Guest post by Steve James, Help for Heroes Psychological Wellbeing Advisor
Do you remember lessons about relationships at school? No? That’s because there probably weren’t any. For most of us, learning how to be in a relationship and get the most from it doesn’t come as naturally as we might hope – it’s mostly a process of trial and error. The common issues everyone faces can be even more difficult within the military community because of the impact that training and serving has on the individual and their partners. The skills and traits which are essential while serving are often the same things which sometimes create rifts in relationships. Add difficulties such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or anger in to the mix and things can become even more problematic.
Re:Pair is a programme specifically designed for veterans and their partners and has been running with huge success in Australia for over twenty years. Help for Heroes has worked hard to bring this programme to the UK over the last 18 months. It covers a range of areas including communication skills, understanding and managing various common mental health difficulties (for both sufferers and their partners) as well as exercises to bring couples closer. All parts of the programme are very interactive and there are exercises which allow partners and veterans to share their experiences separately – all with the knowledge that it is a safe and confidential environment. There is also a good amount of free time for couples to use the various facilities the venue offers, go out for a walk or practice the skills they’ve learnt.
Our most recent course ran in February and was a huge success. It was a residential course held at the Blunsdon House Hotel on the outskirts of Swindon facilitated by me, my colleague Theresa Mitchell and Julie Lacy (who has ten years’ experience running this programme in Australia). Seven couples attended and their transformation over the week was remarkable. Couples found that they were far more able to appreciate the difficulties that the other faces and gain a greater understanding of what it is that makes their relationship work. Both the veterans and the partners were equally valued and felt encouraged to make positive changes and adapt their existing skills and strengths to help them make their relationship the way they would both like it to be.
“The three tutors were fantastic in their presentation, giving care and compassion where necessary, encouraging those who may be a little reticent amongst the group members and certainly offering help when needed.
“We were given the answers I-for-one had been desperately seeking over all these past years, feeling totally left out and yet still expected to give the right support at all the right times.
“We, and I feel sure I can say this for the rest of those who took part, have obtained a far better understanding of PTSD and have now been given the tools to cope for the future.” - Jenny & Tam Edmondson, Help for Heroes beneficiaries