Relationship Tips: Four Common Pitfalls and How to Tackle Them

Couple talking at home

It’s rare a relationship is completely free from conflict. Military couples in particular face unique stressors. Helpful relationship support equips you with healthy ways to handle the disagreements that are bound to happen.

In a five-part Relationship Real Talk video series, psychologist Dr. Kelly Blasko with the Defense Health Agency, and Kelly Smith, LCSW, from Military Community Support Programs, discuss four conflict styles that can hinder healthy communication in a relationship. These behaviors can cause lasting harm and drive couples apart. Dr. Blasko, a counseling psychologist who has Level 1 and 2 training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, uses this highly regarded model in her clinical work. In this series, she offers relationship support to help you recognize and manage your reactions, improve your communication skills and bring you closer as a couple.

Four conflict styles to look out for

Four common behaviors that get in the way of healthy communication are:

  • Criticism – Berating your partner’s personality or character verbally
  • Contempt – Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intent to insult or abuse
  • Defensiveness – Victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reversing the blame
  • Stonewalling – Withdrawing to avoid conflict and convey disapproval, distance and separation

These conflict styles close off healthy debate rather than guide you and your partner toward a solution. Over time, they can erode trust in each other and damage your relationship.

Hear more about how to spot these behaviors and learn some tips for handling yourself in the heat of the moment.


Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/Dc8CLMntpr0.

Defensiveness

Being accused of wrongdoing can bring up many different emotions, including hurt, anger and shame. These naturally lead to defensiveness. You may shift the blame or act as though you didn’t do anything wrong. But becoming defensive tells your partner their feelings don’t matter.

Instead of becoming defensive, do the following:

  • Notice how you feel. Acknowledge any negative emotions without acting on them. Instead, focus on your partner’s concern.
  • Delve into the issue. Ask your partner to tell you more about why they’re upset. There may be other concerns that you’re unaware of. For example, if your partner is upset that you bought concert tickets, they may be worried about an upcoming car repair.
  • Take responsibility for your actions. Accept your partner’s perspective and apologize when you’re in the wrong.

Get expert tips for admitting to mistakes, taking responsibility and offering an apology — all essential parts of relationship maintenance and growth.


Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/z5j4RJV6zHM.

Contempt

One of the most destructive behaviors in a relationship is treating your partner with disrespect. The Gottman Institute’s research shows that contempt in a relationship is the biggest predictor of divorce or separation. Examples of contempt include:

  • Mocking in a sarcastic or condescending manner
  • Calling names meant to demean or belittle
  • Rolling your eyes or sneering
  • Giving the silent treatment

To banish contempt from your relationship, find ways to reconnect.

  • Remember what you like – and love – about your partner. Focus on the qualities that attracted you to your partner.
  • State your needs. Do this without blaming or accusing your partner, so you can have a constructive dialogue.
  • Rebuild appreciation for one another. Acknowledge and thank your partner for their big and small contributions to the relationship, whether that’s supporting the family financially, taking care of the children or bringing the trash out each week.
  • Create rituals. Take a walk together after work, text each other at a certain time of the day, eat a meal together every day. Rituals reinforce bonds and bring couples closer.

Get relationship support on how to curb contempt and build a more appreciative, open and respectful dynamic in your relationship.


Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/43W2qw_y704.

Criticism

Criticism can damage a relationship when it’s directed at the person rather than on how their actions made the other one feel. It can lead to defensiveness, pitting you and your partner against one another in a cycle of blame and defense.

You can break that negative cycle in the following ways:

  • Take a step back when you feel critical of your partner. Think about how their actions make you feel and ask yourself what you need from your partner.
  • Express your feelings using “I” statements and frame your need in a positive way. For example, “I feel frustrated and worried when you don’t answer my text messages. Is there a better time of day to text you?”
  • Ask for your partner’s input. There may be a reason behind your partner’s actions that you’re not aware of. Talking about the issue can lead to a solution.

