The moments before, during, and after deployments are strange.
They can make you feel light as air and fill you with bliss; yet they can also crush you as you carry the heavy weight of deployment guilt, anxiety, and stress. Even the healthiest of couples find deployments to be difficult at times. So what does one do if he or she feels like they’re growing apart from their spouse?
If there were a clear-cut answer, no one would struggle with the dilemma. There are answers, but oftentimes those answers can be complex and come with gray areas. So, in an effort to simplify your quest for peace as you may feel you are drifting apart from your loved one, here are some steps that are sure to get you back on the right track and figure out how to cope after deployment.
1. Spend quality time together
There is a difference between being under the same roof hours on end each day and spending real quality time with one another. Sitting on the same couch – make that the same cushion – cozied up together isn’t necessarily quality time together either.
Fill the silence with meaningful conversation and fill the time with meaningful activities. If your husband loves to golf, ask if you can tag along and ride in the cart to spend some time together. If your wife loves to try recipes, ask her if you can go grocery shopping together and help in the kitchen. Working together and talking while you work will bridge the gap that may have formed during a deployment.
During extreme lengths of separation, it isn’t uncommon feel far apart, more independent, and even stubborn. Make a point to spend quality time with your partner and make an effort to make that person feel valued.
2. Make your relationship top priority
One of the most common problems spouses admit to having with each other is this: they don’t feel like a priority. It is easy for people to let work, children, or social activities take over their calendars, especially when it comes to the military. It is so easy for service members to let the stress of their jobs take over their lives; the tough battle is fighting to keep your spouse a priority.
Put the laundry on hold. Call a babysitter. Use a vacation day. Do whatever it takes to make sure you put your relationship first. The most difficult part of the deployment cycle often comes immediately after the redeployment. When the spouse returns home, tensions can be high and it can be awkward. FOCUS on the Family writer Erin Prater suggested getting reacquainted by dating.
“Both of you have changed, if only in small ways, since the commencement of deployment. Have fun relearning each other’s favorite food, movie, and date-night activity. Does he still like sleeping on the cold side of the pillow? Does she still love ketchup on her eggs? Pick a book of “if” questions or a board game that will facilitate the process of getting reacquainted.” This will help you avoid distance AFTER distance.
3. Take a trip down memory lane
“It’s incredibly easy for couples to grow apart because we have such busy lives,” Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, said. Ashley is a psychotherapist who specializes in couple’s therapy. Unless you consciously try to stay committed to one another, the everyday activities you call life can pull you apart.
If you find yourself sitting at the table, staring at your spouse, wondering what it is that attracted you to him or her in the first place, search for the answer. Discuss the moment you first met or talk about your first kiss. Or take it a step further and dig out some old photos and create a timeline of your favorite memories together. Was it your first dance? Your wedding day? The birth of a child? Discussing these memories and revisiting the moments you were happiest together can rekindle the spark between both of you.