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Relationship Problems

Taking the first step to improve relationships

Veterans on taking steps to improve relationships

The experiences of military life can affect Veterans in ways that may impact their relationships. In this video, Veterans talk about working through problems with their friends and loved ones and finding solutions that benefit everyone.

What can be considered relationship problems?

Have you had trouble getting along with people close to you lately? Or, maybe your relationship with your family hasn’t been as good as it used to be. Perhaps military life or deployment strained your relationships or made it challenging to take care of the people who depend on you. Maybe it’s difficult to talk to or make decisions with your family without getting into arguments. Maybe you feel disconnected from the important people in your life.  Some of these problems are common to almost everyone at some point in life, while other problems are unique to the kinds of relationship trouble Veterans may experience at different times in their lives.

Relationship trouble may be related to stress, posttraumatic stress, health concerns, depression, anxiety, or difficulties with memory. Sometimes, these issues interfere with Veterans’ efforts to have strong relationships—and family members and friends may not understand the causes of these problems. Veterans who have experienced traumatic events such as combat or sexual assaults often find it especially difficult to talk to their loved ones, and they may withdraw or isolate from others instead.

Relationship problems can make it difficult to enjoy life. You may feel as if no one understands you, and as a result, you may lash out at or pull away from the people in your life.

“Even though I tried hard to care about certain things again, especially the issues my wife and I were having, at the end of the day I was still numb to a lot of it. Many of my problems at home seemed to pale in comparison to the things I had to overcome during my deployment.”

Sometimes relationship problems involve emotional or physical abuse. Behaviors that are fear-inducing, controlling, demeaning, intimidating, or physically or emotionally violent are signs of an abusive relationship. Whether you are on the receiving end of these behaviors or it is your behavior that is abusive, it is important to find support. Family members, friends, or a professional—such as a doctor or counselor—can help you deal with these problems and improve your relationships.

You may want to reach out for help with your relationship problems if you are experiencing any of the following over a long period of time:

If I’m experiencing relationship problems, what can I do about it right away?

Many Veterans have overcome relationship problems that may arise after time away from the family or other experiences such as traumatic events or stressful situations. Here are some tips they have found to be helpful:

  • Make a “communication plan” for expressing your thoughts and feelings with those you care about by thinking about what you want to say and how you want to convey it
  • Listen to what others who care about you have to say
  • Engage with others like you who may be experiencing similar issues
  • Exercise regularly to help relieve stress and boost your mood
  • Practice relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing
  • Get the right amount of sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet by eating right
  • Make an effort to spend time with people you care about to relax or have fun
  • Find something social to do—this may be a hobby, a Veterans’ group, volunteer work, or being involved in a place of worship
  • Balance alone time and together time

“Just like we all say in the service, ‘It’s all about that person to your left and right.’ Those are the kinds of relationships that kept us strong—and kept us alive—while we were in and it’s just as important to maintain that strength in our personal relationships now that we’re out.”

You can take this free, confidential self-assessment to see if you may have issues relating to your family or relationships. Although this short quiz can’t tell you for sure if you have family or relationship problems, it may be helpful in deciding to see a professional.

Talking to your family and friends about the difficulties in your relationships can be an important first step. It can be difficult to share your experiences and feelings, but it is important to try talking to them about what you’re experiencing. They may get a better understanding of your circumstances and help you find support. You may also want to use support services to help you to better express yourself with your family and friends.

Take the next step – Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans connect with useful resources and effective treatments for relationship problems. If relationship trouble is affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your happiness, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:

  • Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans, including offering family and couples services
  • A spiritual or religious advisor

Explore these resources for more information about relationship problems in Veterans.

Learn more about the possible associations between relationship problems and other issues such as stress and anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and alcohol or drugs problems.

Vet Centers
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA. Vet centers can be an excellent resource for couples and family counseling.
http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter_flsh.asp

National Center for PTSD – Intimate Partner Violence Information
This web resource provides information on intimate partner violence and what VA services are available for Veterans who experienced abuse in their relationships.
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/domestic-violence.asp

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Relationship problems could also be a sign of other health conditions that need attention. Many VA facilities have specially trained staff to help with relationship problems. This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.
http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1

Coaching Into Care
This VA program provides guidance for helping family members encourage their Veterans to get on a better track. Free and confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458 or emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
http://www.mirecc.va.gov/coaching/contact.asp

Listen: Browse the video gallery to find stories most relevant to you. Locate: Find resources near you that can help get your life back on track.