Learn techniques to pull back on criticism and phrase requests in a positive way. Communicating your wants and needs without negativity is an important way to protect your bond and make love last.


Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/Mkff1ipNjDs.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling is the most common of the four conflict styles. It’s when one partner feels overwhelmed by negative emotions during a conflict, so shuts down. They may leave the room or go silent.

Stonewalling closes off the connection between couples, making it harder to work through a disagreement. Some ways to break the pattern of stonewalling include:

  • Recognize what’s happening. Check in with your feelings before you shut down.
  • Manage your stress. Take deep breaths. Ask for a moment to collect yourself. Reset with a walk or other activity that you find calming. Be sure to return to the conversation.
  • Ask your partner how you can help them return to the conversation, if you notice your partner is stonewalling you.

Learn about stonewalling and how to close the distance that can creep in during a disagreement. Get expert tips you can use to self-calm and re-center while staying close to your partner.


Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/4ekuAVWs_bI.

Additional resources for couples

For more resources, tools and support for military couples like you, visit Re the We on Military OneSource. You’ll find helpful resources for every stage of your relationship.

If you feel you and your partner need additional support, non-medical counseling can help. Free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through your installation’s Military and Family Life Counseling program and through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule an appointment with a non-medical counselor or to learn more. OCONUS? View international calling options.

Social Media in Relationships: Making it Work

person using social media

Research shows social media can be a positive tool for bringing people closer together. But, when couples disagree on the role of social media in relationships, it can cause friction.

You and your partner can take steps to avoid the negative aspects of social media by finding ways to use it that make you both comfortable.

Setting expectations for social media use

As with everything else, it’s a good idea to be transparent with each other about your online lives. Set expectations about how you use social media and set some ground rules about engaging with each other online, if necessary.

  • Talk about which platforms you use regularly. Your partner may be active on an app you rarely open. Or one of you may rarely use social media at all. Knowing this ahead of time will help set expectations for how much you and your partner will interact with each other on different platforms.
  • Discuss how much you’re comfortable sharing online. One or both of you may want to keep a low profile and not want photos or personal updates shared online. This could be for personal or professional reasons. Be sure to respect each other’s wishes.
  • Talk about what engaging on social media means to you. If one of you is hurt when the other doesn’t acknowledge every new post, discuss each other’s expectations. Harboring bad feelings because your partner didn’t react to your latest photo may lead to an argument. But your partner may not know that’s important to you.
  • Avoid demanding your partner like or comment on your posts. This can be controlling and make your partner feel trapped. If your partner does this to you, have a conversation about it. If your partner persists, that may be a sign you need to address a deeper problem in your relationship.

Avoiding the downside of social media in relationships

Social media posts offer a window into other people’s lives. Sometimes, that can trigger jealousy and uncertainty, particularly if you’re in a new relationship and still getting to know one another or have recently broken up with someone. Remember, what you see online is only part of the story.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. You may see your partner post a photo or engage with someone online who you don’t know. Before jumping to conclusions, consider your trust in your partner. If you have serious doubts, have a conversation, preferably in person and without being confrontational.
  • Avoid comparing your relationship to others online. Social media often presents a skewed version of reality. People tend to post only the highlights of their lives, leaving the impression everything is perfect. In comparison, you may feel your own life and relationship fall short. Make a mental checklist of all the positive things you’ve posted about yourself or your relationship. Do they tell the whole story? This may help you understand there’s often more below the surface than what appears on social media.
  • Stay away from social media when you’re angry. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid scrolling through social media when you’re mad or upset, whether it’s with your partner or something else. Staying off entirely means you won’t post something you’ll regret or will make you feel worse.
  • Try not to rely on social media to communicate with your partner. Only tagging someone in memes can become boring. If you’re physically separated, use video chat. Share your day-to-day thoughts and activities to stay connected. Learn some tips for communicating effectively through text messages.

