I married my high school sweetheart when I was 18, and he left for the Army. We had our ups and downs but always maintained love for one another.
In 2006 he deployed to Iraq as a combat medic. His Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device, caught fire and he dragged his buddies out. My husband came home a year later, but he was never quite the same.
He would wake in the middle of the night punching the wall because he dreamed an insurgent was chasing him. Another time I woke to find him clearing the room, telling me to be quiet, they had found us. That’s when the doctors diagnosed his PTSD.
Ten months later my husband deployed to Iraq for another 15 months. No major injuries occurred, but the loss of friends he couldn’t save, the sight of missing limbs, the smell of burnt bodies, and killing people at close range danced through his head at night.
His number was six. The number of people he killed. He asked if that meant he was a murderer, and he would often cry himself to sleep over it. Upon his second return he went to a 16-hour-a-day desk job. One night he woke to a night terror, and anxiety led to a seizure. That day my husband’s army career ended.
What my life became over the next year is hard to put into words. He turned to the Internet to battle loneliness and met a girl online. On our nine year wedding anniversary he left me for her. He said he loved her and didn’t want to be with me anymore.
Later he returned. I told myself, if we survived war, we could survive infidelity. But he’s bounced back and forth between the two of us. Yesterday he told me he feels we should be on our own, that it’s not fair what he’s putting me through. I was worth a commitment at 18, now it seems I’m not.
I feel I can’t be vulnerable with him, because in the end he is just going to leave. Our marriage counselor says he is unable to turn the switch back on to experience loving feelings because of the trauma he experienced.
We have no children, only dogs. Everyone tells me and him one day the answers will come, that you will wake up and know what you need to do, and it will all make sense. I’m not so sure that will ever happen.
Am I too naïve to realize, when your husband no longer wants you, it’s time to walk away? Am I buying a fairy-tale that doesn’t exist?
Joy, people change, and it’s not always of their making. It’s terrible what happened to your husband. At the same time, that’s what war is.
It’s about killing people and seeing people killed and maimed. When you sign up for the military, that is what you sign up for. We know people enlist to learn a trade, to find employment, or to earn money for college. But that is not what the military is for.
Soldiers are recruited to fight wars. Your husband experienced what the military needs people for. The experience made him a different person. Now he is a man who can bounce back and forth between two women without deciding who he likes better. That’s not love. That’s want or need or convenience.
You are not an inanimate object, sitting on a shelf, waiting to be picked up, if that’s his decision.
Your letter is what we call a permission letter. Permission letters are written by people who have suffered deeply. In effect, what they say is, “I gave and gave and gave. I tried and tried and tried. Can I get a divorce now? Haven’t I given enough? Haven’t I tried enough?”
Our answer is yes. You have.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of October 7, 2013
Send letters to: [email protected] , or Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield MO 65801.