Trust and truth are foundational in a relationship. At the core is honesty. To obtain honesty, one must have trust. If you are married to a combat seasoned warrior, as I am, you may find that the truth is buried too deeply to be released, in which case the trust becomes a “choice.” But how does one build trust without examining the truth? It’s not easy.
At the heart of PTSD is a need for privacy, an opportunity to bury the trauma of the past and scratch out a new tomorrow. As a wife of a combat veteran and friend of many other combat veterans, I can attest to the fact that I will never know the whole story of their experiences under combative conditions. And honestly, I don’t need to know the whole of it. I can choose to trust.
I can see from the news the events of war. I can see the incredible training that keeps our military men and women alive in the field. I can transfer what I see to some idea as to what my warrior went through in the heat of battle. All except his emotions. Many a warrior experienced strong emotions and others went on auto-pilot. Emotions or the lack of emotions under dangerous times are intimate to the person facing the trauma. At best I can imagine what it must be like, but unless I am under similar circumstances, I can not truly appreciate the warrior’s anxiety before and after battle. That is not the case between one warrior and another warrior. Their interaction is truly beautiful and unique. I can understand and appreciate the power—a healing power—of the Brotherhood.
Having been in combat, one warrior will understand the other warrior. They don’t have to have been in the same battles, but they will relate to each other and the event on a gut level. I stand in awe with deep respect and gratitude for the Brotherhood. I am deeply grateful for this camaraderie. That is trust and truth at its best.
The question is—how can I as a spouse build trust between me and my warrior husband? I am the first to admit this is a difficult journey, and I have no magic wand to offer. But, please allow me to quote from my book, Combat Trauma: The Spousal Response to PTSD, “I have spoken with a number of veterans and veterans’ spouses. With the exception of very few, I have found that what most warriors want and need is acceptance. Self-doubt and guilt often override their value of themselves and their war experiences. Our respect validates them and their service. They may not tell you what happened to them day after day in Vietnam. However, our quiet acceptance of them as a person validates them. When we validate them, they are able to validate themselves and their spouses. Validation builds trust” (p. 187).
We may never know the whole story, but we can validate the warrior. In doing so, we build trust. The truth may come in bits and pieces over our lifetime.