In many ways, a military marriage is not unlike a civilian marriage. True, there is the financial and emotional stress and ambiguity that comes with having a spouse deployed overseas while you care for the children and manage household affairs stateside. But aside from this blatant difference, the things that go into making a marriage work isn’t all that different, in or out of a uniform:
Communication: Perhaps the most important element in a long and happy marriage (or any relationship, for that matter) is keeping the lines of communication open. If something is bothering you, the worst thing you can do is internalize it, even if you feel that talking about it will only add to the pressure that your military spouse is feeling on the job. Holding it inside only builds resentment, and the longer you internalize it, the harder it is for the damage to be repaired. As adults, you should be able to have a mature discussion while respecting each other. You are a team, working together to create a life for yourselves and each other. Part of this teamwork includes communicating so that you are on the same page in everything from child-rearing to household finances.
Remind Each Other How Precious You Are: Let’s face it, when you were charging thousands of dollars on your cards for caterers, dresses and tuxes, the last thing on your mind was the possibility that you would one day no longer have the other person to lean on. If being or living with an active-duty officer has taught you nothing else, it’s that circumstances can change in a heartbeat. Always, always take a moment to give reminders of how precious you are to each other. These reminders can be as simple as writing “I love you” on a sticky note or as extravagant as sneaking off for a well-deserved “date night”. Celebrate each other at every opportunity!
Cut Yourselves – And Each Other – Some Slack: It seems that when two people first decide to make the ultimate commitment, suddenly everyone is an armchair marriage counselor! Unsolicited advice comes pouring in from all directions. You might even find a self-help book or two among the pile of wedding gifts. While they may be well-intended, it is important to remember that you and your spouse know yourselves and each other better than anyone. By all means, if a situation calls for some outside intervention, go for it! Just remember, you are going through what millions of other couples, military or otherwise, have been going through since time immemorial. There will be bumps in the road. By approaching each difficulty with the love and respect that you have for each other, you will survive that bump, and many more like it. It goes back to keeping the lines of communication open.
The same fundamentals that keep a civilian marriage strong also apply to your marriage, even with the added stress of deployment and PCS orders. It’s all about love, respect and communication.