Military Relationships: The Dreaded Deployment

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If you quickly open a soda,there is some chance the contents will foam up and spill over the top. Shakethat bottle for thirty seconds before removing the top and you’ll have a “much more intense” experience. Talking with people about relationships with loved
ones in the military is like opening a bottle that has been violently shaken.
The pressure inside is so great that the questions and experiences come out fast and strong, and they spew in every direction. Below is just a sampling of comments about loved ones on deployment.

  Anonymous wrote: Guys usually don’t communicate the way women do. I know my husband loves me and missed me on deployments. Did he ever write that in a letter? No. The best I would get was a “miss you Babe” on a phone call.

 Fadeintoyou82 wrote: My boyfriend is deployed. We had been together for 7 months before he left. Everything was going great the first half of the deployment, then out of nowhere he starts to become distant and disconnected. Then he tells me that he doesn’t know if he has the same feelings for me anymore.

 HappyLittleGirl wrote: I am experiencing my first deployment away from the most fantastic man I’ve ever met besides my father. We’ve been dating for 8 months and love each other. He’s in the Navy and deployed somewhere in the Middle East… I love him dearly and I know he loves me… but I worry that he doesn’t miss me.

 nicolem28 wrote: I’m engaged to an AF guy and he’s been gone 50% of our relationship. This trip he’s on now has been awful since he has minimal communication opportunities, so I understand how the doubt can creep in.

 Lyndsey wrote: Military relationships are special. if they make it through
the training and first deployment they can make it through anything.

I’ve again asked one of our special partners, Mike Jones, to talk about loved ones on deployment. Mike is a former US Army Captain with two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the co-founder of Not Alone, a non-profit organization serving military personnel, veterans, and their families. Note: I use the term “soldier(s)” referring to personnel in all branches of military service. Not Alone

 

Dawson: It seems that with a lot of our callers, the lack of communication with a deployed spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend is what puts a lot of pressure on relationships.

Mike: Communication with those back home is difficult for several reasons. A lot of time soldiers are in isolated situations with limited or command-only communications. If you’re frontline like infantry soldiers, you are busy 24-7-365-360 (every hour, every day of the year, all around you). You’re either on patrol, on guard duty,
or crashing. There’s very little down time, but even then, the enemy may decide it’s time to lob a few mortars or attack the compound. A lot of that down time is focused on getting ready to go again.

 

Dawson: Perhaps, it’s more that just the number of emails or the amount of talk-time. If couples really don’t understand or feel what the other is going through, they’ll still have a disconnect ― whether they communicate a lot or a little.

 

Mike: It’s really important for spouses at home to try to gain some situational awareness regarding their deployed soldier. Talking to other experienced military wives helps. One of those things to understand is that a soldier needs to stay completely focused on the assignment at hand… not home, not family, not kids, not you… their assignment. If their heads are not intensely focused and in
the game, someone can get hurt. Even when a unit is just walking down a road, every one is looking in a prescribed direction for particular things. If one guy loses intense mental focus and is not looking the right way, you have a sector uncovered. Soldiers are trained to switch off everything else when the mission is on.

 

Also, there are times when soldiers don’t seem to have much to say. Spouses need to understand that it’s hard sometimes to switch back from being “warrior guy” to “relationship guy.”
And sometimes he just can’t talk about what’s going on because it’s either too hard on him or he fears it will be too hard on you. So, he give you small talk about trivial things. If a spouse doesn’t understand this, she can take it personally and begin to doubt his feelings, which leads to more awkward conversations… It can snowball on you if you’re not careful.

 

Dawson: Do deployed soldiers typically feel guilty about being away from home and family?

Mike: Mostly, they are so engaged with what they’re doing, they don’t have time for that. But in some cases; yes. If you’ve got a deployed soldier feeling guilty about being away, the last thing he needs to hear is complaining about problems at home.
That’s like pouring salt into an open wound. He might even begin avoiding the phone calls.

 

Dawson: Do you have suggestions for how loved ones should approach those rare, unscheduled, middle-of-the-night phone calls?

 

Mike: Maybesomething along these lines: “Honey, we’re okay here. We’ve had a problem with _____, but we’ve got it under control. Mom and dad are helping, and so is my brother. The FRG (Family Resource Group) is there when I need to talk about Army stuff. We’re all good. I love you (i.e. don’t be concerned about me being unfaithful). Be safe, stay focused, we’re all going to get through this!”

 

Dawson: While it’s difficult for spouses and girlfriends/boyfriends to understand what their deployed soldier is going through, by comparison it’s much easier for soldiers to understand what it is like at home. True?

 

Mike: No, not true at all. A lot guys have no clue about how difficult it is for wives and girlfriends at home. Part of that is because some of them don’t have much emotional intelligence to begin with. So, they’re not big on empathy for their loved ones, even when they are home. So, it’s not a deployment thing, it just their thing.

 

Like I said before, some guys have a harder time flipping the mental switch from combat focus to home-life focus. Their life in a combat zone is so intense ― fear mixed with exhilaration, a sense of mission accomplishment mixed with the pain of losing a comrade. At times problems at home that are huge to their spouses, seem trivial
to them by comparison.

 

Again, the more spouses and love ones can gain some situation awareness about these things, the easier deployments will become, particularly combat deployments.

 

Dawson: It sounds like the soldiers and their loved ones all have their own individual battles to fight.

 

Mike: Very true.Spouses, parents, children, girlfriends or boyfriends all have different types of battles to fight, but you all go to war together as a team. If you can hang onto that kind of perspective, things are going to be a lot easier. The worst thing is fighting the battle of deployment and fighting one another at the same time.

 Dustin wrote: I would like to say that it takes a stronger spouse to have
the other spouse in the military.

