Shellie guest posts for Mom It Forward today. She is a military wife and mom of three boys living in sunny Florida. She also is an avid scrap-booker, preparing to fully launch her online store Memories Of Distinction for custom memory books and cards. She blogs at Blog 4 Mom where she shares her favorite recipes, offers up product reviews and giveaways, and writes about military life. She also can be found guest blogging on the SeaWorld Dolphin Bubbles site.
Deployments Are Never Completely Easy
Communication, romance, little touches of flirtations here and there, smiles, holding hands, cuddling, and little looks that say I'm thinking about you are all important things to keep a relationship not only alive, but thriving. What do you do when you can't have that? Military couples face particular difficulty when their partners, themselves, or even both are deployed overseas for extended periods of time. I am not talking weeks or months here. I am talking years.
For some relationships, especially the newer ones, this transition is particularly difficult and even painful. A person goes through a lot during the course of a year, or even 6 months. New interests, new jobs, maturing, new schedules, and one's ever-growing independence. When your significant other is gone for months, let alone years, it is difficult for both of you to mesh your now very different perspectives, interests, and even work and school into this relationship that has basically been put on hold for a very long time.
You may say that with today's technologies communication should be easy through that time, but it's not. Granted it is much easier than it was for earlier vets, but just because you can send emails, IMs, and even the occasional web-cam session, it is difficult to keep the romance alive.
Your decision to marry was not a one-time matter, but is something that needs to be reaffirmed daily, weekly, monthly and annually. This includes the time that is spent apart due to deployments, and can often be more important than when living under the same roof. Make a game plan for staying connected, and try to do the best you can for your family. Sneak a small scrapbook, or photo “brag” book into his deployment bags. This goes a long way to lifting the spirits when he is so far away. Write often, even about the mundane and boring things. Start right away, so there is nothing forgotten, this helps him feel he is still a part of the family’s daily life, even from round the world. Don’t be afraid to complain (he wants to hear the truth and what is real, not sugar and spice) but let him know you are OK, and begin and end every time you get to talk with I LOVE YOU.
When both spouses firmly believe that marriage is a life-long commitment and they work together to strengthen that commitment, their chances of surviving even the most difficult challenges posed by military life are significantly enhanced.
Military deployments are planned in stages, and reflecting on each phase can better prepare you for the anxiety that will be introduced into the relationship. Deployments consist of the following stages in one form or another: Pre-deployment, deployment, and redeployment. It behooves us as spouses to be familiar with these phases and the emotional turmoil each can bring. A plan that mirrors each stage of the deployment may help to make the deployment more manageable.
Speak about expectations... During pre-deployment don't let shock and separation anxiety let you say things you don't mean. Discuss decision making, parenting issues, and expectations for communicating during the separation. Make a budgeting plan, update insurance forms, power of attorney documents, etc.
Demonstrate your strength... It is important to take good care of yourself so that you can manage the stress during the deployment. Taking care of yourself actually eases your service member's mind so send a note demonstrating your strength and commitment to each other.
Express your love...Stock up on favorite foods and the comforts of home. This is a time to enjoy each other, re-kindle, and reconnect. Focus on why you initially fell in love with your spouse and don't forget to express it.
Tackle what's next...During the post-deployment phase try not to get caught up in unrealistic or unexpressed expectations as you get back into a new routine. Appreciate what is going well, and be willing to comfort each other and make compromises when needed as you go forward. Remind yourself not to look back, or worry about going forward just enjoy each other in the moment!