“In my defense…I forgot you were home.”
I’m embarrassed to even admit this, but I actually spoke the above words to my husband during the past year when he asked why I hadn’t called the night before. Out later than intended with my children at an amusement park, it had simply slipped my mind to mention to him how late we’d be. I’ve become so used to setting my own schedule, to doing my own thing, it really hadn’t occurred to me. (I felt terrible, believe me!)
The first married kiss…the first home together…decorating the little rental you could barely afford the security deposit on…those first days together have a special air of excitement. Togetherness—what a wonderful word. You’re no longer alone; the one you love best has chosen to share their life with you.
But wait…you’re a military family. And while most of us don’t imagine that our marriage will become a long distance relationship, for many military families, that’s exactly the reality we end up dealing with!
As evidenced above, the past decade or so has seen as many (or perhaps even more, but who’s counting?) days apart for my husband and I as they have together. Rather than saying woe is me, because really, what does that help, I’ve found that it’s better to come up with a tactic for coping. Because military life will come to a close at some point for us all, and I’d guess that most of still wish to be married when that time is through.
So…how to maintain a marriage across the miles? Here are a few quick tips to stay connected with your spouse, thrive, and not simply survive the constant goodbye of TDY or deployment.
1) Be aware.
Often, there are some ‘fireworks’ in the days preceding a separation. I believe it’s part of the normal process of ‘pulling away’ since your heart knows you’ll be apart again. Still, it can be disheartening to be in the middle of an argument right before your spouse leaves for a few weeks (sheepishly raise your hand if you’ve been there too; yes, I see you). I’m sure psychologists have an explanation for this phenomenon, which I can’t do justice to in this space. Simply being aware and extending some grace to each other during this time will go a long way.
2) Include your spouse in decision making.
Remember, you’re a team! As more days pass apart than together, you may quickly become used to making decisions and just dealing with whatever happens. While independence is a great trait—after all, not many military spouses will survive this life if they don’t learn to be independent—it’s also a double-edged sword. You’re married for a reason. Keep your partner in the loop on decisions big and small, and don’t forget to bounce ideas off them when you can. Let your spouse know they’re still needed and missed.