When Your Spouse Has a Traumatic Brain Injury

Health specialist points out areas of magnetic activity in a brain displayed on a monitor.

As a spouse of a service member who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, you may be experiencing a range of emotions. It is important to allow yourself to feel every emotion that surfaces and attend to your own needs. Here are some strategies to consider as you prepare to take on your new role as a caregiver to your spouse.

After the injury

Your spouse may spend a few weeks and months in the hospital, which could be challenging for the two of you. In this phase of recovery, it may be helpful to:

  • Gather information. Learn everything you can about your spouse’s injury so that you can compare notes with doctors and other health professionals. Ask questions about your spouse’s treatment program and take stock of the various medical care providers that you interact with during your hospital stay.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t spend all your emotional energy in one place because a brain injury requires long-term care. Save your strength for the long haul.
  • Understand your spouse’s treatment program. Your spouse’s team of medical care providers will develop an individualized plan to treat his or her injury, which could require multiple hours of in-patient therapy per day.
  • Be understanding. Don’t take your spouse’s hostile outbursts personally. Some TBI patients behave angrily toward their caretakers in the first few days and weeks of recovery. This behavior is a result of the injury and not a personal attack.
  • Get help. Let your family and friends help you with the day-to-day stuff like taking care of your children, preparing meals and other chores. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy meals. If you need assistance, contact a Military OneSource consultant who will put you in touch with a trained counselor in your area. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

Understanding the challenges of TBI

Traumatic brain injuries vary from patient to patient. Some people experience headaches, seizures, dizziness, memory problems and difficulty focusing. Others symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue. Rehabilitation consumes a lot of energy. Simple tasks may be exhausting for your spouse, and the brain injury may be disrupting his or her sleep cycle.
  • Anger. Some patients may seem angry or frustrated because they can’t do simple tasks, remember things or focus on a project. Try to be patient.
  • Too much emotion. It may be difficult for your spouse to control his or her emotions. Help your spouse avoid emotional triggers by turning off the TV or radio during conversations. Allow only a few family and friends to visit at one time.
  • Insensitivity. Brain injury patients tend to make inappropriate statements in social situations. You can help your spouse by speaking about your feelings directly instead of using nonverbal cues.
  • Loss of focus. Your spouse may have difficulty organizing his or her thoughts. You can troubleshoot this issue by helping your spouse establish routines.

Taking care of your spouse at home

Your spouse will endure a long-term recovery process. Although coming home from the hospital is a step towards health, there will still be some challenges ahead. You might try these tips:

  • Adjust to changing roles. If you are trying to hold down a job while performing the bulk of the household duties, you might become overwhelmed. Be sure to ask for help. Consider going to couples counseling so that you and your spouse can adjust to changing roles.
  • Understand your spouse’s changes. Brain injury patients can look normal, but still exhibit emotional and behavioral symptoms that take longer to heal.
  • Let your spouse rest. Brain injury patients tire easily. Schedule outings in the morning when your spouse is rested and allow for naps during the day.
  • Treat your spouse normally. Giving your spouse some of the duties he or she had prior to going to the hospital will make him or her feel useful. Increase these duties over time as your spouse recovers.
  • Remember what you have together. As you and your spouse adjust to the “new normal,” take time to nurture your relationship: remind each other of what you most admire in each other, or look through photos of special memories.
  • Find a TBI survivors group. Meeting other couples in similar situations can be very helpful. Connect with other families by attending a TBI survivors group.

For more information about TBI, visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury website. They offer a variety of Family & Caregiver resources, including a comprehensive downloadable caregiver’s guide. Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans includes:

  • Comprehensive lists of medical terms and diagrams
  • Charts to help keep track of medical providers and medications
  • Worksheets to help coordinate caregivers and tasks
  • Helpful suggestions about what kinds of behavior to expect and how best to respond
  • Encouraging stories from other caregivers, and more.

When your spouse suffers a traumatic brain injury, your life will be impacted in ways you didn’t expect. Recovery can be challenging, as it requires large doses of patience and understanding. By educating yourself on TBI and using the tips listed in this article, you can better navigate through this phase of your lives and adjust to your new normal.

Creating New Holiday Traditions When Your Service Member Is Away

A service member watches her children open presents via video chat.