 

For podcast by military wives, forums by military personnel and their families dealing with deployments and combat-related issues, or more information on Not Alone, go to www.NotAlone.com.

11 Responses to "Military Relationships: The Dreaded Deployment"

  1. Kaitlynn Eck Posted on June 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I need help my boyfriend is going to basic training!!
    I am really proud of him but I’m nerves that he will pull away. People say I have nothing to worry about but Im still scared. If there is anyone who can help please do because the time is getting closer

    • Dave Anderson Posted on June 16, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      We are happy to talk with you about it. Please go to http://www.thehopeline.com and register to chat with us. For the short term, separation like this will generally make two closer or show them that there is no long term future for them. Fear is the issue, there is no reason to “fear” this deployment. There will be many deployments in any military service. I thank you for his service to his country!

  2. Lexi Posted on July 28, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Hello:) first thank you for being here and helping! Sencond thank you to all the men and woman serving and or Married to a soldier blessings. Anyways I met this man about a month and had 3 personal dates before he deployed for afanstain in July of 2014 my question is that I fear that me waiting here for 12 months could be a waste? Also will he ever be able to make contact with me? Everything happened so fast I did not even get to hug him later before he left just a call as he was leaving and the one lay over. And boy was it tears on both ends. These last weekends I have gone to the last places we went on our dates at sun set and have cried but remember the positive moments we shared. I try to keep hope and try to stay positive. Every morning I wake up and write him a letter and take a picture with counting down day card. Before I go to sleep I light a white candle for a few hours before sleep time. Is there Anything else I should do? Or could talk to someone to clear a few little other things in my mind? Thank you! Sorry for writing a book.

    • Marcela Posted on August 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Hi i am on the same boat as you, they might even be together right now, if you want e-mail me at dianagil511@me.com we can talk sometimes i feel the same was as you.

  3. caity Posted on July 29, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Hey Lexi, well, it sounds like you two made a very big connection. but you kind of just have to be honest with yourself if its right for you and him i guess. I’m in the waiting game myself, my best friend of 2 and a half years and as of a month ago boyfriend and a week ago deployed boyfriend, i’m feeling a bit freaked out too, but he told me before he left he has loved me since we became friends and he will continue to do so forever. and i feel the same. so to me its worth waiting. but i know him, inside and out. do you know your man? did you guys agree to be faithful and where you two want to see this going? I am miss my man every single minute of everyday. i wake up thinking about him and fall asleep the same way, but i’m not stopping my life. if your boyfriend loves you than he wants to see you happy, because he has enough to worry about right now than to worry if your ok. letters to him telling him whats up and how you miss him is cool, but then be happy, live your life. go to work/school out with friends (ones that won’t get you to drunk, because when you love a man you can’t even drunk dial believe me the tears will run.) I’m only a week into this deployment but i’ve learned its hard but you can only keep moving. It helps in a way to also think of the things he does that drive me slightly insane, because it cuts the hurt and in the end you kind of start to miss those annoying things, so when he comes back you may love and care even more. hope my perspective helped, and to let you know, your not alone. there is many of us out there waiting for our boys to come home. don’t be scared, don’t be foolish, and be as brave as the man your in love with if not more so. keep on going and living life. don’t let yourself stop. just know why your waiting for him and know if he is worth it. i know mine is to me. also in every relationship not just as crazy of ones like military relationships, know the other person is human. he may be your hero, but he isn’t superman. you have to take care of him as much as he does you and forgive even for having to leave you for so long. hope i helped. with love in my heart hope you make it through this with a strong relationship to look too

    • yvser Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:58 am

      how uplifting your words are caity, thanks for sharing.. i have a boyfriend as an army nurse, he never told me he was leaving but he just mentioned about his deployment, maybe he just doesn’t want me to worry about him going to his area of assignment. long time no communication. really! and me here just waiting… :(

  4. unknwn Posted on August 15, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Dwelling on absense can make the return harder, that is where your job starts with your soldier. An endless amount of patience is required. Speacial training can be recieved for insight into how a soldier is feeling and or thinking. Time and love may be the hardest things to Waite for. Keep by their side no matter what even if it is only as friends because when we are ready we will be your never ending gaurdian in every way.

    • Marcela Posted on August 26, 2014 at 8:53 am

      This is really hard, he says he is busy and can’t talk, and i know he is, but still i feel he doesn’t want to talk to me, he did told me he changes when he is deployed, but i want him to show me more affection, he left after two months of meeting each other, i feel that he should show me some affection to give me hope and let me know he thinks about me.

  5. Jackie Posted on August 24, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I am in the same situation…and really miss him.
    I met this wonderful man 10 months ago..he is in the Air Force and deployed to Quatar. This is my first experience with deployment. I am trying to stay busy and not worry but some days it’s hard…he’s been gone a little over a month now. I am able to talk to him..well by text…and we try to skype every few days. I am a worrier by nature..so I’m trying so hard to work on that and be supportive. Any suggestions? My email is jakinnane@yahoo.com.

  6. Nicole Posted on August 30, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Ive been with my soldier for a short period of time and he proposed to me. Of course I said yes and Im very excited. I found out this morning that he will be deployed soon and Im terrified. This is my first time experiencing this and Im not sure what can or will happen. Im so in love with and I know he feel the same. He have been going thru a lot and have been very stressed. Im worried about his health. What can I do to make this easier for the both of us?

    • Marcela Posted on August 31, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Hello
      Congrat! This is my first time also, and what i learned was that you need to support him, don’t talk about the deployment, try to meke him feel good, zero stress, spend time together, how long is he going to be deploy for.
      Also if he wants his space give to him, is nothing against you.

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