Check Out Sessions From the Inaugural Military OneSource Relationship Wellness Summit

relationship wellness summit

Relationships are critical to overall wellness, whether you’re single, casually dating or married with children. The connections you have and even the way you feel about yourself can affect day-to-day life, work, readiness and resilience.

But everybody has relationship challenges at times. Military life in particular can be tough on couples and single service members alike. That’s why it’s important to reach out for help when you need it. And there is plenty of support available for the military community.

Review the Relationship Wellness Summit sessions below and get tools to strengthen your relationship with yourself, build critical relationship skills and rekindle bonds and connections with others. Make sure you share this information with others who might also benefit.

Review Relationship Wellness Summit videos

Whether you’re in a committed relationship, looking for that special someone, taking time to focus on yourself or hoping to improve the bond with your child, you’ll find helpful tools, information and resources in these Relationship Wellness Summit videos. You will also hear stories from members of the military community and receive tips and guidance from military couples, single service members and military parents.

Get started listening to the inspiring keynote and opening remarks from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Patricia “Patty” Montes Barron and Corrie Weathers, LPC. Then continue with sessions of interest listed in the sections below that best fit your current relationship status and needs.

Note: All sessions were previously recorded, so products mentioned during the sessions (such as the fulfillment kits) may not be available.

Day 1 Opening Session & Keynote: Breathing Life Into Your Relationships
Presenters: Patricia “Patty” Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense, Military Community and Family Policy; Corie Weathers, LPC NCC, military spouse and owner, lifegiver, LLC; Kelly Smith, LCSW, program analyst, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy

Reinvigorate your romantic and intimate relationships.

Whether you’re together or apart, feeling close or disconnected, take advantage of the tips and resources and learn from the honest dialogue discussed in the sessions below. You may be surprised by how easy it is to take your relationship to a new level!

Day 2 Opening Session: Candid Conversations Others Aren’t Having About Military Marriages
Presenters: Sharene Brown, Air Force spouse of General Charles Q. (CQ) Brown, Jr., the chief of staff of the Air Force; Angela Holmes, MFT, lead educator, Army Community Service, Fort Bragg; Bree Carroll, military marriage coach, 2020 Air Force Military Spouse of the Year, founder, Military Marriage Day; C. Eddy Mentzer, Air Force spouse and associate director for strategic initiatives, DOD, MC&FP; Chaplain Corwin Smith, director of staff, Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, MC&FP

Healthy Couples in the Age of Covid-19
Presenters: Deanna Laur, LMFT, training subject matter expert, Military and Family Life Counseling Program; Meghan Maggitti, LCPC, LMFT, VTC subject matter expert, Military and Family Life Counseling Program

Screen Time or Me Time? Navigating the Impact of Social Media on Romantic Relationships
Presenter: Julia Gwyn, LPC, military and family life counselor, Marine Corps Station Parris Island

Strength During Separations: Research-Informed Ways Military Couples Can Successfully Navigate Deployments and Other Time Apart
Presenter: April Thompson, LCSW, program analyst with MC&FP in the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy

Beyond the Stats: Self-Awareness in Your Relationship
Presenters: Amber Rodgers, LCSW, BCD, mental health flight commander, USAF, BSC; Jessica Allchin, LMSW, True North program manager, 99th ABW, Nellis Air Force Base

Healing Your Marriage: Recovery After Trust Is Broken
Presenter: Angela Holmes, MFT, lead educator, Army Community Service, Fort Bragg

Tools for Managing Stress and Worry
Presenters: Dr. Alisa Breetz, senior manager, clinical practice, Cohen Veterans Network; Dr. Stephanie Renno, senior director of training and clinical practice, Cohen Veterans Network

How to Build Healthy Relationships
Presenters: Cpt. Tracy Beegen, group clinical psychologist/behavioral health, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne); Rocky Beegen, U.S. Army, retired

Strengthen your relationship with your child.