Finding the positives of social media in relationships

If you or your partner feel uncomfortable with social media, it can feel like one of you is looking to find a problem. Instead, think through the positive aspects of engaging online. These include:

  • Letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Tagging your significant other in pictures, videos or memes shows them they’re on your mind. It also reinforces that you pay attention to what they like.
  • Scroll through their pictures when you miss them. This is especially nice if you or your partner are deployed or otherwise separated. Leave nice comments to give your partner a boost.
  • Note your partner’s accomplishments and share news of them. As long as your partner is comfortable with this, it shows them you are committed and proud of their achievements.
  • Join online groups with your partner. These groups can be about shared common interests, such as sports, pets, photography or other topics you and your partner can chat about.

Being on the same page with social media and using it in a positive way can strengthen your connection and bring you closer. For more tips and resources for every phase of your relationship, visit the Re the We page on Military OneSource.

Service members or spouses in need of a relationship boost can seek additional support via Military OneSource by live chat or by calling 800-342-9647, or through the Military and Family Life Counseling program.

Healthy Texting Habits in a Relationship

texting on smartphone

If you and your partner communicate often via text, then you’re like many couples. But healthy texting habits in a relationship may require more than tapping out quick notes to each other throughout the day.

Text messages can easily be misinterpreted. People rely on nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and tone of voice when communicating. Texts lack those, and they tend to be brief. Taken the wrong way, texts can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

You and your partner can head off problems and strengthen your connection by developing healthy texting habits.

Analyze and improve your texting habits as a couple

Your messaging app likely contains a historical record of text exchanges between you and your partner. Scroll through these together to analyze how you communicate via text. Try to do this in person or through video chat if you’re apart.

  • Read the messages aloud. Talk about how you felt when you sent and read the messages. Knowing your partner’s intent and understanding how they interpret your messages can prevent frustration and anxiety in the future.
  • Discuss your reactions to the texts in a non-confrontational way. Take note of common trends, such as one of you regularly feeling disappointed with the other’s response to texts. This will help you understand both of your texting styles.
  • Ask yourselves:
    • Who typically starts the texting conversations? What time of day?
    • How long are each of your typical texts?
    • When do you both text the most and why? When do you both text the least and why?
    • What topics do you typically discuss over text? Chores and errands? Casual conversations? Do you primarily send memes?
  • Discuss your expectations for each other. How do you feel when your partner doesn’t text back right away? How do you feel when you get a brief response to a long text?

Strengthening your connection through texts

Communication problems are a top relationship challenge and texting is an important mode of communication for most couples. The following tips can help you avoid problems and develop healthy texting habits in a relationship.

  • Switch up your texting topics. Texting only to remind your partner to pick up the dog food or do other errands can quickly help a relationship fall flat. Get in the habit of breaking up your routine texts with sweet or funny notes that let your partner know you’re thinking of them. The free relationship resilience tool, Love Every Day, can help you and your partner develop good communication skills.
  • Steer away from too many intimate texts if your partner doesn’t seem to enjoy them. Experts have shown that relying on text as a way to stay intimate as a couple can actually have the opposite effect. Have a conversation with your partner about whether intimate texts are welcome, and if so, how much may be too much.
  • Be concise. Long, drawn-out texts can be overwhelming and make the recipient feel they have to respond in a similar fashion. Long conversations are best in person, if possible.
  • Be mindful of the tone of your texts. Striking the right tone might require making your texts more personal. For example, “What are you doing?” could come off as aggressive while “Hello! What are you up to?” is clearly friendly. Forgoing punctuation and using abbreviations can also lead to misinterpretations. Simply responding “idk” to a question feels curt and disengaged, while “I’m not sure, let me think about that and get back to you” lets your partner know you care about their question.
  • Avoid overusing emojis. While fun and convenient, emojis can sometimes make the recipient feel like you didn’t take the time to think through a thoughtful response, or that you aren’t taking your conversation seriously.
  • Don’t argue over text. If you disagree, tell your partner you prefer to discuss in person, or, if that’s not possible, by phone or video. Tips for Healthy Conflict Resolution in a Relationship can help you talk calmly about your differences.

