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My Grandfather was a very silent, angry man. He shouted a lot, especially at other drivers in traffic. He never hugged anyone or said, ‘I love you,’ and although I was born on the fourth of July, he never went to see the fireworks with me for my birthday.
My earliest memory of my Grandfather’s affect on our family happened when I was six years old. We were all sitting in the living room, having a nice conversation, when my Grandfather called my Grandmother stupid. She got up from the sofa, asked him if he wanted a ham sandwich, and then went into the kitchen to make him one.
My Grandmother always carried several tissues underneath her wristwatch band, and as I followed her into the kitchen, she was wiping her eyes with one.
“Why is Grandpa so mean?” I asked her.
My Grandmother reached into the refrigerator, pulled out the ham and the mayonnaise, and began to make my Grandfather his sandwich.
“Grandpa’s heart is sad,” My Grandmother told me. “He lost his friends in the war. He saw a lot of bad things. Grandpa loves everyone. He’s just sad.”
“But why are you making him ham if he’s sad?”
“Because this is how Grandma shows Grandpa that she loves him. A ham sandwich makes him happy,” She replied.
Whenever my Grandfather said hurtful things, my Grandmother would distract him with the likes of a TV show, the dog, a kiss on the forehead, or a ham sandwich.
She once told me that my Grandfather had been a really funny boy who loved to dance, but that when he came home from the war, he was a different person. She said that the older he got, the more she saw glimpses of that boy he used to be.
I know now that my Grandfather had severe PTSD from his army days in WWII, and that my Grandmother accepted him for who he was, and never stopped loving him.
In addition to my Grandfather’s PTSD, my Father was a brittle Diabetic, and so were both of my younger siblings. When I look back on my childhood, I see a little girl who was surrounded by whatever medical or psychological drama came next.
I’m sure this is why I’d wanted to be a nurse; however, when I got to university I failed Anatomy and Physiology twice, and I was directionless in a solid career choice until I met a boy who had C-PTSD and PTSD from a severe childhood trauma, and I discovered I had both the skill and the type of abstract, out-of-the-box thinking that could change the lives of men.
I started writing books, and in 2011, I began teaching and advising the wives and partners of veteran, and active duty Combat Warriors how to use real intimacy to circumvent many aspects of PTSD.
In his book, The Herbal Male, author John Green states that the #1 killer of men is broken hearts.
It is his contention that the incredible amount of stress that modern men endure because society inhibits their ability to express what they need, who they truly are, and what they feel, is the number one cause of heart disease in men.
Combine this information with the consequences that war and PTSD have on the male mind, and an objective person will realize why a Combat Warrior might see death as the only possible option when compared to all of the little deaths that have already happened inside his soul.
To him, the act of suicide is painless.
Admitting to yourself that the man you love sees life as a trap, and death as a release, is the first step towards changing things around.
No one can change what they refuse to acknowledge, and you cannot show a man all the reasons he has to live until you have first accepted all the reasons he wants to die.
Imagine a piece of Plywood bridged between two mountain tops over an 80-kilometre drop. How much weight do you suppose that piece of Plywood can take before it splinters apart and tumbles into nothingness?
You know without my telling you, just how hazardous it would be to trust any amount of weight on such a flimsy foundation above such a treacherous height.
Likewise, is the mental and emotional plight of the Combat Warrior with PTSD.
Many parts of him are fragilely connected with foundations as thin as Plywood over multiple psychological drops and undertows.
The Combat Warrior often feels powerless, and that PTSD has robbed him of many of his choices, and that the only power he has left is choosing his life or his death.
This is where being an astute partner of a Combat Warrior will often open up options to him that he himself cannot see.
“He makes it impossible for me to love him.”
*Candy is married to a former US Navy Seal. She contacted me after three years of trying everything else. She’d heard about me from a friend of a friend.
“I think some of the things you suggest are crazy, but I’m desperate,” was the first line of her email to me.
While every PTSD-Related Intimacy Issue is just as different as each romantic relationship that it contaminates, there are constant similarities.
One of those similarities, are the moments of intense self-loathing, which cause a Combat Warrior with PTSD to mistrust the worthiness of the woman who loves him. Often, when a man feels worthless, he’ll transfer those feelings of worthlessness onto the woman who has stood by him, and then question her validity.
That is a very difficult thing to take.
“I’ll tell my husband that I love him, and then he lashes out at me and makes me feel worthless,” Candy told me. “He makes it impossible for me to love him. His perception is that there is something wrong with me, because I love him, but if I leave him, then he was right about me never having loved him at all. He doesn’t tell me that he loves me, and he won’t show me any affection unless he wants sex. It’s a constant mindfuck. No matter what I do, I’m wrong.”
