Introduction: Social support, particularly support from an intimate partner, is both a significant protective factor for trauma-exposed Veterans and critical for recovery in mental health, yet we know little about the experiences and support needs of their partners, particularly in the Australian context. This study examined the multidimensional nature of experiences of being an intimate partner of a contemporary Veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Methods: The authors used a qualitative phenomenological approach to conduct an inductive thematic analysis of data collected through individual interviews with a purposive sample of 10 partners of contemporary Veterans living in Australia. Interviewees were recruited through a range of community support organizations. Results: Analysis revealed intimate partners are crucial participants in supporting the recovery journey for traumatized Veterans, effectively managing day-to-day care, encouraging autonomy and instilling hope. However, descriptions highlighted that lack of understanding of partners’ daily lives, and particularly their commitment to maintaining their intimate relationship, by health care providers and government results in a sense of invisibility and is the key barrier to receiving the support they need in order to support recovery in their Veteran partners. Discussion: The findings underscore the importance of recognizing the role of intimate relationships in trauma recovery and of responding to the support needs of intimate partners. In particular, the findings have clear implications for improving the engagement by health care providers of partners of Veterans with PTSD in Veteran clinical treatment. More formal recognition of the indirect impact of PTSD on partners of Veterans is also needed within organizational policies and procedures. Finally, there is clearly a need for continuing education of health care providers, government staff and the general community about the nature of PTSD and its impacts on relationships, particularly the intimate type.
- Intimate partners
- Lived experience