Archive for the ‘Sex & Relationships’ Category

“But I love my wife. She’s everything to me. I don’t want to lose her.”

“He’s not the man I married. I can’t do this anymore.”

I hear these two expressions all the time from good people whose hearts are aching and weary. Brave people who are dealing with intense trauma and changes in each other, in their relationship, in their families. They’ve often argued and silenced themselves into a corner. Both parties are scared, unsure and sadder than they know how to say.

I listen compassionately to hear what’s going on beneath the surface and offer wisdom that does its best to give Love a chance. I take the side of Love, even when that side might mean that people who promised themselves to each other need to end the relationship.

I’m not a marriage counselor and I am a woman who chose to divorce because it was deeply right and necessary for my soul. I can’t tell someone how to fix their relationship. I can offer support and caring space to help them figure out what their own souls need.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

War changes people. Permanently. You cannot unbecome who you are, you can only start where you are now and move forward toward a new sense of wholeness and identity. Being whole means you embrace ALL the parts of yourself — including the darkness, the anger, the pain, the nightmares. If you are hinging your strategy for saving your relationship on an ability to “get back to who you used to be” — that is not going to work. THIS is who you are today and everything you have been through has made you into who you are today.

This is true for the warrior and the loved one at home. You have BOTH changed. You have both lived and grown while apart from each other and while experiencing life without each other there to witness and share it. There are parts of you now that are not part of the couplehood. Not shared. Unknown to each other.

Accept who you are today. That’s the only place to start. Warriors, if you’re in denial about how war has changed you (you know deep down it has) and your loved one is trying hard to convince you that you have changed — believe him/her. Their perception of you is not who you are, but it is how they are experiencing you. 

And how you experience someone defines relationship, doesn’t it?

There are things you can change and things you can only accept. You’re not going to erase memories, the loss of brothers, the things you’ve done, the impact of time away. You’re not going to be as carefree as you were before combat. You’re not going to “put it all behind you” or “just move on.” You’re not going to not be a combat veteran. You’re not going to get those shared couplehood or parenthood moments back. What was missed together is missed. Forever. It’s gone.

What can you change? 

The heart is changeable. Relationship is changeable. IF both hearts have not fully closed to one another and if both hearts have enough love left to make themselves vulnerable and open up to each other as human beings and not the roles you play.

Warriors — this is on you. You love your wife and you want her to stay? What does she need from you? Women need to feel as if they deeply know the man they love — we define relationship by how well we know people. Intimacy — emotional, heart, soul, sexual — all comes down to feeling that a man trusts us enough to let us in and confide in us. Women have deep resources of healing to offer men we love. But if you keep her distant, don’t let her see you tear up, only express anger and discontent, drink all the time, refuse to tell her about what you’ve been through (trust me, she’s more warrior than you when it comes to dealing with tough emotional shit)… then what’s the point of her trying to love you? Why should she stay?

If you’ve been with her for years, she’s put everything she has into supporting you — all the while doing her best to be brave for you, to be patient, to keep everything running, everything going, kids birthed, fed, parented — she’s fucking tired! And you come home and treat her like she’s a stranger that you may or may not feel like fucking and definitely don’t want to talk with… what do you expect? Why would she want to stay and keep giving herself to you? If you make her an outsider, she will become one. You won’t get her back.

You must open up to her. You must allow her to be different than any other person in your life. Not just a wife, but your spiritual partner. Your healing partner. The one person who knows you beneath the armor. You can keep your armor on for everyone else. Take it off when you’re alone with her.

You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to even understand why you feel the way you do. But if you want her to keep her heart open to you, to stay invested in the being with you, you have to talk with her and confide in her and let her see you.

Armor off.

Yes, it’s fucking scary. Yes, you fear she’ll judge you. Yes, you’re a “man” and don’t let anyone see you weak. Yes, she shouldn’t have to know what you’ve been through — you want to protect her. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, you might cry. Yes, you might (you will) feel weak. (You’ll feel a huge relief after — like you can breathe again.)

It takes courage. And you cannot be brave unless you are vulnerable. Not in combat, not in talking to your wife.

What happens if you take the risk?

