Rules of Engagment

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This page dedicated to helping Veterans and their loved ones learn more about sex and PTSD.

Let’s face it, when your vet comes home, things are, well, different.  After a year or more of
taking care of everything by yourself, adapting to having someone else there is, well, a

Vets, it isn’t easy for you either.  You’ve been hyper-vigilant for an extended period of time
to the point where you’re wound tighter than a cheap watch.

And then the bomb drops… PTSD

And you think, okay, we can deal with this.

But depression, medications, rounds of therapy appointments and frustrations added to
the already challenging attempts at intimacy between children, laundry, and daily
schedules and you’re ready to completely pull your hair out.

Is intimacy in the world of
PTSD possible? (Or to put it another way can sex and PTSD
even be said in the same sentence?)


It just requires a bit more creativity and compromise than things used to.

So, here they are:

Rule #1: Thou shalt realize that compromise is involved.

Sometimes you just plain flat aren’t going to be in the mood.  The rule in our house is for
every time you say no, say yes at least once.  If you legitimately have a headache or don’t
feel well it’s okay but stop making excuses just to make them.  Sometimes the only way to
get the kind of intimacy you want is to give the kind your partner needs first.

Rule #2: Thou shalt take advantage of the good days.

Face it; good days are few and far between.  So take advantage of the good days or even
the good moments when possible.  Get over your regret, bitterness, and personal issues
with what happened yesterday and be thankful for the good moment at hand.  Carpe
Diem.  Seize the Day!

Rule #3: Thou shalt be romantic.

Addendum: when possible.  Remember courting?  The thrill of the first kiss?  First touch?  
First time?  Bring the thrill back.  Light some candles.  Put on some lingerie.  Comb your
hair.  Bother with shaving.  Sometimes going the extra mile is a HUGE help in restoring
intimacy.  The thrill of preparations alone can help get both of you in the mood.

Rule #4: Thou shalt run away.

Occasionally.  Get a sitter and LEAVE THE HOUSE.  I’m not joking.  RUN AWAY.  Drop the
kids at a relative’s and take off for the weekend.  Get a sitter and leave for the night.  Find
a kid free zone and just enjoy time together.  In our house, our “away” is while our son is at
school.  Take advantage of the special time you have together alone to reconnect with
each other.  It might not lead directly to the bedroom, but you’re helping to heal wounds
deep within the soul and that will help lead to better intimacy in the long run.

Rule #5: Thou shalt be willing to take care of thyself occasionally.

Alright.  Let’s face it.  Sometimes there’s a drought.  Don’t whine about.  Find a way to take
care of your need for intimacy without your partner.  Have a glass of wine and take a long
bath.  Pamper yourself with a DIY manicure.  Take care of “business” yourself.  Whatever it
takes.  What do you tell your kids every day?  “Whining isn’t going to get you what you
want.”  Apply the same principle to this part of your life and you’ll be a much happier couple.

Rule #6: Thou shalt pamper thy partner.

Take turns on this one: his night and her night.  If she likes to take a nice long bath
beforehand go ahead and draw her one, complete with bubbles and candles on the ledge.  
Put her book in the bathroom and move the old boom-box into the bathroom with nice
music (put a nice scarf or cloth over it to “hide” it from view – those things are UGLY!).  If
he has a favorite dinner, make it for him and have a candlelight dinner.  Feeding each
other’s needs is a great way to restore intimacy even when things aren’t “working right” in
the bedroom.  Preparation is key.

Rule #7: Thou shalt engage in thy fantasies.

Here’s a favorite.  Write it down.  Write a story based on your favorite fantasy and sneak it
to your partner.  Play an erotic game to help with rushed foreplay.  Don’t have money to
spend on a “real” game?  Invest in some scraps of paper and draw ideas out of a hat.  
Grab a timer from a board game and go to it or use a kitchen timer and a set of dice to roll
for the number of minutes.  Have fun with it!  That’s what this used to be, remember?  
Fun?  Get back to enjoying your sex life.

Rule #8: Thou shalt laugh.

Okay, sometimes sex accidentally becomes funny.  While your wild days of falling off the
bed might be over, chances are there are still opportunities for embarrassment or
laughter.  Go ahead and laugh a little.  Giggle when your kid knocks on the door.  Laugh
when your mother calls in the middle of business and you got caught.  Burst into hysterics
when the dog licks your butt.  It’s okay to laugh and the PTSD world is low on giggles
anyway.  Get your smiles in anywhere you can.

Rule #9: Thou shalt try something new.

This sometimes helps fuel rule #8.  Go ahead and try something new.  Be open to a new
experience.  It might seem a bit embarrassing but go to your local adult store and pick up
some fun new toys like body lotions for massage or something more intense if you’d
prefer.  Find things around the house you can use in the bedroom such as ice, warm
liquids (not hot – those parts of the body burn easily), soft or hard.  Experts call this
“sensation play” when you experiment with how things feel.  A nice romantic one?  Try
using a rose on Valentine’s Day to touch your loved one instead of your fingers.  They’ll
love you for LIFE.

Rule # 10: Thou shalt be flexible.

Not literally….although that’s good too.    Like everything else in the PTSD world, roll with
the punches.  Nothing in this world is truly predictable so the best thing you can do is to
just fall in with what fate has in store for you.  

Use these rules to help you open a discussion or use them to help your relationship without
discussing them with your partner.  Guys, beware of rules 7 and 9 if you haven’t discussed
this with her in advance (trust me).  Above all else, follow rule 1 and take the time to be
together.  Sex might not improve right away but cueing into each other again will only help
it to improve over time.

This article was written by our own Heather Hummert, the wife of an OIF Veteran & Purple
Heart Recipient.  If you would like to contact Heather directly, you can e-mail her at
Heather -at- or

If you would like to help us build this site and reach out to other Veterans, their spouses,
and children, please e-mail us at Info -at- or

Don't miss these other articles about PTSD & Intimacy:

Rules of Engagement
Advice for Husbands
Advice for Wives
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