Relationships aren’t easy. When you factor in military service, the normal challenges found in even extremely healthy relationships can be greatly exasperated. But what happens when you want your service member to get out, but they are all in?
While this may be a difficult issue to navigate and work through – it isn’t impossible.
First, try to examine your “why” behind wanting them to get out of the service. Are there specific aspects of military life that make you feel like you’re emotionally or mentally drowning? This life isn’t always an amazing adventure, there are certain seasons of this life that will certainly test resiliency. Make a list of the things that are pushing you to have them get out. Then, talk it out. More importantly, communicate about it.
Communication is truly the glue that holds healthy relationships together. This doesn’t simply mean airing your feelings and grievances regarding the military and why they shouldn’t re-enlist though. It’s more involved than that. Good communication has key important ingredients and if they are missing – the conversation will fall apart before it even starts. These are some of those keys to successful communication, for both of you.
- Be an active listener. This part of communication is vital. The Marriage and Family Clinic defines this as not just simply hearing but truly listening. This means not formulating your reply as they speak or thinking of other unrelated things. Absorb their feelings and what they are communicating to you. Give them your undivided attention.
- Take the “you/your” out of your communication. Psychology Today highlights why it is detrimental to communicate with “you” statements. Instead, replace those with “I” statements. This is where you both talk about your personal feelings. Example: “The reasons I want you to leave the military are….” Instead of: “Your job is running my life.” Remember, these are your personal feelings. Whatever impact their military service is having, it’s not their fault you feel the way you do. Your feelings are your own, express them that way.
Once you’ve both talked through your feelings about the military service, you should feel a sense of relief. Conflict in any relationship tends to lead to tense interactions as well as irritability. A study in Science Daily proved that putting your feelings into words can have therapeutic effects on your brain. There’s a reason communication is arguably the most important part of a healthy marriage.
This is a significant conflict, as it will impact your marriage significantly if neither of you chooses to compromise on your wishes. According to the Gottman Institute, conflict truly is a natural part of marriage. But so is compromise. Neither of you is going to “win” every conflict or disagreement. However, when you communicate in healthy ways and work together to make the situation or conflict better – you both do.
Your reasons for wanting them to get out of the military may include things like missing your family, disliking the continuous moves, or feeling like you always come in second to their career. Whatever they are, those feelings are important.
But in the end, their passion and dream may be continuing their military service. If you push them to get out when they have everything wrapped in that – it could lead to even greater conflict and discord in your marriage.
In the beginning of this article, you were asked to examine your feelings on wanting them to get out. If you’ve taken the steps to communicate with your partner in a healthy way and they aren’t going to budge on their steadfast intent to re-enlist – you have a decision to make. Do you end a marriage or do you take the issues you are experiencing with the military life and try to improve them for yourself? You are in control of how you respond to this.
Although you may have the support of a friend group, it is advisable to seek professional counseling. Why? They are unbiased. A counselor is not going to tell you what you want to hear or just agree with you. Their job is to help you unpack your issues and work through them effectively and give you the tools and resources to do so. Maybe there are underlying issues that you haven’t yet worked through that are contributing to your feelings of unhappiness with continuing the military life. It may also be recommended to bring your spouse in on some of these sessions, which will only enhance your marriage. Take the time to invest in this.
Your marriage is worth the work. So are you.