Saturday, June 4, 2011


I have heard people say that you aren't a real military wife until you've been through a deployment.

Well, excuse my French, but bullshit.

I know plenty of spouses who have packed up their lives, had plans ruined because of someone else *(field day anyone? I can't count how many dinners that's screwed up)*, or had to deal with any of the million things that civilian spouses never have to think about dealing with.

So, no, I don't think you have to have survived a deployment to be a 'real' spouse.

BUT I do think experiencing a deployment/long separation is a huge part of the military life, and it can be really stressful. Thankfully, there is always someone else who has gone before and can help the newbies out.

My last post, I wrote about how I was going to teach about the emotional cycle of deployment for LINKS. And Miss Marissa asked for advice on how to deal with a separation.

So, my advice?

Well, this is totally geared toward a deployment, not a separation, and it's an email I sent a friend forever ago when she was dealing with her first deployment, but I'm going to post it here because, honestly, I think it's good advice.

My goal is to just kind of keep B updated on life and carry on a conversation and then throw in at the end that, hey, I miss you and I love you and I can't wait until you're home safe.

I understand not wanting him to know how worried you are--it's one of my goals too. They just want/need to know that we're ok--regardless of whether or not we've been crying for two days straight. For the most part, *(from my experience)* they don't want to talk about what's going on over there. I had one friend who seriously wanted celebrity gossip, just because he was so uninterested in serious stuff.

It does get boring over there, and after the basic "I'm fine, it's hot, I'm covered in sand that won't wash off" *(it doesn't, btw...)* they don't want to talk about it. It was a while before B would talk about it. They just aren't interested. From all the guys I've known who've been over, they want something normal, something that reminds them of what they left behind and what they are coming home to, and why they are doing what they are doing. The situation is going to be different, but try to keep the conversation normal. I know B really liked hearing about the stupid every day things--what some crazy coworker said, how mad I got at my football team when they f-ed up, crap like that.

Yes, you are going to worry. Yes, you are going to miss him. Yes, if you're anything like me, the smallest thing will suddenly remind you of him and you will have to stop the tears. Yes, if you don't hear from him for a few days, your mind will go to the worst. The biggest thing about that is
don't tell him. Tell your mom. Tell your best friend. Tell the stranger in line at the grocery store. Tell me.

Don't tell him.

It will make them worry, and they don't need to worry about us. I know that seems totally doormat, but it's not. If they are worried about us, they can't concentrate on what they have to do. And in Iraq, that's exactly what they need. I'm not saying you always have to act like everything is going great, just don't go on about how your day was miserable because you couldn't talk to him and all you could think about was how much you miss him. Plus, I know for B, he's looking to make sure I can handle this as a lifestyle--and so am I.

B and I had a conversation when we first met about how a lot of military wives/girlfriends are the girls who want to be rescued and taken care of. Who better to do that than a big tough Marine, right? Yeah, right. Military wives/girlfriends have to be exactly the opposite--we have to be able to take care of ourselves, and the crying kid, and the car that just broke down all at the same time, and without them. They won't always be around. And for them, knowing that we can carry on and manage without them is comforting--they feel less guilty about leaving.

I know this is making it sound like we should glaze over everything and give them the impression that we are perfectly fine without them and we're almost like Superwoman and who needs them anyway? But you don't. It's confusing, but he does need to know that you miss him. Just make sure it comes across as a managable, still functioning with my life I miss you. B kept telling me before he left that he needed to know I was strong and could handle it and wouldn't be a mess,yet - and I'm not kidding - the FIRST email I got from him ended with "Have you cried yet!?" Ugh. Really!? They like to know that we're still thinking about them but that's it's not all consuming. More along the lines of "I heard our song on the radio" or "I saw a movie that you'll LOVE" or even just "Hey, someone said something today that made me think of you." Stuff like that.

Also, I don't know about you, but it's going to be tempting to unload on him after a bad day. It's what we do. He's my husband/best friend/all that crap. It's what we do. But I can't anymore. Not really anyway. Can you imagine being in a desert, far away from everyone and everything you know and love, dusty, dirty, stressed out, sleeping in a bed that's the size of a cot, and craving something as simple as a hot dog and a beer, and hearing from your girlfriend/friend/wife that traffic today was just HORRIBLE and how she can't handle it anymore and oh my gosh, if that lady at works asks ONE MORE TIME about how to work the copier, who knows what will happen? I mean, personally...I'd go crazy on that person.

I know it sounds confusing and difficult, and to be honest, annoying. But just keep reminding yourself that your relationship is worth it. My friend whose husband just got home after 8 months said that every time that she got frustrated and ready to flip, she'd just remind herself that she'd rather deal with this and know he was coming home to her than not have to do any of it. It's cheesy, but true. And, as it says in my favorite of the 'how to not go crazy during a deployment' books, this is a pass/fail exercise--all you have to do is survive it. Everyone does that their own way. As long as you don't go crazy, *(or as the book says, jump into alcohol or drugs or neglect the kid(s) or run around with various men)* you're good.

And going crazy does not include the occasional night of being depressed and watching all your romantic movies while eating ice cream, or getting piss drunk with friends and sobbing about missing him, or screaming about how you hate the Marine Corps and the phones are miserable and how unfair the whole thing is.

You'll be fine.

As for that whole thriving not just surviving thing? You have to find what works for you. I have always been a really independent person, so I just kept reminding myself how it was totally ok to be independent again.

Also, my favorite 'get through it' trick was to celebrate the milestones. I NEVER make a countdown, because I am the kind of person who will get the date stuck in my head and if he's not home on that exact date, I'll go insane, so I pick a length of time to celebrate staying normal.

For deployments, I usually go with a month. Every month he's gone and I keep it together, I buy myself something awesome. This accomplishes several goals. I have to stay calm or else I don't get something fun; I spend so much time plotting my newest present that I don't realize how long it's been; and I don't buy random crap all the time! I've gotten shoes *(a few times...)*, a camera, a purse, an awesome dress, etc. It's fun. AND now, every time I use any of those things, I get reminded of how well I handled myself.

Since I have Bug, I also try to do fun stuff with her that we don't really do when Daddy is home. She loves having sleepovers, so when he's gone, once a week, she sleeps in our bed. It's fun for her, and it's fun for me to watch her get so excited about sleepover night.

There are lots of ways to make it through a separation. My biggest and best advice is to find a good support network, and make it work for you.

Anyone else have advice on how they make it through??