Manhattan If war is hell, then what does it do to a relationship?
Briana S. Nelson Goff, an associate professor of marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University, wants to know how combat experience affects couples who are married and dating. She plans to interview Fort Riley-based couples for her study to find out about their experiences in readjusting to life after one member of the couple has served in war.
Some soldiers and spouses don't realize the powerful effect war can have on them or their relationships, said Nelson Goff, who specializes in researching post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of trauma on families.
"Certainly, a war experience is potentially traumatic," she said. "We hear stories, there are things in the newspapers from family members and from soldiers about how it does affect them."
The research on Fort Riley soldiers will be the second phase of a study that looks at how couples manage the post-traumatic stress that results from a variety of experiences, including abuse.
Nelson Goff hopes to have the results of the first round of data published this spring.
The current study of Fort Riley couples involves a face-to-face interview, as well as a questionnaire of about 150 questions that address individual symptoms and their relationship. Couples in the study must be in a current marriage or in a dating relationship for at least a year.
Nelson Goff said there is no previous research that comprehensively compares the similarities between couples who deal with the aftereffects of war and those who deal with such traumatic experiences as accidents and domestic violence.
For some, the trauma of war doesn't always have a negative effect, although it may take time before a soldier begins to show symptoms, she said.
"I think at this point it may be too early to know for sure," she said. "Some people are able to come back and it really affects them immediately. Others can get in the swing of things but it takes time until the effects of their experience, whatever they may be, start to show."