College of Education and Behavioral Sciences: Department of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
Ohde, Kaitlin N. (2020). Perceptions of Challenges and Resiliencies of Post 9/11 Combat Veterans’ Wives. Published Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, 2020. This study examined the perceptions of challenges and resiliencies of post 9/11 combat veterans’ spouses. For this phenomenological study, 12 female, heterosexual, Caucasian, post 9/11 combat veterans’ wives participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews that utilized family systems and secondary traumatic stress theories. Results were presented in themes and subthemes. This study added to the literature and exploration of the unique challenges experienced by post 9/11 veterans’ wives and how they cultivated resiliency in their marriages. The wives stated the many challenges they had experienced throughout deployment cycles including frequent moves and geographic relocations for the military, multiple and unpredictable deployments, personal sacrifices they made during the veteran’s military career, communication challenges in their marriages, post-deployment reintegration challenges they experienced, and the emotional toll of experiencing deployments. The wives discussed ways in which they had fostered resiliency and strengths and coped with the difficulties presented by deployments. Resiliencies, strengths, and coping mechanisms expressed by wives included (a) having a long-distances relationship pre-deployment helped prepare them for deployments, (b) being married prior to a deployment helped to buffer deployment related stressors, (c) gaining personal independence and self-sufficiency, (d) finding a supportive social network, and (e) their determination and commitment to the relationship. Wives also reflected on ways they had noticed their marriage had been impacted by deployments and how it had grown and changed over time. Some marriage changes they endorsed were learning to censor and adjust communication styles to meet the various needs presented throughout deployment cycles, having flexibility and being adaptive to change, a shift of their priorities and overall perspectives on what really mattered in life, and gaining a stronger marriage after experiencing the trials and tribulations of deployments. These results provided a more comprehensive perspective on experiences of post 9/11 veterans wives, giving context to the challenges they had experienced and insight into the strengths and resiliencies they saw in themselves and their relationships. Suggestions for counseling psychologists and mental health professionals to use in their work included setting aside pre-conceived notions regarding veterans’ spouses, to tailor interventions toward the individual spouse rather than a “one size fits all” approach, to include spouses in veteran’s care continually, and to acknowledge the commitment, sacrifices, and importance a veteran’s spouse had on the functioning of veterans and their families. Research on veterans’ wives should continue to explore the complexity of veterans’ wives and acknowledge their strengths, sacrifice, and contribution to our military. Sharing positive narratives regarding the resiliency of veterans’ wives could allow these unsung heroes to receive the attention and care they deserve.
Copyright is held by the author.