Long Distance Love: Surviving Deployment
You may have heard the old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and certainly this can be true; but long separations come with challenges that even the strongest of marriages must endure.
Just ask Melissa Parnell, whose husband, Jonathan, deployed for one year. During his absence, Melissa gave birth to a daughter, Evelyn; dealt with postpartum depression while being separated from family; and took care of everything that goes along with a home, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, and paying the bills.
Plus, she had to overcome the emotions that arise when separated from a spouse. She said, “When your best friend and solid rock leaves for a year, after you have learned to lean on him/her throughout the years, a new change can be extremely difficult to handle alone.”
Yet, most military couples will have to deal with separation at some point in their marriage. If this happens to you, what can you do to ensure your relationship remains strong when your spouse is gone?
- Get prepared prior to departure. New York Times best-selling author and radio talk show host Dave Ramsey says, “Many military families are tested financially when a spouse is overseas, causing money fights and money problems.” To avoid this, he suggests creating a financial plan for the remaining spouse to follow during the separation. “Talk about what to do in an emergency and create an emergency fund,” he says, so the spouse that stays isn’t worried about decisions being made and the spouse that returns home doesn’t come back to financial surprises. Melissa and her husband discussed plans for extra money and child-raising tactics for the year of his deployment; and when they spoke during their separation, they continued to discuss these topics.
- Exercise. This may sound like a simple fix; but Melissa says, “I found it absolutely necessary to exercise daily, sometimes twice daily. The endorphins kept my spirits up and helped me find inner strength.” Head to the gym, where you can join in on classes with other people to not only sweat out your frustrations but socially interact with others.
- Reach out. Those who have been through a separation can offer great tips, advice, and support. Says Melissa, “Seasoned spouses were able to give helpful advice, lend a hand when needed, and just be a shoulder to cry on.” Look for groups in your area that cater to military wives, moms, and/or kids, and make getting out around other people a priority. Staying home every day can increase your feelings of isolation and sadness, which may in turn lead to anger and/or depression.
- Keep in touch. It can be tough to find the time to do one more thing at the end of the day, but take a moment to write your husband a letter telling him everything you love – and miss – about him. Make a video and send it via email, or connect with him over Skype when the kids are in bed and you can get in some quality one-on-one screen time. Melissa and Jonathan connected on Skype once a week, when his schedule would allow.