Making a long distance relationship work is hard enough under normal circumstances but added to the stress of military life it can seem completely undoable. But with the right outlook and two committed parties, your relationship can survive.
As part of my Paltalk.com show, I sat down at Fort Hood with six soldiers to discuss the do's and don'ts of sustaining a relationship apart. Here are some of the common themes that emerged from those who've endured long deployments a time or two:
1. Communicate often: When your loved one is overseas be sure to send emails, letters and care packages. And beyond that, use technology to your advantage. Nowadays, there are web cams that many soldiers use to see their partner and to get the feeling like they are in the same room with that special someone. A Soldier's wife told me she likes to perform sexy dances for her husband -- and he nodded his definite approval! The possibilities are endless (even more so if you can get a little privacy, of course). And speaking of privacy, that's probably easier to come by for the spouse at home. Also a spouse should try to remember that accessibility to the telephone or computer can be limited to those deployed. Don't get frustrated. The effort is what counts to those in the field. Being unconditionally supportive and letting your warfighter know you're there goes a long way toward keeping the fires burning. And warfighters, we know you're busy, but you need to make an effort here too.
2. Keep busy: The days will seem much longer without your spouse. Boredom can be dangerous. Make good choices from the outset. Take advantage of the extra time and spend it with friends and family. If that is not for you, take up a new hobby like exercising or finish forgotten tasks like redecorating the living room. Or get involved at your local base -- a place to meet all kinds of spouses who share your situation and can relate to what you're feeling.
3. Share Your Feelings: We all want to protect the ones we love, but you also need to be truthful with your significant other. If you are having a hard time with being apart, tell them. It is unfair to both you and your partner to not be open about how you're feeling, and the ability to be honest is an important element of trust. And without trust the relationship could go south very quickly. Which leads to the next point . . .
4. Trust each other: If you cannot trust your partner to have a night on the town without you, then your relationship is on rocky ground already. Trust is the foundation healthy relationships are built on. With trust, a relationship can thrive under any circumstances. Without it, it's -- sorry to say -- doomed.
5. Enjoy the time together: Before your warfighter is about to be deployed or during his or her leave, do your best to live in the moment. Enjoy the time together without dwelling on the impending separation any more than you have to. Make memories with special events -- candlelight dinners, private picnics, or a trip to your favorite getaway spot. Those memories will be the stuff that gets you through the lonely times during the separation.
Military life in times of high op-tempo isn't easy, and the anxiety surrounding deployments to hostile areas makes it even harder. But with the right approach relationships can emerge stronger for the separation. And just think about how awesome the reunion will be!
Before I sign off from this, let me just say that I'm happy for this opportunity to reach the Military.com audience. Each week I hope to address the issues surrounding relationships and the love lives of the military that matter to you . . . so let me hear from you