Ask Amy: Veteran struggles with decision on marriage

April 16, 2014 

Dear Amy: My 27-year-old son returned home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan about two years ago.

He, his wife and infant daughter live with us due to economic difficulties that are common to their generation.

He attends school on vet benefits and also is a National Guard member.

He recently disclosed to me that he's been very unhappy since returning from his tour of duty and is torn between leaving his wife to be "happy" or staying with her for the sake of the baby and being "miserable."

I fear he's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his tour of duty, even though he wasn't directly involved in combat, and that this is at the root of his depression rather than him being stuck in a loveless marriage.

It breaks my heart to know that he might make a rash decision to destroy his family over this, as his wife is loving and supportive of him. Is there any advice or direction you can offer to help my struggling veteran son? I know I can't live his life for him. But he has reached out to me and seems to be overwhelmed with his situation.

— Worried father

Dear Father: Your son might be suffering from some traumatic aftereffects of his tour of duty.

Or, he might be a guy pushing 30 who is stressed, restless and wants out of his marriage. The everyday reality of family life is extremely challenging, especially for people who are engaged in exciting, dangerous, high-octane careers that take them away from home for long periods.

Your son has a responsibility to try his hardest to be a good person and a good parent. If he is determined to leave his marriage, you should urge him to consider the reality of his choice. For instance, could his wife and child continue to live with you if they tried a trial separation? This couple would benefit from professional mediation. He should be screened for depression. He can connect with his local VA for an evaluation.

Your responsibility is to be supportive of each party, and all about your grandchild. Do not refer to this as "destroying his family" because the focus should be on keeping the family functioning and peaceful, even if the marriage ends.

Dear Amy: I think your advice to "Impatient" was fine, but you really should have advised this unmarried mother of two to see a lawyer! The father of her kids may never marry her and they should both be aware of the legal ramifications.

— Not a lawyer

Dear Not: I agree; great advice.


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