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How To Keep a Relationship Strong During Deployment

How To Keep a Relationship Strong During Deployment

Military couples know that the call of duty can interrupt their lives together at a moment’s notice. But when it happens, partners must face the fear and uncertainty that can accompany active military service.

The chief concern is, of course, the fear of saying goodbye forever. Service members and their partners learn to contain those fears and get on with the reality of the situation as the person called away attends to practical details. Packing, transportation, and making financial arrangements for the partner remaining at home all take precedence in the immediate wake of orders.

But once the moment of departure comes, couples begin to think about how to keep a relationship strong during deployment. These tips can help.

Talk About Trust

After the fear of losing a partner, the next major fear is that of infidelity. Before your military partner deploys, sit down together at a quiet time (if you have kids, send them to Grandma’s house or get a sitter to take them for an ice cream) and have an honest conversation about your fears.

Long separations are hard on both partners, and deployments can be especially lonely. On the other hand, deploying to a place and culture that is completely new can be an eye-opening and exciting experience. Open up to each other about your fears, and talk to each other about trust and what your relationship means to you.

Expectations of devotion are complicated for unmarried couples. Each of you might have times when you think, “We’re not hitched, so what’s the harm?”

For married couples, the stakes are very high. You promised to love and honor your partner, and whatever vows you used for your wedding, they almost certainly involved a promise to remain faithful. Talk to each other about how you expect to handle temptation if it arises.

Plan the Practical Aspects

Wills, living trusts, and financial arrangements should be in good order before deployment. If the worst should happen, arrangements for the remaining partner will be in place.

As for finances, it’s important to commit to an agreed upon budget, including keeping up with savings and paying bills. The deployed partner deserves to come home to a stable financial situation, and the partner staying home has a responsibility to look out for the financial well-being of the couple just as they would if the service member were at home. Squandering shared resources as a way to assuage loneliness will damage the relationship and erode trust in the commitment you have to one another.

If you’ve been together for a while and are confident about your commitment, it might be time to discuss getting married. Military spouses are eligible for specific benefits.

When there’s no time to plan a wedding, military proxy marriage is an option. The state of Montana allows military couples to marry even if neither of them can be physically present. So, if you don’t get it done before deployment sends your partner, or both of you, far overseas, you can still get married while undertaking duties. When your partner returns, you can have the big dream wedding and reception you may have dreamed of, but in the meantime, you both will have the security of knowing your spouse is covered by benefits.

Identify Your Support Network

Soldiers, sailors, and aviators have the built-in network of support from their unit. Relationships between comrades in arms are strong and essential: these are the people who could end up saving each other’s lives. It’s important to respect the importance of those relationships.

For the partner at home, connecting with other people in the same situation can bolster confidence, ease worries, and serve as an outlet for feelings of frustration, loneliness, or even anger. It’s normal to experience angry feelings about deployments—why my partner? Why now? Talking to others who’ve been through it can help.

Be Realistic About Communication

Even if you’ve set up a regular schedule of video calls, texts, or emails, deployments can involve delays and disconnects. Internet and phone service can be spotty in other areas of the world, or your service member may be incommunicado for their own safety or the safety of their mission. Try not to fret about it, and expect to hear from your service member when they are able to reconnect.

Build Confidence In Independence

For the partner remaining at home, pursuing activities of interest is an important and healthy way to get through a deployment. It’s OK to join a pickleball team or a book club, and to enjoy activities that distract and entertain.

Being on your own during a service member’s deployment imposes new responsibilities where you and your partner may have made decisions together before. But when your partner isn’t available to chime in on what to make for dinner, what color to paint the bedroom, or what to give your 12-year-old for their birthday, you’ll have to do it yourself. Embrace your new responsibilities and forge ahead.

Be aware that the experience of deployment will change you both. It goes much deeper than a new hairstyle. You’ll have an adjustment period when the service member gets home. As long as you expect to have to get to know each other again, becoming reacquainted can be a delightful experience that deepens your commitment to each other.

Make a Playlist

Put together a shareable playlist on your music streaming service. Add songs you know your partner loves, along with several of your favorites. Include “your” song and some new tunes you think your partner might like.

Write Letters

Sappy movie scenes aside, receiving a hand-written letter is still a thing, a big thing, for deployed service members. When your video call is over, they can go back and re-read the letters you’ve sent. Include details of daily life as it is for you now.

Letter writing can be a cathartic activity for the deployed partner, too. Writing down how they’re feeling, the dangers they face, and the funny things that their buddies do to pass the time can help a deployed service member feel closer to their partner. It’s a one-sided conversation that can be made compete when the home-based partner sends a reply, responding to the letter’s content, and adding details about life at home at the same time.

Send Care Packages

Like letters, care packages are always welcome. Include practical things, like fresh socks and underwear, personal hygiene products, and books or magazines.

Pack photos of your kids, pets, and yourself to cheer up your deployed partner. Decks of cards or other small games, art supplies, a sewing kit for clothing repairs, hats, sunglasses, lip balm, baby powder, candy, gum, and scents that can remind your partner of home might also be welcome. You know your partner best, so include things you know they’ll appreciate.

Sustaining a strong relationship during deployment is a challenge for both partners, but it can be done. Good luck to you both until (and after) your soldier comes home.

How To Keep a Relationship Strong During Deployment

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