Deployments are far from the only times military spouses are away from their service members. There are exercises, training trips, TDYs, and still more trips for other reasons. For me it all averages out to a minimum of 3 months apart each year (and … yeah, I know that is pretty lucky!).
That’s at least a quarter of our marriage that we spend apart. And for the longest time, we spent that quarter of our marriage either walking on egg shells or bickering. Or just plain fighting … we definitely did that too.
So, we spent a quarter of our marriage unhappy, which doesn’t account for the time we spent making up once he came home. After a couple of years of this, we knew we needed a change. He was about to be gone a lot more and we needed to figure out what the heart of the issue was.
When he headed off to Alaska a couple of years ago, I made a commitment to try to understand what my part in the conflict was and what I could change to make our lives better. Here were the biggest takeaways I found:Bringing God into the heart of my attitude and decisions made a big difference in my ability to connect with my husband, no matter where he was.Click To Tweet
I needed to communicate ahead of time.
My husband’s trips tend to vary in how much time and access he has to communicate with me. Often, my feelings were hurt when he didn’t call, text, or email because he had been able to on other trips. I didn’t understand (back then) how different each trip could be. I realized that, rather than me setting unrealistic expectations, I needed him to tell me ahead of time what to expect. When I knew what was coming, my feelings rarely got hurt, and we fought 50 percent less. It was amazing to see how something so simple made such a big difference!
I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.
On other trips, even when I had the right information, things didn’t always go as I expected. Whether it was the military changing plans (as they so love to do) or him getting caught up in work, I realized that I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. He wasn’t trying to blow me off. He wasn’t off doing anything he shouldn’t have been doing. I needed to assume that he was doing his best to talk to me, rather than his worst.
I had to learn about my own needs.
If I’m being honest, I was just generally more cranky during his trips. While I’m sure that was partly due to added stress, I also realized that one of my biggest love languages is physical touch. When my need wasn’t being met in our marriage, it made me cranky, and it even made me feel less secure in our relationship at times. But there is literally nothing that my husband can do about giving me a hug when he’s a thousand miles away! So instead, I intentionally tried to dial into other love languages, and especially my husband’s biggest one, which is words of affirmation. I knew that if he felt most loved through words, his loving words for me were very meaningful. As I intentionally tried to be grateful for his love in other ways, I was able to minimize my crankiness. (P.S. Get a copy of The Five Love Languages: Military Edition, if you haven’t already!)
I needed to pray for my marriage.
I often pray for others, including my husband, but I realized that I didn’t often pray about my marriage. I didn’t take my marital issues to God and ask him for wisdom or understanding. I didn’t ask him to work in my heart toward my husband or in his heart toward me. I occasionally prayed for my marriage in a casual way, but it wasn’t intentional. Bringing God into the heart of my attitude and decisions made a big difference in my ability to connect with my husband, no matter where he was.It isn’t easy to make a marriage thrive when you spend a lot of time apart, but it is possible and it is worth it. Click To Tweet
We aren’t perfect and this wasn’t a magic formula that solved all our problems. But these points did help us, and I hope they help someone else who is going through the same struggle. It isn’t easy to make a military marriage thrive when you spend a lot of time apart, but it is possible and it is worth it. You aren’t alone in this struggle!