Relationships take work — hard work. While every couple understands this, I would argue that no couple knows this better than one who has just completed a deployment. The servicemember was away from home spending months focusing on their job while missing their family. The spouse is supporting the household, often while maintaining their own career.
After my husband returned home from a recent ten-month deployment, we very quickly learned that our relationship was different than when he left. It wasn’t necessarily worse or better, just different. His unit’s chaplain offered a Strong Bonds retreat and we decided to take two purposeful days at this retreat to refocus on our relationship. Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program building resiliency by strengthening the Army family. The goal is to increase family or couple relationship education through skills training. The off-site retreat is a getaway addressing the impacts of deployments and the military lifestyle.
My husband and I, along with other couples from his unit, spent a weekend at The Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee. Our hotel stay and meals were all paid for. Pre-COVID-19, childcare is typically available on site as well.
There is always a specific takeaway for the weekend. Our weekend was dedicated to learning The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you and your spouse have never read the book, I encourage you to do so. The idea behind the book is that in order for our partner to feel loved, we need to speak the language in which they feel the most loved. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. We learned what our own love language is, the language of our partner and how to speak that love language to the other person.
If you and your spouse ever feel like you’re just not on the same page or aren’t feeling like your “love tank” is full, it is most likely because you’re not speaking one another’s love language. After discussing this further, the couples on the retreat all shared different ways to express their specific language. Throughout the weekend, there was a perfect balance of “classroom time” and private couple’s time. My husband and I hadn’t had an hour alone just the two of us in over a year, let alone two full days.
We learned a lot on the Strong Bonds retreat, but more than anything, had the time to simply reconnect after more than 10 months apart. We had uninterrupted meals together where we talked about our hopes and dreams for the future. We took walks and discussed the hardships of the past year apart. And at the end of the weekend, we came out stronger than we had ever been.