Parents, your military children have incredible resilience, but they also face challenges of frequent relocation, deployments and more. Learn tools and resources you can use to help your family through the ins and outs of MilLife.

Put Me in the Game, Coach! – Positive Parenting
Presenter: Charles Pennington, Army veteran, life coach, Family Advocacy Program specialist, Army Community Service, Fort Bragg

Family Fun with Finances: Money Activities for All
Presenter: Beth Darius, AFC, program analyst, Financial Readiness, Office of DASD

Parenting and the Military: Where’s the Manual for This?
Presenters: Karen Storc, child and youth specialist, Air Force Child and Youth Programs; Karen Terry, Air Force, retired, program analyst, Office of Special Needs, OMFRP, MC&FP; Kelly Blasko, Ph.D., lead, mHealth Clinical Integration, Defense Health Agency; Melissa Haas, Child and Youth Programs specialist, Navy Headquarters Children and Youth; Melissa Kimball, Marine spouse, compliance specialist, Child and Youth Programs, headquarters, USMC

Building Skills: Healthy Power and Control
Presenter: Christine Heit, primary prevention, Marine and Family Programs Division

Parenting Our Social Media Explorers
Presenter: Will Meeks, Psy.D., lead, Counseling Center of Excellence, Leidos

Parenting in the Age of COVID: The Importance of Self-Care
Presenter: Elizabeth G. Hilsman, Psy.D, adjunct faculty clinical supervisor, Nova Southeastern University

Helping Infants and Toddlers Thrive Through Positive Parenting
Presenters: Alison Thompson, LCSW, HealthySteps specialist, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL; Pamela Urdang, LPC, HealthySteps specialist, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

Trust the Science: How a Strong Spiritual Core Can Protect Your Kids
Presenter: Dr. Gabriel Paoletti, ED, MAAP, senior mental fitness scientist, HJF, Consortium for Health and Military Performance

Find support and build relationship skills as a single service member.

Taking care of yourself and learning what’s important to you is critical throughout your military career. Get tips and ideas for practicing self-care, building positive relationships and finding satisfaction so you can live your best MilLife today and in the future.

Bring Your Best Self to Your Relationships: 3 Skills to Boost Social Fitness
Presenter: Lauren Messina, Ph.D., LCMFT, director of HPO education, HJF, The Consortium for Health and Military Performance

Single Service Member Breakout Session #6: Dating in the 21st Century
Presenter: Shadia Young, FAP specialist, Army Community Service, Fort Bragg

Single & Serving: An Honest Conversation With Single Service Members
Presenters: Airman 1st Class Trinity S. Watts, deputy vice president (Air Force), Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers; Charlene Sanchez, Army veteran, program analyst, Military Community Support Programs, MC&FP SSM; Cpl. Devon Douglas, ID-R BOSS representative, Fort Carson; Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth P. Wise, 92A, automated logistics specialist, Army Garrison Fort Stewart; Aysha Sweilem, Signals Support Systems specialist, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, president, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers

You Got This…and We Got You
Presenters: Laura Neely, Psy.D., program analyst, Military Community Support Programs, MC&FP; Michelle Aldana, program analyst, Military Community Support Programs, MC&FP

Year-round relationship support

Just like strength training and team building, developing strong relationship skills requires attention and actionable steps. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. The DOD, through Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling program, provides free, non-medical counseling geared to military life. Check out these other resources to help you reach your relationship goals:

  • Re the We. Find a range of resources to renew, rekindle and repair your relationship.
  • Re the Me. Rebuild and renew your commitment to yourself after a breakup.
  • Building Healthy Relationships. Sign up for flexible specialty consultations from Military OneSource by phone or video to help you deepen relationships with family, friends, your partner and others.
  • Relationship Tips: Four Common Pitfalls and How to Tackle Them. View this five-part Relationship Real Talk video series featuring Dr. Kelly Blasko with the Defense Health Agency, and Kelly Smith, LCSW, from Military Community Support Programs. The series looks at four common conflict styles, how they get in the way of healthy communication and how you can keep them from damaging your relationship.
  • The Phases of Relationship Breakups. Read this article and watch the video to learn what to expect after a breakup and how to take care of yourself as you heal.

