My service member TDYs a lot.
So far, he’s been gone a combined 3 months since the year started and it’s only September.
I get lonely while he’s away. Right now, it’s me and the cat, who does a lot more for me than she realizes (i.e. keeping me sane in a quiet house).
However, despite the bouts of loneliness, the time apart revitalizes our feelings toward each other. In addition, separation challenges our relationship (in a good way!) and strengthens our bond.
Wondering how your military marriage can benefit from the time you spend apart?
Before your spouse leaves, sit down for a heart-to-heart discussion with a focus on your current feelings.
Use that time to create a separation game plan too. Your game plan is critical because it will guide you both, especially when something unexpected happens. The military loves to test your limits, so we get used to implementing Plan B more times than once.
Here are 10 questions to help you as a couple create your separation game plan:
- How are you going to keep the line of communication open?
- Will there be internet where your spouse is going?
- When can you expect to hear from them?
- Do you like random phone calls or would you prefer a standard time to talk?
- Can you schedule a time to talk regularly?
- Do you prefer to talk using FaceTime, Skype, emails or text messages?
- What are your expectations for communication during the deployment?
- What are your service member’s expectations for communication during the deployment?
- What will you do for each other during this separation to strengthen your relationship?
- Is there a to-do list of things you can do to help your spouse and vice versa? It might be difficult for them to do a lot while on TDY orders. In that case, compromise.
Compromise helps couples work through the crazy military lifestyle and it is a great way to find a common ground. Don’t forget to live it.
As a result, time away from your spouse provides a wonderful opportunity for you and your spouse to intentionally talk about your relationship. A 4-month school came up when my spouse and I were dating. At that time, he didn’t put a ring on it, yet, but we still had a long and meaningful talk about where we were going as a couple. Needless to say, he did pop the question shortly after our talk and we’ve been benefiting from intentional pow wows ever since.
Pro-tip: Send surprise messages to each other. Whether it’s a quick email, text message or you’re separated long enough for snail mail, surprise messages are a wonderful way to keep connected during your time apart. I personally love the intrigue and it’s a chance to get a little creative!
With your spouse away, do and be you hardcore. Never stop doing and being you. The time away gives you the chance to remember the self you were before you were married. I had an interesting conversation with a military spouse recently about frequent TDYs. We talked about it sucking and on the flip side, we valued it on the same level too.
The time apart gives me moments for self reflection and reminds me how much I value my spouse and his impact in my life. This is where “absence makes the heart grow fonder” comes in full force.
But, don’t let absence fuel anger or despair. My spouse and I encountered a lot of challenges during our longest separation. Being apart for a whole year took its toll on us. We stopped communicating and lost each other as a result.
At the time we didn’t have a separation game plan. We were winging it. So, that game plan I mentioned earlier, it really helps when emotional roadblocks come your way.
Then, you realize time apart makes the time together more precious. Thank goodness for mid-tour leave! Once we had the opportunity to reconnect in-person again, it was the jolt we needed to get ourselves back on the right track. It prompted us to talk about how we would prioritize our relationship during the remaining 6 months of our separation.
This prompts me to my next important point, learn from your mistakes. Moving forward and making positive strides strengthens your marriage.
Lastly, plan for time apart on purpose. I use separation time to visit family and friends. For example, in the last month, I stayed with my parents as my spouse was finishing up a month-long TDY. I reached out to a dear friend that just moved to Ohio to see if she had any time for me. She did, but the weekend she was available, my husband would already be back home.
That didn’t stop me and I still planned to spend a weekend with her. My husband flew back home that Tuesday and I flew out to visit my friend on Friday. That weekend, my spouse was able to help me out with household chores and got to spend quality time with our cat (who absolutely adores him).