With your service member away and people around the world avoiding travel and large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the holidays may feel different this year.

There are things you can do to help make the holiday special for yourself and those you love, whether your service member is stationed far from home or deployed. Sharing old traditions and creating new ones can keep the holidays fun and meaningful, and help you stay connected.

You are an important influence in your service member’s life. Sharing traditions or creating new ones during this time of year shows that you are thinking about and supporting your loved ones. This is meaningful, as they – and you – may be feeling a lot of emotions, whether they express it or not.

Creating new virtual traditions

With video get-togethers more common since the pandemic started, your service member and other loved ones are probably comfortable with online visits. Think about scheduling one or more virtual get-togethers this season. Add in some holiday fun to make them even more memorable.

Hold a virtual “potluck.” No need to bring food to this get-together, just something else to share – a toast, joke, poem or favorite holiday memory.

Create a slideshow of holidays past. Collect photos and short videos from family and friends in plenty of time to create a slideshow or video presentation of seasons past. Use screen-sharing during an online gathering to show the presentation. Half the fun will be seeing each other’s reactions and sharing memories.

Schedule a holiday game night. Create and email bingo cards for guests to print out for a holiday bingo night. Or hold a trivia night of random facts, family history or a combination of both. Look into multiplayer online games that everyone will enjoy and that will create the feeling of being there with each other.

Open presents together. Get together virtually to share the experience of opening presents. If your service member has children, read a holiday story.

Watch your favorite holiday movie at the same time. If possible, watch while using video chat or social media to comment on the best parts in real time. If holiday movies are not your thing, you could choose a television series to stream and talk about.

Other new traditions to try

Here are some more ideas to bridge the distance gap and celebrate with loved ones. See if they work for you, and share them with others in your service member’s network of support.

Design family T-shirts or hats for family members to wear one day around the holidays. Put something meaningful or fun on them and then video chat or text pictures of yourselves wearing them. Send your service member one of the T-shirts or hats ahead of time, so they can wear it on the designated day.

Send a care package or even an experience. Sending a care package is a great way to brighten your service member’s holiday season, especially if they are deployed. Or you might consider sending an experience they may remember over time. Think about giving your service member a round of golf or a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Create a photo book. Include images of you and your service member, together and apart, from throughout the years. Make a copy for you and send a copy to them as a holiday gift to share and look through together.

Encourage your service member to get together with friends. Missing home may put a damper on wanting to celebrate, but suggesting that your loved one get together safely with buddies and newfound friends can help. Remind them to embrace the local culture whether they are in North Dakota, the Pacific region or somewhere else.

Adopt a foreign holiday tradition. If your service member is stationed abroad, research the country’s holiday traditions and incorporate one or a few into your own.

Volunteer or send a donation on behalf of your service member to a favorite charity. Your service member is serving our nation. Take their lead and volunteer over the holiday season in your local community. Or donate to an organization on behalf of your service member, something that is close to his or her heart.

Send several holiday cards in the same package. Write a different note of appreciation and love in each one. Your service member can open one card a day leading up to the holiday. See these guidelines from the Postal Service to make sure your cards get there on time.

Send a homemade ornament with pictures of you, children or cherished pets on it.

Check out these other holiday resources from Military OneSource for ideas to help spark new holiday traditions for your family and alert your service member of available resources for the holidays and beyond.

Whatever your holiday plans, make sure you and your service member set realistic expectations ahead of time. Are you expecting to talk over the holidays? Do you want to send presents? Discuss what you want, and make sure it’s doable based on your loved one’s location and operational situation. And don’t forget the postal deadlines.

Draw Strength From Family Routines During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Family of three doing pushups

Current as of Nov. 12, 2020

Reliable routines can be important tools to help children learn to manage day-to-day life. But in uncertain times such as the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, having reliable routines is even more important to help both children and adults handle daily challenges and continue to thrive. Here are some tips to consider as you navigate your military family’s routine.

Maintain Aspects of Your Normal Routine

With many parents still working from home, some children being taught remotely, others attending school in person, and others participating in hybrid classes (mix of remote and in person), it may be hard to tell what normal life looks like these days. In the midst of all the change and uncertainty, maintaining basic routines can help life feel more normal.

