Whether this is the first time or the 20th time that your spouse has been called to active duty, relationships change when a spouse serves away from home. Luckily, there are ways to ensure you keep in touch and maintain a strong relationship with your partner. Here are some ways to nurture your love through deployment:
- Talk about your upcoming separation. Set aside some quiet time to talk about your feelings and plan how each of you will manage during your time apart. If you have children, get a sitter and spend a few hours alone with your spouse in honest, open conversation. Don’t ignore or dismiss your feelings. Be sure to discuss how you’ll handle emergencies, parenting issues and finances. Identify people you can connect with for support.
- Discuss how you will stay in touch. Explore options, such as email, phone calls, video-chat and regular mail. Talk about which forms of communication make you feel closest and which options are most easily accessible.
- Establish mutual trust. Trust is important in relationships, but it’s even more crucial when you’re dealing with a separation or deployment. Practice open and honest communication. Even during difficult conversations, mutual respect is essential.
- Keep busy and stay active. The more fulfilled you feel, the better you will handle separations and difficult times. Participate in social outings and clubs. Connect with other military spouses. If you have children, keep them occupied and on track.
- Share daily happenings from home. Hearing about your life (even the everyday routine) will help your deployed spouse feel closer to you. Talk about what your children say, what your pet did, the unusual dinner you prepared. Details and descriptions will make these conversations more than just small talk.
- Learn about your spouse’s job and other interests. Learn what your spouse’s daily life is like to help you better understand his or her experiences while you are apart. Though your deployed spouse may not be able to share some aspects of the job, you can talk about other activities that keep him or her occupied.
- Send care packages. It may sound old fashioned, but sending a care package never goes out of style. Care packages deliver a little piece of home to your deployed spouse. Be creative. Include treats, funny notes, personal coupons (for when your partner returns) and items that have special meaning for both of you.
- Record your thoughts in a journal to share with your spouse. You may want to keep an online journal with pictures your spouse can access over the internet. This is a great way to nurture your love while keeping your spouse up-to-date on life at home. Just be sure the journal is private, since you don’t want your life’s details available to the public.
- Share songs that remind you of your spouse. Listening to songs that bring back happy memories keeps you connected and helps nurture your relationship.
- Be realistic about communication. Keep in mind that your deployed spouse may be in an area with limited mail or email service or cannot respond right away. Remember, sporadic communication doesn’t mean your spouse doesn’t care. Trust that your partner will connect with you as soon as he or she can.
If the stress of your partner being gone starts to feel like more than you can handle, lean on someone. Talk with a close friend, family member or counselor and don’t be afraid to ask for help with your responsibilities. Remember that a solid plan, a healthy dose of mutual trust, and communication can help you and your spouse through anything.