What Happened to My Husband?!

What Happened to My Husband?!

Q: My husband is in the marines, and has recently came back from a deployment (about four months ago), he is so different since he got back. He is so distant; I really feel like I don’t even know him. It doesn’t feel like he cares at all about me. He is drinking way more than he used to; he’s getting angry really easy, and either ignores or criticizes me constantly. Almost worse than anything, he plays video games constantly. I am living with a shell of my former husband and I am feeling so over it! Do you think he has PTSD, or has just changed? I mentioned PTSD to him one time, and he FLIPPED out!! What should I do? I think that I should just leave him, but I don’t know where to go and I don’t want to give up on him.

She: First of all, it sounds like, in all likelihood your husband is suffering from PTSD. He is checking some of the main boxes; being distant, drinking, lack of emotional engagement, anger/ irritation, engaging in activities that allow him to ‘check out.’ PTSD is typically very treatable, but healing is not likely without therapeutic intervention. And it doesn’t seem like, at this point, he is interested in therapy. His brain has been damaged by trauma, and he is most likely in a lot of distress. Unfortunately, as much as there is a campaign to express to the public how much the military supports its troops suffering from PTSD… they generally do not. There is still such an extreme stigma around this disorder in the military. If I could count the number of times I’ve heard a Marine with clear signs of PTSD talk about how you are a “pussy” if you get the diagnosis. In an environment where being ‘tough’ is your very job, being considered weak in any way is devastating. It is equally common for soldiers that receive diagnosis of PTSD to be accused of lying in order to get early discharge with disability (definitely also a problem in the military).

So your husband flipping out when you even mention the very idea that he could have PTSD; yup, no surprise there.

Should you leave him? Well, honestly, probably. It is unclear if you have children, but if so, it is definitely not good for them to be around this sort of erratic and negative behavior. I am not saying that it is time to file for a divorce, but it is time to give your husband a wakeup call as he does not seem to be hearing you. I would suggest that you find a place to go for a little while. You should let your husband know that you love him, but you will not return home until he agrees to get some help, even if its couples therapy. Without a doubt, you should be getting your own therapy for guidance on how to make it through this time. Hopefully, in the end, you can heal together into a stronger and more connected couple.

He: I’m not so sure that your husband has PTSD. It is certainly a possibility, but I think that there are a lot of things besides that that could be the cause of strain in your relationship. Functional relationships are delicate balances of a multitude of ever-changing variables. The fact that your relationship gets put through the strain of deployment, a long separation, and then reunification on a regular basis makes this balance even more difficult to achieve.

While he is gone, you get into your own rhythm of life without him and he has to adapt to the rhythm of life that military service demands of him. With deployments being anywhere from 7-12 months long, this rhythm can become the norm during that period. It is clear that you think he is more irritable and he seems to be finding escapes through drinking and video game playing. This may be a reaction to him adjusting to the more mundane aspects of “civilian” life after a long deployment.

The fact that he “flipped out” when you mentioned PTSD doesn’t seem to be as big as an indicator as Jen is making it out to be. In my mind, it is similar to asking a girl if she is menstruating just because she is acting emotionally. What you’re going to get is an even more intense emotional reaction regardless of whether she is or isn’t menstruating. In your husband’s case, his reaction was probably exacerbated by the stigma of PTSD that Jen mentioned above.

I wouldn’t be so quick to leave as Jen suggests. I think there are some steps to take before demanding that he seek help. Try to encourage him to engage in activities that he used to enjoy. You should actively participate in these activities as well, even if you are not interested in them. Play some video games and have a couple of beers with him. Do anything you can to get him out of his current mindset. This may make him more receptive to getting help if he needs it or may demonstrate that he is just having a little difficulty making the adjustment. If he does not respond to your efforts, then you should do as Jen suggested and give him a wake-up call.


Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for ten years (currently happily). They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to coastalcounseling1@gmail.com.  


Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.



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