If you ask a military couple how they survived a PCS move, you will probably get answers like, “Lots of wine, an emergency chocolate stash and a great sense of humor.” Or they may just look at each other and shrug because they are still barely on speaking terms.
In all seriousness, a PCS move is no laughing matter. Moving your family and belongings to another state or country can be hard on everyone and may be particularly demanding on your marriage. Couples may find themselves disagreeing about how to move, what to move and the logistics of moving to the new location. Stress, lack of sleep and disrupted routines can lead to arguments. Once they arrive at the new assignment, couples may struggle to support each other without any local friends to lean on. Sound familiar? If you and your spouse are facing a PCS, here are some ways to get through the move with your relationship intact.
- Remember that you are on the same team. A move can put you and your spouse at odds on a variety of decisions. Even couples who typically agree completely may find themselves in disagreements when moving to a new location. The good news is that a few PCS arguments do not mean your marriage is falling apart or that your spouse no longer loves you. Instead of approaching PCS decisions like a battle you are trying to “win,” approach it as a team project.
- Divide and conquer. Try not to compare who is doing more or whose job is more stressful. Instead, discuss which tasks are still on the to-do list and who can accomplish them most efficiently.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you are sorting through and moving everything you own, there are bound to be discussions about how you ended up with so many things. Try not to hold on too tightly to items that can be easily replaced. The same is true for those dusty items in the garage that haven’t been touched in over a year. Ultimately, it’s all just stuff, and most things can be sold, donated or replaced.
- Discuss your priorities. Couples with a strong relationship will almost always cite “communication” as the key to a happy marriage. But communication can be challenging during a short-notice PCS or when the service member is away. Try to be honest with your partner about your priorities and concerns during the move, but don’t be surprised to discover that their main focus is different from yours. Instead of bottling up all your emotions, find non-confrontational ways to vent your frustration. This may mean reaching out to friends, family or a counselor for support. Military OneSource provides free, confidential counseling to service members and/or spouses.
- Try to keep it fun! Sure, moving can be frustrating and stressful, but it can also be an adventure. Whether you are sleeping on the floor, squeezing the dogs into a hotel room, or camping out under the stars, focus on the unique memories you are making with your spouse. The more you can laugh together, the better you will be able to face the craziness of a PCS move.
- Plan date nights before the move. A PCS move can easily distract you and your spouse for months. Try to plan a few simple date nights where you can agree not to discuss moving details and focus on reconnecting with each other. These experiences don’t have to be expensive—just a few hours together enjoying a movie, a picnic or a walk on the beach can do wonders to refresh your marriage.
When PCS stress starts to put distance between you and your spouse, remember that your marriage will outlast the move. After all, you vowed to be together “in good times and bad” and the good times will always outweigh the hard times.