Being married or partnered to someone in the military has its own set of characteristics, customs and sense of community. Partners in an interracial couple have to appreciate and understand each other’s cultures and how this manifests in behavior and family life. This is the same for military couples as well.
Some aspects of these relationships are unique to the military world, while others share a common thread with others who face particularly difficult challenges in their relationships as well.
The absence of a partner who is currently deployed is unique to the military experience. No one else quite knows what it is like to have to maintain a certain optimism while also facing all the usual day-to-day hassles of managing a family while a partner is away for an extended time. There are also long training periods which may separate you from each other. When your partner is home, there can be an unsettling tension when waiting for the call to action.
Having a good outlet – or more likely, outlets – for your stress ensures you can be a rock of support for your partner as well as soothe yourself. This may take the form of regular exercise, some sort of meditation or relaxation, and regular interaction with your wide social circle of support. Family, friends and other civilian partners of a military spouse are an important part of your foundation. This is not just for you to lean on, but to be able to be leaned on as well. Feeling that you are supporting others, particularly those in the same situation as you, can open a more realistic perspective to your worries and enrich your sense of self-trust and confidence. Supporting others can refill your own supply of energy and self-care as well.
During training times, it can be easy to fall into a mode of seeing your spouse’s daily activities as similar to that of a job. It isn’t uncommon for army couples to fight during training time. There can be an almost implicit belief that training beyond eight hours a day is voluntary, and that your partner can choose to return home and be with you after fulfilling a certain minimum hour schedule. Training is based on level of preparedness and that means continuing until a sufficient level of expertise is reached to be able to save lives and prevent unnecessary deaths in war conditions.
There may be ways in which you can strengthen the time you two spend together while also showing your support for the gruelling training calendar. Getting up at the same time, even if it is just to make the coffee and see your partner off, can lessen the isolation your partner feels about leaving every day for such long hours. When your partner is away, you will reflect on these mornings and there will be a strength to draw from in the memories.
Having a partner in the army, navy or air force is a rewarding and proud life. But managing the stresses is necessary for partnership success.