Separations, whether for a couple of days, weeks or months are the often regarded as the least favorite part of military life. Occasionally, they are emotionally confusing, as well.
Before a separation, there are a few things you and your spouse will want to gather. They are discussed in specific detail within Spouse 101 Handbook so don’t hesitate to seek out more information. In brief, you and your spouse should make sure that you have:
-A Power of Attorney
-Access to the family bank accounts
-Access to the Utility Accounts
-Update service members will, life insurance beneficiary and next of kin.
What to Expect:
Work Up Schedule
Most separations occur after a ‘work up’ period, which may mean that your service member spends additional time at work. Typically, the work up will be about as long as the separation, but generally not more than six months. Many spouses want to squeeze in as much time as possible with their partner while at the same time, the military is seemingly requiring more of him or her. This can lead to emotional tension between spouses.
Your spouses’ busy schedule may mean that you are required to be more understanding about limited time, but it also doesn’t mean you have to take a complete back seat. Captain Klobucher, a US Marine notes, ‘I deployed shortly after marriage, and my wife felt lonely, marginalized, and frustrated at my single-minded focus on getting deployed and my new duties. She wondered who I was, this new man who was seemingly uninterested in her the way I had been during our courtship and engagement. I learned to make the marriage a priority, and she learned the passion I had for the service, and because of her strength in refusing to play ‘second fiddle’ I grew to learn how to manage my military obligations in order to put her first.’
‘There is no doubt that the military demands huge time and emotional sacrifices from service members, and by extension their spouses. It may feel like there’s no room for the marriage, but I promise there is. Understanding and consideration for the other are essential–not just from the spouse, but perhaps especially for the service member. Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that.’
You spouse’s communication may be limited during the initial or throughout the entire separation. This may because signals and communication devices are limited on ship or in theatre. It may be that fellow spouses are able to talk to their partners sooner than you; this is not a reflection upon your spouse and your marriage, it may simply mean that your fellow spouse’s service member was able to access communication first.
Inability to Access Signatures
This is where the Power of Attorney is essential. IF you don’t have it, and find yourself in a bind, you will likely have to wait until you have the time to speak with your spouse-and with brief communication, it may be even more difficult to access an electronic signature. Make sure your name is on all bills and bank accounts so you aren’t left in the lurch.
If You Have Children, Confusion About the Absence of Service Member
While it may be difficult emotionally for you, the stress of an absent parent can be even more difficult for children. Expect that they will have questions, fears, and concerns. Try to address all of these before your service member leaves and find ways to reassure them that just because their parent is not phsycially there, it does not mean they are any less loved. Many spouses create games, (such as the countdown game) to make separations go quicker. One family I knew created paper rings in a chain, and every day, the children would remove another ring. When the children could physically see the chain getting shorter, their excitement grew.
The Pain of Not Knowing
Perhaps the pain of not knowing what is going on with your spouse is the most difficult aspect of a separation. This is normal. The best way to deal with this is to find something that will keep you busy: whether it’s working out, volunteering, taking on extra work, or getting involved in Family Readiness Groups or Key Volunteers Network.
What to Accept:
Family Readiness Group
Getting involved in the Family Readiness Group, or at least making yourself available, is great help to accept. During a separation, many FRG’s will have events that help move the time along while building team cohesiveness and fostering friendships. These events may include: care package nights, half way parties and homecoming preparations.
So if you haven’t had communication in a while, that may be your only connection to your spouse. It won’t give operational data and will be from the command. The FRG page will likely carry comments or photographs.
There are myriad debates on how much conversation is TOO much during a deployment. A good rule of thumb; try to determine if what you’re telling your spouse is likely to have a positive effect, OR if you truly believe he or she might have good insight. Concerning your spouse with the every day types of problems might bring added stress to his or her mission.
DID YOU KNOW? Inability to Come Home Early
Unless in the case of an extreme emergency, (and sometimes not even then), your spouse will likely not be sent home. So many certain you have all your paperwork signed and ready to go. Many spouses mistakenly think that if they get into financial trouble, etc, the military will allow their spouse to come home-not so. Familiarize yourself with charities, emergency funds and most of all, make a plan in the event an emergency arises.