It’s obvious that you’re having relationship issues. How can I tell? Well, author Andy Andrews insightfully pointed out that problems are inevitable in any relationship – even when things are otherwise “perfect.” It’s just part of it! He said, “we’re all either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis or heading for a crisis.”
Military families know that all too well. A multitude of things can cause our relationships to be more complex than those of our civilian counterparts. Distance, changing reunification dates, and infrequent access to communication channels are just a few inhibitors. As military families, we learn the value of patience very quickly. The current COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated that necessity for many of us.
Last year, my husband received dependent restricted orders overseas. We were disappointed to be apart but planned to make the best of it by meeting at destinations close to his assignment a couple of times throughout the year. We set money aside. We purchased cold weather clothes for a winter trip to Ireland. We researched flights and hotels for a summer trip to Greece. We planned a stateside reunion to celebrate my graduation from graduate school. We even did what we try so hard to avoid in the ever-changing military life – we got excited.
COVID-19 quickly made all of those plans evaporate. The travel bans caused us to be firmly planted on two separate continents for the duration of his assignment. On-base shared internet spaces were temporarily closed down, and we couldn’t talk frequently. It was hard on our relationship. It was hard on us individually.
Unfortunately, our story is not unique. While many families are stuck indoors together, some military families are just wishing for their servicemembers to come home. But, there is always a silver lining. We just have to work a little harder to find it sometimes. While you’re limited to communicating digitally with your spouse, you can still keep things fun and entertaining.
Here are 3 tips for staying connected from my sailor and me:
1. Work With What You’ve Got. It can be tough to talk without having the luxury of seeing your partner’s facial expressions or hearing his or her voice. It can cause misunderstandings and relationship stress. Still, try to use the time and communication resources that you have to learn more about your spouse’s heart and mind. When my husband was serving on an aircraft carrier, we could only talk occasionally via email. So, I sent him fun quizzes and lists of “get to know your partner” questions. It really made the emails more interesting and interactive. I even sent him the questions to a quiz about individual love languages. During that time, we learned more about how to communicate with one another according to how we receive and show love. It was insightful for our relationship and has stuck with us since then.
2. Make A List. Military families know that during separations, it can be easy to fall into “broken-record” conversations about family logistics and heartache. It’s hard to always keep the conversation uplifting when you’re going through so much difficulty. However, hope and positivity go a long way and can benefit your relationship with your servicemember. When I am going through my day, I try to intentionally make a note of fun things to share with my spouse for our video chats. I keep a list in the notes app on my phone of things to share. I take photos of intriguing things that I run across. I save relatable memes to laugh at together. It really helps to have fun, mood-lifting things to talk about.
3. Get Creative. What are you looking forward to? Talk with your spouse about it! My husband and I used our time apart to learn more about our home design likes and dislikes. While we yearn for our next shared home, it is exciting and helpful to discern a shared design aesthetic. Some couples have movie marathons over video chat and others play 20 questions. Some send care packages and letters. Staying connected can be as unique as each couple.
The good news is that there are many resources available for us to build our relationships with our loved ones despite the distance. Military OneSource has free counseling services and healthy relationship consultations available. These services can help you and your spouse learn new communication techniques and work through issues. Relationship webinars and tools are also at your fingertips on the Military OneSource website. Plus, the services are available around the clock. So, getting help isn’t restricted to a certain time zone.
Many military families have dealt with extreme loss and separation because of COVID-19. Remember: You don’t have to go through it alone. Get connected with Military OneSource, your community, and your servicemember. We will get through this together.
What relationship resources have been helpful to you? Tell us in the comments below!