Maintaining relationships during deployment

Military spouses and significant others provide an invaluable source of support to today’s service members. Loved ones can play a vital role in offering encouragement during a military career, especially during deployments, when separation often goes hand-in-hand with concern for the safety of service members, coping as a single parent at home or worries about money or legal troubles.

Starting with open communication and a willingness to work together, couples can boost their resilience to manage the strains associated with deployments. This article offers tips on how you and your significant other can persevere through the tough times, lower the stress of separation and maintain a strong relationship throughout the deployment cycle.

Relationships and deployment

Being apart can be tough, especially when deployments are high risk or household demands build up. However, establishing a strong foundation before deployment can help ease stressors that may develop later.

• Stay connected. Talk about the importance of regular contact. Make plans for how you will keep in touch, and how often. Keep in mind that you may need to plan around deployment assignments and events at home. Try to time conversations about upsetting issues so that they do not pile up all at once.

• Before deployment, establish a support network for the person at home. Find the contact number for resources within your service branch that can help loved ones cope with issues such as medical problems or financial hardships that may cause stress.

• Build trust. Discuss in detail your expectations of each other before the deployment. Maintain honest communication and listen.

• Develop understanding. If you are fighting, get to the bottom of what is really upsetting you so that you can work to solve it.

• Find out if your loved one is feeling down. Deployments can cause stress for both service members and their loved ones at home that can lead to depression and other conditions. Reaching out for support can help you manage any reactions to stress that occur before, during or after deployment.

Knowing when to seek help
Even seemingly perfect relationships often have problems, most of which can be solved by the couple on their own.  It’s important to realize that relationship problems — if left unresolved for long periods of time — have the potential to impact a warrior’s well-being and focus on the job.

Don’t hesitate to seek help from a support group, counselor or chaplain if:
• the spouse at home feels overwhelmed with the extra responsibilities;

• the deployed service member feels helpless to support family in need;

• problems keep you from getting daily tasks done;

• one or both of you feels alone or without anyone to talk to;

• there is awkwardness or nervousness between you and your loved one, or

• you want to work on strengthening your relationship.

Some people may not seek help because they fear counseling may make things worse or because they prefer to keep relationship matters private.  However, reaching out for support can help you feel more secure and build resilience to cope with stressors during deployment.

The Military Family Life Consultant program offers trained, professional counselors for service members and their families to speak with — and all conversations are confidential and free of charge.

To reach a MFLC in USAG Stuttgart, call civ. 0170-708-0715 or 0160-9574-8279.