I am a very open-hearted woman, and I understand the struggle of having a sincere ‘I love you’ backfire on you every single time.
It is very frustrating to genuinely accept a man for who he is, and to then have him treat you like you’re worthless, because he, himself, feels worthless.
I told Candy to stop telling her husband that she loved him, and to replace those words with actions instead, because part of the problem was that when she told him “I love you,” there was the presumed expectation from him that she was just saying that, because she wanted to hear it back, and he obviously couldn’t find those words to say to her. I explained to Candy that, because men are Action-Oriented, they often disbelieve what a woman says, and only put merit in what a woman does. This is why she needed to replace her words with actions.
These suggestions from me took Candy down an unfamiliar and uncharted path where she was forced to swap words with actions; however, two years after Candy first contacted me, she has a very different romantic relationship with her husband.
I’ve often had wives and partners of men with PTSD tell me that love does not conquer all, especially PTSD, and so I’ve asked them: “What type of love do you mean? Because when you love a man with unrealistic expectations of him, or with conditions on him, then you’re right—love won’t conquer all. But if you unconditionally accept a man for who he is, and choose to love him for exactly where he’s at—then yes, love can conquer all.”
“I’m dating a Soldier with PTSD and it’s Hell”
In March of 2018 *Alisha contacted me from Brisbane. She told me she couldn’t take it anymore.
“He treats me like shit,” She told me. “I want to be married and have children, and he avoids everything I say. He has barricaded himself in the closet eleven times in the six months that we’ve been partners. He won’t talk to me. He uses his PTSD as an excuse to avoid me.”
Nothing is more unrealistic than a woman who demands a commitment and a future from a man who doesn’t even know if he will make it to the end of next week.
This is a major reason why so many Combat Warriors with PTSD are pushed over the Psychological edge: their partners constantly make impossible demands of them; have impractical expectations of them; and often try to plan futures with a man who isn’t even able to handle his present.
I am not one to mince words or to hold back. When women like Alisha contact me, I do not hesitate to show them where they are wrong. Some women want to hear the truth, while many women email me back with angry replies because they’re not ready to face it. Alisha wanted to hear what I had to say.
I told her that if she wanted an Immediate Future with a man, she needed to find someone else, because it was never going to happen with her soldier.
I told her that she needed to verbally and emotionally back-off to China, and to never again mention marriage or children to a man who could not even commit to, or take care of, himself.
I told her to quit expecting love from her man, and instead, to give him love.
I told her to start being as kind and gentle towards him as she would be to a puppy or a child.
I told her that if he needed to manage his PTSD by barricading himself inside the closet, then she needed to go to Kmart, and buy lots of comfy pillows and blankets, get a pail, and stuff it with his favorite snacks, a torch, and a book that he might like to read, and set it all up inside the closet, so that the next time he needed to go inside his closet cave, he would really feel secure.
I told her to start replacing words with actions: not to tell him “I love you,” but to get him a beer and kiss him instead; not to tell him that she wanted to be married, but to show him why she would be a good partner.
I told her that when he went out with his mates not to relentlessly text him or phone him, and to just leave him alone to be with his pack, and that when he went into Silent Mode, to use that time to carefully construct what she wanted to say to him when he is ready to talk.
Alisha chose to do as I suggested. Early July 2019, she emailed to tell me that she and her soldier are getting married next year.
There is nothing more powerful than a woman who uses Actions instead of Words.
Florence Nightingale was one of those women.
She changed the entire foundation of nursing, because she truly loved the wounded men in her care; she fought the entire British Government for their healing, their comfort, and for their very lives.
The military men in hospital called Florence Nightingale ‘The Lady with a Lamp’, because every evening without fail, she went into each soldier’s hospital ward to check on their comfort and wellbeing, and she brought with her the reassurance of light into the darkness of their night.
As the saying goes, we all just want someone who chooses us over everyone else, under any circumstance.
An emotionally open-handed woman is the most healing power on earth; nothing is stronger than simple kindness and generosity of heart.
In the end, loving a Combat Warrior with PTSD can be an act as simple as making him a ham sandwich and being his Lady with a Lamp.
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About the Author: Sexual Anthropologist and American Authoress Nannette LaRee Hernandez is the leading Military PTSD-Related Intimacy-Issues Expert in the world and author of the book: 'Using Sex Positives Techniques to Combat PTSD in Military Men' In 2018, Nannette's work led her to discover "The Agony Element™: a methodical context in which numerous aspects of Acute, Chronic and Complex Traumas are alleviated through sex acts with an accommodating, accepting, and trusted partner." Nannette recognized through her analysis that sexual release with a trusted partner who knew their mate’s secrets, and who accepted their mate’s core-damage was the primordial solution to relieving numerous aspects of trauma.
*Names in article have been changed