  • Remind yourself that your child probably looks forward to certain routines and relies on them for a feeling of security. That may include evening baths, calling out-of-town loved ones and reading together at bedtime.
  • Let babies and toddlers nap at their normal times. If you are a parent unaccustomed to being home with your young children, try to organize your work around their sleeping schedules.
  • Keep school-age children on a normal weekday schedule as much as possible. Stick to regular times for waking up and going to bed and having meals, snacks and playtime.
  • Have children do any required homework during normal school hours, and save screen and playtime for after they’ve finished assignments.
  • Maintain normal family routines such as eating together and sharing other evening activities.
  • Keep your routines simple. The more complex the routine, the harder it is to maintain.
  • Make time for your relationship. The current situation can be incredibly challenging. Here are ideas for keeping your relationship strong and communicating as a couple.
  • Make time for yourself. Self-care is more important now than ever, especially if you are questioning the safety of your relationship, or currently experiencing domestic abuse. Here are resources for support and next steps.

Create New Routines

Although it is important to keep basic routines in place, this can also be a time to come up with creative ideas to help everyone handle being at home more often. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a daily schedule for each child if they are stuck at home. Plan hourly activities, and post the schedule somewhere visible such as the refrigerator. Make sure to include scheduled family activities.
  • Engage children in household chores. Toddlers can clean up their toys. Older children can set and clear the table for meals. Teens can be responsible for taking care of younger siblings. Everyone can help fold laundry and plan and prepare meals.
  • Encourage tweens and teens to reach out to their friends. Challenge them to learn about the virus, or research positive things that have resulted around the world from people staying inside. They could also suggest creative ideas for socializing from a safe distance.
  • Work together as a team. Include the whole family in brainstorming ideas for managing chores and planning activities, and try to keep things as positive as possible. Make a list of fun things to do, post it where everyone can add to it, and decide what to add to your daily schedules. For more ideas, check out resources from the morale, welfare and recreation Digital Library.
  • Be flexible. It might be helpful to let go of some of your normal expectations for family life. For instance, if you don’t usually allow screen time on school nights, you might allow exceptions as long as everyone understands that the rules return once life returns to normal.

These are challenging times, but having a plan and working together can help you manage. Understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly changing. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms.

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

Strengthen Your Coping Skills With Building Healthy Relationships Specialty Consultations

Couple stand in airplane hanger

Current as of Nov. 6, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has upended lives everywhere. Staying home and away from usual support systems can challenge even the strongest relationships.

If your family is feeling the strain, Military OneSource can help. Our Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations offer coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques.

Individual tracks are available by phone and video to improve connections with your children, your partner and others during these uncertain times.

Cope With Stress as a Couple

The COVID-19 pandemic can strain even the strongest relationship. Review our guide for ways to cope.

Specialty consultations for all of your important relationships

The Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations offer a variety of tracks that are customized to different relationships. When you call Military OneSource to arrange a specialty consultation, your consultant will help you identify the track — or tracks — that are right for you.

  • Building Healthy Relationships with Your Significant Other. This track includes personalized coaching sessions, educational resources, guidance and tools to support a stronger partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Healthy Parent-Child Connections. You will work with a consultant to identify goals for your relationship with your child. Your consultant will also give you education and resources to enhance your bond. If appropriate, your child may attend sessions with you.
  • Communication Refreshers. Good communication is at the heart of healthy relationships. This track focuses on improving the way you communicate with others and is helpful for couples, as well. It offers educational webinars, inventories and services.
  • Staying Connected While Away. If you’re away from your partner or family during the pandemic, this track might be right for you. A consultant can help you identify goals and resources to help you cope emotionally and stay connected with your loved ones.
  • Blended Family. This track focuses on co-parenting when you and your partner have children from previous relationships. It may be especially helpful for those who are learning new family roles at the same time their children are feeling isolated due to school closures and other precautions.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. If you are a new military spouse away from your family and support system, this track may help. It can help you adjust to the military lifestyle, develop coping skills and identify resources in your new community.
  • Reconnecting After Deployment. A major shift can occur for the entire family when a service member returns from deployment. Coming home amid the changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic may cause additional strain. This track can help you identify goals for this reintegration period. It also includes materials that can ease stress and boost your family’s resilience.