Tips for sending and responding to texts

Ideally, you’re pleased when you pick up the phone to find a text from your partner, and vice versa. Here are some tips to help make sure texts from each other are welcome additions to your days.

  • Try not to overload your partner with text messages. Avoid sending follow-up texts if you don’t get a response. Your partner may be busy. Too many texts may become irritating and your partner might feel bad about not being able to get back to you.
  • Talk about response times. Settle on an acceptable response time to a text. But also talk about different scenarios that may keep one another from answering a text right away.
  • Try to text during “normal” hours. Try to keep your texting to daytime when you know your partner is free. Texting during work hours or at night when you’re typically asleep can become annoying and hurt your relationship and your health. If you and your partner are in different time zones or have opposite schedules, agree on times of day when it’s best to communicate by text.

For more ideas on improving your communication, see Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship. For tips on navigating social media as a couple, check out Social Media and Relationships: Making it Work.

Military OneSource offers information and resources for all aspects of your relationship. For additional support, free and confidential non-medical counseling is available through Military OneSource by live chat or by calling 800-342-9647, or through your installation’s Military and Family Life Counseling program.

Building Healthy Relationships

Service member hugging spouse.

Make your most important relationships even stronger. This new specialty consultation from Military OneSource helps you deepen relationships with family, friends and others through an education-based consultation.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Building Healthy Relationships offers coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques. This consultation is designed to be flexible and personable, and is available to you by phone or video.

Identify your goals and boost your relationships

Everyone can benefit from boosting a relationship or improving communication. Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to create a stronger bond with your child. Or maybe you’re looking for ways to develop your communication skills.

This consultation offers a variety of tracks that are customized to different relationship dynamics. Your consultant will help you identify the track or tracks that are right for you. The personalized coaching sessions, educational tools, resources and empowering skills will help you be at your best. Building Healthy Relationships consultation tracks are designed so that you can do them from the comfort of your home.

  • Strengthening the Couple Connection. This track focuses on providing educational resources, guidance on common issues couples can face being a part of the military culture and tools to support strong relationships. Consultations can include both or one partner.
  • Healthy Parent-Child Connections. This track allows the parent to work with a consultant to identify relationship goals, with parents receiving education and resources to enhance these vital relationships. It is also possible for children to attend sessions with their parent as appropriate.
  • Communication Refreshers. Communication can be one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship. This track offers individuals or couples educational webinars, inventories and services to improve the way they communicate with one another. This is an excellent path for those seeking to enhance communication with a spouse, colleague or family member.
  • Staying Connected While Away. Part of military life can come with deployment and separations due to military duty. With this track, a consultant can assist service members or adult loved ones with identifying goals and resources to assist with emotional coping and keeping connected with that family member during these times.
  • Reconnecting After Deployment. When service members return from deployment, a major shift can occur for the entire family. This track is tailored to the unique period of reintegration by assisting service members and/or family members with identifying goals and providing materials that can ease stress and shape resiliency.
  • Blended Family. Couples may encounter new family dynamics when partners have children from previous relationships. This track focuses on co-parenting as a way to build a solid leadership unit for the military family, accounting for unique experiences and dynamics. This is an excellent path for those couples who are trying to introduce civilian children to military life.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may feel disconnected from their family and want to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

If one or more individuals do not speak English, your consultant can facilitate a three-way call for simultaneous language interpretation.

Start building healthy relationships

Since this consultation is available by both phone and video, you can get started anytime. Call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a Building Healthy Relationships consultant. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

Reconnecting With Your Partner at Home

Couple connecting at home

A romantic getaway may seem like the perfect way to reconnect as a couple. But, that’s not always possible – and even if it were, it may not be the answer you’re both hoping for.

