Military Relationships: The Dreaded Deployment

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deploymentIf you quickly open a soda,there is some chance the contents will foam up and spill over the top.

Shake that 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.

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

 

Lack of Communication and Empty Discussions

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.

Importance of Situational Awareness

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.

Struggles in Switching Modes

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.

A Suggested Conversation with a Deployed Loved One

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

 Mike: Maybe something 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!”

Focusing on Home is hard for those that are deployed

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.

 Strong Spouses and Loved Ones

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.

Dawson McAllister Dawson McAllister (born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania) is an American speaker, radio host, and author. He is the founder of Dawson McAllister Association and TheHopeLine and host of the national radio program Dawson McAllister Live, which is aired on Sunday nights. Dawson has been speaking to and in support of teenagers and young adults for over 40 years.
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  • Kaitlynn Eck

    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

      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!

      • kaylafightforpeace

        hi guys lol my name is kayla my boyfriend has decided he is going to sign up for the marines we have been dating for almost a year and a half. He is my world and i met him while in college, which i have a good two years or more left of with internshiping as a wildlife biologist if i can. atleast i know i should stay busy enough i think! i just want to stay calm and not be freaking out right now ! i am an extreme worry wort maybe by the end of this i will be more tough lol i just want to do my best to support him and love him. He really needs me and i really need him. God willing we will get through this. For you who are in later stages of deployment i can only say one thing that will get me through all of it for certain and thats alot of praying and strong will! Let’s do our best to stay away from the drinking alot because that’s not going to help anything its only going to create more problems for us thank you for all your support i wish you all happy relationships during and after these experiences you have given me much insight as to what i am getting into and i know i will not give up even though i know its going to be tough so women DONT GIVE UP !!!

  • http://Dawson'sblog Lexi

    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

      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.

    • Loyda

      Wow! I am in the exact same position! I met a wonderful man while he was on leave for a week, so there was a lot of time to text and we saw each other twice. Then he went back to work and communication dropped to a minimum for two weeks.. One day he told me his team had received an assignment and they would be leaving that month. Contact with him stayed minimal, and one day I finally asked if I could see him. Surprisingly, he agreed to meet me! I made him open when letters and gave them to him. We had a great night, and at the end I said “this is probably the last time I see you before you leave huh?”

      His response was yes, because he was leaving in about 12 hours! I thought I had more time, but he couldn’t really tell me when he was leaving before that or where either. Its been 3 days, today is day 4 and I’m just waiting to hear from him.. I don’t even know where he is to send him the care package I already made..

      I’ve known him for a total of 6 weeks. And I don’t know if its silly to wait for him, I’m not even his girlfriend! And he’s only stationed in my state, he’s getting stationed somewhere new in about 6-8 months and then he’ll be done and returning to his home state after that!

      Is it silly to consider being with him if the chances of it working seem so low? And after knowing him for so little time? I have never met anyone like him! I feel so good when I’m with him, and I know that if the circumstances were different, we’d be perfect! I know he likes me a lot too, he’s told me he likes me and then there are moments where he’s looking deep into my eyes, he kisses my forehead, pushes the hair away from my face, kisses me slowly.. but then he doesn’t text me for days at a time.. and now that he’s gone I don’t know when he’ll contact me or if he’s even feeling the same as me!

      Sorry for the novel too! I just don’t know where else to go, I feel like my friends don’t understand because they haven’t been in my shoes.. what ended up happening with you????

  • caity

    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

      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… :(

  • unknwn

    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

      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.

  • Jackie

    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.

  • Nicole

    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

      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.

  • Emy

    Hello everyone ,
    It’s been a week since he left bound to Japan, he told me Japan is only his Base he can be send anywhere :-(. I haven’t heard from him yet . He promised me to contact me as soon as he can.
    I’ve never dealt with any soldier before. I met him 5 months ago at the University where we went together. He was so hesitant to approach me because he knows he will be deployed right after the semester ends, but he was man enough to inform me his feelings. To make the story short everything was so good, the chemistry was outstanding, we both know that there’s this special feeling that bind us. We decided to keep the process slow and really get to know each other. Until deployment week arrived and that was the worst week ever. He came into my house to say goodbye we cried so much, a prior to that deployment week he told me to wait for him. Then he changed his mind saying : it will be totally unfair for me and it will be harder for him while he is in foreign land if we commit or he will ask me to wait for him.We both agree to remain friends .
    He told me and keep repeating it to me – when he come back to Florida I will be the first person he’s going to meet . This will be his last deployment . He want to continue his nursing as soon as he’s back.
    I am currently in a nursing program by the time he will come back I will be on my last semester if gods will. Although I know that there’s no guarantee ,but I want to wait for him and I told him that when he come back and decided to go on with his life without me ,then I will thank him for all the good memoirs that we had and knowing him is an honor. At least I tried .

