Marital PTSD? It's a Thing.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
He didn't answer my phone call. Is he with someone else?
He called in to work. Is he going to quit his job again?
His work hours have been cut. Are we going to be broke again?
He's hanging out with those same friends again. Is he going to start drinking again? smoking again? gambling again?
He's on his computer a lot. Is he looking at pornography again?
There are some things that happen in our marriage that are so traumatic that it's almost like we got stuck there. We may move past them, but it can be difficult to get over them. Once the initial event occurs we can forgive and love, but every now and then a behavior, an action, can trigger emotions that put us back in the place of the original event.
In psychology, this condition is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Most often, we hear about it with veterans, people who have witnessed murders or violent crimes, or people who have experienced those type of life-altering conditions. Today, I submit to you that it can happen in our marriages as well. There are many life-altering events that can be faced in a marriage. For example, a person that has experienced financial distress because a partner quit their job of got fired can be traumatized. A person who catches their spouse having an affair can be traumatized. A person who suffers because their partner abuses drugs or alcohol can be traumatized.
These are all life-changing events, and long after the event happens, if a person doesn't heal properly, they can still feel the effects. Even when you have recovered financially, ended the illicit relationship, or stopped using drugs something can trigger a person to relive the initial even all over again.
According to the Mayo Clinic (here), here are a few symptoms of PTSD:
reliving the traumatic event as if it is happening again
emotional distress or physical reaction to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
trying to avoid thinking/talking about the traumatic event
avoiding places that remind you of the traumatic event
feeling detached/or emotionally numb
always being on guard
irritability, angry outbursts, aggressive behavior
overwhelming guilt or shame
What I realize about PTSD is that it is based in fear. It presents a situation that is currently not reality and makes you feel all the emotions as if it was real. The enemy uses this fear to make us angry with our spouses and mistreat them because we are stuck in an event that happened 1, 5, 10, or 20 years ago. The initial event was real, but he wants us to keep reliving it and sinking further in shame, anger, bitterness, and depression. He wants us to destroy our own marriages because we refuse to acknowledge where we are and get the healing that we need.
Just like there are natural steps to combat PTSD, I believe that God has spiritual steps to heal you. The first step is realizing that this is what is happening: acknowledge that you are reliving a past situation and it is affecting your life and your marriage. Then go very quickly to God. He can deliver you from fear and the torment that comes with it. His perfect love can cast out fear. He can heal your heart. He can heal your emotions. He can set you free from your past. He may lead you to a person or a resource for help. Don't let your pride keep you stuck! Accept the help God gives you and refuse to keep reliving old hurts, wounds, and offenses.
Do any of the symptoms of PTSD resonate with you? If so, which ones? Feel free to send me a reply so that I can be in prayer with you.