A more lasting solution is to look for opportunities to grow closer in your everyday interactions. Practice mutual respect, carve out time for one another, tune in more closely to each other’s needs. These and other simple ways to express love and affection for one another will strengthen your relationship.

Seeing each other’s side and managing your expectations

A first step toward reconnecting with your partner is to open up to each other and to be honest with yourself. As a couple, you can use these insights to forge a deeper connection based on mutual understanding. Here’s where to start:

  • Check your expectations against reality. Examine each other’s ideas of how your relationship should be. Where did those expectations come from? Are they realistic? Accept that no relationship is perfect all the time. Relationships also naturally change and evolve. The romance in its early stages may deepen into a reliable partnership that can be equally fulfilling, if not more. It may be time to update your expectations.
  • Stand in each other’s shoes. It can be truly eye-opening to hear each other’s perspective. It’s important in all relationships, but particularly for military couples when one partner is new to military life. For example, the demands of a service member’s job may make it impossible to have dinner together every night or talk on the phone whenever you want. By listening to each other’s needs and responsibilities, you will develop a greater awareness of and appreciation for each other. You may even be able to come up with creative ways to meet halfway, such as having breakfast together each morning or checking in during a scheduled break.
  • Avoid angrily criticizing each other. This will put each other on the defensive and shut down communication. Instead, name the specific action that bothers you and how it makes you feel. Then work together toward a solution that will work for both of you.

Ways to connect at home

No matter how busy you get, it’s essential that you and your partner make time for each other. Here are ideas for keeping your relationship fresh and meaningful.

  • Describe your perfect date together. Write down or tell each other in great detail what your ideal date would be like, right down to your outfits. Describe the setting, how you will get there and what you will do when you’re there.
  • Have a date night. You probably won’t be able to pull off your fantasy date, but you can aim for the emotional connection it would create. Plan a special night at home if going out is impossible. If you have children, ask a neighbor or friend to watch them for a few hours. Put away your phones, so you can focus on each other. Have a special meal, watch a movie. Dance. Do what makes you both happy.
  • Ask each other 20 questions. It doesn’t have to be 20, but there are probably many things you don’t know about each other. Do you know your partner’s favorite movie? Favorite recording artist? What would each other’s superpower be and why that one? The questions are endless and can open up new insights into one another.
  • Exercise together. Run, bike, hike, lift weights, sign up for an online fitness class together. Encourage each other and have fun together.
  • Go on a walk. Try to fit walks into your regular routine with your partner, even if it means getting up early. If you have young children, bring them along. Walking reduces stress and can lead to great conversations.
  • Take a long drive together. The car is another good setting for conversation. Enjoy the scenery outside your windows while catching up with each other.
  • Share your favorite childhood foods. Incorporate family recipes into your meals or order regional treats online. This is a good way to learn about each other and share an important part of your personal histories.
  • Take a class together. Experience the excitement of learning something new together. If you can’t get out, sign up for an online class. You should be able to find whatever you are interested in online, from cooking or learning a new language, to dance or drawing.

Resources for connecting with your partner

The Department of Defense, through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling program, offers resources to help service members and their partners reconnect at home.

  • The Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultation is a free and confidential series of personalized coaching sessions to help you deepen your relationships. Strengthening the Couple Connection track focuses on issues common to military couples.
  • Non-medical counseling is another option available to couples or individuals. Free and confidential sessions with a Military and Family Life counselor are available on your installation. Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling.
  • The Love Every Day app is a fun way to practice your relationship communication skills and rekindle your romance.
  • Visit the Re the We page on Military OneSource for access to articles, tools and resources to rekindle, repair or reset your relationship.

Military OneSource is there for you 24/7 to help you and your partner thrive in your relationship. Call 800-342-9647 to connect with a consultant. OCONUS? Use these international calling options.

LGBTQ in the Military: A Brief History, Current Policies and Safety

pride flag

Since 2011, openly gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women have been permitted to serve in the military. Acceptance for LGBTQ in the military expanded with the lifting of the transgender ban in 2021.

