Getting ready for a deployment? This can be an opportunity for you and your partner to team up to build relationship resilience for yourselves and your family. Four simple steps — plan, trust, communicate and support — can help you keep your relationships strong no matter where you are.
Separations mean preparation. Knowing what to expect during all phases of deployment, and planning accordingly, can help everyone manage transitions more successfully:
- Plan My Deployment is an online tool that provides tips, resources, information and downloadable task checklists for all phases of the deployment cycle.
- Parenting Through Deployment — The Essentials provides important information and resources to help parents plan for deployment.
- Managing Deployments and Separations — The Essentials offers resources and information about how to support relationships during deployment.
- Preparing Your Family Care Plan can provide caregivers all the information necessary to keep the household running while a service member is away. Learn more about how to create a family care plan for caregivers.
Talk to your partner about out how you’ll handle daily life and situations that can come up when you’re apart. Then make sure you have the necessary information and resources you need to manage the tasks. (For example, if the stay-at-home partner is going to be handling finances, make sure they have online account information such as log in and passwords.) Some things to discuss are:
- Emergencies: How will you handle them? For example, who will be the backup emergency contact person if the at-home parent can’t be reached?
- Parenting issues: How do you each want to handle any behavior, discipline or emotional problems that might come up with your children?
- Finances: Who will take the responsibility for household expenses and large expenditures?
- Communication: How will you stay in touch during separations? What contact is possible? What’s comfortable?
- Support: Identify your support network and know who to reach out to for different kinds of issues — family readiness groups, extended family, neighbors, teachers, clergy, counselors and physicians.
Trust is always important in relationships, but it’s crucial when you’re apart. Trust is the best way to help your partner feel strong and able to focus on the job at hand. Try these tips for building trust while you’re apart:
- Don’t take each other for granted. Express your love and appreciation. Respect each other for the different jobs you are each managing, and remember to thank each other for everything you are each doing. Feeling appreciated can help build confidence, trust and resilience. Try the Love Every Day virtual relationship tool for a fun, interactive way to practice good communication in just minutes a day.
- Remember, you’re both under stress and doing your best. Avoid being critical and complaining. Try to be positive and focus on what’s going right. Offer each other frequent praise, support and encouragement, and laugh whenever you can.
- Share the little stuff. Sharing daily happenings keeps your partner connected and builds trust in your relationship. Remember that a deployed spouse may not always be able to “share back” as openly and completely — and that’s okay.
Sometimes you don’t know when or how you’ll hear from a deployed partner, but there are things you can do while you wait:
- Be patient. Trust that your partner will connect as soon as they can.
- Try to express yourself clearly, no matter how you’re communicating.
- Keep a lighthearted attitude. This can help make communication easier for everyone.
- Keep security in mind. Remember that your service member may not always be able to share certain information.
- Be creative about communication. If you’re sending emails, you can attach your children’s artwork and photos, record video messages and even scanned articles from the local paper.
- Explore technologies and adapt. Remember your deployed partner could be severely limited in the ways he or she can communicate. Learn more about how to stay in touch with your service member.
- Send your love. If you’re planning to mail a care package, remember there may be restrictions. Learn more about sending a military care package.
Reach out for support
Sometimes no matter what you do, relationships can use a little help. Learn more about relationship support for military couples, including free, confidential, non-medical counseling, Building Healthy Relationship specialty consultations and virtual resources. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program also offers relationship building and deployment adjustment consultations for children.
Deployments can present unique relationship challenges for military families. But simple things like planning, trust, communication and support can help your relationships build resilience and stay deployment strong.
If you have questions or need help finding resources, contact your installation Military and Family Support Center. Military OneSource consultants are also available 24/7 to answer questions and connect you with the support you need. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or start a live chat.