Closeup of a husband and wife embracing

The Art of Communication in a Military Relationship


“My check engine light is on and my air conditioner stopped working.” That’s how my husband recently greeted me on the phone. I responded by telling him the utilities in our new house – the one that we will move into in a few weeks– are up and running. Then we both said “I love you” and hung up the phone.

This is a routine we’ve gotten under control. I will ask him to stop Facebooking off of Wi-Fi because we’re almost out of data and relay that the dog was successfully neutered; he’ll remind me to update the vehicle tags and give an over-the-phone tutorial on the weed-eater. (It still hates me). We take turns spewing and then we hang up the line.

After a nine-month deployment and now five-weeks of school (don’t worry, he came home in between), we’ve got this whole long-distance thing down. It’s divide and conquer, share the bullet points when we can and hope we remembered to say it all.

That’s how the Army has taught my husband and I to communicate. Sure, sometimes there are more minutes spent gushing about things we’ll later do together or laughing about our respective days. But that extra phone time is never a given. Learning to communicate – with or without it – has become our everyday.

Real life vs. on tour

Obviously, communication is different when you’re in-person. You see facial expressions, you chat before bed or while making dinner – proximity makes it easier to talk to your spouse. So when you get the chance, do it! Tell them about your embarrassing moment of the day, your hopes or that thing that made you laugh.

And when they’re gone, text them. These little no-one-knows-me-like-you-know-me instances are what help make a good marriage great. So whether you get to tell them over pillow talk or via email, it’s an important addition to your communication routine.

By the way, when they’re deployed or off training, you have to get used to things changing…including how often you get to talk. While my husband was deployed, I’d send emails with anything important listed, then sit by the phone and wait for him to call so we could just chat about the fun stuff.

The boring stuff

Then there are the things that no one wants to talk about, like bills and whose family is going to be upset if they’re slighted for Thanksgiving and so on – the things that couples have to talk about, but don’t really want to talk about. Do it anyway. Avoiding important subjects will only push you further apart. Instead of pushing these types of things to the side, dive in and get it over with. Open up a bottle of wine or heat up a frozen pizza – whatever will help make talking about “the boring stuff” easier, do it and do it on a regular schedule.

My husband will text me and ask if we can talk about finances (or whatever else is important at that time) at X o’clock. We sit down, discuss the matter at hand and then we go do something fun, like a quick fishing trip or heading out for ice cream…usually after a much-earned high-five.

Say what you mean

Not getting to be with your beloved is stressful. We often hear friends complain that their spouse is on a two-day business trip or is busy with work, so much so that they haven’t talked in DAYS (gasp!). I can’t help but roll my eyes. We do this every day, and have been for a long time. As a milspouse, you get used to the short conversations and how to fill in the gaps. It means you say what you mean, when you mean it. And it means you learn to communicate more effectively, without the need to cut through misunderstandings.

Additional Tips for Great Communication

  • Lay it all out there – you have to be honest at all times. Keeping things hidden is only going to cause stress or come up to hurt the relationship later on.
  • Make notes. Yeah, it sounds lame. But sometimes you forget to tell your spouse this or that. If, instead, you take notes, you can compile a list of what they need to know and can share them once you get the chance.
  • Do it often. When something is bothering you, say it. When your spouse does something good, say it!

There are no “exacts” when it comes to couples’ communication. However, communication as a whole needs to be learned and honed. Doing so can improve your entire relationship, and improve your daily (or every-other-day) conversations.

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