Spouses and Partners: Loving Someone in the Military
National Guard spouses and partners play an important role in the health and well-being of their service member. Whether it’s maintaining a household or providing emotional support, being a partner to a service member may present greater challenges as well as greater opportunities to be close to one another. Below, you’ll find information about:
- What to expect when your partner is deployed
- How to cope throughout your partner’s service
- How to support your loved one
What to expect when your partner is deployed
Being apart from your National Guard service member, whether they’re on a weekend drill or away on deployment, can disrupt your family routines, place emotional distance between you and your spouse or partner, and create feelings of loneliness, fear or anxiety. You may also experience a pattern of emotions and behaviors that correlate with the stages of your loved one’s deployment – also known as the “Emotional Deployment Cycle.”
Phases of the “Emotional Deployment Cycle”
- Pre-Deployment. At first indication of your partner’s imminent deployment, you may experience:
- Fears of life without your partner
- Confusion, depression, or anger about the future
- Resentment at being left alone
Immediately prior to departure, you may also experience:
- Feeling detached or withdrawn from your partner
- Impatience, irritability, like you’re “ready to get it over with”
- Emotional and/or physical distance between you and your partner
- Heated arguments with your partner
- Deployment. After your loved one departs, you may experience:
- Mixed emotions – numbness, sadness, relief
- Increased feelings of independence and freedom
- Difficulty transitioning into new routines and tasks without your partner
- Loneliness, hopelessness, mental and physical exhaustion
- Trouble sleeping
- Sustainment. Once you’ve adjusted to your loved one’s absence, you may experience:
- A sense of accomplishment and strength
- More control over your situation
- Anxiety about missing or not receiving communication from your partner
- A change in children’s behavior
- Anticipation for your partner’s homecoming
- Post-Deployment. After your service member returns, you may experience:
- A honeymoon period
- Feelings of being smothered, or loss of independence
- Difficulty adjusting to your partner’s reintegration into your life
- Emotional distance due to experiences your partner had while deployed
Remember, you may not experience any/all of the steps listed above. No matter how you react, or how that changes, over your partner’s deployment, be sure to seek support when you need it.
How to cope with your partner’s separation
- Create a support network. Find local resources through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, connect with your local church, synagogue or mosque for support, and connect with members of your immediate and extended family to ensure that you receive emotional and household support while your loved one is away.
- Prepare for your loved one’s separation ahead of time. If possible, collaborate with friends, family and your service member to set up routines, tasks and payments before your partner leaves for their duty assignment. This will ensure a smoother transition into life while your spouse is away.
- Attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event. One of the best ways to learn about benefits and entitlements your family is eligible for as a result of your spouse’s service in the National Guard Is to attend a local Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event.
- Rely on your state/territory support program staff. The National Guard Bureau sponsors a number of programs to support Service members and their Families. Locate your state/territory staff in MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
- Get connected. Write, email or send care packages to your loved one to help you feel connected while they’re away. For your own support, social networks are a great way to find other military spouses who may be experiencing the same things you are. Military OneSource offers a number of tools and features that help you get connected, including forums, resource directories, and groups features.
How to support your loved one
If your service member is showing signs of emotional distress, help is available. Contact your Director of Psychological Health for local resources or contact the military crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1). In the meantime, follow these basic tips:
- Be sensitive to your service member’s desire to discuss what they experienced during their deployment.
- If they do want to talk, be a patient, receptive listener.
- Encourage your partner to seek the counsel of a trusted advisor, spiritual leader or respected peer/family member.