Deployment. One of the most dreaded words in our community. Although many service members are ready (sometimes even excited) to put their hard work and experience to use by deploying, leaving the comforts of home and family is never easy. As the spouse who is staying home, although we know it is their job and that we will get through it, there can be challenges as well.
One of the biggest challenges during deployment for those service members who are married can be keeping the relationship with their husband or wife strong through not only the separation, but the stressors of reintegration.
During deployment we have to get creative in how we support our spouse in order to work around the potential for strain that the separation can cause in our marriages. There are things we have learned to do during these times that can actually strengthen the marriage bond, even during reintegration after homecoming.
Of course, like everything in life, no two marriages are the same and what might work for one may not be a good fit for the next. But here are 7 deployment habits that CAN strengthen your marriage. What would you add to this list?
1. Care Packages
Take the time to go to the store, think of all the things your spouse loves or might need, figure out how to put it all into a Priority Mail box, and add a few personal touches that remind them of home. Putting together a care package for your spouse is a great exercise, even when you are back together again.
Life can get in the way when we are back to our “normal” lives. Taking a few minutes to focus on thinking of your spouse, even if it is just with a small token or gift (and actually being able to physically hand it to them in person) has the same effect as it does during deployment. Let your spouse know you are thinking of them…even when you see them every day.
A deployment can be a time for spouses to embark on a self-improvement project as a way to pass the time or focus on the positive in life. But why stop those efforts when your service member returns home?
When you improve yourself (getting fit, losing weight, learning a new skill) you are bringing your best self into the marriage. It can be fun to combine your efforts and decide to improve yourselves as a couple as well. But even if you can’t find a project to complete together, investing in the best possible YOU is healthy for your marriage.
When service members are gone, many times spouses will get together with other spouses to blow off steam, connect, laugh, or just have an excuse to hire a babysitter for the night and have adult conversations.
Call them Girls Night Out or Guys Night Out, there is no reason to stop participating after homecoming. It’s healthy for both you and your spouse to spend time with friends. Date nights are important, but so are times when you are laughing and talking with friends.
Sometimes, spending every possible waking moment together after a reintegration can put strain on your marriage. How much time to spend apart greatly varies by couple, but even having coffee with a friend for an hour can be a positive thing. That whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing still applies when they are home.
4. Write letters
Sometimes it’s just easier to get your point across when you write it. When we sit down and write thoughts on paper (or even through email or text) we may take more time to form our thoughts or re-read it before passing it along. If you are having trouble with communication, taking a few minutes to write to your spouse may pave the way to more effective conversations.
But even if you are not having issues, it feels great to get a written note or a sweet text from your spouse, no matter if it is during deployment or after they are home.
5. Romanticize Your Partner
There is something about being apart that makes us kind of forget all of those things that may drive us crazy about our spouse. When you haven’t been together for months the brain just focuses on all of the wonderful things about that person.
Although sometimes impossible (it’s really hard to just block out snoring) and while never healthy to ignore abuse of any kind, glossing over your spouse’s faults from time to time can be healthy. Someone once said, “You can either be happy, or right.” After spending so much time apart, being happy certainly sounds like the better option! At the end of the day leaving clothes on the floor or singing too loudly in the shower are not things worth being unhappy over.
When reunited after a deployment, sex can mean different things for different people. For some it can be a flurry of sexual energy and longing for one another, while another couple may have a harder time reconnecting and have to work a little harder to be patient with each other.
Either way, bringing back “Homecoming Sex” can be a powerful way to re-connect with your spouse after they have been back for a while. Pick out a new outfit, send each other sexy messages for a few days, plan a rendezvous, and take a few minutes to connect like you haven’t seen each other in months.
7. Hold Back Information
Remember that this won’t apply to all marriages, but some people thrive during deployment by only sharing the positive things about their lives. When a service member calls home, they may not divulge details of a fire-fight to their spouse. Likewise the spouse may choose not disclose that the washing machine exploded and the kids have the stomach flu.
Sometimes when back together we can be so wrapped up in them finally being home to talk to, that we can overshare and overwhelm our spouse. Not every detail of life always has to be shared, and while lying to your partner is not usually the best way to go, occasionally calling a friend to vent that the kids are driving you nuts or that work is stressing you out, instead of venting to your spouse, can leave more room in your marriage to focus on all of the other things listed above!
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Photo credits: Flickr users Robin Shotola, Nathan Rupert, Liz West, Poldberg, Adam Koford, CDSavoia, Pablo