How to Help Your Relationship Thrive When You’re a Military Spouse

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on How to Help Your Relationship Thrive When You’re a Military Spouse

Being married to someone in the military can be as tough as joining the ranks yourself.

Military spouses must make many sacrifices and are forced to endure the hassles, disruptions, rules, and regulations that go along with military service.

Naturally, all couples endure the normal stresses and strains that come with normal life events. However, military couples deal with additional circumstances and pressures that most civilian couples don’t have to contend with at all. If you are a new military spouse, you may be struggling to learn and accept what seasoned relationship partners in the armed services already know. Consider the following relationship challenges:

A military member’s career usually takes priority over his or her spouse’s career.

The military decides where you live and how long you live there. Work choices and career options are very limited for a military couple. The spouse’s career has to be worked around the military, which is limiting regarding his or her own career moves, promotions, education, etc. It’s very difficult to make career plans when you don’t know what the future holds more than a few years at a time.

Military couples have very little control over major life decisions.

The military literally decides when, where, and what they do, as well as how long they do it. That is a challenge for any couple.

Service members often cannot share details of their jobs with their spouse or anyone else.

Spouses may or may not know where their partner is deployed, what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it. Partners may not even know what their spouse does in their every day stateside jobs, depending on security concerns. That can be an isolating thing for couples. Work is a major part of most people’s lives, thus, it can cause some strain if partners can’t talk about it.

Deployment and other demands of work often mean that service members miss important events.

Holidays, anniversaries, even the birth of their own children, are often missed or overshadowed by their military service. In addition to holidays, everyday events like dinner at home, school programs, and relaxing weekends can be disrupted by the expectations and demands of military life.

Frequent relocation often means leaving friends and family behind.

Families find they repeatedly must start over at each new duty station. Often, deployment means partners must live apart for extended periods of time. This can be lonely and tax the relationship as well. For couples who have children, this means that one partner essentially has to operate as a single parent.

Military service can be dangerous.

Obviously, the job of the service member is to protect and defend. The truth of the matter is, people can be endangered, hurt, or even killed while performing that service.

Most of the things that military couples can do are similar to steps any other couple would take to protect their relationship and family. For example, repairing damage as it occurs and spending time together. Relationship basics are essential.

In addition, there are some other things that military families need to do as well to address their unique circumstances successfully: 

Accept the realities of the situation.

Come to terms, emotionally, as well as intellectually, with the fact that the military will not accommodate you.

You’ll need to be the one to adjust to ease your own discomfort and any tension in your relationship. Do your best to remember that military life is part of sharing your partner’s life and involves certain sacrifices. 

Plan ahead for periods apart.

It is not unusual for military couples to experience deployment. There is a lot of research to indicate that the greater the amount of time apart, the more strained the relationship can become. This increases the likelihood of divorce. Planning and preparation are vital.

It is important that couples discuss in detail how they will cope with the separation, how they will manage their home, and how they will manage responsibilities when they are reunited. Things to think about include:

  • Household chores and maintenance
  • Financial roles and obligations
  • Managing the responsibilities of being deployed partner
  • Communication strategies during separation
  • Means of healthy support for each partner while separated 

Recognize that both partners will change as a result of deployment.

While partners usually anticipate homecomings, it can be a stressful transition learning to navigate the reunion. The spouse at home may not want, or know how, to relinquish the responsibilities he or she assumed while their partner was away. Partners may need time to get to know each other again. Don’t expect to reconnect too quickly. Be patient. Talk about the experience of deployment and renegotiate relationship roles. 

Develop a new support system.

This is absolutely critical. If a support system is not in place at the current duty station, it is extremely important that partners do what they can to seek support elsewhere. Make friendships in other communities. Try developing relationships with people, perhaps at a gym or book club. If nothing else, seek online support from military marriage blogs, military family web communities, or other people who are in the same situation. Having people who understand the stresses of military life is immensely helpful.

Note too, that it is also incredibly important for partners to be careful who is in their support system. In other words, partners should choose wisely and choose only people who will be a positive friend to their relationship. Avoid people who would undermine your relationship or with whom there would be the possibility of an inappropriate relationship. 

Seek help when necessary.

The truth is, there is a high divorce rate for military families. There’s no doubt that it is a stressful environment and way of life. So, if problems extend beyond the normal adjustment period,  it’s really important to seek help soon from a professional.

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