Tap into a virtual community of support. Use the videos and other relationship resources to strengthen, improve or start a new relationship.

Transitional Compensation: Help for Victims of Abuse

Holding hands in comfort

Victims of abuse can feel isolated and discouraged. For military families, this isolation can be more intense when they are living far from extended family and close friends. No matter what your situation is, the military community has resources to support you. If you’ve bravely decided to leave an abusive relationship, transitional compensation is a financial benefit that can help you move and get back on your feet.

To be eligible for the benefit:

You are not alone

Whether you are questioning your partner’s behavior toward you or looking for ways to manage your safety at home, help is available.

  • You must have been living in the home of and married to the service member.
  • Your service member must have been convicted of a dependent-abuse offense.
  • Your service member must have been separated from the military under a court-martial sentence, sentenced to a forfeiture of all pay and allowances by a court martial for a dependent-abuse offense or administratively separated, at least in part, for a dependent-abuse offense.

A dependent-abuse offense must be listed as a reason for the separation or forfeiture, although it does not have to be the primary reason. Active-duty victims of domestic violence are also eligible for transitional compensation when the offender is also active duty.

What you need to know

If you’re eligible to receive transitional compensation benefits, there are some important aspects of the benefit you should know about.

  • Amount of the benefit: The compensation amount is based on the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, which changes annually. Find current amounts at the Department of Veterans Affairs DIC website.
  • Length of the benefit: It is available for 12 months, or the unserved portion of the service member’s obligated active service, whichever is longer. Compensation will not extend beyond 36 months.
  • Maintaining eligibility: You will become ineligible for compensation and benefits if you remarry or move back in with the former service member while receiving benefits.
  • Recertifying eligibility: If your compensation is available for more than 12 months, you are required to recertify your eligibility annually.
  • Travel and transportation allowance: You may be eligible to receive this allowance along with the transitional compensation benefit. It helps abused spouses or parents of abused children who need to move away from the abuser for safety reasons. It can be used to cover travel expenses and the cost of shipping household goods.
  • Other benefits: As part of the Transitional Compensation Program, you may be eligible for other benefits, including medical care, exchange privileges and commissary privileges.

Transitional compensation is one of the many resources available to you as a victim of domestic abuse. Your installation’s Family Advocacy Program or legal assistance office can help you apply for transitional compensation and provide you with additional information on legal topics, such as divorce. Also, your installation’s FAP staff can help you:

  • Develop a safety plan for you and your family
  • Find a safe house or shelter
  • Access counseling
  • Arrange a medical exam or court appearance
  • Find additional military and civilian resources

Remember that as a victim of domestic abuse, you are not alone. Victim advocates are available to provide you with information and resources. And you don’t have to be experiencing a crisis to speak with a victim advocate — they can support you regardless of what state your relationship is in. Read more about your domestic abuse reporting options while in the military, and know that if you have questions, your victim advocate can help.

Returning From Deployment: Helping Your Family Transition

Daughter at father’s retirement from Marine Corps

While reuniting with your family after a deployment is an exciting time, there are some things to keep in mind that can ease the transition for everyone. Knowing what to expect and being prepared can help you and your family navigate adjustments more easily.

Tips for preparing you and your spouse

Every deployment is different, especially when families are involved. Whether this is your first reunion or you’re a seasoned pro, remember to:

