I peeled my body out of bed at 5 am, washed my face with Noxzema and headed straight for the kitchen. Even as a military spouse in the middle of deployment, I can’t help but creep my way out of bed to greet the stillness of morning.
I desperately wanted to scream, “SIIIIILLLLENCE!! WOO!” But of course that would wake the children and silence would become null and void. Instead, I wrapped my hands around that first cup and the steam met my nose with the familiar aroma of hot black coffee. I sat down at my computer and dove straight into my emails.
And there is was…
The email that I never know how to respond to. The email that I relate to more than any other. The email that ties my stomach into a tight knot.
Inside the email a fellow military spouse writes…
“I miss him so much. I need someone to talk too. I don’t know where to get support. I feel so alone. I need someone who’s been in my shoes. How do spouses do this? How do you keep busy? All I can do is think about him and all that causes me to do is cry. I don’t want to do that. How do you do it?”
My cheeks felt hot; my shoulders, heavy like lead weights. I empathized with everything this military spouse was experiencing. It was an all too familiar feeling.
Here’s the problem.
I wanted to offer the miracle cure to surviving deployment. I wanted to make it go away for every military spouse struggling with deployment or military separation of any sort. I wanted to share all the answers.
I sat there at my computer sipping hot coffee, trying to think of something profound and miraculous to say in my reply email.
No matter how many times you conquer deployment, you never really become an expert or a pro. It’s not something you “get used to” over time. Each time my husband leaves it is equally as unsettling as the first time he deployed.
How strong military spouses rock deployment.
Maybe I don’t have all the answers, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there are several things strong military spouses do differently to overcome deployment challenges.
They set realistic communication expectations.
Before deployment, strong military spouses talk to their service members about what communication is expected to look like during the separation. Then they take the expected amount of communication and divide it by half. Then just for good measure, they take that expected amount of communication and divide it by half again. That is the realistic amount of communication they expect.
That’s what makes this group of military spouses resilient through deployment. They expect less, and when they get more (e.g. a regular phone call, daily email, or a great Skype connection), they do a happy dance and feel like they won the military life lottery.
They develop a legit coping strategy for the ugly cry.
Strong military spouses know ahead of time that the Deployment Wall is real. They know they will hit the Deployment Wall. And they know at some point they are going to ugly cry.
You see, it’s all about how these spouses respond to the crushing brick wall and the tears that follow. Strong military spouses build a support network of friends and family. They ask for help. They share their struggles. They call their mom when things get tough, and they aren’t afraid to admit it.
They use resources like Operation in Touch to read tips on deployment (and save some money too). They utilize Facebook groups to connect with other spouses in their local community.
They keep something special–just for themselves.
In order to turn a discouraging time into a fun and positive time, strong military spouses have something special that they do ONLY during deployment. They think of something they would never normally do, and then they allow themselves the special treat of doing it only during deployment.
Here are just a few examples:
- Remodel one room of your house only during deployment.
- Run a marathon only during deployment (okay…that really isn’t a treat).
- Take a cooking class only during deployment.
- Get a massage every month only during deployment.
- Snag military discounts, coupons and save extra money during deployment.
Strong military spouses take the negative focus of deployment and force themselves to look forward to a little slice of heaven while their service member is away.
My coffee turned cold.
My hands sat wrapped around my half-empty mug of hot coffee turned cold. I spent too much time mulling over my thoughts to drink it fast enough.
I pushed back my chair, walked over to my precious Bunn for a refill and returned to my email. I knew there was no perfect response to share with my fellow military spouse.
So I simply said this…
“I don’t think any of us know how we do it. You do it because you have to. You do it because you love someone. You do it because you are stronger than you think. It doesn’t get easier; you just get better at lowering expectations, managing the ugly cry, and saving a little something special just for you. But the deployment ache? It remains.”
Want more on military life?
- The Biggest Mistake a Military Spouse Can Make
- 15 Must-Do Things to Prepare for Deployment
- What Military Marriage Really Looks Like
- 25 Military Spouses Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Military Life
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of MSB New Media & Unilever. The opinions and text are all mine.