The military has always put stress on couples, and this trend seems to be even greater today. However, with the appropriate tools and planning, a relationship between a service member and civilian can be strengthened by these stresses and grow stronger through perseverance. Need to know how you will be communicating with your family while on duty? How expensive it will be on weekly basis? Find out when you are able to go for your break to visit your spouse at home?
- Connect before they leave. Often your significant other will receive forewarning before they must enter military service. Use this time wisely. Avoid the temptation to fight or criticize one another. Try to understand what your partner is going through. In some places, a military career is not one that is selected by choice. Do not dwell on the concept that you might lose one another. Instead enjoy the time you have together and grow closer as a couple. Work to connect on deeper emotional levels, and try to look forward to the future with optimism.
- Prepare for changes. When an individual enters military service they are often required to move away from their home, sometimes for several years. Be prepared for this. Work to establish plans. It may be worthwhile to create a plan and apply for jobs near where they will be stationed. Do not do this immediately though. Wait till they have reached their new base and are stabilized, otherwise the move could create undue stress for your service member while they are trying to integrate into a new unit. Talk it out and wait for their go-ahead.
- Prepare for changes in your partner. Nearly every Military in the world has some sort of Basic Combat Training. This is designed to take civilians and teach them how to survive in combat, while enforcing discipline and preparing them to be effective warriors. This initial training is generally designed to be difficult and it can be a life altering experience for many recruits. Be prepared for these changes. Do not blame your partner for them; these changes often symbolize adaptations they had to make in order to survive the rigors of training for combat.
- Prepare for changes in yourself. When your partner leaves you will have to find a sense of independence to keep going. Just as they are having to adapt to a new environment, you will be doing so as well. It is good to have a support network here, and it definitely helps if you set this up beforehand. Try to locate mutual friends and family members that know you both well. If it was just you and your partner, things can get very lonely if you have no one to talk to. Although you may feel the urge to stray away from your partner, strive not to do so. Leaving them while they are away may make them feel abandoned and betrayed.
- Communicate as much as possible. Many initial training programs limit communications with loved ones in order to simulate the rigors of war. Despite this, it is important to use whatever means possible to continue communication. Openly share your feelings and try not to hide anything. This can be a very stressful time, and if it seems like something is being held back it can compound that stress, creating unnecessary fights and heartbreak. If your partner is deployed to a combat zone, be prepared for sparse communication. If letters or phone calls are sparse, it does not necessarily mean that your partner no longer cares about you. It could just be that the logistical structure required to maintain that communication is lacking.
- Enjoy every minute of time you have together. Occasionally, your loved one may get blocks of leave where they can return home. Enjoy the time you have with them and use it to connect as a couple. Know though, that often they will want to see family and friends as well. Do not get upset about this, because odds are they have not seen their family for the same amount of time that they've been missing you. Do take time for yourselves though. Celebrate the strength you both have found by facing this tribulation.
- Continue planning for the future.