  • Encourage and accept mixed emotions. It’s OK if excitement isn’t your or your partner’s only emotion. Each of you may be nervous, worried or even concerned about what it will be like to have everyone home again. Accept and acknowledge that it’s perfectly OK for everyone to feel whatever they are feeling.
  • Set realistic expectations. Making plans for a grand reunion can sometimes be a recipe for disappointment if it sets up unrealistic expectations. Service members may be tired and jet lagged and need time to rest and regroup. Try to focus on just being together again and give everyone time to get settled.
  • Be patient with your partner, your children and yourself. Sometimes it can take weeks or even months to find a new normal. Try to give everyone the time and space they need to adjust.
  • Don’t bottle up feelings. Even though it’s important to be patient during the adjustment period, it’s also important not to suppress feelings. Try to keep lines of communication open. If you are having trouble talking to each other, find a trusted confidante — whether it’s a friend, close family member or counselor. Learn more about resources for reconnecting and building healthy relationships.
  • Focus on the positive. Time apart can cause changes. Children grow, and responsibilities and routines can change people and relationships. Try to notice and appreciate changes instead of being critical. Be grateful to each other for managing the demanding jobs you each had while you were apart. Try to focus on creating a new normal for your family rather than striving to return to your old way of life. Do your best to be flexible and open to change as you both adapt.
  • Lean on your support network. Reach out if you need assistance — to family, friends or other professionals. Learn more about Military OneSource relationship support for military couples.

Tips for preparing your children

Children can often have mixed emotions about a deployed parent’s return. You can make the transition smoother for them if you follow these tips:

  • Plan for reconnection. Try to plan reconnection activities ahead of time that allow the returning parent to spend time with each child. Talk to your child(ren) about what schoolwork or new skills to show the returning parent, and then maybe plan some activities for the entire family.
  • Tread lightly upon your return. The returning parent can help make reunion smoother for the family by staying close to home in the days and weeks after arrival. Be careful about implementing big changes shortly after you return. Maintaining normal routines as much as possible can help give children a sense of stability during times of transition.
  • Discuss the “new normal.” If household routines or rules have changed considerably while the deployed parent was away, take steps to prepare your child for how the day-to-day schedule may shift now that mom or dad is home. Letting children know what to expect can help make the transition smoother.
  • Ease back into roles and routines. If you’re the parent who remained home, don’t immediately dump chores and responsibilities on your returning partner. Allow your returning partner to gradually get involved with meals, bedtime routines, play and discipline. If you’re the returning partner, try to be open to new routines and other things that might have changed while you were away. Talk to children about changes and congratulate them for taking on new responsibilities.
  • Watch for signs of stress. Children tend to show stress differently than adults. Anticipate that your children may react to your return by challenging your authority. If you start to notice more misbehavior, nightmares or changes in eating, sleeping or school habits, your child may need help readjusting. Offer as much support as you can, talk to your pediatrician and reach out to your installation for assistance. Your local Military and Family Support Center offers military and family life counseling at no cost to you, and school liaisons are available to help children with education-related issues and more.

Tips for your parents and extended family

  • Know that your parents may have been following your deployment very closely. Thank them for supporting you and your family while you were gone.
  • Work with your partner ahead of time to include your extended family in reunion activities. If you start to feel overwhelmed, communicate that you need some downtime.
  • Realize that your family may never fully understand what you went through on deployment and that’s okay. Understand they love you and want you to be yourself even if it means they have to get to know a new you.

Tips for your friends

  • Expect that your friends will want to hear about your adventures, but give yourself time and space if you’re not quite ready to jump back into your old social life. You may be feeling as though you’ve lived a whole lifetime since you’ve been gone — and your friends have probably changed some too. Allow time to reconnect and get to know each other again.

Preparation, patience and a little effort can help you, your family and friends successfully navigate reunion and reintegration after deployment. If you have questions or need support, reach out to your installation Military and Family Support Center. Military OneSource consultants are also available 24/7 to connect you with the resources you need to thrive. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or start a live chat.

The Phases of Relationship Breakups

man looking at water

Been through a breakup? You’re not alone. All relationships face challenges at some point — and not all survive. Breakups can be painful and stressful. They can also seriously affect a person’s well-being and ability to cope with day-to-day responsibilities.

That’s why it’s important to know how to take care of yourself through the process. When you give yourself time and permission to heal, or “grace and space to grow,” you can emerge stronger and more resilient.

