The impact of active service on the intimate relationships of ex-servicemen: an existential-phenomenological study
Iacovou, Susan Louise
This research investigates the impact of active service on the intimate relationships of ex-servicemen. The participants are all ex Royal Navy personnel who saw active service during the Falklands War in 1982. There are no other studies looking at this topic from the point of view of Falklands War veterans. Nine men aged 51 to 73 took part in the study, which was conducted and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Three meta-themes and ten themes emerged from the analysis, and illustrate the psychological journey undertaken by the participants, and the relationship issues they faced, following active service. The findings show that active service confronted the participants with the existential givens of existence, including death, freedom and finitude, and meaninglessness and absurdity. This confrontation shattered their worldviews, changing them and their priorities, and creating overwhelming emotions that they struggled to understand. Unable or unwilling to share their experiences, and feeling alienated from the world around them, most of the participants withdrew from their partners and isolated themselves emotionally and physically. After struggling for many years to cope with and understand the impact of active service on their way of being in the world and on their relationships, six of the participants broke down, with five of them receiving a formal diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study adds to the existing medical model of PTSD by proposing that a confrontation with existential givens is a mediator between active service and posttraumatic stress (and posttraumatic growth). By reevaluating the symptoms of PTSD within an existential framework the study offers an Existential Counselling Psychology framework for understanding posttraumatic stress.