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Preparing Your Marriage for a Military Deployment

If your spouse is in the military, you---and your marriage---will most likely face a long-term deployment in the future. Preparing for deployment, living through a deployment, and adjusting to life afterwards can test even the strongest marriage. So what can you do to manage your feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety and help your marriage to stay strong?

Before the Deployment

One of the tensest times associated with a deployment actually happens before your spouse even leaves. You worry about how you'll run the household alone and you wonder how your marriage will survive while you're apart for so long. Be sure that you and your spouse understand the emotional stages of deployment which begins several weeks before the departure. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

Talk About Your Future
Marriage is about your life together, and every relationship needs hope for the future. Your spouse may be leaving for a while, but don't let that stop the two of you from making plans. Perhaps you want to buy a house, start a family, or take a vacation when your partner returns. Having a plan will give the two of you something to look forward to and talk about while you're apart.

Plan to Communicate
Make a plan to talk to your spouse as often as you can, in as many ways as you can. Communication access may not always be reliable---you may not be able to talk to your spouse every day before you go to bed---so keep your plans flexible and be willing to use a variety of ways to keep in touch (email, webcam, and handwritten letters).

Discuss Infidelity
Talk about fidelity and how you expect your spouse to act while he/she is away. Both partners should agree to remain faithful during a deployment and avoid situations that may lead to temptation. Be sure to trust your spouse and do your best to avoid jealous feelings.

Create a Support Network
Running a household alone and being a single parent is no easy task. Create a support network for the at-home spouse that includes friends, family members, and other military spouses, as well as more advanced education and counseling services that help to deal with the day-to-day challenges of deployment.

During the Deployment

Your spouse is gone. Now's the time to put your plan into action and keep your marriage strong.

Talk and Open Up
Talk to your partner as often as you can about how you're coping and how the family is doing. Resist the urge to put on a happy face and hide your problems or worries. Keeping your spouse in the loop will not only strengthen your relationship, it will reduce feelings of detachment they may feel when they return. Being open and honest will also help you and your partner to address any problems that arise post-deployment.

Don't Blame
Things will definitely be different and more stressful when your spouse is gone, but don't blame your partner for his/her absence by saying things like, "If you were here, I'd have someone to talk to" or "Your son wouldn't act like this if you were home." Feel free to talk about your problems. Just leave out the blame.

Take Care of Yourself
Eat well and be sure to exercise and get plenty of rest. You and your partner have plans for the future, remember? You want to be in tip-top shape when he/she returns.

Stay Positive
Know that while the deployment won't last forever, your marriage will. You're both in it for the long haul, and you just need to keep the faith, stay positive, and get through this difficult time in your relationship.

After the Deployment

The return of a deployed spouse will stir up a variety of emotions. You're excited to see each other again and resume your normal life, but you may also worry about how things will go, especially if you're a newlywed, if your spouse was gone for a long time, or if your spouse is suffering from combat stress or injuries. Here are some tips:

Be Patient
Things will be bumpy for a while, and everything won't go back to the way it was right away. The most important thing to remember is to have patience. Keep in mind that it may take several months before you feel in synch with each other again.

Re-Establish Your Roles
One of the biggest challenges your marriage will face after a deployment will be learning how to work together again, sharing household responsibilities and accommodating each other's points of view. If you're the spouse who stayed home, you may be reluctant to give up your power, while your deployed spouse may struggle with how unpredictable and complex normal life is. Take time to talk to each other about how you're feeling and how you want to handle things.

Get Help
Talk about your problems, and then take advantage of available support services---chaplain, family support center, outreach session, and private counseling---to get help for problems you can't tackle alone.

Remember that marriage is a journey of two people going through life together. A strong married couple works together steadily, solves problems, makes plans, and resolutely moves toward to the future.

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