 

The journey to feeling better

It’s normal to not feel normal as you recover from a breakup — and there are common phases that most people go through. Knowing more about each phase, understanding typical behaviors, and talking it out can help you through the hurt.

Common phases of breakups

Everyone’s journey is different, but here are some of the feelings you may experience — and not in any particular order:

Phase: Pain

How it feels: It’s common to experience pain in a breakup, especially in the early stages. You may have feelings of sadness, denial, anger toward your ex, or feel ashamed for not being able to make it “work out.” You may long for what it was.

What to watch for: Common pitfalls include strong emotions and reactions, like over communicating with your ex, trying to bargain the relationship back into being, or lashing out at the hurt. You may isolate yourself to deal with your feelings.

What you need to know: It’s normal to feel pain and negative emotions in a breakup. Take time for yourself — time can help the hurt. Talking to someone can also help you process your emotions.

Phase: Distraction

How it feels: This phase is about taking steps to distract yourself from the pain with new interests and different behaviors. You may push the bad feelings away with novel or exciting experiences that make you temporarily feel stronger — or convince yourself you’re already over it.

What to watch for: It’s common in this phase to try to distract yourself with destructive, impulsive behaviors and risk-taking — for example, drinking heavily, making unnecessary extreme purchases, obsessively working out, or engaging in risky, extreme sports or activities. (“After all, what do I have to lose?”)

What you need to know: There’s a difference between new interests and unhealthy risk-taking. You’re still healing, so take good care of yourself. Explore new interests and healthy behaviors that can make you feel better long-term, like physical activity in moderation, getting outdoors, taking up a new hobby or enjoying low-key activities with friends.

Phase: Stepping out

How it feels: In this phase, you may feel like you don’t want to be alone anymore, and you’re longing for human connection. You may be ready to dip your toe back into the dating pool and feel better about yourself by socializing.

What to watch for: In this phase, you may be ready for socializing or you may just be insecure about being alone, wondering if you still have anything to offer a partner. Negative behaviors in this phase can include promiscuity, rebounding, partying, serial dating and hookups without emotional connection.

What you need to know: Make sure you’re ready to make new connections and know what you’re looking for in a relationship. You’re the only one who can define what “ready” means for you. Be honest with yourself — and with the people you are seeing.

Phase: Withdrawal

How it feels: This phase is full retreat. You may be tired of dating and putting yourself out there, opting for isolation instead. You may feel like you’re not worthy of a relationship and worry that you’ll always be alone.

What to watch for: This phase can feel a little like depression. You may feel pessimistic or gloomy, have low self-esteem and not much energy. You may overeat or not eat enough, sleep too much or too little, and avoid dealing with people and social situations.

What you need to know: Taking time for yourself is okay, but continue to nurture relationships and physical activities in your life that lift you up. Reach out to loved ones and other positive relationships. Seek support — talking with a trusted friend or a professional can really help.

Phase: I’m good with me

How it feels: At this point in your breakup journey, you’ve worked through the hurt and feel stronger and seriously better about yourself. With some time, self-care and acceptance, you’ve developed greater self-esteem and regained your confidence and optimism.

What to watch for: You’re on the right track! You proactively do healthy things, date with a better sense of what’s right for you, and nurture your relationships with friends and family.

What you need to know: See what a difference self-acceptance can make! Feeling good and self-assured can radiate out, leading to better relationships with yourself and others. Take time to appreciate yourself, continue to reflect, embark on and grow on your own personal journey.

Talking helps work it out

When a breakup happens in military life, you could find yourself far away from your regular support network of family and friends — or you may feel like you need to “tough it out.”

But talking to a peer or a pro — someone who can offer confidential support and be present to listen — can make a big difference in how you cope with the stress of a breakup.

And remember, more help and support are always at hand:

Deployment Planning: Your Relationship Checklist

Talking to family and friends

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.

Plan

Separations mean preparation. Knowing what to expect during all phases of deployment, and planning accordingly, can help everyone manage transitions more successfully:

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

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.

