The military is not for everyone, the same can be said for military spouses. The ones who make it through 20+ years of service with their families still intact are among the very very few. We are at almost 12 years in May and even we struggle at times. I have been on both sides of the pier. Waving as I sail off for months on end and being the one left behind. No side is easier than the other, so I am a bit qualified to give some advice (for once). So, here are some ways I cope with the frequent absence of my spouse.
I am not going to mention first responders in this post. I will say it right now, as a firefighters daughter, you will be able to relate to some portion of this post. You do understand the hardships. In a way, I feel my dad’s service set me up for military life, and I am thankful for that.
Rule #1: Don’t keep track of absences
I have lost track of the times my husband has been away for work. I don’t keep track, because the time he is gone is quickly forgotten and replaced with all the memories we will share when he is home.
Don’t use it as ammo for a fight, they feel bad enough as it is for leaving their family and they know all the extra responsibly it puts on you. However, it is good to remind them kindly from time to time all that you are doing. Maybe an email detailing your busiest day. If they are smart, they will give you an email full of gratitude and love or even a quick phone call. Sometimes, it is just what you need after a long rough day.
Rule #2: Build a support network, not a pity party
What is the difference? A support network is people you can call to get you out of a funk or help you out when a job requires two parents. Like, taking your kid along to a soccer game because you can not be in two places at once (The Cena family you are saints), or watching your kids so you can attend classes (Dakotah I still owe you for that). They do not have to know the military to help. My neighborhood is beyond some of my best supporters. They are indispensable and a combination of military spouses and families with multiple children.
Why you need non-military friends. It is easy to get into group think and start a pity party instead of actually providing support. If you must have a pity party, (I admit I have had a few) find one and I mean ONE very loyal friend to just spill it all out over wine, margaritas, mimosas, whatever. You can have your pity party but you can’t eat your cake too. This type of talk is not appropriate for group discussion. You will sound like the spouse who only complains. No one likes that one.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a solid group of military spouses who mentor me and just get it. They are some amazing women and men. Some of them have been at this game for over 20 years. They are some sweet and savage spouses. I cherish them whole heartedly.
As far as attending spouse events, I do attend some. One I have at the end of the month, but I do not attend often due to my own lack of comfortability with being a former service member and now spouse. Also, I am awkward as F***. We also just switched from enlisted to officer, so I am learning to navigate the new role. Have to be a lot more sweet than savage in these situations. Give me time and I will get over my awkwardness, or not.
Rule #3: CYA (cover your assets)
This is very important. Your spouse/partner can not be relied on. Their internet is unreliable and the time difference is a bitch. This is where you have a power of attorney (POA) in place before they leave. And I mean for even the unimaginable. Let me tell you a story about a few weeks ago I totaled my car. I did not have the proper POA to switch the title to insurance. It was a pain in the ass and I am lucky my husband once again saved it from across the Pacific. He’s a keeper, I know. See even us seasoned spouses forget things from time to time. No one is perfect.
But in all seriousness. You never know what is going to happen to you or your spouse. Have all your stuff in order before they leave. Know how to access bills, insurance, bank accounts. The works. The time for adulating is now so be ready to deal with life. Set up autopay for everything you can. It really helps. Also, set up a budget. I suck at all this so I am using my lack of ability to help you. Those who can’t do teach, right?
Rule #4: Stay Busy
Now is not the time to quit things because you’re on your own. Now is the time to do all the things you wanted to do but you were too busy focusing on family time. Like me, this blog is something I started because I was not busy enough. I love to write, I am opinionated, and I had the extra time. Lack of sex is also a big motivator. So find a hobby. Join a gym. If you have small children join a mom group. If your kids are old enough for sports get them involved. That will really take up your time. If you don’t work, find a job. The extra spending money will be great and it helps the days fly by. Just don’t do something that will deplete your bank account preferably. Staying busy is the key to getting through deployment.
