Struggling with Trust During Deployment

When couples spend time separated by long distances, it’s common to run into problems with miscommunication and misunderstandings. During deployment, when communication is sometimes limited or unavailable, military couples often struggle to trust each other. It’s difficult to believe someone else when you have no way to verify what they are saying and few options to communicate with them.

Everyone says they know someone who has been unfaithful during a deployment. Service members blame loved ones back home for having affairs. Spouses often become suspicious of service members becoming too close to certain co-workers. But despite the good example of thousands of healthy couples, the rumors and trust issues persist. Many military couples report that they have nagging feelings of doubt or insecurity during deployment. This is true even when their relationship is strong, and the other person has done nothing to make themselves untrustworthy. Once those thoughts creep into your mind, they are difficult to dismiss. If you or your service member are struggling with trust issues during a deployment, here are some things you can do about it.

  1. Consider the source. Did someone share their suspicions with you, or did you see evidence firsthand? Take a step back and consider where these feelings are coming from before you pursue them any further. If you don’t have any real reason to distrust your service member, it’s usually best ignored and left alone.
  2. Don’t air dirty laundry. If you suspect something is happening during deployment, the only person who can truly answer that is your service member. Don’t use social media to get opinions from strangers. This is especially true if you are in a group who know you or have spouses in your service member’s unit. If your service member hears about your concerns from a screenshot of a social media post, that conversation is not going to be healthy or healing. Instead, discuss it privately with your loved one or with a counselor rather than a public group.
  3. Claim your old baggage. When couples have trust issues in a healthy relationship, it is often due to problems in previous relationships. Do you or your spouse have a negative history that makes it more difficult for you to trust each other? If the baggage is on your side, you will have to acknowledge that and work through it before you openly accuse your partner of something they haven’t done. Talking to a counselor can be a great way to explore your history and find out how it is affecting your current relationship. The counselors at Military OneSource offer Relationship Tracks to help you work through common issues and get to the bottom of your concerns.
  4. Talk to your service member. If you think something suspicious has happened, ask your service member about it directly. Try to remain calm and ask questions instead of making accusations. It’s possible there is an innocent explanation and that you misunderstood what was going on. On the other hand, it is possible that your service member may admit to something. They may even try to lie to you. Know your options if your suspicions turn out to be true. Infidelity is still taken very seriously in the military.

Usually, trust issues during deployment tend to be an exaggerated response to the distance and the lack of communication. Before you do something you might regret, talk to a counselor. Take time to step back and think about the situation calmly. If you are in doubt, think about this: If your service member never gave you a reason to distrust them before, then you have no reason to distrust them during deployment.

Five Tips for Eating Healthy During Stressful Times

Children are out of school, social distancing is the new norm, and so is uncertainty as we all deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Add this to the usual life responsibilities of work, paying bills and preparing meals…and you get stress. If you have children at home, include them when planning and preparing meals and snacks. Here are some tips to help you cope with planning meals and eating well:

  1. Stock your pantry with canned foods. Canned tuna, canned meats, soups, beans and vegetables are great to have available for times you can’t get to the store.
  2. Keep staples on-hand. Nut butters, rice, pasta and dried beans give you a lot of options for creating meals and can help bulk-up many dishes.
  3. Breakfast is a must! Whole grain cereals, granola and oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit are good for breakfast and snacks. Serve with yogurt, kefir or milk. Kefir is like yogurt, as it has probiotics that are beneficial to the digestive system. Powdered milk is another option that is easy to mix and add to many foods.
  4. Get creative with spices. Some of my favorites are garlic, vanilla, chili powder, Italian seasoning and smoked paprika. Adding different spices to your dishes will help you to feel like you have more flavor variety in your foods.
  5. Don’t forget the produce! Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables provide many of the nutrients, including fiber and vitamins, that your body needs. This includes oranges, bananas, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, and more. Fresh fruit can last several weeks in the refrigerator, but you should eat your fresh vegetables within a week.

Karen Hawkins is a registered dietitian with Military Community and Family Policy.