Communicate

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.

Getting Help for Relationship Sexual Abuse

Several women holding hands.

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

If you have ever had an intimate experience with your partner that made you feel uncomfortable or afraid, or one that took place without your consent, you are not alone.

The Department of Defense cares about the safety and well-being of everyone in the military community. Read on to learn more about how the department addresses sexual assault and abuse and some of the options available to anyone seeking support.

What constitutes sexual abuse in an intimate partner relationship?

Sexual abuse is one of many harmful behaviors that involve sexual violence. These include sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact and sexual abuse by an intimate partner. In both the military and civilian communities, it is likely more common than most people realize, with victims often experiencing physical, mental and emotional health issues as a result.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these issues can include drug misuse, heart disease and depression. Victims may also suffer economic losses related to an inability to work.

In a relationship, sexual abuse can include a range of harmful behaviors. These may take the form of pressure being put on one partner to engage in sexual acts that make that partner feel afraid, unsafe or uncomfortable.

If you have experienced sexual abuse or any other form of physical violence, or a threat of violence from your spouse or partner, this can be a red flag for ongoing serious harm and risk to you and your family.

Because physical intimacy is a part of most romantic relationships, some individuals may not realize that feeling unsafe or becoming upset following a sexual encounter with a spouse or partner can be a warning sign of abuse.

Getting help for sexual abuse

Everyone deserves trust and mutual respect in their relationships. If something doesn’t feel right, know that help is available.

A first step can be calling your installation’s Family Advocacy Program office to speak with a victim advocate. They will listen to your concerns, and help you determine whether to make a report of the abuse and how to access medical care. This may include referring you to counseling services or a sexual assault forensic exam ─ and how to create a plan for your emotional and physical well-being.

A FAP victim advocate can also help you identify community-based, civilian assistance as opposed to relying on military-based resources.

The Family Advocacy Program works in coordination with civilian and military helping agencies to ensure victims receive support through a network of care as well as the protections to which they are entitled.

This network includes the DOD’s Domestic Abuse Victim Assistance Directory, which helps you locate on- and off-installation victim support services in your area – whether you’re in the U.S. or overseas. The directory can provide you with the direct contact number for a military Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate, as well as state and local 24/7 hotline information.

The DOD is committed to supporting everyone in the military community — service members and their families and civilian personnel — to maintain safe, stable and supportive relationships free from sexual violence.

The national emergency created by coronavirus disease 2019 is no exception. FAP has compiled additional safety tips and resources for navigating relationships safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you, or someone you know, is feeling unsafe or unsure as a result of a sexual experience with an intimate partner or spouse, or is seeking help for a sexual assault, call your installation’s FAP office to speak with a victim advocate, or contact an advocate through the DOD Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247. Civilian options for support through the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline are also available.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Recognizing Unhealthy Relationship Behaviors

An angry couple stands back to back

Most relationships consist of a mixture of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. No relationship is perfect, but it’s important to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy behaviors. Relationships can start out great, but unreasonable expectations and controlling behaviors can emerge over time, causing common conflicts to escalate and the relationship to become abusive.

What is unhealthy behavior?

When you’re in the throes of the honeymoon phase, it’s not always easy to see how a relationship may evolve over time, or how a loving partner could become controlling or possessive. Unhealthy behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their relationships.

Have questions or need to make a plan?

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, or contact your installation’s Family Advocacy Program.

Unhealthy behaviors such as abuse and control take many forms – physical, economic, emotional and/or sexual – and can happen to anyone. Learn to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your partner get upset when you make plans to go out with your friends?
  • Are they obsessive about who you interact with on social media?
  • Does your partner talk over you or dismiss what you say in public?
  • Does your partner avoid family get-togethers and discourage you from visiting friends and family?
  • Do they try to control all the money?
  • Do they discourage you from going back to school and pursuing a better career?
  • Do they tell you what to wear?
  • Does your partner go through your phone and read your texts?