Healthy Relationships resources

Find information and tools to keep your relationship strong.

Call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat to schedule an appointment with a Building Healthy Relationships consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Our understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly. Stay up to date by checking the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. 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.

Staying Safe While Staying Healthy: Tips for Military Families

Two young girls cooking in a kitchen

Current as of September 25, 2020

The Department of Defense is committed to keeping you and your family safe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

During this uncertain and unpredictable time, there are ways to promote the safety, health, and well-being of yourself, your spouse or partner, and your children — even if your family unit is feeling tested or strained. Emergencies, unexpected events and disruptions to our workplace and home can increase stress and put added pressure on our family and personal relationships. You may have increased anxiety about the health and safety of family members who are deployed, or worried about older parents who live far away.

To reduce the threat of COVID-19, we have all been asked to modify our habits and activities. If self-quarantine and social distancing have made you or your children feel anxious, stressed or even depressed, know that you are not alone. There are practices you can take to reduce your stress, increase your safety, and still allow your connections with friends, loved ones and your community to thrive.

Need More Parenting Resources During COVID-19?

You may be looking for new ideas for managing children at home during the pandemic. Try this updated list of extensive parenting resources.

Maintain your daily routine.

For the mental wellness of both you and your children, it is a good idea to stick to your usual routine as much as possible while homebound.

Going to bed and getting up in the morning at your normal time, sharing meals as a family, and sticking to an exercise regime you can do indoors or outside on your own, or with your kids or partner, are all ways to stay resilient. Sticking to a routine is also especially nurturing for young children.

Learn about creating and maintaining routines »

Take steps to promote child safety in the home.

If you have made the decision to self-quarantine, your family may not be used to being home together at all times.

To reduce risk of accidents or injuries to your children, take care to make sure any dangerous or potentially deadly items are safely stored, locked, and inaccessible to children. These items may include certain medications, chemical detergents or bleaches used for cleaning (for especially young children) or firearms.

Get tips on safe firearm storage from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office »

This is a new and frightening time for all of us, kids and adults alike.

There are ways to communicate the seriousness of the pandemic to your children, while taking care not to alarm them. Child development experts have recommendations for how you approach this conversation with your children.

Get recommendations for conversations about COVID-19 with your children »

Remember the importance of self-care.

Taking time to create daily rituals for yourself is a vital strategy to preserve and strengthen your mental health during this challenging time.

Self-care is unique to you, whether that’s a quiet bath, a jog, or even video-chatting with friends and loved ones. By making your well-being a priority, you are building the resilience you need to guide your kids and your family through this period.

Read about the pillars of wellness »

Talk to someone.

It is normal to feel scared and lonely during this time, even while at home surrounded by your children. You can strengthen your coping skills by taking advantage of Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations that can help with communication, relationships and so much more.
If you are feeling hopeless or disconnected, there are a number of options for you to speak with someone who can help. A great first step is Military OneSource, where you can speak with a confidential, non-medical counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Military OneSource counselors are available to talk with you about any concern, big or small, and can also connect you with other helping professionals, like the Family Advocacy Program.

Learn more about confidential, non-medical counseling »

Seek help.

If self-quarantine and social distancing have made you or your children feel less safe, know that you are not alone.

If you are quarantined with a spouse or partner who threatens, intimidates you, or makes you feel afraid, call your installation’s Family Advocacy Program. Family Advocacy Program staff can help you think through ways to stay safe while staying at home, or plan to stay with a friend or family member.

Learn more about the Family Advocacy Program »

You may wish to consult the tips from the National Domestic Violence Hotline regarding COVID-19, or call 800-799-7233 to speak with an advocate, or chat with someone at thehotline.org.

The coronavirus national emergency and global pandemic is causing difficulty and uncertainty for everyone. The military community will get through this challenge together, and the Department of Defense and Military OneSource are standing by to help.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19:

For PCS-related updates, check Move.mil »

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:

Relationship Support for Military Couples

couple looks out over bay

When you are part of a military couple, you and your partner share the pride, benefits and challenges of service. Permanent change of station moves mean you get to experience new parts of the country and world. But these frequent moves can also bring stress. Deployments allow the service member to put their training into practice, but being far from home can be hard on a relationship.

