So you've fallen in love with a military man. As romantic as the notion seems, you are soon going to find out that it's not all sunshine and roses! Maintaining a solid relationship with a military boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife can not only be very stressful, but it can also be lonely. However, it is also a type of relationship that can thrive and grow with every passing moment. As long as both parties are willing and strong, it can be a beautiful thing.
Once you find yourself in a military relationship, you often find yourself halfway across the world, not only away from your significant other, but away from your family as well. Your situation may vary a bit, especially if you have children.
Everyone knows that communication is important in every marriage, but in a military relationship it becomes a thousand times more important. When your loved one is deployed, communication becomes extremely hard. Whether your husband or boyfriend is deployed to the middle east, deployed on a ship, or simply stationed far away, there are many ways to keep in contact and many ways to keep communication open.
- Telephones - Communication by telephone in the Middle East is limited, but if your loved one is stationed there, provide them with phone cards so that they may call you. These chances will be few and far between, but the moment that phone rings you will be very grateful. Deployment on a ship limits phone usage even more, but when the ship comes into a port visit, they often have access to phones. Phone cards come in handy in this situation as well.
It is to be expected that your phone calls will have to be short and could be cut off at any moment. It is important while you are speaking with your loved one to make sure to not feel rushed and speak with them as if you always would. Often emotions take a hold of us and it becomes hard to keep your head, especially if you haven't spoken with them in a long time, but try your hardest to keep it together for the sake of your military member. Often just the sound of their voice will be worth a short phone call.
- Email - In today's day and age, email is the very best form of contact between you and your significant other. Whether they are in a foreign country or out on the ocean, your service member will have access to email. As with the phones it will be limited in the time that they can use it, but often they will be able to read messages and send messages daily. One of the most important things to remember when emailing is that the email is kept secure. It is important to never type out where your significant other is stationed, even if they are on the water, do not ever say where their next port visit will be. This is for the safety of your loved one and the rest of the military members.
Email can be a bit informal and obviously is not as efficient in relaying emotions, but once you get used to it, it can be very effective. Over email you can speak of everyday things. It is important to always try and keep an upbeat attitude when you send messages. Constant complaining about home life, or how much you miss them, will only make your loved one's day harder. While you may be suffering on the inside, it is important to keep a happy "e-face" for them.
- Mail - Regular mail may be old-fashioned, but it certainly is still a very relevant form of communication. Sending a hand written letter to the one you love can be a very intimate way to tell them that you love them and that you are thinking of them. It really says something that you sat down long enough to write them a letter. It is important to remember though that your significant other may not always have time or the ability to send a letter back to you, so try not to take that personally, but still keep sending letters. You may be surprised to see when they arrive back home that they have saved every letter they have received. Getting mail in general is a great mental boost for every military member.
Care packages are a great way to keep your loved one's spirits up, and to show them that you are always thinking of them. Sending them comforts of home can help them keep a good attitude and can always ease the hardships of transitioning back into family life when they return home.
Since your spouse is most likely quite a distance away when they are deployed, mailing costs are a big deal for a lot of families. Many aren't aware that you may use the new USPS Flat Rate boxes to send them goodies. These are around $8.95, and they are a flat rate, not based on weight. This means no matter how much you put in the box, it will always be the set price. It is a super saver for a lot of families.
- Treats - Military members love getting treats! You know what your significant other loves more than any other, so choosing treats for them should be no problem. The best to send are going to be the easiest for them to store and food that will keep fresh longer. Good options include nuts, sunflower seeds, jerky, candy (avoid chocolate that can melt), gum, rice cakes, breakfast and fruit and granola bars, and oatmeal. Another great idea is drink powder packets such as Crystal Light or Kool-Aid. You can also get Lipton iced tea packets. These are a welcome site for them, since variety is often scarce. Of course homemade treats like cookies and candies are always a great idea. Just be sure to make them and then directly send them so they do not become stale before the package arrives.
- Reading material - Something to read is always a great idea for your spouse. It can always take their mind off of the situation at hand, and away from the fact that they miss home. Collect magazines that you know your spouse enjoys as well as books. Often you can find paperback books at various stores for $5.00 and under. Another great idea is to check out a used book store. Books will inevitably get beat up and possibly ruined during the deployment, so ruining a used book is a lot easier on the mind.
- Photos - No matter what, it is always a great idea to send family photos! It is a great idea to take photos at a get together and parties you attend while they are away, and then send them. It will give them a sense that they are a part of that fun as well. They will also help them in times that they are feeling down and homesick. Send pictures of anything and everything, from the turning leaves in fall to your child's smiling face. They will all make a tremendous impact!
This is honestly the most important thing you can do to keep your marriage strong! By keeping your everyday life and finances in order it can save you a lot of grief upon their return.
- Finances - It is a great idea, while your spouse is away, to have two bank accounts. This will assure that accounts are never overdrawn and no confusion about how much money you have in your possession. It is also important for the spouse at home to keep a good record of the money they are spending and the bills they are paying. This is where communication becomes crucial as well. Stay open and honest about your money-spending activities. Try to avoid at all costs making expensive purchases while your spouse is gone, unless it is an emergency of course.
- Do you know where everything is? This is an important question for all to consider! Make sure you know where all important documents are before your loved one leaves. These items include copies of orders, mortgage papers, children's medical records, marriage license, and many other important documents that may be needed at a moment's notice. It is a good idea to keep them in a safe place such as a filing cabinet or filing folder.
- Household items - It's important to make sure that anything that requires attention in the home, such as maintenance in any way, is done before your spouse leaves. This includes vehicles as well. It is always a good idea to have the vehicle checked out before their departure.
- Last minute - Make certain you have all of your spouse's addresses and contacts that you may need while they are gone. Try to have numbers for their command as well in case of an emergency. You can also register with your local red cross, and in case of an emergency they will help to contact your spouse.
A lot of times, children do not understand why their mother or father has to be away for so long. There are a few easy things that can be done to keep your children engaged with your spouse. Whether they are older or younger, they can take part in these activities.
- Write letters and email - Just as you would, have your children write letters and send emails to their parent. This will help them to communicate. There may be times when your child will want that parent and want to speak to them, and this will help them to pass on feelings and thoughts to that parent on their own. If your children are too young for this, help them to write a letter by doing it for them and have them tell you what they want to say.
- Sending packages and pictures - Just as above, let your children help you to pick out items to send to their parent. Let them help to choose photos and maybe even color pictures to send them.
- Reading stories - If you have a child under 10 years of age, this will be a great thing for you and your spouse to do. If you have a video camera or a tape recorder, record your spouse reading a story or two. When your child is missing their Mom or Dad greatly, pop in the video or tape and let your child read the book along with their parent. This will help to ease their mind and feel as if their parent is closer to them.
- Saving money - While your spouse is deployed, let your children save change. When the parent returns home, let the children use the money they have saved to throw a party for the parent. Let them pick the food and decorations. This will give them something to plan and keep their mind on.
All and all, maintaining a military marriage can be done and is not hard if you really put your heart into it. With just a little effort to keep communication lines open and to keep your love alive, everything will work out great! Keep your children and other family involved, and always remember that your significant other is supporting your country, so you must support them!