Deployment is such a tricky thing to navigate. My opinions and feelings about it have changed so much throughout the years. I joined the military at age 19. I was young and ready to take on the world and I PRAYED that I would get deployed. I longed to do something that made me feel like I had purpose. Well, prayers were answered. I went on my first deployment in 2012 and I loved it. I know, it’s a little weird to hear someone say, “I loved being deployed” but its very important that I try and explain why because if I hadn’t experienced this for myself, I don’t think I would be as “ok” with the idea of my husband deploying now.
Although, sometimes, the things I saw overseas was incredibly unpleasant, the lifestyle was simple. Stay alive. It was almost like a break from reality. Not in a sense that you need time away from your loved ones but a time where all the responsibility you once had were put on pause so that you could focus on ONE thing at a time. All your training and exercises were put to the test and you finally got to put your hard work into action. It was a time that I was able to focus on my job and myself which is extremely important for anyone, deployed or not. Deployment just forces us to do it. The reason I go into so much detail about this part is because I hear, more than anything, that spouse left back home feel like the deployed spouse always seems distant, never have time to talk, always in a weird mood or they don’t seem like themselves. They start to think that something is wrong in their relationship. I want spouses who are left behind to understand that you’re NOT to blame and to give the deployed spouse some grace but also give yourself some grace. Being overseas forces you to separate home life and work life more than ever before. When you’re deployed and you start to find that you have too much time on your hands, you start to miss home, you get distracted and it makes the deployment a LOT harder and feel a lot longer. That’s when you start to see that they distance themselves. My advice you in this area is to keep healthy communication as open as you can and PICK YOUR BATTLES.
Not every issue needs to be fixed at that moment. Trust me, the worst feeling is having a fight with your spouse and then not hearing from them for days. It makes you think of a thousand terrible things that could have possibly happened and it will drive you mad. I find that keeping a journal of things you want to talk about when they return or even things you wanted to say during arguments that you may have set aside for the time being, can be revisited once they’ve come back home. It, not only helps to get it off your chest in the moment but it keeps you from sweeping it under the rug and feeling like things are just building up and where resentment might try and creep in. Set a loose and easy schedule for you two to have face to face calls. When I say loose, I mean loose. Not, 3pm every single day but maybe between the time of 8-9am twice a week type of loose. It gives you an idea of what is to be expected and you don’t end up disappointed when you don’t hear from them for a few days. Write a short letter or note a few times during the week and occasionally buy things they like and put a box together to send to them. BOXES ARE LIFE OVERSEAS. You have no idea how exciting it Is to have boxes coming in from loved ones. It also keeps you feeling connected to them since they cant be there to talk to every day.
STAY BUSY. The worst thing you can do for yourself is focus on what they are doing overseas. Set yourself a very active schedule and stick to it. Choose a goal you’ve been putting off and commit to it. And just as importantly, set yourself some time to relax and regroup mentally. You don’t want to overdo it so much that you don’t allow yourself to feel the emotion of missing you spouse. Masking it or burying it wont help. Its about managing it, not ignoring it. Ive never been a group type of person but I find that it helps me more to have one or two people that I have a lot in common to be my support system. You CAN do it alone but it feels so much better not to. It weird and awkward for me to make friends sometimes but once you find those few that you really click with, its worth it. It can literally be life saving.
My feelings went from loving deployment life to hating it because I am now the one being left behind. This part sucks a lot worse than being overseas. All and every responsibility gets put on me. I am responsible for grocery shopping, paying bills, caring for the kids, car maintenance, house work, yard work etc. Being left behind is extremely overwhelming. Not to mention this is my FIRST time doing a deployment cycle with children. I will say this has been the hardest part this time around. Children change everything and I do not look forward to all the feelings that will flood me in the near future as I see our children hug my husband goodbye. One thing you can take away from all this is that no matter how much person experience you have with deployment or how many you and your spouse have gone through; each one is different. Each one carries a different burden. Remember that people change daily. You change, your spouse changes and your children change every day. You have to relearn how to interact with each other as you grow in your relationships so when you spend this time apart, it takes away the opportunity to see those changes and slowly adapt. Instead, they deploy as someone you know (and vice versa) and come back as a stranger. You both have to relearn each other and get to know the new people that you two have become.
Guest written by: Saranda Hellerich