Still, some LGBTQ service members may worry about living openly. They may fear being harassed or passed over for assignments or promotions. While acceptance of LGBTQ service members is a relatively new development in the military’s long history, the Department of Defense is committed to maintaining a strong force that reflects the nation’s diversity.

The history of LGBTQ in the military

It wasn’t until 1982 that the military enacted a policy explicitly banning gay men and lesbians from their ranks. Before that, however, same-sex relations were criminalized and cause for discharge. And in the early 1940s, it was classified as a mental illness, disqualifying gay men and lesbians from service.

In 1993, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went into effect allowing closeted LGBTQ people to serve in the military. Under the policy, service members would not be asked about their sexual orientation, but would be discharged for disclosing it. Eighteen years later, Congress repealed the policy, allowing openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve in the military.

Another barrier was lifted in 2013 when spousal and family benefits were extended to same-sex married partners in the military. After ending temporarily in 2016, the ban on transgender individuals was again rescinded in 2021, allowing those who don’t identify with their biological gender to enlist and serve in the armed forces.

Being LGBTQ in the military

The Department of Defense recognizes the value of a diverse force that represents society, and has taken steps to promote acceptance and inclusion in its ranks.

But, given the military’s 245-year history, its policy to accept LGBTQ service members into its ranks is still relatively new. Cultural changes take time; stigma against LGBTQ service members may linger. This can be a barrier to living openly as an LGBTQ person in the military.

If this is true of your service member, talk with them about their concerns. The fear of backlash to living openly is understandable, but keeping a key part of their identity secret can affect their physical and mental health. You can play an important role by being a sounding board for your service member. You can help your service member feel understood and supported just by listening.

If your LGBTQ service member feels unsafe

If your service member is harassed or threatened, they should document the incident in writing and through photographs, if appropriate. They should also retain any evidence, such as a threatening note, then bring a formal complaint to their chain of command or the military police.

If your service member feels they were passed up for a promotion or denied an assignment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they may file a complaint with their service branch’s military equal opportunity office.

If your service member feels isolated, they may find it helpful to build a support network of fellow LGBTQ service members. Their installation may have an LGBTQ support group. If not, your service member may find one in the community outside the installation.

Your service member may also benefit from talking with a professional who is familiar with the military culture. Free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through their installation’s Military and Family Life Counseling program and Military OneSource. Your service member can connect with a counselor by calling 800-342-9647. If they are outside the continental United States, they may use one of these calling options.

If your service member is in crisis, the Military Crisis Line is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors. You or your service member can reach the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. Press 1 to speak with a responder, text 838255 or access online chat at the Military Crisis Line website.

What To Do When You Feel Disconnected From Your Partner

disconnected couple on couch

One of the rewards of being in a healthy relationship is the emotional fulfillment it brings. Sharing a deep connection with someone can make the hard times easier and the good times even better. But it’s not unusual to sometimes feel disconnected from your partner. Work or parenting stress, along with the challenges of military life, can cause couples to drift apart.

When this happens, take action to reinforce your bond and strengthen it against further challenges.

Noticing when you are feeling disconnected from your partner

It might seem easier to ignore warning signs in your relationship than to do something about them. But if you don’t address them right away, they can quickly pile up.

  • Reach out to your partner if you notice behavior changes. Avoid being confrontational. Instead, have a conversation about it. Be open with your concerns and ask your partner to do the same.
  • Take a team approach to identifying the problem. Avoid the impulse to get angry or blame one another. Instead, work together to identify and tackle the issue.
  • Focus on finding a solution. Write down your options for dealing with your problems. Talk through each one and consider moving forward on a path that feels right.
  • Reinforce your bond by listing what you are grateful for. Seeking out the good in your relationship will remind you of what you love about each other and help you feel more satisfied and closer in your relationship.
  • Have a conversation about your values and desires. Describe what is important to you and ask your partner to do the same. You might find you share the same values and desires, but define them differently. Talking it through will lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and expectations.

