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Spouses and Partners: Loving Someone in the Military

Service member and spouse hugging

National Guard spouses and partners play an important role in the health and well-being of their service member, balancing household responsibilities and offering emotional support. Below, you’ll find information about:

What to expect when your partner is deployed

Being apart from your National Guard service member, whether during a weekend drill or away on deployment, can disrupt family routines, create emotional distance, and evoke feelings of loneliness, fear or anxiety. These experiences may correlate with the stages of the “Emotional Deployment Cycle.”

Phases of the Emotional Deployment Cycle

  1. Pre-Deployment. At first indication of your partner’s imminent deployment, you may experience:
    • Fears of life without your partner
    • Confusion, depression or anger about the future
    • Resentment at being left alone

    Immediately prior to departure, you may also experience:

    • Feeling detached or withdrawn from your partner
    • Impatience, irritability, like you’re “ready to get it over with”
    • Emotional and/or physical distance between you and your partner
    • Heated arguments with your partner
  2. Deployment. After your loved one departs, you may experience:
    • Mixed emotions – numbness, sadness, relief
    • Increased feelings of independence and freedom
    • Difficulty transitioning into new routines and tasks without your partner
    • Loneliness, hopelessness, mental and physical exhaustion
    • Trouble sleeping
  3. Sustainment. Once you’ve adjusted to your loved one’s absence, you may experience:
    • A sense of accomplishment and strength
    • More control over your situation
    • Anxiety about missing or not receiving communication from your partner
    • A change in children’s behavior
    • Anticipation of your partner’s homecoming
  4. Post-Deployment. After your service member returns, you may experience:
    • A honeymoon period
    • Feelings of being smothered, or loss of independence
    • Difficulty adjusting to your partner’s reintegration into your life
    • Emotional distance due to experiences your partner had while deployed

Remember, you may not experience any/all of the steps listed above. No matter how you react or how that changes over your partner’s deployment, be sure to seek support when you need it.

How to cope with your partner’s separation

  1. Create a support network. Find local resources through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, connect with your local church, synagogue or mosque for support, and connect with members of your family to ensure that you receive emotional and household support while your loved one is away.
  2. Prepare for your loved one’s separation ahead of time. If possible, collaborate with friends, family and your service member to set up routines, tasks and payments before your partner leaves for their duty assignment. This will ensure a smoother transition into life while your spouse is away.
  3. Attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event. One of the best ways to learn about benefits and entitlements your family is eligible for as a result of your spouse’s service in the National Guard is to attend a local Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event.
  4. Rely on your state/territory support program staff. The National Guard Bureau sponsors a number of programs to support service members and their families. Locate your state/territory staff in MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
  5. Get connected. Write, email or send care packages to your loved one to help you feel connected while they’re away. For your own support, social networks are a great way to find other military spouses who may be experiencing the same things you are.

How to support your loved one

If your service member is showing signs of emotional distress, help is available. Contact your Director of Psychological Health for local resources or contact the military crisis line at 988 (press 1). In the meantime, follow these basic tips:

  • Be sensitive to your service member’s desire to discuss what they experienced during their deployment.
  • If they do want to talk, be a patient, receptive listener.
  • Encourage your partner to seek the counsel of a trusted advisor, spiritual leader or respected peer/family member.

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