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Intimacy Issues Threaten Marriage during Deployment

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am an Air Force wife of almost 10 years. My husband left for his third deployment in January. We had some intimacy issues before he left, but outside of that we have a great friendship, partnership and parenting team relationship. We have two children, a 12-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl.

The month before he left, I graduated from nursing school and started my first nursing job. Things have gone by fast this deployment and really have been pretty smooth sailing between us as far as not fighting, etc.

About three weeks ago, I got an email from my husband asking how I felt about us. He said he was scared about our future because of our lack of connection and intimacy. He said that normally he would feel like it was something that could be fixed, but he just didn't know now if that was possible. He said he doesn't want to lose his children or family. He also said that he loves me dearly, that not an ounce of love has been lost between us, that he cares about us, but he is scared.

Of course, this started an emotional roller coaster that I have been on ever since. I have asked him if he wants a divorce or separation, and he says no. I asked if he is just saying that until he gets home and then will come out with it, and he said no, that he wouldn't do that to me. He also said that he wants to grow old with me and hasn't ever imagined his life any other way.

A few days later, however, we got into another emotional conversation, and he told me that he loves me but he isn't in love with me. He said we lost each other years ago and that I probably would have left him long before if we didn't have children together.

I again asked if he wanted a divorce. He said he didn't want to lose his family and was looking at the big picture. I asked him if he wanted me to leave, and he said I want you to do what makes you happy.

I have been in a downward spiral. I have reached out to family and our chaplain. I told my husband that I was not going anywhere and would be right here when he comes home. Since I told him that, things have been alright, but it's like we're walking on eggshells. I think of what he has said, and it stabs my heart all the time.

He skirts the issue when I ask questions, and now I am to the point that I am afraid to even ask anything about us. I won't beg him to stay with me, but I feel like he needs to let me know if he is willing to work on things or not. He has a little over two months left in this deployment.

I struggle every day with my emotions and what to do. Do you have any advice for me?

-- Distressed Wife

Dear Distressed Wife,

I understand this is tough. Deployments are tough, too, and you have experienced three of them. Perhaps your marriage has never really recovered from the previous deployments. You and your husband continued to move forward until you hit the next bump in the road.

First, I would say for the next few months of his deployments don't discuss tough subjects about your marriage. It's too much to try and tackle with the distance. Continue to be supportive to each other during this time.

Right now, there's just not much else you can do. There's no reason for you to leave or file for a separation or divorce now. Too many things are unclear. You are doing right to reach out to family and your chaplain for support. I would definitely encourage you to continue doing that. I know this is wearing you down because you feel that your future is in limbo.

Your husband says he loves you and he wants to grow old with you. Honestly, people stay married to each other for a lifetime with less. So he says he's not in love with you; he can get those feelings back if he tries. It's important that you not let this affect your self-esteem and don't fall into the arms of another man to make you feel desirable, either.

When your husband returns, I would definitely recommend marriage therapy with someone who specializes in dealing with relationships in crisis. Even now, you can start individual counseling to gain insight and support.

Check on base for the availability of services. If none are available, you can contact Military OneSource and they will connect you with a therapist in your area. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how everything is going when your husband returns.

And congratulations on your recent graduation from nursing school! What a great accomplishment!

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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