Navigating COVID-19 as a MilKid

I’m Ryan, a 19-year-old Navy brat. I have spent my life all around the world, having moved ten times, attended nine different schools, and persevered through several six-to-eight-month deployments. My family is currently stationed in D.C., yet I am a first-year student at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study concentrating in photography and social justice.

I have been fortunate enough to live across the states. Yet, some of my best memories come from living overseas both in Germany and Singapore. There, I learned the real power of having a military family thanks to the connectedness in the community. Germany was my first time living on base and attending a DODEA school. At the same time, in Singapore, you could find all the youth at the local CYP on any given day either to hang out or volunteer. That military family gave me a support system, a group of others who could understand my experiences and relate to what I had gone through. One that was compassionate, empathetic, and there to listen when I needed it most. Yet, it also gave me people to adventure and explore with so that I wouldn’t have to integrate myself into new places alone.

In adverse situations, this same community is more crucial than ever. Having a neighbor to check on you, even by text, or another teen to play videogames with online, can change the whole feeling of a stressful situation. I know how easy it is to feel anxious, upset and isolated when things get hard, but don’t forget that your military family is always out there. Whether it be to share information and resources, lend ideas, or give support, you can rely on them, even if they are thousands of miles away.

As a youth myself who’s in the middle of navigating the coronavirus outbreak, I understand how other teens feel right now.  At first, I was unphased and unaffected, yet the virus spread rapidly, and it feels as if my whole life has been turned upside down in a flash.

Being a first-year student at NYU meant the outbreak became more urgent just before spring break. My service trip to the Dominican Republic was canceled, and I was upset. I was watching friends prepare for their own spring break travels, and I selfishly wanted to be them. Yet, none of us had any idea how quickly life would change before we could make it to our destinations.

I tried not to let the change affect me too much. Instead, I decided to come home to D.C. over the break to support my brother at his opening day baseball game. However, days before coming home, a friend at Columbia posted about the schools moving to online classes for an extended period due to the virus. Soon to follow, St. Johns, Fordham, The New School and other colleges and universities sent their students home in favor of remote classes. Sure enough, we received an email that NYU would move to online courses, and we shouldn’t expect to return to levels for at least two weeks. I called my family, booked a bus ticket home, and frantically started packing.

I was anxious and stressed, trying to choose what I would need and want for an undetermined amount of time at home. In the meantime, I attended my last in-person photography class, Introduction to Lighting. How do you properly learn studio lighting at home with no studio and no equipment? I felt so defeated. Having a lecture class online is already frustrating enough, but now, the course I had worked so hard to get into and to grow in felt like it was taken from me.

And as if things couldn’t get any worse, other opportunities I was looking forward too came to an end. My job as an admissions ambassador halted, my work with the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs was restricted, and my plan to attend the 4H military conference in Kansas City changed. I was devastated, feeling like I have no control over my situation.

Although upset, I was grateful that my safety had been prioritized and that I could return home to my family. However, I got back to find my brother, a high school senior, just as conflicted as I was about the situation. His school closed, and although it meant no class, it also put an indefinite end to his baseball season, something he had worked so hard for after shoulder surgery in the fall. He and his classmates are supposed to graduate in three months, but as of now, they are still anxious about what will happen to their prom and graduation ceremony, given the rapid spread of the virus.

To cope, both of us, along with many others, have turned to social media. Our school meme pages offer a sense of community and comic relief. It’s a place to see what others are thinking and how they are handling the situation. The pages also repost up-to-date memos from the school and the faculty, keeping us informed even when we aren’t the first to be notified. The viral trends let us vent about our feelings, and by sending them to friends, it’s a way for us to all laugh together even with social distancing.

Trust me when I say I know it feels like the sky is falling. We are all frustrated, angry, upset, stressed and probably somewhat bored. But remember, you aren’t alone. Military youth all around the world are being affected by the virus in similar ways. Schools are closing, sports are canceled, events are postponed, and some families are being evacuated while others are separated from loved ones. Despite the situation, the military family is still here to support you. Even though we can’t fix the problem, know there’s a community out there that’s still looking out for you and checking up on you wherever or whenever you may need it.

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