As Dr. Stanley Hall explores in his new book Deployed: The Survival Guide for Families at War and as any military spouse will confirm, surviving a partner’s deployment is extremely difficult and trying on couples. During deployment, every new day brings a new set of challenges and a new onslaught of emotions, all of which can be extremely difficult to navigate.
For spouses dealing with their partners’ deployment for the first time, here are some tried and true tips for making it through, as suggested by military wives themselves.
Many military spouses will find that talking to other men and women in their position is one of the most helpful methods of dealing with deployment. The support of veteran military spouses is invaluable, and the lessons that they share may save newly married men and women a lot of time and pain. Elisebet, who has been married to a serviceman for two and a half years, suggests, “If you don't live near a base, look around online. There are online support groups and Facebook groups for those who date or are married to service members.”
Whether it’s by working, taking up a new hobby, or traveling, military wives agree that keeping yourself occupied is necessary to keeping your sanity during your partner’s deployment. As Elisebet points out, “Deployment is a necessary part of military life. Feeling miserable about it won’t make it go away and certainly won’t make it go faster. Turn it into a positive.” Instead of looking at this time as “your spouse’s deployment,” think of it as “your year to travel the country,” or “your year to learn a new language.”
Of course, deployment will often be difficult and lonely for everybody involved. While this may seem bleak, it’s important to prepare yourself for what’s ahead of you. Megan, who has been married to a serviceman for 17 years, says that, “Being a military spouse, you are shoved into change on a frequent basis. You have to change where you live, friends, jobs, etc. every few years.” Understanding that this is going to happen and being ready for it are key. She continues, “Now that I have been a military wife and mother through moves, deployments, and life altering events I realize that the change that military life brings is actually what has made me a better and more interesting person. It has expanded my life experiences and taught me a lot about who I am and what I can accomplish. “
Alex, who has been married to a serviceman for four years, says, “Deployment has definitely been the low point of being a military spouse. When your spouse is gone, it seems like everything in the house wants to break, the car falls apart, and the dog escapes and attacks your neighbors … [But] being able to reside all over the world is a fantastic opportunity that we get from being married to a service member … While deployment sucks, the day that you’re reunited with your spouse is like experiencing your wedding day all over again. You instantly forget about all the hard times that you had for the year with them gone.”
While it’s true that few people understand military spouses quite like other military spouses, be receptive to the open arms of your old friends and family. As long as they are offering you love and support, allowing yourself to receive their assistance and good intentions will only benefit you. Erin, who has been married to a serviceman for 18 years, says, “Figure out what helps you through the days and do it. Don't feel bad about it. You have to put yourself and your family first, so do it. Also, ask for help if you need it. People want to help.”
Despite how impossible it may seem at the time, being at home during a spouse’s deployment is a period in your life that you can get through. With the right outlook, a good support system, and a lot of fortitude, you will be able to make it through.
For more on dealing with a spouse’s deployment, see Deployed: The Survival Guide for Families at War by Stanley Hall, Ph.D.
Special thank yous to the wonderful women I spoke to whose assistance and insights made it possible for me to write this article:
Elisebet from My Life a Work in Progress
Alex from Munchkins and the Military
Megan from While You Were Away and author of 101 Tips for Military Families Experiencing Absence or Deployment
Erin from Deployment Diatribes