If you are a military spouse, you are likely no stranger to deployments and the challenging missions many service members bravely face in the tenuous global climate we live in today. Keeping your marriage strong during deployment and learning to reconnect after a deployment is challenging, yet it can be done.
Several years ago my husband experienced a very tough deployment. It was something that shook us to the core and changed both of us in ways we never imagined. I cannot tell you how many people told me just to let it go. To accept that my husband may never wish to discuss these difficult deployment circumstances with me—ever.
It was hard for me to believe that my husband and best friend may never share his darkest days of war with me, his spouse and closest confidant. There are many things that go unshared over the years, and that is okay. But if you are looking to at least open the communication door with your service member post deployment, I believe it’s possible.
Here are 5 strategies to improve post deployment communication with your service member:
Ease into it.
Getting into the car and asking 20 questions on the way home after a long separation usually leads to one word answers. At least in my experience. It is often more effective to allow things to settle in for several days (perhaps weeks depending on the service member) before bringing up challenging topics.
Plant a seed.
Sometimes you have to plant the communication seed and allow it to marinade for a short while. I often say things like,
“I would really love for you to share some of your deployment experiences with me someday.”
“I know such and such happened while you were deployed. It’s okay to tell me about it if you ever feel ready.”
Anything along those lines works. I simply put it out there really off the cuff… nonchalantly while we are doing dishes or walking in the neighborhood. Simply leave it at that for a few days or even longer.
Create an open door.
In order for good communication to happen, it’s good to let your service member know that you are prepared for tough conversations. That you are brave enough to learn and know about his experiences without flipping out.
Sometimes service members want to protect their spouses and families from the difficulties of war. Often opening the door can help quell their notion that lack of communication equates to protection.
To open the communication door, you could say something like,
“Do you think you would ever be willing to share with me about such and such?”
“You can trust me to listen and understand stories you want to share with me.”
Use an activity as a buffer.
If you believe that your service member wants to talk to you about challenging situations during a deployment, and you feel the communication seeds are planted and doors open, I highly recommend an activity as a buffer.
Did you know that most people—especially men—are far more likely to carry on a difficult conversation if it’s based around an activity. For example, try having a conversation while doing the dishes, taking a hike, bike-riding or building something together. The activity could be anything really. Those are just basic ideas.
Using an activity as a buffer is probably not the heart-to-heart most women envision, but for men this can take the nervous edge off and allow the conversation to happen slowly overtime. It creates a more relaxed environment and less of a pressure-driven Q & A session. If the conversation starts to go really well, you can stop doing the activity. It’s just something to get your started.
Offer encouragement and support.
A lot of times when someone has experienced a stressful situation they just want someone to listen. They simply want someone to validate what they went through and offer support.
Simple encouraging phrases are helpful,
“I’m so glad you shared that with me.”
“Thanks for telling me that.”
“It means a lot that you told me that.”
Wrapping it up.
So these strategies are not an exact science. They are simple tips to give you a place to start if you are looking to improve post-deployment communication with your service member. It took some time for my husband to share his most challenging deployment stories with me.
It was worth the wait, and worth every attempt I made to ease into it, plant the seed, open the door, and offer support. Those conversations will help bring your military marriage to a place of understanding and appreciation. Those conversations will bring you closer than you ever imagined, and that is incredibly worth it.
Want more on military life?
- Learning to Reconnect After Deployment
- Military Girlfriend to Military Wife: One Important Lesson You’ll Never Forget
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- 6 Military Homecoming Outfits That Will Make Him Swoon
What’s your best tip for post deployment communication? Let’s chat in the comments!