This phenomenological study examined the descriptions of lived experience among female partners of veteran men with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) via internet discussion forums. Personal, self-initiated written accounts of 30 partners were analyzed with respect to meaning, challenges, coping responses, and role in veterans’ healing and rehabilitation. Following data analysis, five descriptive themes emerged: all-consuming effect of the illness, walking on eggshells, ambiguous loss, alone, and facing PTSD as a unit. The central meaning of these themes describes the widespread priority of the veterans’ illness, and the resulting isolation, grief, and apprehension experienced by intimate partners as they assume primary caregiving roles. The findings indicate that the nature of combat-related PTSD places significant burden and responsibility on partners. I argue that mental health supports and services should be implemented in order to meet the needs of partners of veteran with PTSD. Furthermore, the needs and preferences of partners should be considered in the design and delivery of mental health services targeted toward veterans. This study has implications for practitioners and for future planning and implementation of services and interventions for military families affected by combat trauma.


Military Partners, Trauma, Phenomenology, Internet Forums, Qualitative Research

Author Bio(s)

Tiffany A. Beks is completing a Master of Science in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Previously, Tiffany assisted in research related to counselling outcomes, depression, and intimate partner violence at Calgary Counselling Centre. After witnessing the challenges faced by a family affected by combat-related PTSD, Tiffany turned her research focus to military families. Her primary research focuses on barriers to access and utilization of mental health services among family members of military personnel. In addition, Tiffany is investigating the need for culturally relevant therapeutic interventions to address the unique challenges and experiences of military men with PTSD. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: tiffany.beks@ucalgary.ca.


I would like to thank Dr. Monica Sesma-Vasquez for her ongoing consultation and support throughout this project.

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