June 30, 2022

Three Things to Know about being with an Officer with PTSD: A Series for Spouses

This list was compiled by spouses of officers for spouses of officers. The London Spousal Support Group is a group of individuals who meet twice per month to offer support to spouses and partners of officers with PTSD. This series of tips for spouses of officers with PTSD was developed as a collaboration between members of this group. We hope that these life experiences will help you think about ways you can find balance as the spouse of an officer.

While people will experience a range of emotions after trauma, a PTSD diagnosis is characterized by a series of symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event, including intrusive memories or dreams of the event, intense distress when exposed to reminders of the event, and avoidance of internal (memories) and external (places, activities, etc.) reminders of the event. Those with PTSD often experience feelings of anger, guilt, or fear, and over time report problems with concentration, sleep, and within interpersonal relationships. While anyone can develop PTSD, it has been found that rates of PTSD are higher amongst uniformed first responders and military members. PTSD can be a daunting diagnosis to navigate not only for the first responder, but also for their spouse and family. The nature of post traumatic responses are bound to impact home life.

If you or your spouse are in distress or need emotional support immediately, please call 1-833-677-BOOT (Boots on the Ground Support Line for first responders).

  1. Prioritize learning about yourself. Being the one who holds the family together can be hard work! Like many spouses, you’ve likely done an excellent job educating yourself with regards to PTSD and triggers that your partner may have. Educating yourself on what you need is equally important. This can empower you to be more aware of what type of support you need when things feel hard, and to communicate more effectively when you need help.
  2. Define your boundaries. Boundaries are personal limits we each have that help us define our own needs apart from the needs of our loved ones. Sometimes determining boundaries within a long-term relationship can be hard. Spending so much time with one other person can leave the lines blurry on how one person’s needs may be different from another’s. We can regain an understanding of our own personal boundaries by maintaining an open and non-judgemental curiosity about what we want. It is important to remember that our partners cannot mind-read what our boundaries are, and this is something we must foster within ourselves so that we can then communicate it with others. Boundaries can also mean understanding that you cannot control your spouse’s recovery, and can only control your own actions.  Focus on asking yourself about your own wants and needs so you can become more familiar with the values that are important to you. While this may sound counterintuitive, partners with firmer boundaries are able to maintain healthier relationships.
  3. Try to have fun! Whether it is re-engaging in activities you used to do together when you first met or trying new things together, finding ways to make each other laugh is incredibly important. Engaging in fun and play helps to improve communication, bonding, conflict resolution.

Written and edited by Jerrica Hunter, Registered Psychotherapist at Archways Centre for CBT and the PTSD London Spouse Group. Originally written for and published in the “Observer” (London Police Association) and reproduced here with permission.

About the Author

Jerrica Hunter