Fortunately, couples counseling and many other free and confidential resources are available to help you and your partner build a relationship that can thrive amid these and other challenges.

Expert help for military couples

Free and confidential non-medical counseling and other programs provide professional support for military couples with relationship concerns.

  • Non-medical counseling. You and your partner don’t have to figure it out on your own. Talk to someone who understands military life and its unique challenges. Non-medical counselors are experienced professionals who are available through:
  • Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations. These consultations include coaching sessions, practical tools, resources and problem-solving techniques. Consultations are available as specific tracks that focus on the area of your relationship that needs attention. The tracks include:
    • Building Healthy Relationships With Your Significant Other. This track targets the common issues military couples face and provides tools to support a strong relationship.
    • Communication Refreshers. You and your partner will be given the resources to improve the way you communicate.
    • Staying Connected While Away. You and your partner will learn ways to stay close and cope with being apart during deployments and other separations.
    • Reconnecting After Deployment. This track is tailored to the period of reintegration after a deployment.

Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations are available by phone or video by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Virtual resources for military couples

These free tools and resources are available to you and your partner 24/7, on your own schedule.

No relationship is perfect. But with attention and a commitment to one another, you and your partner can build a foundation strong enough to weather any challenge while providing you both with a source of happiness and fulfillment.

Navigating Relationship Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Girl holding a phone

Current as of Sept. 25, 2020

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

The Department of Defense is committed to the safety and well-being of service members, their partners and families 24/7/365. The national emergency spurred by COVID-19 is no exception. To tackle the threat, public health leaders are calling on all of us to modify our behaviors, change our daily routines, and make sacrifices to curb the outbreak.

However, some recommendations, like social distancing and self-isolating at home, may be especially challenging for individuals who do not feel safe in their relationships with their spouse or partner, particularly if they live with that person. For some relationships, the added stress brought on by the pandemic, which could include financial implications, may also bring out unhealthy or even abusive behaviors.

Support is always available

No matter what your personal situation is, the military community has resources to support you. Whether you’re questioning your partner’s behavior toward you or looking for ways to manage your safety and maintain your boundaries at home, help is available and you are not alone.

Take time for self-care

To the extent possible, make time for yourself with daily rituals that provide you with mental and emotional space, even joy. Making your well-being a priority can help you build the resilience you need to guide yourself (and your children, if you have them) through this challenging period.

Stay connected with friends and family

While you are removed from your social network and community due to quarantine, be sure to keep in touch via email, text, phone, or other means. Maintaining these connections can boost your mental and emotional health, and also help to keep you safe.

It is especially important to stay in touch with loved ones while you are at home with an abusive partner. Check in with them every day to let them know you are OK. Make sure they know how to reach you in an emergency. You may also want to develop a code word or phrase that indicates you are in danger, so they discreetly know when to send help.

Be advised, however, that some abusers may monitor computer and cell phone activity. Learn more about safe internet browsing and practice those tips every time you browse. 

Learn tips for cell phone safety »

Create a safety plan

Even if unhealthy behaviors in your relationship have not escalated to violence or abuse, it is a good idea to develop strategies for finding space to be away from your partner. A safety plan is a personalized checklist that helps you to identify ways to maintain your welfare, your children’s and your pet’s if you need time and space apart from your spouse or partner.
Victim advocates at your installation’s Family Advocacy Program are available by phone to help you map out safe places to go, if needed, like a friend or family member’s house. If you already have a safety plan, consider calling FAP to connect with a victim advocate who can help adapt it to your current situation.

Find contact information for your Family Advocacy Program and Victim Advocate Services »

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also offers information on safety plans specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get help in an emergency

Yes, it is important to self-quarantine during this time to the extent possible. But be assured that frontline professionals, including law enforcement, are available to help you in a crisis.

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger, or if your partner or spouse has threatened you, your children, or someone you know. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.

If you are feeling panicked, stressed, anxious or depressed about your relationship while you remain at home, support and counseling is available.

  • Contact Military OneSource any time to arrange for non-medical counseling.
  • Call the support staff at your installation’s FAP. They are ready to listen and provide assistance.
  • Connect 24/7 with an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-7233, or chat online at thehotline.org.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. 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.

