I often feel that in the military community a happy marriage is much like a target waiting to be struck down. It reminds me of an old Army saying which states “If the Army wanted you to have a wife they would have issued one”. And last I knew the issue line at basic training wasn’t exactly handing out wives.
Now don’t get me wrong, the powers that be have been working hard to improve that tired philosophy, but the military requires that they are our service member’s number one priority.
My blood still boils when I think back to the exact conversation we had when I finally understood that being a military family meant that duty will always come first. It was late on a Saturday night and one of my husband’s troops needed help; forget that we were in the middle of family night, forget that we were having a great time; duty called and my husband went running. No apology, no remorse and hardly a goodbye. I don’t know if you have ever “been there," but there is an anger that sets in when we realize that our family isn’t the priority of the military powers that be. It’s in your bones, and it will fester if you aren’t careful.
So what can you do? How can you protect your relationship so it withstands the challenges of military life and keep the love alive? You build a trust in each other that can stand up to anything. Try using these five tips.Trust doesn’t happen overnight; it is built slowly over time through our actions. It isn’t about the words we say or how often we tell our spouse that we love them, trust is earned no matter how long you have been together. When I think about trusting someone, I believe we are actually giving them a piece of ourselves asking them to guard it with care, and I expect that they will do so. Trust is about receiving respect, acceptance and security and we want each of these things given to us in a way that lets us know our spouse enjoys and understands what we are all about.
However, unlike our civilian counterparts, military spouses have to do all of this in a very unique environment. We don’t have the luxury of being together all the time and often when we are in the same place, duty calls. Being able to trust our spouses when they are thousands of miles away and knowing that they still care even when we haven’t heard from them in weeks is all part of it. And you have to work hard at it.
But, trust me, if you can do these five things it will be a lot easier!
Remember Trust grows when love is present, and remember that love is giving, not getting. Show each other that you love one another in frequent and creative ways. Do not forget that no matter how far away you are, you can do something each day to say I love you.
Can’t call send an email? No computer access? Send a letter or card via snail mail. Keep a journal and send it back and forth on a regular basis. Do whatever it takes to let your spouse know that they are on your mind and in your heart, show them that you love them and value not only the relationship but who they are as a person and the trust will follow.
Value your spouse’s opinion and input as much as your own especially in topics such as money, children and extracurricular activities.
Be predictable. Predictability is so important to establishing trust especially when you are worlds apart (don’t worry I didn’t say BORING I said PREDICTABLE there is a BIG difference). The fastest way to have the trust questioned in your marriage is to suddenly do something so out of character that it causes our spouse’s warning bells to go off. I’m not saying don’t change, in fact deployments are the perfect time to try something new, but keep your spouse in the loop and let them know what’s going on with you. If you usually Skype at 7 p.m. each night, don’t go missing for days on end. If you always send an email at the end of the week to keep your spouse in the loop, don’t blow it off. I promise predictability will save you a lot of heartache and make your marriage better when they return if you both have an idea of who and what you are coming back to.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. Body language, tone and expression have a huge impact on whether or not we feel we can trust someone, especially when you are communicating in creative ways. Believe me, being indirect and expecting your spouse to “get what you mean” doesn’t work especially when their minds are on their mission. Be direct, don’t play games or for goodness sake don’t assume they aren’t being trustworthy if they are distracted during your Skype date: remember they are focused on their mission and have a lot on their minds. The best thing you can do is be clear, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Let your spouse know what you need. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has told me that he is not a mind reader. I’m hoping that someday I will actually believe him but until then I have learned that when he’s over “playing” in the sandbox that the idea that he can figure out what I need here on the home front is insane. The best way any military spouse can get the support they need from their spouse is to ask for it loudly, clearly and without all the drama. Your spouse will thank you for that.
Share personal information about yourself, your daily challenges and all your triumphs. It’s important in every relationship that we feel that we are a part of something special and that our ideas and interests matter. One way to do that is to share personal information with one another. When you are apart and you only have a little time, use it to talk about your day to day feelings, triumphs and struggles. By opening up to one another you build a trust and sincerity that will permeate through your relationship in so many ways.One important thing to remember that when having conversations such as this, keeping the confidence of your spouse is vital to building trust especially when they share personal things with you.
Judy Davis, The Direction Diva is a military spouse, motivational speaker, author and blogger (http://thedirectiondiva.com) that inspires military spouses to become stronger and more resilient one moment at a time. Follow her page on Facebook or tweet her at @JDavis55.