The Deployment ABCs is a 26-week series where I cover every deployment-related topic, from care packages to homecomings to OPSEC. Tips, tricks and maybe a resource or two to help military spouses navigate their way through the craziness that is a deployment. If there’s a topic you’d like for me to cover or are interested in adding your own thoughts to, send me an email and we’ll chat!
Picture this: I’m about two months into my first deployment as a fairly new military girlfriend and have had an absolutely horrible day. Like “cried in the bathroom at work so I get to eat whatever I want” hard. And then A called to see how I was doing and I lied my little miserable behind off. Not well mind you, but I thought it was better to lie than to burden A with my problems.
I was wrong. I was still miserable, A knew I was lying and he was now bummed that I wouldn’t tell him what was bothering me. That’s when he told me this: “I know you don’t want to tell me a bunch of bad stuff while I’m here, but I’d rather you did. It makes me feel more normal and more connected to what’s happening at home. I can forget all of the stuff here for a little bit.”
Whoa. Mind blown. All this time I thought I was doing the right thing, protecting A, being unshakeable when all he really wanted me to do was be me.
Be honest with your spouse during deployment. It’s better for both of you.
I understand there’s a fine line between being honest and being a constant negativity train, so finding some balance is key. But remember this: you’ll both have bad days. If your spouse can tell you about their bad day, you should be able to tell them about yours. It doesn’t mean you’re incapable of handling a deployment or that you’re a negative person. It means you’re a human who had a pretty crappy day.
Being honest as things happen will also keep you from doing what is a stereotypical Rachel move: unleashing everything that’s bothered you for the past year and a half all in one tear-soaked tirade. Trust me when I tell you that is not a Skype conversation that goes well. And like A said, it makes your spouse feel less removed from home.
You don’t have to share every little thing, unless you want to.
A good way to determine what to share is to follow the same pattern that you do while your spouse isn’t deployed. For example, if you tend to just hit the headlines and move on, then stick with that. If you normally go into great detail, then tell them to settle in with a snack because you’re going to be there for a while. You don’t have to change your entire way of communication just because they’re on the other side of the world.
Also, decide what’s most important to you and put those items first on your to-share list. Personally, I stick big things or items that I need A’s help with at the top of my list, like bills, house or car issues and, of course, dog illnesses.
Ask for advice instead of just ranting.
I find that phrasing something negative as “hey, this thing happened and I want to know what you think” is a much better way for me to avoid feeling like a Debbie downer. It also clues A in that this isn’t just me venting or being emotional, but is actually a request for his help. Plus his different perspective often makes me realize that whatever issue I’m talking about isn’t necessarily as bad as I think or he comes up with a great solution. Or he shares my emotions and makes me feel a little bit better.
Follow up with something positive.
This is another way to ease some of the guilt you may feel about sharing the non-rainbows and sunshine. Give them a dose of rainbows and sunshine right after! Tell a joke or reminisce about a really funny story or just plain out tell them you love them. It may feel a little forced to you, but it’s definitely worth trying. By sharing something positive, you may even find that your mood gets a little boost as well.
Let things sit a day before sharing.
This is my biggest piece of advice, both for deployment and life in general. I always try to let things sit for a day before reacting to them (or sharing them with A when he’s in a different country). It lets me digest them, decide what part my emotions are playing in my reaction and helps me get to the bottom of what’s actually bothering me. It keeps me a little more concise when sharing the problem and helps me practice what I want to say if it involves our relationship.
I’ll be honest, sometimes the frustration of being alone during a deployment gets the better of me and turns into resentment or anger at A for something very small. By waiting until the next day (or even eating first, hello hanger), I avoid creating an issue where there isn’t one and I can decide if I’d rather talk to him about something fun, like homecoming or vacation plans.
Do you share negative things with your spouse during deployment? What tips do you have for making that suck less?