My husband joined the Army when we had been married for about three years. Everything before that was so different. We have had our Germany years and our Fort Campbell years and are now in our National Guard years.
Our boys are getting older, one is just about three years away from being an adult himself. We have one son with Autism and have had other challenges with our kids to figure out over the last 15 years.
We have been through four deployments, and too many other times apart to count. Lately, he has been home more often than he has ever been. I am not sure how long this will last, but this time together has been so needed.
I always feel a bit funny giving marriage advice. For a while, that was because I hadn’t been married long enough. Then, I just wasn’t sure if my advice would apply to anyone who read it. I have friends whose marriages haven’t lasted, even though they went into them with that as a plan.
I know so many people that are living a completely different life than they thought they would, with a completely different person than they started out with. Life happens, and you never really know how that will change you or your spouse.
But, as I look at my upcoming anniversary, I can’t help but think about what has worked and what hasn’t. I can’t help but think about what my marriage has gone through and what challenges we have faced over the years.
I don’t claim to have the secrets about how to stay married when you are in the military. Everyone has a different story. Everyone is dealing with their own experiences.
Marriage is never easy, but I do think there are things you can do to help keep you stay married over the miles and over the years.
You are going to have to forgive each other and do so often. Whenever you live with another person, they are going to piss you off. They are going to get on your nerves sometimes, and you could find yourself holding a bit of a grudge if they wrong you in some way.
Obviously, there are exceptions. You don’t have to forgive someone who cheated on you. You don’t have to put up with abuse. But, in your day-to-day, try to forgive the little things. They usually aren’t worth holding on to.
Know Your Spouse’s Personality
This is something I feel like I didn’t quite get until the last few years. And if I had realized this earlier, things might have been a bit easier for me. I knew going in my husband is a completely different person than I am, but there is so much more to that that can affect your everyday.
The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts (this is an affiliate link) book is a good start. You can also take an Enneagram test to figure out you and your partner’s personality type as well as taking a Myers-Briggs test. These also can be good for friendships and getting along with people in general.
Knowing how your spouse works, how they feel loved, and what is important to them will help so much when certain struggles come up in your marriage. While “treat others like you want to be treated” can be good advice, it doesn’t always work 100%. Over the years I have learned more about what my husband appreciates and what he doesn’t care too much about.
One example is care packages. Some spouses love them. I know I would.
If I was deployed and my husband sent me a care package I would feel so loved. But for my husband? It is different. While he would appreciate one, receiving a care package wouldn’t be the same as it would be for me. When he is deployed, I don’t need to send him one on a regular basis, but that isn’t true for every deployed service member.
Communicate Expectations Before They Deploy
Talking about your expectations before a deployment starts is so important. Talk about how often you need to hear from them, care packages, and even how you will be spending your money during a deployment.
There are so many times when frustrating situations come up because each spouse has a different idea of how things are going to be during a deployment. While you can’t prepare for everything, communicating about deployment expectations will go a long way in helping your marriage when they are gone.
Talk Things Over
Constantly talking things over with your spouse is a must. You want to be on the same page about what you guys are going through. You don’t want to keep big things from each other.
If your children are very young and date nights are hard to come by, make use of the time after they go to bed. Cook a nice dinner, and have some conversations. You can connect this way, without even leaving your home.
If you can go on regular date nights, do so. They can make for the perfect time to talk about your lives, what is going on with both of you and what you want for the future. Lately, my husband and have been going out a couple of times a month.
We can have some fun, kid-free time together and let each other know how things are going. Sometimes during the workweek, we are ships passing in the night, so having that time together is very important to our marriage.
If your spouse is deployed, this type of thing can be difficult, especially if it isn’t easy to communicate. Writing letters can help, as well as trying to connect when you can. Other times you might just have to make some decisions on your own and tell them about them later.
During my husband’s first deployment, we went a whole month without talking with each other. That was just the way things were, so a lot of things I had to handle all by myself. That time wasn’t easy, but can be how a deployment goes.
Don’t Get Mad At Them For Something The Military Has Done
Getting mad at your spouse because of something the military has done can be easy to do. Keep in mind, they have to go where the military tells them to go, where the military tells them to go. And they can’t always take you with them.
Your spouse will also have to make decisions based on their career. You might not totally understand why and this can be frustrating. Try to remember, they want to make the right choice, and they might have to say yes to things you don’t want them to.
When it comes to the decision to re-enlist or not, decisions can be complicated. In some cases, getting out of the military is a must, for the mental health of the spouse or other members of the family. In other cases, that isn’t going to work, and the career aspirations of your service member need to be taken into account. Talking through your expectations, worries, and your hopes for the future is always a smart idea.
What is your best advice about how to stay married when the military is in charge?