Women are quite understanding about anyone who feels lost or who is in pain or who has been through something horrible, because we are very good at empathy and caring and wanting to support those we love. Our sacred role on this earth is to lead men back to their souls, back to themselves. That comes natural to us. Given the chance — given the trust — if our hearts are still open to the man we love, we will respond with acceptance and love. Not pity. Not judgement. Not shame. Not lack of respect.

And the energy of love is what you need most right now.


A woman who still loves a man — if her heart hasn’t fully closed and decided it’s done with the relationship — will melt and soften when a man trusts her to be able to accept him by telling her what is really going on inside him. This is the terrain where women build relationships. We live for it. We know how to navigate it.

And we don’t see men as weak for breaking down, for opening up, for sharing what they’ve been through. We don’t lose respect for men who confide in us, we gain it.

If your woman’s heart has not fully closed, confiding in her is your best option for trying to save your relationship. She will be your deepest source of healing if you allow her to be. If you respect her enough to let her help you navigate this dark terrain.

Women are emotional and spiritual warriors. We can handle it. We can handle the stories of combat. We can handle the blood and gore. We can handle the grief and pain. We don’t need you to protect us from what you’ve experienced, we need you to protect us from losing our connection to who you are inside.

Woman — this is scary shit for men. It goes against how they naturally feel and what society and the military has trained them to be. A man needs to feel he will not lose respect in your eyes if he shows what feels like weakness to him. You innately know how to love him, how to heal, how to be present and supportive. He doesn’t need you to fix him, but he does need to know you have a vast enough spirit and heart and soul to accept him as he is. The Divine Feminine breaks through so love can go where it hasn’t gone before. You embody Divine Feminine energy. Your softening toward him lets him soften. So you, too, need to take off the mask and let him see you vulnerable as well.

Men and women are not two sides of the same coin. Modern feminist theory has led us to believe that men and women are the same, but different. I believe we are two different spiritual beings and we have unique spiritual roles to play toward one another. Women have the capacity to lead men back to themselves and we have spiritual gifts that only we can give. Men have the ability to create a space for us that holds our power, where they can be strong for us and let us rest within their safety.

The trauma of war is deep, heavy shit.  Too often, it’s easy to fail to realize the gravity of what you’re dealing with. Too easy to assume it should be easy. Too easy to assume that others are handling it better. Society doesn’t help in perpetuating this myth. Take a moment and step back and honor the fact that you are both dealing with issues that few have the courage to deal with. Few have the strength and yet you do. Honor your journey for what it has been and for what it is.

Confiding in each other is the first step to finding your way forward. Men — it may be your last chance before her heart closes permanently and can’t be reopened. Women, it may be your softening and sharing how war has impacted your heart that softens his.

Give Love a chance to hold you both, together.







This is an issue many of you, and especially me, are dealing with. I’m going to flat out tell you right now that I’m just beginning to truly understand the importance of true intimacy… I’m a novice at this, guys. Maybe we all are. God knows how many ancient walls guard my heart….or what it takes for someone to be let through. So, I know that this is a tough topic. It’s not easy for me…. but it’s important.

I’ve been thinking about how we can be surrounded by people who love us and yet we don’t “feel” the love. We blame it on our walls, right? And yes, our walls are a good part to blame. But I think part of the reason is also because most people who say they love us actually love how we make them feel. They love our energy. They love what we do, how we make life feel safe or good or easy or just better for them. They love their idea of us. Their love for us makes them feel good. To them, their love for us is as real as it gets. And their love is real. Love is love. All love is real.

So why don’t we feel it? Because being loved for how we make others feel and being loved for who we really are, are two very different things. Two different types of love.

If we don’t feel truly seen, heard or understood for who we really are on the inside, if we aren’t able to really talk to and confide in the people who love us, to feel perfectly safe sharing our selves — we aren’t known for more than our surface. We can’t FEEL loved unless we feel truly seen, heard and known BENEATH the surface. We can KNOW we are loved, but we won’t feel it. Or, at least I don’t. Why?

