Between deployments, exercises, TDYs and more, being apart from your spouse is a normal part of military life. It’s not glamorous or ever something we want to do, but it’s fairly inevitable. What’s important is putting in the work to stay connected during these times of separation. With a bit of flexible communication, mindset shifts and intentionality, it is possible to maintain a connection with your spouse during the times you’re away from one another.
1) Flexible communication
It’s no secret that communication during a military separation can be … complicated. Time zones, training schedules, shift work or daily life often interfere with regular communication. Communication during these times can feel impossible and frustrating. Couples can (and should!) get creative about how they connect and communicate. Making the effort is the first step.
After spending almost a year apart because of trainings, April Buchanan and her husband, Bucky, know a thing or two about being creative with flexible communication.
“We loved Marco Polo because we could record videos in our own time on the busier days when schedules just didn’t align right,” Buchanan says. “It helped us feel connected without feeling like we ‘missed out.'”
Apps like Marco Polo or NoteIt help when communication can happen, but at differing times. Sending care packages or letters is also a great way to stay connected when the service member can’t access Wi-Fi or a cellular signal.
2) Maintain an “us vs. the problem” mindset
Being apart because of a deployment, etc. can bring a lot of mixed feelings. Worst of all — blame. Remember, you’re on the same team. That’s why it’s essential to maintain the “us vs. the problem” mindset rather than the “spouse left at home vs. spouse that’s away” one. Michelle Bowler, a mom of four, an Army spouse of 10 years, and host of The Waiting Warriors podcast, created her workbook, Staying Connected During a Separation, to do just this.
“A million things can come up during a military separation, and for about 99% of those, the loved one at home is going to wish the service member could be home to help,” Bowler shares. “Instead of fighting against it, simply think about how you, as a couple, are going to tackle this problem together.”
Begin by accepting the situation for what it is. Then work towards solving the problem together. It just may look different from what it normally would.
3) Same interests, different timeline
When separated, it can feel like life and interests are moving at different rates. You can still share interests with your spouse while they are away! Pick something to do together, apart. This can be anything from watching the same shows or movies together, doing a bible study or reading the same book.
Taylor Griffith and her active duty Army husband, Jacob, use The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional.
“Anytime he’s away at a training, I’ll send him a picture of the day we are on. Then we send a voice memo with our thoughts on it for that day,” Griffith says. “It’s a small way to invest in our marriage and still check in on each other while he’s not physically here.”
Fighting for connection doesn’t always have to be a grand event. Simple, daily actions can make a huge difference in maintaining a relationship while apart.
4) Set expectations and intentions
One of the most important ways to stay connected with your spouse while separated is to set expectations and intentions before, during, and after the separation.
“I don’t think people put enough importance in pre-preparation,” Bowler says. “Education and a little planning are the best prevention … ask each other simple questions about how you want to tackle this separation together.”
Maintaining clear communication can make a big difference in handling problems as they inevitably arise — not just during. Decide beforehand how you will deal with conflict, heightened emotions and eventually, reintegration. Putting in the work and having meaningful conversations at the front and back end of a separation — instead of just during — will serve you well.
“There’s no exact formula for a perfect, connected separation. Staying connected during a separation is going to look different for everyone because we all have our different needs.” Bowler says in her workbook. “Remember, you are a team against your obstacles, not against each other.”Read comments