Reaffirming your emotional connection

When you feel distant from one another, be proactive about strengthening your bond. Here are steps to take:

  • Carve out time each day for conversation. Talking about your day builds closeness. Remember to give each other your full attention during your conversations.
  • Set expectations for how often you will be in communication during the day. Prioritize quality of conversations over quantity.
  • Mix and match time together. Spend time as a couple with family and friends. But also try your best to make time to be alone with each other. Even getting up a few minutes early to have breakfast together before the kids wake up will give you a quick boost.
  • Resist using your cell phone when spending quality time with your partner. Put your phone on silent so you’re not tempted to check it.
  • Get moving outdoors as a couple. Physical activity outside will boost your mood, translating into positive feelings toward each other. Go for a bike ride, take a hike or even walk around the neighborhood as a couple.

You can find more ways to communicate effectively with your partner in the article, Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship.

Staying connected while apart

Military deployments or other separations can make it harder to stay connected as a couple. Take a proactive approach to staying emotionally close.

  • Make a communication plan. Work out how you will handle obstacles like different time zones. List various scenarios you might run into and come up with solutions for each.
  • Share an experience together. Watch a movie while on video chat. Read the same book and schedule a time to discuss it. Start a fantasy sports league as a couple. Play virtual games and use your favorite apps together.
  • Send photos, audio clips or videos. This will help you visualize each other’s lives and feel closer to one another.

You can find more tips and resources for every stage of your relationship by visiting Military OneSource’s Re the We page.

If you and your partner need additional support, free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counseling program on your installation and through Military OneSource.

Non-medical counseling is available in person, by phone, video or secure chat. To learn more or schedule time to connect with a non-medical counselor, call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat. OCONUS? View international calling options.

Relationship Tool Helps You Love Every Day

Husband hugging wife

A long-term, loving relationship is more than enjoyable, it gives you emotional support and strength during life’s hard times. Whether you’re dating or have been married for years, it’s important to nurture and grow your relationship. Love Every Day, a free relationship resilience tool from Military OneSource, can improve the quality and stability of your connection.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Love Every Day is a fun and interactive way that helps you develop and practice good relationship communication in only a few minutes each day. You get personalized text messages for 21 days to help foster a renewed sense of connection. By making intimate communication a consistent part of your daily routine, you and your partner learn to apply the skills in everyday life. Check out the Love Every Day video (Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/lYVv0pllMxg.).

In just 21 days, you can reduce disharmony and build healthier habits as a couple. Give Love Every Day a try to spark some fun or rekindle your romance.

Maintaining Strong Relationships: Virtual Resources Available to Military Couples

Marine couple smiles at one another.

Current as of Oct. 7, 2020

The stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic presents challenges for everyone and may affect relationships. This can be especially true of intimate partner relationships.

Stress may come from couples spending more time together due to stay-at-home orders. Being separated due to travel restrictions can also cause stress.

It’s normal to go through ups and downs in your relationship. But if you are feeling frustrated or tense, it’s important to know you are not alone. Military OneSource offers a variety of virtual relationship resources that can help.

Take time to see if they are right for you, and share them with others who may benefit from them.

Strengthen your bond with your partner from home

There are a variety of counseling options and tools available to help military couples work through the stress brought on by the pandemic. Take advantage of these resources offered through Military OneSource, Military Community and Family Policy and other supporting organizations:

Tips for couples to manage relationship stress

Military OneSource offers tips for couples to help them cope with the stress and pressure brought on by the pandemic. These include:

  • Come up with a plan to deal with the new normal.
  • Give each other space, which could mean going to a different room, or maybe just wearing earbuds or headphones.
  • Practice good communication, starting by setting aside a time to talk when you aren’t too stressed.
  • Check in with each other by video or phone if you are separated.
  • Find time to be active by building physical activity into your day. Try a personal health and wellness coach or even a mobile coach.
  • Take time to breathe, and remember why you and your partner love each other.