One thing I did was go back to school. This was not easy, especially when my husband had to leave for work. However, I had that whole network I talked about earlier in place so I could get through school. I did it. It was difficult, but I did it. I even went out of state for classes in the summer and intersession. You know what, it felt great! So if you are debating about going back to school, just do it already. You won’t regret it. There are resources available for spouses. Use them!
Rule #5: Use your resources
Okay, I admit this is not my strength. I was an ombudsman for two years and even then I do not know all the resources available. But yo know who does? Fleet and Family Services, MWR, other spouses, FRG, the Ombudsman, and the seasoned spouse around you. Use your sources the educate you on your resources. It can save you money and help you find fun things to do with the kids while mom/dad is away.
Rule #6: Do not have an email war with your spouse
Again I may or may not have done this. Okay, I have a few times. It can be frustrating and my husband is my greatest ally. I tend to take things out on him even if he isn’t here, but don’t be me. Emails can be taken out of context very easily, be carful what you say. Sarcasm and passive aggressiveness does not translate well via the web. Speaking from experience here.
It is okay to not have it all together. It is okay to admit to your spouse that you are losing your mind and wish they were home. But remember, it doesn’t make it easier on any of you. It will not change anything. So if you must express yourself and convey frustration don’t put the blame of them. Don’t do it over a quick phone call you may not get again in a few weeks. It is because of their job you have the benefits you do, the resources available to you ad your family. The military is not perfect, but it is much better than most jobs. So check yourself before you wreck yourself and your marriage. We all say things we don’t mean. If you do, you better right your wrong real quick.
Rule #7: Keep the spark alive
Hopefully you know what your spouse likes. For mine, well I can’t tell you that. Kidding! But really, a simple picture of our daily lives is enough to get them through. Even if it is in the car going to school, dogs sleeping in their favorite spot, or a bit of you looking good picture. No nudes, other people can easily look at emails. Something to remind them you are thinking of them daily. Remember no sex for months! A little dirty talk can go a long way. Send them off with a sexy photo they can hide away. Find anything because as much as we like to think lack of intimacy is not an issue, by month 5 you’re feeling like death valley in the love department if you know what I mean.
One thing I consistently do is write notes ahead of time. I write letters to him that he takes along and opens at the beginning of the deployment, the middle, holidays, special occasions, and at the end of the deployment. I have one photo in each. I also hide sticky notes in his locker. He usually finds them all the first day, but it is the thought that counts. The first note I ever wrote him he still keeps in his wallet. It’s the little things. I hardly send care packages. Not because I am cheap or cold hearted, but hello Amazon Prime. It gets there way faster. We usually send two per deployment with all his favorite snacks and anything he needs or wants. I also try to send a few things those he works with. As a thank you for keeping him company, and because I was once a recipient of a spouses care package when I was newly enlisted.
Rule #8: Keep your eye on the prize
What is the prize? Homecoming day/night what else! Oh yes! It is like losing your virginity all over again. You made it past the however many months they were away and now its all over. It is like the longes four play ever, is finally over. Congratulations! But remember to take your birth control because many babies are born 9 months after homecoming. Coincidence? I think not!
Rule #9: Getting back to normal
This can be bittersweet for many. You spent months getting into a routine and now they are back. This will disrupt all your plans and it will take time to get back to another routine. It is going to be okay. Remember to take time and go over schedules. Do not expect them to know what has been going on while they were away. Enjoy that fact that they can take away some of the burden. Ease them into it. And let the past go. Look forward to new memories.
Rule #10: Repeat for next deployment
That’s right. It is a vicious cycle. One deployment down and another one looms on the horizon. Stick to what worked the last time and throw out what didn’t. Evolve as you go. You can do it! You did it! Now make these deployments your b**** and make that shit look easy. Even thought we all know it is never easier. You only get numb to it all and just get through it.
Hopefully my struggles can prevent you from repeating my mistakes. Not a typical sweet and savage mom post, but very real and very much relevant as my husband is currently deployed. Good luck, and always be sweet and savage. Can’t get enough, subspace for more doses of savagery or sweetness.