Because to feel loved we need intimacy. The deep trust and safety of another’s spirit that allows us to be vulnerable, that sets us free to fully be who we are, that makes us feel known on the inside, safe to express our real feelings and know we will be allowed to feel whatever we feel: our fears, our dreams, our hopes, our regrets, our desires. Intimacy makes us feel connected. Intimacy deeply entwines our roots together.

Being loved for how we make someone feel and intimacy are two very different things.

Being loved for how we make people feel is the love of basic friendship, fans, colleagues, teammates, followers, supporters, clients, it makes us popular among people who enjoy our energy or who need us in their lives in order to satisfy their need for safety or comfort. Being loved for how we make others feel is surface love. Surface love has roots but they are not entwined.

Intimacy is the love of marriage, deep friendships, parents and children, warfighters, life partners, soul mates.

Perhaps this is why relationships that require intimacy and don’t have it don’t last? The demands of these type of relationships are so heavy that unless intimacy is the foundation and maintained over time — unless our roots are thoroughly entwined — no other kind of love is strong enough to support the weight of it.

Because what we all really want is to be known, seen, understood for the broken, evolving, growing, scared, brave people we are.

We get surface love and intimacy mixed up sometimes. I have. I have accepted and given surface love instead of demanding intimacy where intimacy was required. We think that spending time with someone, living with someone, being around them day in and day out is intimacy when all it really does is let you get to know their behavior. (Think of two trees standing beside each other, they spend all their time together and know their surfaces, but their roots are not entwined. They are together, but each remains separate and alone.)

If you don’t have intimacy and if you aren’t sharing your inner worlds with a trust and shared, equal power and support — if you’re not talking to each other about your real selves (entwining those roots) — all you know is their behavior, their tendencies, how they react. How they react is often very different than how they feel inside. And if you don’t have their trust enough for them to share with you how they feel, you do not know them. You do not have intimacy. You have surface love.

Of course, relationships are complicated and there a myriad of factors that play into them, this certainly isn’t the only one. But at its most basic core, doesn’t the success of a relationship come down to whether real intimacy exists or not?

I haven’t been good at intimacy in this lifetime, not at requiring it nor in giving it. My walls are thick, I’m well armored. Only a couple of people have emerged in the last few years who have had what it takes for me to let them in. They taught me that it IS possible. Finding out that I CAN be vulnerable and truly feel seen, heard, understood and accepted for who I am, made me understand just how much it deeply matters. Life-changingly so. I’m not going to go into details out of respect for my husband’s privacy, but waking up to this (along with other reasons) has resulted in my decision to peacefully end the marriage, a process we’re still moving through.

I don’t have the answer to “how do you let yourself be intimate?” I will, no doubt, be writing more about my own discovery of that, and part of my own process is for me to be more vulnerable with you and write about my own journey in a way I haven’t done before.

But I will say, that even if you have walls as strong as mine, it’s not ONLY about your walls. We instinctively know when we are in the safe energy realm of someone who makes us feel seen, heard and understood. It’s about the type of love, the energy dynamics, the fears and maturity of both people. Because the right person with the right energy CAN come into your life and move past your walls as if they were paper-thin. I’ve experienced this myself (which, when you have walls like mine, feels nothing short of miraculous) and I experience the blessing of being that person to so many of you every day.


You came back different. Changed. You can’t really describe  it, but you’re not yourself. Not who you used to be. You’re angry. Blow up at stupid shit. Lack other emotions. Feel numb. Tired. Disinterested in stuff that used to be interesting. Tense. Sleepless. Have nightmares that scare the hell out of you. Forget shit. Can’t focus. You miss your buddies. Miss the war. Miss the ones you lost. Miss feeling like you used to feel. Before.

He came home. Different. Instead of you being able to step back and let him take over sharing the household, childcare and financial responsibilities, you have to take care of him now, too. He’s angry. Silent, except when he’s mad. He can’t remember shit. Seems unmotivated. And distant. He’s up all night; keeps you up all night. Spends more time on the sofa than in bed. Keeps loaded guns around the house. Is edgy. Drinks too much. Seems obsessed with weapons and war. Wakes up sweating from nightmares. Says he loves you, doesn’t act like it.

Sex? Ha, not the same.

