The protracted conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and an all-volunteer military has resulted in multiple war zone deployments for many service members. While quick redeployment turnaround has left little time for readjustment for either the service member or family, dealing with the long-term sequelae of combat exposure often leaves families and intimate partners ill-prepared for years after deployments. Using a modified grounded theory approach, digitally recorded couple interviews of 23 couples were purposefully selected from a larger sample of 441 couples to better understand the impact of war zone deployment on the couple. The veteran sample was recruited from a randomly selected cohort of men in treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Overall, it was found when veterans experiencing deployment-related PTSD reenter or start new intimate relationships they may bring with them a unique cluster of interrelated issues which include PTSD symptoms, physical impairment, high rates of alcohol and/or drug abuse, and psychological and physical aggression. These factors contributed to a dynamic of exacerbating conflict. How these couples approached relationship qualities of mutuality, balanced locus of control and weakness tolerance across six axes of caregiving, disability, responsibility, trauma, communication, and community impacted the couple's capacity to communicate and resolve conflict. This dyadic relationship model is used to help inform implications for clinical practice.
© 2013 American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.