    So to all those woman out there who are in the same situation like mine, keep your self busy . I know it’s not easy.

  • Mrs.McCall

    Hello all:)
    My husband and I have been married a year as of last week and we are dual military we are both in the marine corps and two months ago my husband left on the first deployment between the two of us :( it’s just a mue so I’m not worried about his safety( he’s a grunt so I’m just thankful he’s not on the ground :), we left on very shaky terms having been apart the 6 months prior to his deployment because I’ve been in training … I’ve hear from him once every two weeks since he’s left and I’m just so worried that this deployment was my husbands breaking point for us. I tried really hard to be a good wife for him before he deployed even though I was in training but I feel like me missing the months prior to him leaving I’ll never be able to make up for … I hope this deployment goes by fast and I’m just nervous about him being gone for no reason … Blah rant over I just needed to get that out I love my husband and I hope he comes back and still loves me … Dual military relationships feel impossible

    • rachael

      Weirdly enough my boyfriend is on a mue as well but for now its training till they leave I Dec….im feeling my relationship with him is on edge as well if you need anyone to talk to im here!!! Hes on the uss new york

      • laura

        my fiancé is on the USS New York too…I think we are in a similar boat (no pun intended) so feel free to contact me anytime!

  • caroline

    Hi, my boyfriend is about to go on his first deployment and I’m really stressing out, but I don’t want him to know that! I’ve moved countries to be with him and due to language barriers I have no friends here and am basically stuck in by myself all day. It’s not through lack of trying I’m just very shy about my language skills (which in trying very hard to learn). I’m just really worried about facing this totally alone. Any suggestions? X

    • kaylafightforpeace

      what country are you in?

  • tati

    Hello, My Boyfriend Is the army and he is deployed in Iraq …. I love this man with all my heart and if I could go from my red bottoms into his combat boots I’ll trade places with him in a heartbeat. That’s how much I love this man.. But I’ve been expressing to him I Love him and I miss him so much last time we spoke he told me he love me too this time he said cool.. Whats wrong? Am i doing to much,

  • Sscrlk

    Hi everyone,
    I have been with my boyfriend for just under a year.. He has very recently deployed for Hes 6 months in afghan, although he has previously been so knows what to expect we wasn’t in a relationship at the time. He is infantry front line so communication is extremely difficult for us whilst he’s gone… I am just so scared that he will forget about me whilst hes there, that the distance between us will make it easier for him too not want me after he’s back,

  • Kayla

    well, this is my first deployment with my boyfriend & the last. he deploys on dec.12th. he is a marine & stationed in camp Lejeune nc. I’ve known him for 3yrs & have been with him for almost 2yrs. this is his 2nd deployment. the thing thats killing me the most is we don’t know where hes going, & we can only write each other. there is so much going on in this world today. his MOS is artillery, & he is amazing at what he does! the marines don’t want him to leave. I’m on here to get support & to give it as well. it’s nice to know I’m not the only one going through something like this.

    • Laura

      I have a feeling my fiancé and your boyfriend are on the same deployment…this is our second one together and it’s much harder than the first because he’s on a boat this time w. basically no communication & I feel like I resent him / tend to want to tell him all that he is doing wrong when we do get to talk! it’s frustrating for me as a person because im not like that. I know I should cherish the times we do get to speak but I feel like the negativity is like word vomit.

  • Andrea A

    Hey, I been with my bf for 8 months, I live in ct, and he lives in VA, he is on the Navy, and he is going to his last deployment to baharain as well. I’m freak out, idk what to do with myself. … even though we been dealing with the distance we always see each other 2 or 3 times per month. We are planning to marry, and I’m going to Bahrain to see him in a few months. .. how are you doing with your situation. .. idk what do do.. just pray and wait to see him….