by Eric Gardner, Guest Contributor
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How do we build a solid marital foundation to avoid becoming a statistic of divorce in the military?
Here’s what I’ve learned after many years as a military spouse. Studies show divorce within the ranks has fallen slightly in recent years, yet it has touched many of us personally or we know someone who has weathered that storm.
As marriage retreats, counseling and support programs attempt to provide an outlet for married couples to strengthen their foundation to survive the endless list of problems which can arise while on active duty, the responsibility rests on the couple to make it through life’s challenges. These programs, as terrific as they are, can only build upon the foundation the couple has.
My wife and I have been married for 17 years and we have heard that communication is the secret to marital bliss. Whenever that magical word would come up she would giggle and whisper that this seemingly simplistic concept would require me to do whatever she said. We both still get a chuckle out of that notion when it’s brought up because communication is far more profound and complicated than that.
There are books and workshops that can help military couples along the way. Whether you look in to “The 4 Seasons of Marriage” or “The 5 Love Languages” both by Gary Chapman, “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard Harley Jr., or any of the countless literary sources out there, one core tenant resonates across the texts — couples need to engage with one another about everything.
As a married couple you are trying to constantly find common ground for 2 completely unique people. You both have hopes and dreams for your future together, so talk about them, look ahead together and nurture your partnership daily.
Communication strengthens trust.
Long hours, longer and more frequent deployments, and an unpredictable work environment tests the faith we have in one another.
The only way that bond can stay strong is discussing your life decisions together. Both spouses and service members need to share in the ups and downs.
Let’s be honest, the world is a busy place and we as spouses sometimes see the world differently than our service members. However when “they” say it’s time to change jobs, deploy or PCS always remember to keep your faith in one another. Understand that these stressful events are beyond your control and use that acceptance to bring you closer together as a couple.
The most important aspect of not becoming a statistic of divorce in this crazy military lifestyle is work. My wife and I have gone through our fair share of difficulties and have welcomed the opportunity to attend marriage retreats. Marriage retreats are terrific and can help inspire you to really look into your relationship.
During one of the workshops the leader of the session made a statement that rang true to me. The notion of “falling in love” is usually the beginning of how couples meet. That euphoric feeling where everything is perfect in the world.
Well I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but if you don’t work at your marriage that feeling of blissful intoxication won’t last.
To fall in love is easy.
To stay in that level of love is a challenge.
We all change over time so finding and maintaining that connection as a couple is key. As you think back to how your adventure as a team started, remember how much effort you were willing to put forth when you were dating. That level of energy should always be there.
None of us ever want to stop showing our loved ones how much they mean to us, we just have to remember where our priorities are when life begins to pick up speed.
Always try to take a moment, and be spontaneous to remind not only yourself but your spouse how much they mean to you. These moments don’t have to be extravagant. It could be a lunch date or a quiet walk around a park. The key element is it’s just the two of you, just like it was in the beginning.
Marriage is wonderful, rewarding work, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Some days are easier than others, but if you want to out last the storm of life you will need to roll up your proverbial sleeve and get your hands dirty.
Want to read more about Eric’s journey as a military spouse? Click here to read his piece, I Never Considered Myself An Oddity As A Male Spouse.
Eric Gardner was raised in a military family and lived around the world. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. Since the end of his wartime service he has shifted gears and is now a stay-at-home father. In his role as an active duty Army spouse, he has become an author. As the creator of the XIII Legion Series he has enjoyed great success, and enjoys meeting other entrepreneurial spouses as well as fellow authors . You can see more from Eric Gardner at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thirteenthlegion.series, and http://www.facebook.com/XIIILGN or follow him via Twitter @13thLegion.