You lose interest in the midst of it, your body’s just not working the way it used to. And god damn it, you’re young. You’re supposed to be a sex machine at this age, right? She doesn’t understand. This isn’t by choice. You’d give anything to be the best lover she will ever have. Doesn’t she know it hurts like hell to disappoint her? You know she has expectations. She’s young, too. And your worst fear is that she’ll get her needs met somewhere else. But you can’t help the way you feel now. The way your body won’t respond, won’t let go, won’t. Just won’t.

He says he still loves you, but when it comes to sex, you’re not so sure. When it does happen, it’s too fast. His mind seems elsewhere. Or he just can’t get it up. When you do manage to get him in the mood, shave your legs, slither into lingerie… you wait. Minutes turn to half hour, turn to one hour, turn to 4:38am. He hits the bed, zonks out. You cry yourself to sleep. It has to be you. You’re not attractive enough. You’re not good enough. He doesn’t want you anymore. He. doesn’t. It slices to your soul.

She used to look at you differently. Like you were a man, not some exasperating child. She has no clue you are barely holding it together. How dark your thoughts get. How you wonder if you just might snap. How you imagine killing again and how good that would feel right now. She tries to be supportive when she’s not exhausted from the kids. But she’s angry, too. Why can’t she understand that you don’t want to be this way? You’re not some child, even though TBI fucked up your brain and now you can’t do half the stuff you once did. Why doesn’t she understand how humiliating that is? She reminds you constantly of what you need to do, when, where, checking, double-checking. When you don’t remember, she gets frustrated. As if you could remember if you just tried harder. Why can’t she realize that the part of your brain that’s supposed to remember is gone. Fucking gone. Trying harder isn’t an option. It’s never going to be an option. This TBI shit isn’t going away. It’s who you are now. And underneath it all are deeper wounds…

He’s more like a child these days than the man you married. You can’t trust that he’ll be able to handle taking care of the kids alone. What if he forgets something important? Like that the baby’s in the bath? Or the stove is on? Or that he is even supposed to be watching the kids? You are so tired. So fucking tired. You’re more caregiver than wife. More mother than lover. And he just sits there, in that chair, unmoving for hours, cleaning his guns. Lost in a world that you know hurts him. You know you’re supposed to be patient, kind, understanding. Not lose it. Remember that he’s a warrior. A wounded one. A hero of our country. You’re supposed to realize that he can’t fucking remember, because it’s the TBI, not him. It’s the PTSD, not him. But you forget. And it is him. This is who he is now. Who are you supposed to be?

He can’t do the things you used to enjoy doing together. He panics in crowds. Hates being around your friends and family. You make excuses for him. People are starting to wonder. He keeps to himself. Overreacts. Blows up at the kids. You’re walking on eggshells, trying to keep him calm, trying to keep the kids calm, trying not to fall apart from it all. Will you ever get relief from this pressure you’re under?

Doesn’t she know you miss “you” too? That no one ever prepared you for this. That all the training in the world never prepared you for this life now. That most of the time you are barely here. That you never wanted to be a burden to her. That you hate knowing she’s carrying all of the load. That you never thought PTSD/TBI would mean this. Half alive. Half dead. A warrior at heart. Always. A body that says you’ll never have the life of a warrior again. Sometimes you wonder if she’d be better off without you. Because, well, she would be better off without you. Free. Not having to be your brain. Not having to put up with your shit. She’d be better off, but what would you be?

Doesn’t he know you miss “you” too? That no one ever prepared you for this. That all the experience during deployments, all the fear, all the worry, all the prayers, all the promises you made to God if He would just bring you home, never prepared you for this? That most of the time you’re not sure where you are anymore? That you’re stressed to your limit. That while he no longer has the stress of combat, your battle has never ended? You went from fear and being brave — so brave– handling it all, the kids, the house, the finances, work, the mortgage, family, Christmas, birthdays, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, month after month, year after year… alone…and it has never stopped. He came home and the war came with him. And all this time you’ve been strong. Holding it inside. Putting on a brave face. Because you had to. And falling apart wasn’t an option. Because you couldn’t breathe while he was gone. And somewhere deep inside you, in the pounds you’ve gained, the ache in your back, the band around your chest…it’s all still there. Fear. And now, grief.

