Back from the Front: Combat Trauma, Love, and the Family (An update of Vietnam Wives)


This book helps veterans and their families understand how the trauma associated with war can cause problems with self-esteem, communication, sexuality, and parenting.



By Aphrodite Matsakis

This book helps veterans and their families understand how the trauma associated with war can cause problems with self-esteem, communication, sexuality, and parenting. But, more important, it shows them what they can do to improve their lives. The book also helps veteran families recognize their strengths and appreciate the ways a veteran’s combat experiences can enrich family relationships.

To write about the combat veteran is to write about fortitude, dedication and selflessness, and about experiences unfathomable to those who have never known the indescribable horrors of war. To write about you – the veteran’s spouse or partner – is to write about another kind of loyalty and perseverance and yet another kind of pain and sadness.

The trauma of war can affect not only the warriors, but their partners and children as well. Often it is you, the veteran’s partner, who helps sustain the veteran during his or her depressions, anxiety attacks, and post-traumatic reactions. It may also be you, and perhaps you alone, who has sustained your veteran’s will to live during his or her most anguished moments. Unfortunately, some veterans vent their anger (at themselves or at others whom they felt betrayed them) on the people they love and who love them the most—their partners and children.

The purpose of this book is to help you (and your veteran) better understand combat trauma and its possible effects on intimate relationships and family life and to guide you to resources that can help strengthen every member of your family. The beginning chapters provide basic information about combat trauma and how it can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other forms of emotional pain. The remaining chapters focus on some of the most common problems confronting families of combat veterans: emotional numbing, sexual difficulties, anger, and guilt.

There are also chapters on family violence, children, women veterans, and military couples and sections on how to cope with anger and depression, how to find helpful organizations and books, and how to communicate effectively on difficult issues.

In addition to describing the tensions that can result from combat trauma, this book emphasizes the many ways a veteran’s war experiences can help enrich individual family members and the family as a whole. Just as one part of your family cannot suffer without that suffering affecting the entire unit, if your veteran has grown emotionally (or spiritually) as the result of combat, his or her growth can influence and inspire you and other family members. Keep in mind that the turmoil you and your veteran are experiencing can lay the foundation for more meaningful relationships and for an improved outlook on life.

This book is based on the available research on the impact of combat trauma on family life and on some thirty years of clinical experience with veterans (male and female) and their partners and children.


1. What Is Combat Trauma?
2. Common Traumatic Reactions
Post-traumatic Stress and other Anxiety Disorders
3. Questions and Answers about Combat Trauma
How many veterans really suffer from symptoms of combat trauma?
What effect can combat experience have on symptoms of combat trauma?
What effect can the atmosphere at home have on veterans?
How might war affect veterans spiritually and morally?
Why are some veterans more affected by combat than others?
How can war affect veterans physically?
How can war affect veterans’ ways of thinking?
What are some of the positive benefits of combat duty?
4. Emotional Distancing
5. Combat Stress and Sex
6. Anger, Grief, and Guilt
7. The Reality of Multiple Roles
8. Battered Women
9. Women Veterans
Military-related gender harassment
Sexual and physical assault
10. Military Couples
11. Combat Stress and Children
12. Suicide and the Veteran Family
13. “I Believe in Love”—The Hope of Therapy


A. Coping with Anger and Depression
B. Help in Selecting a Therapist or Therapy Program
C. Resources and Suggested Readings
D. Couples Counseling
E. Guidelines for Effective Communication
F. Some Do’s and Dont’s for Significant Others

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages:488