Your Relationship Can Survive Military Deployment

If 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.

Here are some of the comments I have received about deployment and its impact on relationships.

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.

Your Relationship Can Survive Military Deployment

I've asked one of our 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. Mike shares openly about some of the struggles and how to overcome them when your loved one is deployed.

Coping with Lack of Communication

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 front line 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 downtime, but even then, the enemy may decide it's time to lob a few mortars or attack the compound. A lot of that downtime is focused on getting ready to go again.

Dawson: Perhaps it's more than 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 those at home to try to gain some situational awareness regarding their deployed soldier. Talking to other experienced military spouses helps. One of the 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 everyone is looking in a prescribed direction for particular things. If one soldier 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

Mike: 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 to being relational. And sometimes they can't talk about what's going on because it's either too hard on them or they fear it will be too hard on you.

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 that 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 they need to hear is complaining about problems at home.

Focusing on Home can be Difficult

Dawson: While it's difficult for loved ones to understand what their deployed soldier is going through, by comparison, is it much easier for soldiers to understand what it is like at home?

Mike: No, not true at all. Some soldiers have no clue about how difficult it is for those at home. Like I said before, some soldiers 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. Problems at home that are huge to their loved ones may seem trivial compared to the combat zone. Again, the more loved ones can gain some situation awareness about these things, the easier deployments will become, particularly combat deployments.

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! (NOTE: TheHopeLine partners with Centerstone Military Services for additional resources for military personnel and their families.)

Strong Spouses and Loved Ones

Dawson: It sounds like the soldiers and their loved ones all have their 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.

Check out Nicole's 7 Great Ideas to help your relationship survive military deployment:

"I am in a relationship with a man who his spending the next six months deployed. This is our first deployment as a couple. It is also his last deployment, as he will be retiring following this trip. He has been very open with me about the fact that this will be hard, but we are a strong couple, and not getting through this was never even mentioned as an option. I am very sad, because I hate that we are separated, and I worry about his safety. However, I have been keeping myself busy with ways to cope and it is helping.

Some of the things I did are:"

  1. I wrote him thirty letters to take with him, made myself a copy of each, and I open one a day also so I remember what I wrote to him.
  2. I started a journal. It is a great place to vent and talk about/work through my fears.
  3. I made an awesome Deployment countdown poster and I am crossing off the days.
  4. I made a list of things I want to do while he is gone.
  5. I am planning/researching the trip we want to take when he gets home.
  6. I am keeping a mason jar and popsicle sticks, and every time I think of something I want us to do together, I write it on a popsicle stick and pop it into the jar.
  7. I plan out care packages with themes, and I will send them over the course of the upcoming months.

"Soooooo, I guess I am hoping this will help those of you who are struggling like me. This sucks, but six or seven months of sadness is a small price to pay for a lifetime of wonderful.
Strength to all!"
Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your ideas!

Military -

Are you concerned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Learn more about it here or download your free eBook.

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141 comments on “Your Relationship Can Survive Military Deployment”

  1. Hi, I just started talking to a man that said he is in the Military we have been talking since March 7, 2019, and on March 10, 2019, he told me he had an email and he had to go to the office. Well later he came back and on Whatsup App and told me that he was being Deployed out Monday morning at 6:00 am. I asked him if he could tell me where he was going to and he told me Iraq I ask if he knew for how long yet and he said for about 4 months. I have been scammed before and I don't want to get scammed again but if this man is real I would really like to get to know him better and have a real relationship with him. So today I started asking him about things like. What is his job title he told me I'm a mechanical engineer operator specialist at US Army that he operates the Hammer tanks I ask him his Rank he said he Rank code number is SSGT .E8A9 that he is a Staff Sergeant. I ask him if we could Skype together and at first, he said if he knew I wanted to he would have filled out the paperwork for him to be able to Skype before he left yesterday and then he came back and said Honey I don't work on Skype so it is giving me some red flags or is it just me to be just because of me being scammed before.

    1. Red Flag! If he is telling you his rank in that manner, it is wrong. If you asked me my rank... I'd say Captain... just like that. No one says all that numerical stuff. I don't even know what that (those numbers) is (are) and I am retired military. A Staff Sgt. in the Army is an E6. I would ask him his MOS.... where he went to boot camp.... etc. You can google all that information to verify. Trust your instincts.

  2. My guy is close to the end of deployment and I have not talked to him in a week. I still send him messages daily to let him know I am still here.

  3. Hi, my boyfriend of over a year will be leaving for basic in about 6 months. We use to be very certain that we wanted to stay together and make it work. Now that it's getting closer, he has doubts that the distance won't end well and he doesn't want to hurt me in the long run. He is the type of person that puts everything on himself and helps others before he helps himself. I know that I will be ok with the distance and I want to make it work. I just want what is best for him. Are having these fears and doubts normal for approaching change? Does anyone have any advice?

  4. My boyfriend is leaving in a couple weeks for boot camp for 3 months. After that he’s only here for 10 days until he has to bc gone for 2 years. I’m in high school still and plan to go with him when I graduate next year. I love this boy with my whole heart and am so nervous about him forgetting me and/or losing feelings when he’s gone. How do I get through this?

    1. I am a military fiance' MUCH older than you and it's difficult. If you read the writing above your question "Communication with those back home is difficult for several reasons." use that as a beginning to try to understand your soldier. He is going to be in a totally different situation than you are each day and it's very hard to keep in touch and grow together. This is a good site to come to, just to read through and comprehend. I know some folks meet in kindergarten and stay together the rest of their lives, but it is normal for someone your age to need and want lots of friends or a couple of good friends to have fun with. Life has a way of working out, so don't get down on yourself if you don't hear from often or if you drift apart. You are going to be leading different lives. I often find myself missing the romance, the visits, just being with him - but its impossible so i have to keep myself busy all the time. Focus on your own life so that he doesn't have to deal with your complaints. Come back here, its a good place.

  5. I am dealing with a similar situation my boyfriend of a year and a half now is deployed for the next 2 years. I really love him and I want to spend the rest of my life with him but its gets hard sometime knowing he say far away and there is nothing he or I can do to change the situation thats at hand right now. I'm his back bone right now n the person he talks to every day but sometimes it really hits me hard. WHAT DO I DO?

    1. I am a military fiance' MUCH older than you and it's difficult. If you read the writing above your question "Communication with those back home is difficult for several reasons." use that as a beginning to try to understand your soldier. He is going to be in a totally different situation than you are each day and it's very hard to keep in touch and grow together. This is a good site to come to, just to read through and comprehend. don't get down on yourself. You are going to be leading different lives. I never get to speak to my soldier as he's in a combat zone- so i have to keep myself busy all the time. Focus on your own life so that he doesn't have to deal with your complaints. Try journaling, finding work or a hobby to focus on. Make your visits more about just listening to him, and not worrying him with coddling you. Come back here, its a good place to just read through the wisdom of those who've been here before us.

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