When you are dating a sailor, soldier, Marine, airman or Coastie you know your military man (or woman!) will be facing peril when they deploy. But do you know that this is a perilous time in your relationship too?
Some couples go through a deployment and stick together. Others choose to go in very different directions. It’s best to know all of the facts before you decide if deployment will be your breaking point.
Six months last longer than you think.
Most deployments last at least six months. Sure, you say, this is only half of a year. But think of the things that can occur in that half-year.
You may receive a promotion and/ or an opportunity to relocate for work. You may become involved with a new club or social network. You may build a strong relationship with a new friend. You may win an award or run in a marathon.
You have to ask yourself if you are willing to go through these personal milestones on your own, or if you’d rather have someone physically there to share them with you.
You need to have The Talk.
Before the deployment begins, the two of you need to sit down and discuss your future -- even if your relationship has just begun. It is only fair to both you and your military partner that each of you know where the other one stands.
You may believe you’ve met “the one” but you may end up being just “one of many” to him or her. You need to consider whether or not the two of you will remain exclusive or if you agree to date other people.
You should also consider whether or not you are willing to wait for this person, or if you are able to get to know him through long-distance communication.
Push the hold button.
Maybe you should consider putting the relationship on hold. Many new couples make the decision to live their individual lives apart from the one another while the military member is on a deployment.
This gives both parties the freedom to meet new people and experience new events without any remorse or responsibility to the other person. This also allows the civilian girlfriend to really evaluate whether or not she wants to commit herself to the military lifestyle.
You may even decide to casually keep in touch and potentially re-evaluate the status of the relationship upon the military member’s return.
How much communcation and how often?
You should mutually agree how often you will communicate, and which modes of contact you will employ. You may be more comfortable sending e-mails since you are on opposite sides of the world and, therefore, have completely different waking hours.
You may want to hear each other’s voices once a week simply to know the other person is okay. This is all based on your personal preference, but it is important to share so that lack of preferred communication doesn’t impede upon your budding romance.
You may need to renegotiate this as your service member finds out exactly what kind of communication is available. Just because couples in commercials have all the Skype they want doesn’t mean that will be available to your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Get to know the other spouses and significant others.
Many of these military spouses have been sitting right where you are and will be a wealth of knowledge in your journey through deployment.
If you decide yours is a relationship worth pursuing, it is important that you gather information from others who have already learned from their own deployment mistakes. They will also serve as an excellent sounding board and support system when you are stressed out, sad or in desperate need of a girls’ night out!
What happens if you meet someone else?
You need to prepare yourself for the possibility that one, or both of you, may meet someone else during this separation.
You need to establish your boundaries prior to his leaving. You may feel most comfortable agreeing to break up before dating anyone else, or you may simply agree to share it with one another if you happen to meet someone else you are interested in dating.
It’s time for homecoming, now what?
Your life will not stop while your sweetheart is on deployment, and neither will his. You need to determine what life together will be like once he returns. Will you pick up right where you left off? Will he be required to court you once again? Or, are you ready for the next step? Maybe, after it all, you decide you can’t handle the military lifestyle.
Whatever you decide about the future of your relationship, communication is key. Hurt feelings and broken hearts stem from deception and unaligned expectations. Be honest with your partner and insist on the same in return.
Mutual openness, truthfulness and cooperation with one another may help you avoid turning a deployment into the breaking point.
Ashley Adamek is a Navy wife who resides in Norfolk, Virginia with her husband and their two very rambunctious dogs. She is a freelance writer, English teacher and blogger.
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