Dealing with Emotional Blockage of PTSD in Marriage

Today I’m back behind the camera, picking up where Gary, my husband, and I left off last spring when we were answering some of the questions posed to us here at Messy Marriage, including one on PTSD.

When a spouse suffers from PTSD due to combat or past traumas, it can cause extreme emotional fallout for the person who’s being asked to open up and share feelings. In essence it feels like a “dam will burst” if too much emotion is shared. So I endeavor to share my thoughts on how to navigate this treacherous tightrope.

PTSD and Emotions

You’ll probably also notice something a bit odd about this video. I’m not going to give it away, but instead let you be the judge of just what might be going on in my latest presentation. 😉

Click on the short video (4 minutes) below and come back here to tell me what you think on the subject.



As promised in the video, I’m providing a “Feeling Words” list as well as a “Love Letter” template.

[Tweet “”Questioning Marriage” videos are back at Messy Marriage! Check it out!”]

[Tweet “How PTSD impedes sharing emotions in marriage and how to navigate that challenge.”]


What would you add to the advice I’ve given this husband?


How has sharing your emotions with your spouse been a challenge in your marriage?


Linking up with these fine blogs –  Making Your Home Sing, Moments of Hope, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Word of God Speak, Spiritual Sundays, Sitting Among Friends, Faith ‘n Friends, Grace and Truth, Family, Friendship and Faith, Fresh Market Friday and DanceWithJesusFriday

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  1. Hi Beth! I’m your neighbor at #FreshMarketFriday. I think your advice is good, though I’ve not had experience with someone that has PTSD.

    In our marriage we’ve pretty much been able to share our emotions, at least most of the time. God has been good.

    Blessings to you!

    • It’s probably more common than you might expect, Gayl, even though you may not have someone in your immediate circle with PTSD. You probably know of people who are suffering from it and they just seem detached or stoic. I’m so glad that you and your hubby are able to share emotions with each other. That’s so crucial to the health of a relationship. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me!

  2. Neither of us struggles with PTSD, but I can have a tendency to carry the banner that any emotion is too much. It takes effort for me to be open, but we work at it, and I think the key for us is that we need to spend plenty of time together so that the comfort level is high. What a great topic to explore, Beth.

    • I have that same issue, Michele. Although I can be very open about how I feel, I am guarded about letting myself feel the more vulnerable emotions. Gary and I work at it a lot too. He’s able to express the vulnerable emotions better than I am, but we both have learned how to go to those deeper levels in spite of our tendencies and wiring. I’m glad that you and your hubby spend a lot of time together and work towards sharing with each other even though it can be challenging at times. It sounds like you two are persevering in the best possible ways. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says:

    Great post, Beth, and I apologise for being late to the table. Pneumonia, and it is trying to kill me now.

    Two thoughts –
    1) Sharing one emotion is a terrific idea! One thing, though – the non-PTSD spouse should be prepared to see an emotion that is very different from what he/she expects. As an example – if I was given a situation in which sorrow or sympathy might be expected, I would typically react with what my wife calls ‘killing rage’. Recently there was an odious example of child abuse (ending in death) in our area. The perps were apprehended, and my wife said that she thanked God that I had not gone into law enforcement, as the resulting news features would have been quite different had I been on scene. She’s right. I tend to directness.

    2) Love the ‘love letter’ idea. Again, a suggestion – the recipient of the letter should not, at least initially, gush as if it a cathartic breaththrough. A fistbump, or a punch to the shoulder with a muttered ‘thanks’, or an abrazo (a guy-hug) is best to start. Think of this as gaining the trust of a wild animal – and you’ll be very close to the truth. Go SLOW.

    • Yes, good point on number one, Andrew. I’m sure having PTSD really changes the way you see and feel things compared to your wife.

      Another thought along that line, Gary and I do marriage workshops and encourage couples to share one emotion they have with each other each day but warn them not to share negative emotions that involve their mates. That can be like opening a can of worms. No one wants that!

      As far as number 2, interesting side note. I guess that makes sense that gushing would not be helpful for someone who has trouble with tender emotions. And good analogy about the wild animal. I’m sure you can relate to the way many of your animals must be treated gingerly at first, so as to gain trust. Wounded humans are not much different. Thanks for adding these thoughts, Andrew! I hope you are doing better and getting over the pneumonia! I’ve been praying!

  4. Good advice for a tricky subject.

    I would only urge caution in choosing which emotion to share, remembering the point of the exercise. e.g., not the emotion that is most burning my heart, but the emotion that will most help me open up and help us both share our emotions together.

    Even without PTSD sharing emotions can easily go wrong — “what does he mean by that?”, “why does he what to talk about THAT, NOW?”. I have tended to clam up, and hide that by being interested in the other person — it’s very easy to get people to talk about themselves.

    • Yes, David, I just said that to Andrew below. Gary and I encourage couples that we work with to share one emotion with each other each day, but discourage sharing an emotion that is negative about their mates. No one needs to use this as an opportunity to complain! Connection is the goal.

      But I will say it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We all need to exercise our “emotional dexterity” by identifying an emotion each day. Otherwise, we lose touch with what we really are feeling, besides the connection that sharing can make when we share our feelings with our mates on a daily basis. Thanks for bringing up a good point, though, David! Appreciate you entering the conversation, my friend!

  5. Gee … ol’ Gary’s awful quiet today! Miss him!

    Thanks for these very practical, do-able steps, Beth. Sometimes it’s all just too much for the person struggling with their emotions to even begin to think about going there. But you’ve created a path that is attainable and not overwhelming.

    I’m betting that this post is going to make a real difference for those who find this to be a challenge.

    I so appreciate your giftedness and the winsome way you share it with us …

  6. Beth, I am so glad to have found your site! Although PTSD is not a part of our marriage, learning to talk and express emotions has been a growing experience for both of us, and one we have needed guidance through in order to help each other feel safe and valued. So very important! How I wish I had discovered you in time for my marriage series:) Love having you on Fresh Market Friday Linkup!

  7. Hi Beth,
    I am so frustrated! I want to watch this so badly! Not just because I’m sure it’s good content, but I want to hear and see you live! 🙂 But my internet I think has been having issues and is dragging and I can’t get it to play! I’m going to have to try it on my phone!

    Blessings, my friend!