Military Service and Relationships: Surviving the Challenges of Deployment

While there are many benefits to military life, for both the soldier and his or her spouse and family, the military lifestyle also brings with it unique military service and relationships challenges that the average couple will never face. Certain aspects of military life cause added stress and require a level of commitment in military service and relationships that in and of itself can be a real challenge. Deployment is one aspect of military service that can either strengthen your relationship or destroy your relationship.

The outcome is ultimately up to the couple. If your relationship is strong to begin with, you do have a better chance of surviving deployment. Relationship survival, in such cases, hinges on your personal strength, commitment, reactions, and ability to adapt. While the experiences in a war zone can return a soldier to his or her family with numerous physical and mental challenges, this article outlines the basic challenges of deployment in general and how to cope with those challenges, increasing your chances of relationship survival.

Overcoming Relationship and Military Deployment Challenges

During deployment, military spouses face increased challenges and concerns. While these concerns are common to most any couple, the difference is that the concerns are magnified by military service and relationships: the absence of the military spouse and the added responsibilities, stress, and fears that come with deployment, which are:

Fear and anxiety
Fear and anxiety are natural when your spouse is deployed overseas. This typically means thousands of miles separate you and your spouse’s life is always in danger because overseas deployment usually means a war is going on. The worry and uncertainty can really get to a person. It is important to communicate these fears when you can and to talk over these fears, reassuring one another and to try and take each day as it comes, whether than worry about events that have not and may not happen. Additionally, your deployed spouse will also have his or her own share of worries – some about their own situation, as well as worries about the relationship, kids, extended family, financial matters, and more.

Added responsibilities
When your spouse is deployed, you have to pick up the slack in responsibilities. This means all of the chores are yours, unless you can delegate them to roommates and children, as are errands, taking care of the kids, financial matters, and more. While your deployed spouse can contribute financially and can definitely assist in some decisions, it is difficult for them to communicate on a daily basis, and they are certainly unavailable for hands-on responsibility at home.

Communication issues
Technology has improved a deployed soldier’s ability to communicate with his or her spouse and family, but the communication can still be delayed and difficult. And when a soldier or his or her spouse does not want to add to the other’s worries by sharing their own worries or experiences, they often have little to talk about and communication and trust breaks down.

All of the aforementioned factors lead to added stress, which in turn can lead to disagreements, unhappiness, misunderstandings, relationship breakdown, loneliness, and even infidelity.

Loneliness and infidelity
Absence makes the heart grow fonder but it can also lead to loneliness and a need for comfort. While many military spouses remain faithful and others intend to do so, the overwhelming need for emotional understanding can often lead to seeking comfort with another person. After all, human beings need more than just a voice on the other end of the phone and in a moment of weakness, infidelity can, unfortunately become a reality.

To overcome these challenges, you must:

  • Resolve to remain committed
  • Resist temptation. Your spouse may not be there physically, but their heart is with you.
  • Communicate. Be open, honest, and patient.
  • Take a deep breath. Embrace the challenges and added responsibilities. Find ways to relieve stress – delegate tasks, exercise, a hobby, etc.

The best advice for surviving deployment as a couple is to focus on your spouse and your relationship, not the hardships deployment has created for you. You and your spouse chose the military lifestyle; therefore, you have to accept that which comes with the territory.

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