Another factor regarding the stress you may feel in your relationship could be related to the stress the entire family is facing.

Above all else, when stress is high take care of yourself so you’ll be there for your spouse or partner.

If your spouse or partner has made you feel unsafe or afraid, help is available through the Family Advocacy Program. Speak to a victim advocate to explore next steps, or call or chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7, at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Tips for Communicating in a Long-Distance Relationship

Service member and girlfriend get photo taken before deployment

Long-distance relationships are a challenge that many military couples face at some point in their relationship. Being apart from your loved one can create anxiety, sadness, even trust issues. But the separation can also bring couples closer, particularly if both partners set expectations and find ways to stay connected. With planning and commitment, you and your partner can keep your relationship strong while apart.

Plan ahead for staying in touch

The best time to talk about how you will stay connected during your geographic separation is while you are still together.

  • Set expectations about how you will stay in touch and how often. What works best for you as a couple? Phone calls, video chats, email, text, letters? A combination? How often will you call or write? Factor in your other commitments and activities so you don’t overpromise and risk disappointing each other or adding stress to your lives.
  • Agree on a time to speak with each other that works for both of you. Different time zones can make this tricky. One of you may be starting your day while the other is ending theirs.
  • Prepare yourselves for the unknown. It’s possible that you won’t know much about your communication options ahead of time. Wi-Fi may be spotty or nonexistent in the area where the service member will be. Mail or email service may be limited. Mission requirements may make communication impossible for days or longer. Discuss these very real possibilities so you won’t be caught off guard.
  • Pick a time each day to focus your thoughts on the other. Play the same song, if possible – maybe as one of you is drifting off to sleep and the other is starting the day if you’re in different time zones. This can be reassuring when communication isn’t possible.
  • Hide notes for each other to find during your geographic separation. Tuck little messages into gear, books, clothing, or in unexpected places around the home.

Nurturing your long-distance relationship

It takes effort to maintain closeness when you are physically distant from each other. But gestures, small and large, can feel particularly meaningful when you are missing your loved one.

  • Plan ahead for birthdays and anniversaries so cards or gifts arrive on time.
  • Be there for each other emotionally. Keep track of what is happening in your partner’s life so you can check in after a big day or send virtual, reassuring hugs when needed.
  • Keep each other up to date on new developments in your lives. Talk about friends you’ve made, interests you’ve developed, new favorite foods. Passing along these types of details will make reintegration easier when you are together again.
  • Try to keep your conversations positive. Don’t hide your struggles, but don’t let them dominate conversations either. Positive communication during deployment is linked to less anxiety among military couples on return.
  • Deal with challenges constructively as they come up. Address issues right away before they become bigger problems down the road. Doing this also makes the adjustment smoother when you are back together.
  • Know when to pull back a bit. There’s such a thing as being in touch too often. If phone calls or video chats begin to feel burdensome or you are struggling to find things to talk about, speak less frequently. This will help keep your conversations fresh and your time reconnecting will feel more special.
  • Have shared experiences. Read the same book or watch the same movie and compare notes later. Play an online game together. Listen to the same playlist. Having shared experiences brings couples closer together.

Resources for staying close while apart

The Department of Defense, through Military OneSource, offers resources for military couples coping with a geographic separation.

  • Strengthen your relationship with the Building Healthy Relationships Staying Connected While Away specialty consultation. A consultant will meet with you by phone or video to help with emotional coping and staying connected.
  • Get expert help with non-medical counseling when you need more support than friends and family can provide. Non-medical counseling is free and confidential and available wherever in the world you are.
  • Tap into the Love Every Day app to practice your relationship communication skills and kindle your romance.
  • Visit the Re the We page on Military OneSource for access to articles, tools and resources to rekindle, repair or reset your relationship.

Military OneSource is there for you 24/7 to help with relationship issues and other concerns. Call 800-342-9647 to connect with a consultant. OCONUS? Use these international calling options.