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Bulletproofing Your Military Marriage – The Separation Factor

Wow, it’s good to be home.

Yes it was wonderful to see my sister and brother-in-law and my 3 nephews (family really shouldn’t live so far away – just saying). Yes it was great to reconnect with many fellow military spouses at the AUSA convention and I LOVED “storming the hill” and meeting with my congressman and senators on the issue of dependent access to behavioral/mental health care. But truth be told I missed my soldier.

Sure it was “only 10 days” but when trainings, deployments and all things military often cause us to be away from each other it seemed like a very long time. As a military couple we are forced to be separated from our spouses and one of the hardest things that we face is being apart, especially when it’s for a lot longer than 10 days.

Our kids grow, our spouses must cope with the effects of combat and we work to become stronger and more resilient as we try to adjust to life without them by our side. You both have different experiences, expectations and stressors that you deal with while you are apart, and by necessity you will become different people during that time. Sometimes you can hardly tell the difference but there are times when these changes leave us feeling as if we are sleeping next to a stranger.

One particular separation was just like that for me.  We had an incredible mid-tour leave very late in the deployment.  Both of us thought that this would be best not only for my husband’s troops, but for each other as well. How wrong I was.  Those last 7 weeks were hell. I literally fell apart emotionally and he had a difficult time getting his head back in the game. But instead of communicating our feelings and how difficult everything was we both retreated into our own misery.  Our conversations were short and infrequent, and by the time he came home we were both a mess and communication was tough.

It didn’t matter that we had been married for longer than some of his troops had been alive, the deployment hit us hard.  The fact that we didn’t share our lives during those two months created a huge void in our relationship and we needed some outside help to help us reconnect.  So I did what they tell you to do at the first sign of trouble, I got us some help.

People actually thought I was crazy.  We weren’t fighting, we weren’t mad but we weren’t really talking either and it just felt wrong.  It was like chatting with a stranger rather than my husband and I didn’t know what to do. So I did what I tell everyone else to do, I sought some help before it could get any worse.  It only took a few sessions to bridge the gap, and I learned very quickly what we did “wrong”. We stopped sharing our lives to protect each other from the pain of missing one another.

And that the best thing any couple can do to prevent a re-deployment disaster is to keep the lines of communication open and share your everyday lives regularly when you are apart.  Having firsthand knowledge of each other’s day to day activities helps you both stay connected, builds trust and prevents you from growing too far apart.

Many of you are probably sitting there thinking that you don’t want to know all the details of what your spouse is dealing with when they are deployed to a war zone, and trust me neither did I.  However I feel so much better when my husband shares with me things like what he’s had for dinner, what the landscape around his barracks looks like, what he does during his down time, or whether or not he beat Johnny in a game of spades. It makes me feel like I’m still an important part of his life and I never want to take that for granted again.

Acknowledging that when he is away that we both are actually living separate lives was a hard pill to swallow.  However when we recognized this and then made a conscious effort to keep each other in the loop, re-connecting became so much easier. By making the time to share our life as much as possible, we are able to do a better job at keeping the lines of communication open which builds trust and ultimately keeps our marriages strong.

Not sure how to share your life in a way that won’t stress your service member out before a mission? Tell them what the kids are up to; share the funny story that happened with your in-laws.  Find ways to laugh together and share experiences so that you grow together through the separation rather than grow apart because of it.

You will be surprised how much the little things, like the fact that the dog ate your socks, does more for your relationship than just clueing them in on what the dog is up too.  Sharing the simple things keeps your relationship as the focal point of your life and that’s what a strong marriage is all about.

 

~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up  and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com

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