One of the greatest stresses on a military marriage is deployment, and when you’re “suddenly military” – ie. active orders are delivered to a Guard or Reserve member for deployment – the potential emotional tsunami can wash out a relationship.
Marriage definitely isn’t easy. The culture we live in today relies on microwave mentalities – if a happy marriage isn’t achieved in the time it takes to pop popcorn, then something is wrong, and it’s time to look for a new one (or avoid it altogether). Military marriages also bring their own unique set of problems – lengthy separations, repeated readjustments and lapses of misunderstanding and mistrust.
Strong marriages are like strong trees, they must start with the basics and be allowed time to grow. That’s why it’s so important to make your marriage a priority before deployment comes knocking at your door so you never take those basic marital values for granted.
Start with commitment. Loving feelings can come and go, but commitment creates a bond that is hard to break. When you both wholeheartedly agree, for better or for worse, to be there for the other no matter what, you are that much stronger to withstand the problems that will come. I have a friend whose husband joined the Navy Reserves after 9/11, several years after they were married. He’s currently on his second deployment to Iraq and she wrestles with the feeling of “this isn’t what I signed up for” as she tries to navigate the suddenly military life with her two young children and running a business. But she’s committed to her marriage and because of that, she will be able to get through the tough emotional flare-ups that will come and go. Deployment, thankfully, does not last forever.
Trust, trust, and more trust. When a couple is separated by time and distance, trust becomes an even greater tool in keeping you close – or splitting you apart. It means giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt – and giving enough of your time, energy and attention so your spouse will never have a reason to doubt. My husband and I also have an “open door” policy on email, and social networking sites when he’s away which means he has access to all of my usernames and passwords and I have access to his. It’s a great way to stay accountable to one another.
Love covers a lot of flaws. It’s amazing but true – the things your spouse did when you were dating that you thought were so cute often are the very same things that can start to drive you crazy the longer you are married! This is why it’s so important to remember why you fell in love in the first place. Every anniversary (we just celebrated our eleventh!) my husband and I make a point to remember what attracted us to each other in the first place and the things we love about each other today. The more we talk about what we’ve been through – the good and the bad – the more we’re reminded of the love we share and the challenges we’ll be able to weather in the future! Remember to keep the size of your love greater than the size of your expectations.
Communicate! Most women love to talk; men – not so much. But communication doesn’t have to mean hours of talking alone. I read an article recently that pointed out that when they’re young, boys develop friendships with other boys by doing things together and after they’ve grown up, those men also want that with their wives. Watching a football game, going to the store or working out in the garage – taking time to do something he wants to do may open opportunities for discussion but more important, a new closeness for your marriage. Of course, deployment prevents a lot of “shoulder to shoulder” time so it’s important to develop these moments when you have them, and figure out creative ways of communicating when he’s away.
The military life can be tough. Marriage can be tough. But keeping your priorities in the right order will go a long way in keeping your marriage strong and able to withstand time, frustration, and even a deployment.