Grief? You think about them all the time. How one moment they were there, the next gone, and you had to keep going. Shove it all aside. There was no time for grieving. They’re gone. These brothers. The ones who knew you better than anyone else. The ones you would have died for. Except you lived. Did you do enough? If you had just… why them? Why not you? You’ll never know. You see the faces of the dead. You close your eyes. They’re there. You miss them.

You watch her. She’s so beautiful. Such a great mother to your kids. You don’t know how she does it all. How she puts up with you. You wish you could tell her. You wish you could feel beyond the consuming rage. You wish you could make her know that you’re just lost and broken and you don’t know what to do. That all this time you’ve been strong. Holding it inside. Putting on a brave face. Because you had to. And falling apart wasn’t an option. Because you couldn’t breathe while you were gone. And somewhere deep inside you, in the pounds you’ve gained, the ache in your back, the band around your chest…it’s all still there. Fear. And now, grief.

You watch him. He’s so beautiful. Such a good daddy to your kids. You don’t know how he manages. How he puts up with the hell that PTSD and TBI put him through. You wish you could tell him. You wish you could feel beyond this tightness in your chest, this fear that life will always be this hard and that you won’t be strong enough. You wish you could make him know that you’re just lost and broken and you don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to do.


And so here you are. Run over by the energy of war. Fighting each other because there is no enemy to fight now, only fear and self-doubt and shame and uncertainty.  Expecting life, expecting yourselves, to pick up where you left off and continue on. Only he’s changed. Only she’s changed. You’re relating to each other based on the last version you knew of each other. And it doesn’t work. He’s changed. She’s changed.

So where do you go from here?

You start by looking at yourself and determine what you have do have control over and what you don’t. Then you decide that for the things you have control over, you will own your power to make choices.

(You remember, too, that the only thing we ever truly control is our perspective. And you give grace to the reality that PTSD and TBI make choosing a perspective more challenging.)

You start by looking at your relationship today and decide, together, that you are not each others’ enemy. That, if you are going to make it, you’re going to have to be on the same team. Standing side-by-side, looking out at the world, together. Even if that means the one with PTSD can’t do more than what he’s doing now. Even if that means the one without goes to the PTSD support group.

You start by accepting what is, now. You grieve the loss of the hope and belief that the permanent changes will go away, as you focus on the good and beauty and joy that remains.

You start by stepping back to realize the extent of what you have each been through. That means you realize the layers of fear, grief, exhaustion, and the depth of emotion that is held within each of you and you find a way to start gently releasing it. Write. Paint. Journal. Cry. If you can’t talk to each other about the parts you want each other to know, message each other, write each other a letter.

You start by realizing you will never fully know the parts of each other that are hurt the most. His combat. Her homefront.

You start by recognizing that you are each grieving. And you give yourselves permission to grieve.

You start by deciding to be gentle with yourself and kind to each other.

You start by accepting that your roles have changed. And you find ways to give each other space and time to do the things that nurture you independently.

You start by choosing to believe that Love is stronger than Death. That Love is stronger than life with PTSD. That Love is stronger than life with TBI. You choose to believe that you will be given the strength you need, in the moment  you need it, and not a moment before.

You start by shrinking the big scary future down to the sizeable now of today.

And you reach out for support. You band together with those who are walking the same path and you let them become your family, your source of strength, the ones who fill in the gaps and help remind you that you are stronger than you think you are. That you can do this. That when the struggles are thoughts and beliefs, thoughts and beliefs can be changed. That when you just need to cry, you can cry. That when you have a hell of  day, that tomorrow can be better.

And sometimes, you start by understanding that not every marriage has the foundation to bear the weight of war. And if that happens and your heart breaks, you are not to blame. There is nothing, nothing in this world that proves that human beings should be stronger than the destructive weight of war. Sometimes, a marriage just won’t be.

And all you can do then is make life-giving choices. And remember that as much as it hurts to lose someone you love to war, it doesn’t mean that you are unlovable. Another love can find you still.