Think that caring for returned soldiers drains their wives' strength? Think again. It's no easy task, of course, but these women are forced to become rock-solid, ultra-capable forces of nature. Here are five reasons why messing with a wounded warrior's wife is NEVER a good idea:
- They won't back down from a fight.
Just as their husbands once charged fearlessly into battle, wounded warrior's wives are no strangers to conflict. In fact, these women are forced to fight all day every day; With doctors and HMOs, with the VA and Medicare, with restaurants and movie theaters that haven't bothered to make their buildings accessible to disabled people. They fight with their state reps over policy and with community organizations for recognition and change. Sometimes they're even forced to fight for their homes against big banks or with their families for understanding and compassion. These women aren't spoiling for a fight, but make no mistake: If you step up, so will they.
- They're well-connected.
This is a group of women who knows how to make the most of social media: They're active bloggers who speak out when they see injustice. They know how to hit all the right notes so their messages can go viral on Facebook and Twitter. And they won't hesitate to call Newsweek or Dateline if they feel there's a story related to veterans' rights that's being distorted or going untold. Wives of wounded warriors speak up, and they do it loud, proud, and with tremendous passion.
- They're not leading “normal” lives.
Supporting a wounded vet means doing whatever it takes to make his life feel stable and safe. That can include moving far away from big cities that may become PTSD triggers, and severing ties with friends or family who can't wrap their heads around these trying circumstances. And self-care activities like visiting the salon or getting their nails done? Forget about it. Caring for their spouses takes priority over everything. Many of these wives suffer from secondary PTSD themselves on top of helping their husbands cope. There's nothing normal about the life of a wounded vet's wife.
- They're angry. Really angry.
Many of these women are living with husbands who can't remember their kids' birthdates, how to get to the local library, or even how to work the dishwasher. They are completely different from the men who said “I do” many years ago, and that is frightening and frustrating. Wounded vets' wives don't blame their husbands for their conditions, but they're furious with the circumstances that caused those conditions. And they're furious with the giant government machine that makes benefits checks arrive late and the doctors who tune them out when they try to give input. Some of them are also furious with themselves because they believe if they just did the right thing or put in a little more work they might be able to turn their lives around … even though they know in their hearts it's not really true. Do you really wanna get on the bad side of someone whose natural state is anger?
- They haven't been on the receiving end of caregiving for a long, long time.
Wounded warriors' wives have been living in triage mode for ages, and that means there's no time for self-care and no room for receiving care from others. They don't sleep much, and when they do they're awakened by the terrified shouting of their husbands' flashbacks. They've had to trade sex for little bit of intimacy, and that's a tough trade to make. Sleep deprivation alone can make for an ornery and unreasonable disposition, but when you strip away sex and self-care, too, it's a recipe for straight-up misery.
So the next time you're tempted to call a warrior's wife a freeloader or complain about how veterans drain tax money, think about these five things. And think seriously about tangling with a wounded warrior's wife. More than likely, you'll come out black and blue and she'll come out stronger than ever.