Little did I know that a night of salsa dancing with the cutie wearing a sweater in the middle of a humid DC summer would lead to “I do” a short two years later. The young and hopeless romantic in me found John’s military service mesmerizing. Boy, that girl had some hard lessons to learn over the years when fairytale met reality. Most military spouses will tell you that even when you’re fully aware of what you’re signing up for there is still a pretty big learning curve of selflessness and sacrifice for everyone involved.
This past weekend marked the halfway point of the deployment we’re currently in. Guys, if you could play back the tape of all the times we got it wrong, you’d understand the magnitude of how sweet, despite hard, this go around has been. There are military spouses out there that rock a deployment with little to no disruptions to their normal routines while others truly have to take it one day at a time.
If you’re anything like me, you fall somewhere in the middle. One thing you’ll come to find out about us is our unwavering commitment to being real about our messes as well as our blessings. One rarely comes without the other.
Here are 8 things that got us deployment ready:
Pre-deployment counseling: Last year John and I decided to invest in our marriage through ongoing couples counseling for a variety of areas that needed healing. That’s a story for another day but the part I want to encourage you to think about are the six weeks of pre-deployment focused counseling we did. Topics such as boundaries with the opposite sex, communication, problem solving, trust building, and how to show each other love were all subjects that we discussed. If there’s one thing that counseling magnifies are the areas that are “repeat offenses” in your relationship. Take this already high-stress conversation into a safe place where you and your spouse can get on the same page. As a navy-wife and dear friend once said to me – we couldn’t afford NOT to!
Hooray for Technology:Depending on the branch your spouse serves in and where they’re located, communication may be tricky. Luckily, this time around – we have been able to stay connected through apps such as Whatsapp, Google Duo, and Skype when the connection decides to work. We checked in with our cell service provider before the deployment to understand what costs were involved in using data, text messages, and phone calls to avoid any unpleasant surprises. One thing we decided to do as well was keep email for emergencies only. Finding the balance between being connected while not being overly-connected (as silly as that sounds) is something only the two of you can decide!
Read a book together:It’s so easy to fall in the trap of using phone time to recap each others days. Although there is something comforting in filling each other in on the daily and normal parts of your day, phone time can be inconsistent, so make sure to use it to edify your relationship! On the days we only get to have a quick conversation, we’ve enjoyed Tony Dungy’s One-Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. On the one day a week John gets off, we have a longer chat and use part of that time to talk about about the book we chose to read together. For this deployment, we went with The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. Find a subject that you’ll each find encouraging and shoot for a chapter a week!
Know each other’s love languages:We’ve taken the 5-love languages online quiz a few times over the years and it’s been helpful in understanding how the other person feels loved. I’m a words of affirmation and physical touch person and John is a quality time and gifts type of guy. The key is to love your spouse in the way THEY receive love, not the way you do. For us, that’s looked like me mailing care packages filled with surprises for John (gifts) and him leaving notes hidden all over the house with sweet messages for me to find (words of affirmation). Identify your love languages and make a plan to sprinkle that in during your time a part. As the saying goes: Love is a verb. It is something we do!
Get plugged in with a community:The age old deployment advice of “stay busy” is absolutely true. But you might find it hard if you don’t have a community of people around you to help fill in the gaps that now exist. John has a built in community of people going through the same thing he is. On my end, it meant preemptively and proactively reaching out to girlfriends in advance to let them know that extra girl time was opening up in my calendar and I wanted them to fill it! We’re also plugged into what we consider to be the most amazing church in DC who have been a source of strength, love, and encouragement. It may be incredibly uncomfortable to put yourself out there and ask for company and help, but y’all, it has to be done! You’re not superwoman/man and we’re meant to do life with others.
Set a routine but be flexible: This one requires grace upon grace. The first week of a deployment is usually a bit chaotic. You’re adjusting to your new normal and the one who is deployed is trying to figure out what their schedule looks like, is adjusting to the time difference, and finding out what the connection looks like. Give yourself a week or two to see when the best times to connect might be and then make a plan! That being said, stay flexible. There’s nothing predictable about a deployment and if you’re anything like us, oversleeping and exhaustion are a real thing that get in the way. The important thing is keep communicating and extending lots of margin during an already strange time.
Have things to look forward to:On the days that the deployment seems to be dragging along, try to focus on the things you’re looking forward to doing together once it’s all over. Perhaps you’re planning a weekend getaway after homecoming or a week’s worth of dinner dates to your favorite spots. This go around, John and I have planned to spend New Years in a cabin snowboarding with friends and have a list of 5 places he’s dying to eat at (because, #deploymentfood). Rumor has it we’re even planning on going for another tattoo. Crazy kids!
Pray together:Nothing builds intimacy, connection, peace, and hope like praying with one another does. This wasn’t always a habit in our marriage and when we first started praying with one another, I’ve got to admit, it was downright awkward. I’m so thankful that God doesn’t care about us pairing the perfect string of holy sounding words together in order to talk to him. The bible tells us that God delights in us and that means that there is no detail too small or too big for him. There is a transcendent effect that prayer brings into your marriage regardless of your geographical location or present circumstances. [James 1:2-4]
These tips aside, please know that you know your relationship best and what it needs. We’re here to encourage you and be a friend along the way. We’d love to connect with you on Instagram if you’re facing your own deployment, long-distance journey, or just need some married friends to root you on. You’ve got this, friend! You’re already one day closer!