Love, Honor and Cherish Until PTSD Do Us Part

All marriages start with intense love, high hopes and expectations with well-meaning promises until death do us part. You know the scene, rich with tradition and romance, “You may kiss the bride!” Then the couple slams into life events that can be tragic. A challenging battle begins trying to heal and cope with external wounds.  

The wound that may not be detected is internal or better known as PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder.  The one who did not suffer the blows that caused external and internal wounds will say – “my spouse has changed, they are not the same person I married.”  What transpired was life and relationship altering and now thoughts of “the vows I took, I am not so sure I can endure the test before us” become a reality.

Real Life Story

Here’s a story of a real couple we’ll call Fred and Wilma. As a kid, I loved watching the Flintstones. Fred was always hot-headed one minute and a cuddly pussycat the next.  Their personalities fit my real couple somewhat as mood and temperament swings were dramatic. Fred experienced a work-related injury, which was life threating. The day of the accident, Fred’s supervisor sent everyone home as the job site had to be closed for an “assumed fatality.”  Wilma was informed and rushed to the job site to find Fred “really messed up.”   

Amazingly, Fred’s hard head happened to be a huge asset as he survived a near-death incident.  After months of rehab and retraining, Wilma insists that a different Fred came home from the hospital. He is unpredictable. He now reacts to random words or actions that prompt him to become hypersensitive, and defensive with alarming intensity. Wilma is confused and wonders how to love, honor and cherish this complete stranger.   

She wished that the hospital would have sent him home with a manual on how to live or at least exist with a survivor of complex trauma. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Fred has a high ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score. His parents divorced at age 5 and he had been sexually abused from age 7 to 12 by guardians that were trusted by the family.

Now back to our story, Fred and Wilma have grit. Those vows to love, honor and cherish, they took seriously. They knew they’d need help to conquer what life had thrown at them, even though life felt out of their control. Threats, real or perceived cause trauma with a capital “T” or lower case “t”.  How each person interprets the event is highly unique to themselves.  

So what happened to Wilma? Her ability to love, honor and cherish became stronger when she and Fred sat down and came up with a game plan. The plan was tested for years. Wilma contracted vicarious PTSD and fought her own battle with depression and anxiety. They learned together, as a team, knowing one another’s weak and wounded spots. This helped them protect the “us” rather than protest their personal positions.

They explored with a counselor, that emotions are our allies rather than enemies, telling us to beware. Sharing even the most vulnerable feelings is actually a strength. They began to understand how to help one another regulate strong emotions that felt like tidal waves, rather than trying to manage them alone. They began to see patterns that caused them to escalate into horrid arguments. Now they reframe their choices of how to contend and defeat a trigger that would set off the trauma. Now they give space and safety for the wound to heal instead.

There Is Hope

Fred and Wilma still have their clashes and he has to put the “cat” out for the night (like in the cartoon). The “cat” is the trauma being put in its place yet given safety to be understood not ignored. Finding new approaches to connect and safely bond with one another has positively impacted their marriage. Their relationship has gained effective strategies to love, honor and cherish as they enjoy life with gratitude! Their marriage now has hope. Restoring hope in a relationship riddled with wounds of PTSD is one of the strongest remedies to bring safety to both parties, for the sake of the marriage. When safety happens, connection happens. When connection happens, so many other aspects of the marriage are healed and growth occurs.


Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Next Steps:

Are you looking for hope in your marriage? Connect with one of our counselors today.

Were you encouraged by Gil and Brenda Stuarts words today? You can come and hear them in person and the following events sponsored by His Heart Foundation:

Stepfamily 101 for Pastors (and Staff)

WHEN:   Tuesday, February 20, 2018

WHERE: US Digital Outreach Center

TIME:      12:00 pm – 2:00 pm (Lunch included)

WHY:      To educate pastors and their staff about the Stepfamilies in their community. Presented by Gil & Brenda Stuart of Restored and Remarried.

Suggested donation of $20 per church


Restored and Remarried Seminar

WHEN:     March 16 and 17, 2018

WHERE:  US Digital Outreach Center

TIME:       Friday: 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm  Saturday 9:00am – 12:30 pm

WHY:       To equip couples in a stepfamily.

WHO:       Singels, Dating, Engaged or in a Stepfamily for awhile!


Prepare Enrich Training

WHEN:     Monday, March 26, 2018

WHERE:  US Digital Outreach Center

TIME:       8:30 am – 3:30 pm

WHY:       Train people who work with couples (Pastors, Counsleors,

lay leaders) to be trained as a facilitoator with the Prepare    

Enrich online inventory.

Register: Seven Trees Consulting, Inc.—seminars.html