Sunday, September 15, 2013

You Know You Do It Too : The Emotional Strain of Deployments

We all try to pretend like our marriages are perfect. That we never fight. That we agree on everything. Somehow, society makes us feel like that is how it's supposed to be. It makes us feel guilty when things don't work out quite how we want them to. Military spouses feel the strain too. Sometimes in a more profound way because of the distance during deployments. There is always this feeling of needing everything to be perfect and cheerful in your relationship because you are so far apart. That includes making sure that no one else realizes that things might not be hunky-dory. Because who knows what could happen in the future. This is what we live with every day.

The truth is that military spouses are human. We don't have any super powers. We are just as vulnerable and weak as any other person. We don't send our husbands and wives out because we want to. We cry real tears and we miss just as strongly. And our marriages are just as vulnerable to stress and anger. We have arguments just like anyone else does, even if we pretend we don't. The hard part that enters here is how do you deal with fights and disagreements over the internet? How do you have the arguments but heal your relationship afterwards when your spouse is so far away. Things don't work the same way as it does when they are home. There is no walking away, cooling off, and then apologizing after a little while. You don't know when you are going to be able to talk to them again.  But lets face it. Despite our best efforts to be "happy, happy, joy, joy" all the time, it doesn't always happen. Deployment is stressful. It's frustrating and it's painful. There are a number of things from finances to children misbehaving that can cause tension. Even against our better nature, we probably are going to end up having at least one (for some of us, more than that) heated disagreement during the separation.

So the real trick comes down to, not avoiding conflict, but knowing how to deal with it. I think the number one thing to start with is knowing how to properly argue. I know, that seems very strange right? A proper way to fight? But I'm not crazy...well, ok I'm not COMPLETELY crazy. According to Amanda Rowett, a Licensed Counselor Associate, there are several guidelines that should be followed when arguing. If followed they help emotions stay in check and healthy solutions actually form. These guidelines are seek to listen, exercise empathy, approach conflict with a problem solving mindset, steer clear of criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling, do not use threats, stay away from blanket statements, generalizations and judgments, and avoid accusations. You can read her article for more information on all the guidelines by clicking the first link below. It is also mentioned that as a couple you need to be willing to get help if you can't deal with the issues on your own. There is NOTHING wrong with going to a therapist. Sometimes what we need is a safe area to share our thoughts with someone to buffer.

Another great article that I found on Military OneSource talks about how to communicate as a couple. A section of it talks about how to do so when it comes to difficult topics. There number one suggestion in this situation is to make sure you bring the topic up in a stress free environment. Yes, I know, difficult when they are deployed but you can still find a time when it is less stressful. Until then, do your best to not bring up the subject if you think it might cause a fight. They also say to avoid throwing several negative topics at your spouse at once. If you overwhelm them with all the things that are going wrong and they are doing wrong and blah blah blah, they are immediately going to go on the defense. At that point, your already in trouble. One at a time, my dears, one at a time. That can be hard when it's been days since you've talk to them and there is just SOOO much that you need to discuss but I promise, being patient will pay off.

Even when we know all the rules of conduct and we do our best to follow them, our emotions get the best of us. We say something we regret later. I'm totally guilty of doing this. What I've learned is that you must be willing to apologize, no matter what. Even if you think you are right. There is no need to hang up angry with each other. That just eats at you. And really, whether we like to talk about the possibility or not, our loved ones are at war. There is a high risk involved. How would you handle knowing the last thing your loved one heard from you was something angry and resentful? I know that would destroy me. Therefore, I try my best to always tell him I love him before we hang up, even if the argument hasn't fully been smoothed over.

Now, there is another thought that I have had about deployment arguments. It will sound weird to some and some will agree. So here it is. We LOVE talking to our spouses of course. We live to hear the ring of Skype on our computers or a call from a strange number. Most of the time we feel like we never have enough time to talk. However, is there a point where we can talk TOO MUCH when they are deployed? I think there can be. And I think that is often followed by a lot of fighting. When you talk so much you are running out of things to say, those silent moments often start to be filled with negative comments. You start to think more about how you resent where you are and what is happening. You think about all the things you are struggling with that the other spouse isn't. Soon pointless arguments are breaking out whenever you speak. And there is NOTHING healthy about that. I believe that if this is happening in your marriage that it might not hurt to take a break from communicating. I know, I know. That sounds insane. But my husband and I have done this. Sometimes, taking a little extra time to remember why you love talking to them so much is good. Missing them can be healthy for you. It reawakens your heart and makes you long for them. So the next time you talk to them all you can think about is how excited you are to hear their voice. I'm telling you, it works, crazy or not. =)

Anyways, these are just my thoughts and experiences. Naturally, all your marriages are perfect, right? ;)

Keep L i/o ving!


Sources:
http://bellevuechristiancounseling.com/2013/04/15/christian-marriage-counseling-tips-on-how-to-fight-fair-part-1-of-2/

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/health-wellness?content_id=268675 - probably my favorite article on communicating as a couple. It's a must read. =)