When You and Your Partner React Differently to COVID-19 Concerns — Tips for Communicating

Service member couple holding hands

Current as of March 23, 2020

To address the threat of COVID-19, public health leaders are calling on all of us to modify our behaviors, change our daily routines and make sacrifices. The Department of Defense has also introduced travel restrictions to keep service members and their families safe.

These adjustments can cause stress, and everyone reacts to stressful situations differently. Your partner’s response could be very unlike your own. For example, one of you may think you should deep clean the house, and the other may think it’s not necessary. Or one of you wants to keep going to social gatherings, while the other thinks you should stay at home and lock the doors.

Here are tips for improving your communication skills as you work through COVID-19 concerns together.

Cope With Stress as a Couple

The COVID-19 pandemic can strain even the strongest relationship. Review our guide for ways to cope.

Tips for Talking About COVID-19 Concerns

  • Be an active listener. Give each other your full attention, free of interruptions. Turn off the television, and let phone calls go to voicemail.
  • Show that you’re listening. Try repeating back what you heard through phrases such as, “So what you’re saying is…” or “If I understand you correctly, you feel…”
  • Pay attention to your body language. If you’re speaking in person or through video chat, uncross your arms, offer a smile and make eye contact with your partner.
  • Talk at a stress-free time. Avoid talking about the coronavirus or other sensitive issues when either of you is tired, hungry or pressed for time.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Using humor can break tension and help you connect through the stress and pressure caused by this situation.
  • Make “I” statements. Be specific about how you feel. Express your feelings with neutral comments such as “I feel…,” “I’m concerned that…,” or “I’m worried that…” instead of phrases that put people on the defensive, such as “You never…,” “You always …,” or “You’re so …”
  • Talk about the issue, not who’s right or wrong. Focus on finding specific solutions or answers instead of assigning blame.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s point of view. Make an effort to show you’re listening and you understand, even if you don’t agree.
  • Take a break if needed. Take 15 minutes to be alone and calm down if your conversation becomes heated or you’re on the verge of saying things you’ll regret. Commit to revisiting the issue when your emotions are under control.

More Information and Support for Military Families

As we combat the coronavirus in the days ahead, the Department of Defense will continue to prioritize the safety of service members and their families. Military OneSource can connect you to a range of related information, services and support.

More Resources for Improving Relationships and Communication

Now and always, Military OneSource can connect you to resources for making your relationship healthy and strong.

  1. Watch free webinars to boost your communication skills. Choose from topics including:
  2. Get a free Building Healthy Relationships education-based consultation designed to strengthen your relationships. Counselors can tailor this series of personalized coaching sessions to help you set goals and strengthen your communication skills. Once customized, counselors can deliver the consultation to you by phone or video. Choose from six customized tracks that you can take from the comfort of your own home.
  3. Love Every Day is a fun and interactive digital tool 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.

Our understanding of the coronavirus is changing rapidly. With the tips and resources listed above, and accurate information, you can keep your conversations constructive and productive. Stay up to date on the latest information by checking the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. 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.

10 Tips for Safe Internet Browsing

Woman typing

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

Most of us use smartphones, hand-held devices and computers without thinking twice about safe internet browsing. But every online interaction leaves a trail of electronic breadcrumbs others can track.

If you feel that your partner is monitoring your online activity, you might be right. Today’s technology has allowed for new forms of domestic abuse, by increasing:

  • Access to private information
  • Control over online accounts
  • Use of mobile devices to track a person’s whereabouts

Start practicing safe internet browsing today by following these 10 tips.

1. Browse the internet somewhere else. add
2. Know the Safe Exit button on Military OneSource. add
3. Avoid sharing sensitive information over email or social media apps. add
4. Log out of accounts, apps and forums. add
5. Lock your computer. add
6. Create new email accounts. add
7. Switch to private browsing mode. add
8. Clear browsing history. add
9. Clear cookies. add
10. Erase toolbar searches. add

For more information regarding technology safety, you may wish to consult this compilation of tips and resources from the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of the National Network to End Domestic Violence by the Department of Defense.

For more resources and support for surviving domestic abuse, contact your local Family Advocacy Program Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate. For immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.