Love Conquers All: A Quick Guide for Military CouplesWe published this on August 31, 2016,
Relationships are hard to maintain. Military relationships are even harder. Throughout the 8 years of my Army career (and all my different assignments) I have experienced firsthand how being so many miles away from home has affected our relationship. The sacred vow of being together through “the good and bad times” has been put to the test repeatedly but the love that we have for each other has always outweighed all those trying times.
I must admit that there was a time during my deployment that our love wasn’t as strong as it had been. The main reason for it was my inability to stay emotionally engaged with my wife during that period. In retrospect, I know that it wasn’t the best decision, but it was something that I felt necessary in order for me to stay focused on the mission. I have always had a clear understanding that my wife is more important than my military career, but when we sign up for the type of job that we do there is a sense of moral commitment that makes it hard for us to do otherwise. But then again, I’m pretty sure I swore to honor the same commitment when I married my wife.
Most of the men and women that mobilize fall in the same mindset. They disconnect with whatever is going on back home in order to “stay mission ready”. Although there are many other underlying factors that are present before the mobilization, when the disconnection occurs all those situations are magnified and tend to be more harmful to the relationship.
As a Behavioral Health asset, it is my duty to make sure that service members have a clear understanding that when they are going through personal hardships the likelihood of ailing from issues such as anxiety and depression will increase; especially in a combat related environment. Below are several tips to help you maintain a healthy relationship, even if you are in the military.
Be Emotionally Available:
Communication has always been a staple of maintaining a good relationship. As technology has evolved, it has been an effective tool for us to use while we’re away. I recall the nightly Skype sessions to see my family before I went to sleep. My wife and I spoke about how our days transpired, but as I previously mentioned, I omitted a large portion of my feelings (and any IDFs) in order for me to stay focused. As the months went by, these types of conversations became uninspired and that only created a larger wall between us. Keep in mind that our spouses are used to having the emotional respite we have always provided, but when this is no longer available, things can go awry. To avoid building an emotional barricade between you it is very important that service members and their spouses address their feelings. Also, spouses have to be very mindful to not over-share as it can cause worrisome thoughts and create an additional anxiety to their service member during a combat mission.
“We” Instead of “Me”:
Language plays an integral role in the way a relationship takes its form. For example, the very first couple of years after we got married my wife would often refer to our anniversary as “my anniversary”. This type of narrative made it seem as if I was just a simple bystander of that glorious occasion (which we normally are but stay with me here) and not her “knight in shining armor”. I know that this was never her intention, but in order for both of us to be emotionally invested in the relationship, she needed to include me in the anniversary as well. Now every time that we talk about the relationship or anniversary, it is always ours and not solely hers.
Focus on the Positives:
No one is perfect and therefore no relationship is perfect. Sure, some encounter minimal conflicts and others fail before they start, but the main focus should always be on the strengths and not the weaknesses. If tensions are at their highest point, try to take a moment to reflect on the reasons you still love your spouse. Sometimes we get out of synch and small situations seem as if they don’t have any resolution. I try to focus on how loving my wife is and it puts a perspective on whatever is not going right. Find the uniqueness in your spouse while you are trying to get back in synch with them.
Sign a Lifelong Contract:
Back when I was in my mid twenties, “till death do us part” was a phrase that I scoffed at. Time and experiences have made me a wiser person, and now I know that a lifetime commitment is truly a blessing. Stay committed to those sacred vows you took. Relationships will face many challenges that can tear us apart or perhaps give us an opportunity to grow even stronger than we ever were. I speak from experience when I say that my relationship has grown stronger when it could have completely crumbled. The main reason it didn’t end was because we both believed in our hearts and minds that love conquers all… even a military relationship.
David J. Ortiz (MSW) is an Iraq war veteran educated in Military Behavioral Health. He is dedicated to assisting service members in living well-rounded, productive lives. Currently you can find him serving on Twitter as a #PTSDChat mentor as @balancedsoldier on Wednesdays 9pm (EST) or checkout his Facebook page for past posts @ facebook.com/balancedsoldierlife/