Is My Sailor Avoiding Me or Is It the Deployment?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband is currently in the work-up cycle and preparing to deploy. I initially attributed his increased irritability, lack of communication, lack of intimacy and depression to stress. However, things have gotten worse, and I am becoming increasingly concerned.

While he was on detachment a couple of months ago, I barely heard a word from him. Granted, he was incredibly busy, but even on weekends I would call or text and he would tell me that he couldn't talk because he was out drinking or partying.

Since he has returned, he has made excuses not to spend time with me. He is irritable, distant and mean. Almost every day he has off, he has made plans with his buddies. When I make plans to do things together, he won't commit and usually ends up canceling on me and finding something to do with his friends.

I've openly expressed that I feel like he is pulling away. He just gets defensive and says that I am being overly emotional and that he has "an obligation" to be an active and fun member of his squadron.

My husband is a very kind, gentle and sensitive person. He has always been a good listener and an optimistic, fun and humorous individual. Lately, I find it hard to use any of these words to describe him.

I understand that he might be pulling away from me due to the upcoming deployment. However, that is months away, and I don't know if I can deal with the distance for that long. This is our first deployment.

I suggested a program that is offered by our Fleet and Family Center related to couples communication, but he absolutely refuses. He says we don't have any problems. 

I am at a loss at this point. I don't know what to do to make things any better. I know we will make it through this, but I'd like any advice on how I can make this transition easier on both of us.

-- Lost Wife

Dear Lost Wife

You are smart to recognize that preparing for deployment can cause stress and anxiety and affect a relationship. You are also correct in stating that many couples may unknowingly start to pull away from each other emotionally, thinking it will make it easier when they leave.

Communication between couples can get worse and emotional distance can increase, causing a lack of intimacy. While this may occur, it is not good.

This is especially not good in your marriage because it is your first deployment. What should be happening in your marriage is the reverse. Read more about that here.

Your husband's actions are adding fuel to the fire. He's hanging out with friends all night and becoming more distant from you. He is even becoming defensive with a more aggressive tone.

I suggest that you become more active with the support group for spouses. You will need the additional support from friends and other spouses while he is away.

From your report, you have been trying at all costs to get his attention and talk to him, but nothing appears to be working. I would just back off and stop talking to him about this issue. He's not getting it.

Instead, I suggest that you attend the communication classes offered at Fleet & Family Services anyway. It will be very helpful to you. There will be someone for you to pair up with for any exercises.

I would also recommend that you speak to a therapist who can help provide support and other strategies to help you deal with your husband's current behavior because this is very stressful for you. I hope I was helpful in some way.

Keep in touch with me, and let me know how you are doing.

-- Ms. Vicki

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