Abuse doesn’t look the same in every relationship because each relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner’s aim is to gain more power and control over their partner.

Have you recognized any unhealthy behaviors in your relationship?

How to get help: Family Advocacy Program and more

It is important to recognize the warning signs that could escalate into domestic abuse. Everyone deserves to be healthy and safe in their relationships. The Family Advocacy Program, administered through the Department of Defense, is committed to educating and supporting service members and their families impacted by domestic abuse through victim advocacy and crisis intervention.

Your local FAP staff can help you understand options for reporting, document your abuse, create a safety plan and maintain a network. Whenever you want to explore next steps, or learn about options for support, they can find the right help for you.

No matter where your relationship lies on the healthy/unhealthy scale, help is available and you have options. It’s safe to reach out. Talk whenever you want to. Confidential information and support is free and available 24/7.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are seeking help, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate the closest FAP office, or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to be connected with an advocate for immediate emotional support and safety planning. Or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for information or counseling.

Domestic Abuse: Military Reporting Options

A person texting

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

Deciding whether to report domestic abuse can be difficult. If you are experiencing abuse in your relationship, it is normal to feel alone, afraid and unsure about asking for help. Knowing your reporting options can help you decide what to do next.

The Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program is committed to supporting service members and their families impacted by domestic abuse. The top priorities of FAP are promoting safety through early identification of unhealthy relationship patterns and reporting abuse.

Keep in Mind:

  • If you are using a shared computer at home, or believe someone is monitoring your internet usage, consider viewing this information from a public setting, such as a library.
  • It is also a good idea to exit from this website and delete it from your browser history after viewing this material.
  • This guide offers tips on how to clear your browser and be safe online.

You have options to decide if, how and when to report domestic abuse in the military, with some exceptions.

Restricted or confidential reporting option

Knowledge is power, and understanding your reporting options for domestic abuse can help you decide how to proceed. With a restricted report, military law enforcement and command will not be notified.

Three groups of professionals have been granted the authority to keep information about domestic abuse confidential under the restricted reporting option:

Making a restricted report means:

  • Law enforcement is not notified.
  • Command is not involved.
  • You have access to the full range of FAP services, including medical care, counseling, and support from a victim advocate. They will work with you to develop a safety plan and identify your next steps, including pursuing options outside the military system.

Victims are also entitled to the protections of privileged communication with a chaplain, but disclosing domestic abuse to the chaplain is not a report and will not connect you to FAP services.

Victim Advocate Locator

Use the Victim Advocacy Search Tool to find the FAP victim advocate closest to you.

Because victim safety is a priority, if you or another person is in immediate risk of serious harm, you cannot use the restricted reporting option. Note: The restricted reporting option does not apply to child abuse cases, which are required by law to be reported to law enforcement and child protective services.

Unrestricted or non-confidential reporting option

With an unrestricted report, a victim of domestic abuse or any concerned person may notify officially designated personnel – chain of command, FAP or military law enforcement – of an incident of abuse.

Making an unrestricted report means:

  • Law enforcement will conduct an investigation of the incident, which will include contacting the alleged offender.
  • Command will be notified and may take administrative action against the alleged offender.
  • You have access to support and protection from command, such as a No Contact Order or a Military Protective Order.
  • You have access to the full range of FAP services, including medical care, counseling, and support from a victim advocate. They will work with you to develop a safety plan and identify your next steps.
  • You have access to legal services.
  • You can receive assistance in applying for transitional compensation, if applicable.

If you are concerned that your spouse or partner may learn that you are seeking help for abuse, contact a FAP victim advocate or your health care provider. They can help you consider if, when and/or how to make an unrestricted report, and assist you in accessing additional services.

You may also decide to seek help outside of the military, where stricter confidentiality rules may apply pursuant to federal, state and local laws and policies. Shelters and agencies in your area can help you consider your options. Contact FAP, where a victim advocate can connect you to civilian, community-based resources or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate the closest Family Advocacy Program, or go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-7233. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger of assault or physical injury. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.