If your spouse has just returned from active duty, do not be surprised to see signs of change. Regardless of rank, or job, or the degree to which they experienced front-line combat, the military has a transformative effect on officers and recruits. Indeed, this is by design. The fraternity, the shared sense of purpose, and a wealth of proprietary experience not shared with the general public combine to bring out certain traits in active duty troops.

For infantry and other front line combat units, these effects may be even more pronounced. Troops see things in the field that shock them, despite the training. Some of these sights and sounds are so traumatic that they linger in the psyche for months or years afterwards. If your spouse suffers from PTSD, you need to be prepared for the symptoms, because they will put stress on the marriage. Here are five ways your spouse may be different after returning from active duty.

1. They Might Drink More

One of the most common responses to dealing with the stress of active duty is to start drinking more. It is never surprising to see a spouse come home with an alcohol problem. You should be on the lookout for this and urge your spouse to find help if necessary.

2. They Might Be Less Social

Even though people often drink more when they come back, they are less likely to go out and have a good time. Don’t be surprised if your spouse resists going out when coming back from active duty. After all, going out into crowds on active duty means heading into danger. That feeling doesn’t just go away overnight when they return back to civilian life.

3. They May Appear Detached

Although most military members are not known for being emotional in the first place, many people who come back from active duty become almost like robots with their lack of emotion. This can be a coping mechanism, or your spouse might simply have difficulty connecting with anyone who does not share the experiences that have become so fundamental to who they are.

You need to be patient with your spouse in the weeks following a return from active duty. When soldiers are exposed to the horrors of war, they have to put a lid on their emotions to avoid cracking up. As you make new memories together and soldiers remember how to thrive in civilian life, you usually see an increase in emotional openness. If after several weeks your loved one is growing more and more reclusive, seek help from a trusted professional.

4. Short Temper

Although they may be less emotional when they return from active duty, anger is the one emotion they may return with in abundance. A short temper is a common trait among vets who have recently returned from active duty. Often the unstructured environment of civilian life and the general disrespect of the public can feel infuriating – and that’s if they don’t experience symptoms of PTSD.

Outbursts are common while driving, or in response to insensitive comments about their service. The military teaches strict discipline and emphasizes values such as personal ownership, integrity, and hard work. Seeing displays of undisciplined, entitled, or ungrateful attitude may get their blood boiling as well. Getting them some help with an anger management program or counseling will help them control the short temper.

5. Sleep Issues

Insomnia is extremely common among vets returning from active duty. This often leads to even more alcohol use. Even when they can sleep, they often wake up sweating in terror from their nightmares.

All of these challenges are very common among people who have recently returned from active duty. If your spouse exhibits any of these signs, it is important to find help as soon as possible. With the proper treatment, the challenges of returning from combat can be overcome, and you and your veteran spouse can enjoy a healthy, productive, and happy life together.



Dave Abels