Are You A Military Couple?

Being a military couple comes with its own unique challenges and sacrifices. You may have to go days, weeks, or months without seeing each other and/or be separated from your closest friends and family. You may also find it hard to stay emotionally connected with each other. Additionally, when one of you returns from deployment, re-integration back into your day-to-day life and routine can be challenging and can be made more difficult by the onset of mental health issues that arose from service.

These issues often create the following cycles:

Day-to-Day Problems

If only one of you is in the military or if you are in two different positions within the military, you may feel hurt when your partner cannot talk about all aspects of his/her job or feel alone when your partner needs to work long hours. If you are the only member of the couple in the military, you may feel guilty that your work takes you away from your family or upset that your partner does not understand the sacrifices you make.

Issues Around Deployment

Deployment can make it hard on both members of the couple to feel connected. Different time zones can make it hard to talk or responsibilities can lead to going days without talking. After deployment, it can be really hard for the person who just returned to feel like a contributing member of the family. He/she may feel isolated from the other partner or could be suffering from mental health concerns as a result of deployment. The partner who was not deployed may want to help, but not know how or could feel confused about having gotten used to a new routine while their partner was away.

 

Cycle 1: Day-to-Day Problems

Tips for the Military Member Partner:

 “I hate how my partner doesn’t understand my job”

Sometimes, you might get really frustrated with your partner for not understanding the nature of your work or you may feel guilty that your work gets in the way of the relationship.

  1. Communicate. Have a conversation with your partner to tell him/her why being in the military is important to you and why you don’t want it to affect your relationship negatively. Ask your partner to share his/her feelings too.
  2. Strengthen Your Relationship. Even if you are busy or cannot be open about your work, there are other ways to feel connected with your partner. Decide to prioritize date nights every once in a while or plan to do something fun together at least once a week such as doing a physical activity, cooking together, playing a game, or watching TV.
  3. Rely On Support Systems. Often being in the military can mean living away from friends and family. Recognize that this may be difficult for your partner who moved to support your line of work. Together, try to identify a few people who live close by who you can rely on for support and/or prioritize calling both of your and your partner’s friends and family members more regularly so that you both feel supported.

Tips for the Non-Military Member Partner:

 “Why does my partner leave me out?”

If your partner cannot open up about his/her job or is gone frequently due to long hours, you may feel left behind and alone.

  1. Know Your Emotions. Sometimes, being the non-military member can be filled with loneliness. Be vulnerable with your partner about how this is hard. Try to better understand why you are feeling the way you are and how it impacts your and your partner’s perspectives. Remember, sharing your hidden emotions can make your partner less likely to be defensive and more likely for the conversation to go smoother.
  1. Rely On Support Systems. Because you are in a military couple, you may be living away from your closest support systems such as family and friends. With your partner’s long hours and possible frequent deployments, this can make you feel isolated from those you love and from a community. Rely on the support of other military spouses who know the challenges you face and when your partner is around, try to integrate those individuals in your lives. As a couple, try to prioritize calling both of your and your partner’s family members and friends so that you can be integrated in their lives and feel more connected as a couple.

 

Cycle 2: Issues Around Deployment

Tips for the Deployed Partner:

“How do I prioritize my relationship and succeed in my job?” Or “I miss my family.” Or “My partner cannot understand what I’ve been through.”

Deployment creates a physical – and often emotional – distance between partners. You may feel distant from your partner during and after your deployment but not know how to make the relationship closer or get the connection back once the deployment ends. Finally, emotional concerns that arose from deployment can make you feel numb or unable to connect to your partner or to your other loved ones.

  1. Remember to Reach Out. Transitioning back home can be challenging. You may be struggling with mental health concerns or emotional problems when you return, which is a very common experience for service members. Consider utilizing the free services at your local Military or VA facilities to help you manage the internal struggles you may be facing. To find locations, click here.

Tips for the Partner Who Not Deployed:

“I miss my partner and fear for his/her safety. I hate not talking as frequently.” Or “How do I help him/her now that we are both home?”

As the person left behind, you may feel lonely, hopeless, scared, or any number of difficult emotions about your partner being away. You may really miss him/her while also feeling resentment that he/she chose work over the family. All of those complex feelings make adjustment after deployment more difficult. Additionally, you may not know what to do if your partner returns home with mental health concerns such as PTSD or depression.

  1. Find Support. To feel connected to your community, make sure to access the many military resources available to you (found here) and rely on other spouses who are also dealing with the hardships of deployment. For tips on reintegration, click here. Remember, adjustment takes a while and that is ok. It may be helpful to make a plan for how you can each contribute to a smooth transition back with set expectations for communication, shared house work, and day-today decision making.

Tips for Both Partners:

  1. Set Expectations For Communication. If your deployment is coming up, set expectations for how communication will look during deployment. Consider writing each other letters and/or emails so you can stay connected despite not being able to talk regularly. Talk to each other about how you can keep the communication positive which will help you feel like home life is stable so you can concentrate on your important dangerous work.
  1. Stay Connected. Since you will be in a Long Distance Relationship, think of things you can do to stay connected despite being far away from each other. Ideas include playing games online, spending quality time together while talking, and strengthening communication. Other ideas include sharing music or listening to a favorite song together, writing letters, or sharing a journal with one another.
  1. Complete a Free, Online Self-Help Program. Consider working on your relationship using our proven, self-help relationship program. Our program is developed by leaders in the fields of couple therapy and pre-marital education and has been shown through extensive research to improve relationships – more than in-person classes and almost as much as marriage counseling. You’ll work with your partner to complete online activities and receive free support from one of our program coaches. Our program is developed by leaders in the fields of couple therapy and pre-marital education. So, you can be confident that it’s the best thing you can do to strengthen your relationship without the hassle and cost of a therapist. Not sure your partner would go for it?  Take a look at these tips for how to introduce the idea. To find out more about our program, go to our home page.

 

Extra Resources:

The suggestions presented here may help you break the cycle you and your partner are struggling with when issues arise due to being a military couple. For more tips and resources, click the following links: