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My husband is about half way through his first deployment and things have been going pretty well for both of us. But recently a big family drama (between certain people in my family and in his) blew-up and I was caught in the middle of the whole thing. It was very stressful and upsetting to me and it doesn’t look like it will come to an end any time soon. I want to tell my husband about it, but I don’t want him to be sucked into the drama and worry about how I am handling it. When I ask other military spouses for advice, I get different opinions. Some say not to tell him because it will just worry him and there is nothing he can do to fix it. But others say that by not telling him I am being dishonest! My husband says he wants to know everything that is going on, but I am wondering how much information is too much during a deployment? Help!
Dealing with Drama
Dear Dealing with Drama,
Thanks, in large part, to the internet and social media, we now live in a society where everyone thinks they need to know every detail of every minute of our lives… all the time. And because deployments have benefited from this technology, some couples tell each other every single detail of their lives even (sometimes) to the detriment of the mission, violating OPSEC rules. Being separated from your spouse for months at a time while having access to frequent, dependable communication, has led many to believe that they must divulge every single detail. I tend to disagree with this theory. My advice, in short, is to NOT share this family drama with your husband. During a deployment, when faced with this dilemma, here are 4 questions to ask before you “tell-all”:
1. What can he do about it?
Short of emailing every single person involved in the drama and telling them to cut it out… is there anything he could do to change the situation? Probably not. He doesn’t want to waste precious phone time dealing with it, and I am sure you don’t want to give up your actual phone time with him so he can tackle drama. I know that when I tell my husband about a problem or “drama” I am having he wants to DO something about it. Especially if he sees that I am upset. And when he can’t DO anything, he gets frustrated. Even after years of me explaining that all I want him to do is listen and throw out the occasional “Oh, that’s terrible, you should totally hate her!”… he still can’t help himself. Compound that natural instinct with the stress of deployment and the feeling that he is so far away and helpless to run to your aid… I can imagine that frustration would be ten-fold. But, please! Don’t just keep all this inside… it is not healthy for YOU. If you need to talk, find a friend who will listen, will throw in those “OMG I can’t believe they did that to you!” comments, and spill all the drama to them.
2. Would I write it in a letter?
Military spouses didn’t USED to tell everything. Let’s just stop for a moment and think back to a simpler time where the only communication you had from a deployed spouse was delivered by the mail man. Phone calls were not an option, and when they started to come in to play, they were very infrequent. Imagine if you had to sit down and explain the drama in a written letter, put it in the mail knowing it will take weeks to get there, and that it would take several weeks to get a reply. You probably wouldn’t waste the paper to send that kind of stuff. A good question to ask is, “Will this matter in 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years?” If not, then it is probably best left unsaid. Now, if there is a chance he will find out about this drama despite your discretion (via facebook, email from other family members, etc.) then yes, you should probably MENTION it to him, but in a very casual way. “Oh goodness, had a little fuss with Aunt Mildred, but it is nothing to worry about, I am fine, and we are taking care of it”. If he presses you further, really emphasize that it is no big deal and change the subject.
3. Are you sure you can update him?
Since this is an ongoing drama that seems to have no end, there are certain to be changes in the situation. What if today you divulge the entire story to him, all the drama, how you are feeling, etc. Then tomorrow there is a resolution? But he ends up in a communication black-out for a week. He won’t have the benefit of knowing things have improved… so he just gets to worry and assume the situation is still bad. We sometimes get spoiled with communication and forget that it can be shut off at a moment’s notice.
4. Is it BEST for him to know?
Just because they WANT to know everything… does not mean it is BEST for them to know everything. Now I know that this will cause a small uproar, but hear me out. Of course your spouse is going to tell you that he wants to know everything. He doesn’t want you to feel alone. He wants to be there for you since you are supporting him. He wants to feel connected to home and not feel left out of your daily life. But is that what is BEST for him? Would it be beneficial for you if he were able to tell you every time a bomb went off near him? Would you sleep better at night because he told you about seeing someone die? Would you feel more connected to him if he told you that there was a breach of security on his base and he was scared? Probably not. The only thing that would do is make you absolutely sick to your stomach with worry. It would probably make you less able to focus at work, you might be more distracted with the kids, and you might be so tired you lock your keys in the car. Now, I want you to think of those things in a deployment. Losing focus, becoming distracted or forgetting things… can result in some pretty serious missteps when you are in a war zone. Can they handle it? Probably. Should they have to? Well, that is another question entirely.
Now, after your husband gets home, if you want to tell him every juicy detail of the drama that is a different story. But, like many dramas, I suspect that it will be over and done with by then and you won’t even want to dredge it all back up and rehash all that mess… you will be too busy focusing on the reintegration of your marriage. And for the critics who say that withholding any information is equal to being dishonest, I will 100% disagree. Certainly if there is a legal matter, a death or serious injury in the family, etc. you should tell your spouse. Because he will probably find out about it from another source and you want him to receive bad news in a respectful manner… not from some random facebook post. But making a decision NOT to tell him about things that are of the drama variety, he has NO control over, and that will just upset him and cause him worry… is actually doing him a big favor. We need to remember that during a deployment, our spouses cannot be expected to be our support system… no matter how much they want to be. We have to find a support network of friends, co-workers, fellow spouses, church members, etc. The reality is that right now you are living two separate lives. He has to depend on the other members of his unit for support because there are things you cannot and should now know. It really is no different from our end.
I wish you the best throughout the rest of the deployment… and the drama.