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article imageOp-Ed: Military divorce rates due to lack of support and communication

By Samantha A. Torrence     Feb 19, 2013 in Lifestyle
The United States military members have some of the highest divorce rates of any socioeconomic group in the country. Military life coupled with an increased instance of a debilitating injury could be the cause.
Recent statistics have indicated that the divorce rate amongst military members is at 3.7 percent; from the perspective of a military spouse the diminutive number is shocking. Marriages in the military burn hot and burn out quickly in the majority of the cases I have observed, especially amongst the enlisted. Statistics like this make me wonder how they are counting these divorces. The numbers suggest that these statisticians are not counting the marriages that end during combat only to have the military member remarrying when they get back home. Regardless of the number, the divorce percentage is higher than the national average amongst civilians.
Military and veteran marriages end typically due to a lack of preparation for the hardships of military life as well as the shock of major life changes needed to stay committed to an injured spouse. Opening up communication and education in the form of premarital counseling to potential military spouses may be the key to matrimonial resiliency. In other words, these spouses need to be prepared for the realities of military culture.
In an opinion piece for the Journal of Humanitarian affairs I touched on this subject. "Women often describe the prospect of military life as ideal because of the steady pay, great benefits, and the opportunity to travel the world. While all of those things are definitely perks that is all they should be when you consider becoming a military wife. So really think about why you are marrying your Soldier, Airman, Seaman, or Marine; because those perks are not always true. Imagine those benefits being taken away for frivolous reasons and that you are stuck in a overly priced apartment in the middle of a town surrounded by cornfields. Your husband is working from before sunrise till late at night and you never get to see him that is if he is even in this country this year. You are alone, with your kids, and you may have no friends or family around. If you can still imagine being with him even during the trials I have described and more, then you can be a military wife." For a helpful list of do's and don'ts when marrying into the military visit the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.
Before my husband and I were married we went through marriage counseling with our church to make sure we were ready for the commitment. We also went through a cross-training deployment that lasted 9 months that helped me prepare somewhat for military life. Even with all of these preparations I still experienced culture shock when transitioning into military society. One of those things I was not prepared for was having a husband who was invisibly injured with PTSD and other illnesses due to exposure to toxins.
Tonight on V.O.W. Talk Radio, Patti Katter is hosting Shawn J. Gourley the founder of Military with PTSD to talk about nourishing relationships after combat. Shawn says, "The divorce rate is astronomical in the military and veteran community especially where PTSD/TBI are present for the simple fact of no one is helping these families. There is no education for spouses and children how best to deal or help dad/or mom. With no understanding these families are left to fend for themselves"
The stresses of combat coupled with combat injuries can wreak havoc on a marriage. Soldiers are exposed to uncertainty and separation from their spouse and often times are hearing horror stories from other soldiers about spouses cheating, leaving, and cleaning them out of their funds. Sadly those stories are all too often true. Therefore it is important for spouses and soldiers to work at reintegrating into marriage when they are reunited. There are classes and debriefings teaching spouses and military members how to do these things, but they do not add important information that can be crucial to catching future problems. There are very little resources teaching spouses about the signs and symptoms of PTSD and TBI and how to deal with it in the home.
The military and VA should work together to present the most accurate and recent information to military members and their spouses to support the family unit in all aspects of health including a healthy marriage. Until then groups will continue to advocate more education and communication in the veteran community.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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