From the stress of deployments to frequent moves, military couples face a number of unique challenges, but in working through those distinctive experiences come universal lessons in love. Our clinicians from the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), part of Cohen Veterans Network, provide a variety of mental health treatments for post-9/11 veterans and military families, including couples therapy for military spouses.
Keeping a relationship strong is challenging during any time, but especially during times of a pandemic. Environments have changed, living spaces are crunched, workspaces blend into home spaces, noise levels are elevated due to more family members being home at the same time, and the list goes on.
The following are tips that military couples, and any couple, can employ to reconnect with their partner and strengthen their relationship during these trying times:
- Keep expectations realistic to keep the anxiety down and the pressure off.
- Discuss with your partner what they need in order to feel connected. Maybe it is touch; perhaps, it’s time; or maybe it’s activities.
- Be proactive about “sticky situations.” Discuss the possibility of them and how to handle them. For example, if you go on a hike and one partner goes faster, ensuing an argument, find out what can be done differently next time or maybe you shouldn’t go on hikes together.
- See Valentine’s Day as a start, not a goal, to reconnecting with your partner. Connecting is a process and never ends.
- For many couples, COVID-19 is requiring them to use unique skills, like emotional regulation and clear communication, which they may not have. A qualified clinician can teach them these tools and help the couple reconnect in sessions and outside of sessions.
Many of our Cohen Clinic staff members are veterans or military spouses themselves and provide unique insights to the many issues our clients face on a regular basis.
“Couples counseling is a must – and, not just in crisis mode,” Jenny Lynne Stroup, outreach coordinator and military spouse, said. “(It) is what helped my marriage survive and eventually thrive through the wear and tear of military life … What has come out of continued mental health treatment are two people who communicate better, who partner and parent better, and who are as much ‘in like’ as we are in love.”
What’s also good to note is that we’re often taught to rely on our spouses for just about everything. But military couples can be apart for long periods of time, presenting a need to develop a strong support system. Schedule regular check-ins with your best cheerleaders, whether they be close friends, former battle buddies, family members or a combination of all of the above.
Cohen Veterans Network is a not-for-profit philanthropic organization that publicly launched in April of 2016. Cohen Clinics throughout the nation have delivered care to more than 21,500 clients across the country to date and treat a variety of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, adjustment issues, anger, grief and loss, family issues, transition challenges, relationship problems, and children’s behavioral problems. The high-quality care is confidential and accessible.
We provide treatment through telehealth, which is face-to-face video therapy that allows clients to have appointments in real time through confidential video conferencing. Therapy via telehealth has been shown to be equally as effective as in-person therapy. To connect, clients need a secure internet connection and a device like a phone, computer, or tablet with audio and video capabilities. At the Cohen Clinics, we use a secure, private, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software to ensure confidential services.