 2024

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