Every married servicemember who has walked in my clinic in 29 Palms, CA, confessed that being married was way harder than being a US Marine or being deployed.These men often came into counseling because their wife dragged them in. They usually left happy to finally have some answers and direction to make their marriage better.
As a marriage and family therapist, I have witnessed how most guys grow up thinking about what kind of girl they will marry, and they rarely marry anyone that varies too greatly from that dream. However, there may be parts of their dream that they didn’t take time to define, and that may be what they are learning about you.
Distraught by the knowledge of these new characteristics that they don’t remember ordering in their dream girl, they will sometimes be, well… jerks.
Denying that you are a jerk is sometimes necessary if you want to justify acting like a two-year-old who didn’t get exactly what he wanted. As a wife, it isn’t a bad thing to admit that you aren’t 100% perfect or exactly what your husband wanted. Patiently allowing each other to mature is absolutely essential.
Often my message to clients is simply translating the other partner’s message of love, so that partners can see themselves as loveable once again. With that said, I hope you will keep the following list in mind as you relate to your servicemember:
Top 10 Things Military Husbands Want Their Wives to Know:1. Being married is harder than being deployed. 2. We are taught as children how to be good men, but not how to be good husbands. 3. When I’m angry, it isn’t because I hate you, but because these other emotions (like sadness, fear, and anxiety) keep getting in my way, and I’m not sure what to do with them. 4. You are my dream girl, but I know you aren’t perfect either, and that’s OK. 5. Things don’t have to be perfect all at once. Change is slow. Be patient in letting me catch up on how to be in a relationship. 6. I know I’m selfish sometimes, but I don’t like admitting it even to myself. 7. My life is both easier and harder since I got married; and that’s OK. I’m in this for the long run. 8. Sometimes I just need a hug when I look the least hug-able. 9. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough time or energy to invest in both my career and my relationship, but I’m genuinely trying to invest in both. Sometimes I’m confused which to prioritize. 10. Sometimes when you ask me to change something I do, all I can hear is that I’m not good enough as a person.
As a therapist, my job is often to translate what one spouse says to the other. Both partners are often confused by the others’ message, and more often than not, they aren’t exactly sure what they want or need.
Defensiveness often erupts when neither partner can make sense of what the other is communicating. That is when a marriage and family therapist can be helpful in clarifying the message and reinforcing positive messages of hope and love.
I am regularly asked, “Do you see any hope for our marriage?” I have always seen hope and potential. Sometimes I am surprised by how fast change occurs and how deep it goes. Those who appeared the most angry will become the most loving and patient.
Being married is the hardest thing you will ever do, but with the right skills and knowledge, it can also be the most fulfilling.
Dr. Stanley Hall is the author of Deployed: The Survival Guide for Families at War (Familius 2013). He is currently an Assistant Professor of Marriage & Family Therapy at Pfeiffer University’s Graduate School located in Raleigh, North Carolina. An experienced couple and family therapist, Dr. Hall specializes in counseling military families, marriage therapy, and helping victims and offenders of domestic violence. His research interests focus on military families, psychological abuse, and supervising MFTs. For more about Dr. Hall, please visit http://bit.ly/18C51ky