Deployments come and go, no two are the same and no three milspouses learn the same lessons during them. Over the past 15 years of surviving deployments, milspouses have conquered them head on, and learned a lot from them. Here are some unique ways they’ve used a deployment to strengthen their relationships.
1. Write letters
With the constant technological advances, communication is taken for granted. But talking every day via Skype or even phone calls minimizes the impact and quality. Frequently, families feel that they are still missing out on quality conversation even while talking each and every day. Writing letters, even emails, requires some advance thought and anticipation. Not everything needs to be immediately communicated, and who doesn’t love getting mail? A little bit of patience and forethought goes a long way with a handwritten letter.
2. Read Books
Reading is one of those things that instantly bonds people. Book clubs are so popular because we love reading and sharing our thoughts on books together. This is a perfect way to keep a relationship strong during a deployment, both for your marriage and for your kids. My husband and I liked to read similar books, and this is a great thing to do while apart. Read a few chapters, talk about it, etc. You’ll think about the other person and be motivated to keep reading. Recorded books for kids are a great tool. Children of all ages can hear their parent’s voice and feel close to them while they are gone.
3. Keep some secrets
Seriously, not everything needs to be shared with everyone. Seriously. Some things can be kept secret. Even from your mother, even from your spouse. I’m not saying don’t tell him when the refrigerator needs to be replaced. Or keep from her the kid’s illness. But a little surprise makes for something to talk about in that letter, or when they come home. Keeping a little spark in the relationship is hard to do with constant news and communication. This is a helpful way to survival deployment. So when you get a haircut or buy a new outfit, keep it quiet for a few days, surprise them the next time you skype.
4. Try something new
Wanted to take a cooking class? Learn a new language? Start a hobby? Write a book? This is a great time to do that, for both of you. Carve out some time for yourself. My good friend always says, “Self-care is not selfish,” and she’s right. Wine tasting club may give you some new ideas on how to pair wine with your meal, introduce you to some new friends, and give you something new to talk about with your spouse. On the other hand, if your spouse branches out to try something new on deployment, maybe taking up running, weight lifting, or a new language, give them encouragement.
5. Pictures, Smells, Teddy Bears
No, not just for your kids. I remember burning a particular candle that I thought smelled like “man” when my husband was deployed. And really loving those first few days when I could still smell his body wash in the shower. Some friends have slept in their husband’s t-shirts to recreate the feeling of sleeping with him. Others have photos of their spouse on a pillowcase, both here and over there. I think my favorite idea was my friend Carolyn, who had a “love bear,” something she could spray her husband’s cologne on, look at, and even hug when needed. He had one too. “Especially when talking on the phone, we had something to touch and smell.”
What ways do you strengthen your relationships while overcoming the emotional and physical drain of deployments?