Roles of Religion and Spirituality among Veterans Who Manage PTSD and Their Partners
Traumatic events can have ripple effects on the survivor’s intimate relationships and on his or her religious/spirituality (R/S) beliefs and practices. Although both of these outcomes have been examined independently, research has yet to consider the intersection of trauma, its impacts on partners and intimate relationships, and R/S. This exploratory qualitative study involved individual interviews with 20 participants, including 11 male married veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; or subthreshold PTSD) and 9 female married partners of male veterans with PTSD (or subthreshold PTSD). Interviews explored perceptions of the roles of R/S in how participants coped with the veteran’s PTSD, both individually and as a couple. Participants described a wide array of responses in their R/S beliefs and activities, ranging from withdrawal and avoidance to deeper engagement and growth. Although many participants described drawing upon their R/S beliefs and practices to support their spouses, a few shared how female partners used R/S against their veterans in a hurtful manner. Couples described their spiritual bond with one another as facilitating communication and strengthening their relational bond. Implications for psychotherapy and future research are discussed.