If you have the opportunity to go through a deployment with a significant other before you get married and have kids, I highly recommend it. Because you need to be able to see if you can cope. If your first deployment is chock full of fights and anger, then you may not be cut out for the military life. If you want it really bad, though, here’a few things that have helped me along the way.
Get a Hobby
This is oh, so important. When hubby’s home your life may revolve a bit around him. But when he’s gone, it just can’t. I’ve made this mistake on deployments. You have to live a life completely without him. He has to just be a person you tell about your life. Not someone you share it with.
So find a distraction. Stay Busy. Take on a HUGE project. First deployment, I was working so I took on throwing my work’s Christmas Party. (There were 2100 people in the squadron!) It was an enormous party. Child care was provided, we spread out over two clubs, we had games, prizes, competitions. I even talked the bosses into doing the Evolution of Dance. I had plenty of distractions. But after Christmas was over… I still had three months of nothing. So I went crazy.
Suggestions: Paint a room; Read a book series; Volunteer; Get in shape; redecorate; Plan a reunion Vacation; …Start a blog! 😉
Stop Pining For Him
I don’t mean like move on. But don’t let the house be a shrine to him. Put his shoes up. Clean his clothes and get them the hell out of the way. They annoy you all day every day while he’s there, don’t get emotional over them while he’s gone. It’s easy to get wrapped up in missing him. Give yourself some time to do it, I always give myself a week in the beginning. I eat whatever I want, I stay away from people and I’m just as mopey as I want to be. Give yourself some time periodically. If you’re having a particularly bad day, let yourself cry and watch sappy love movies and drink your wine all night. Then the next morning, you put your big girl panties on, sac up and own that day.
Have a Support System
You need this or you’re going to go insane. Because he can’t be your support system. Honestly, if he tries, he’s going to be miserable and shitty as his job. He’ll be the one that people don’t trust to do his job because his head isn’t in the game. If he doesn’t have his co-workers’ trust down range, he won’t have it back home. He may get bad performance reports because of it. I’ve literally known people passed over for promotions and decorations because when they deploy, they have to spend every spare minute (and minutes that should NOT be “spare”) comforting the Mrs.
And that’s the better of the two major downfalls, here. The other is that when his head isn’t in the game, he’ll put himself and his crew at risk. Their very lives sometimes depend on you being able to keep your shit together without him. So get a bestie. Call your mom every day to vent. Do something, but don’t rely on him to support you day to day.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, lady. Even the big stuff, if you can’t do anything about it, stop worrying about it. (Easier said than done, huh?) Well, here’s where my mama’s advice comes in handy: Fake it ’til you make it. Don’t let him see that you’re not calm. Or, ok, who can really hide this kinda thing? I don’t know. I sure as hell can’t. But I try. And even if (when) I fail, I hope he sees that I’m trying for him. Because he’s in a shit hole, dude. He could use a nice warm feeling now and again. Besides, most of the time when you fake it well enough, you can eventually convince yourself.
Understand it’s Not About You
Your kids are sick and up all night puking. You’ve broken your foot. You’re all alone on a special day. (Yeah, I’ve had all those at once. It happens. And it’s terrible.) You know what you’re NOT? All alone without anyone or anything familiar, doing things you don’t want to do, living in fear every second of every day…in a shit hole. Yes. Life is hard when you have to do everything alone. And he doesn’t have to get up with a screaming baby a dozen times a night. But please stop thinking he’s lucky. He’s not over there baking cookies. Nothing you’re doing is going to kill you. The crap he does could.
If you have kids, it does have to be partly about them, that’s for sure. But the kids don’t need to see and talk to daddy every night. And sometimes, it makes it worse. For them and for him. Allow them to chose how they interact and how often. Don’t force anything. It’s not about you.
See His Side
So, which would you rather do? See your spouse and kids and feel your heart rip out of your chest when you hear about all their growing up you’re missing … Or go to the gym and visualize blowing your spouse away by your new 6-pack. Yeah. Seriously. I don’t know why women always freak out over this. If I had to make a guess, I’d say this is like, half the reason marriages don’t survive deployments. You have to understand watching you cry, or your kids whine they want him to come home is not pleasant. It hurts.
My husband likes to pretend his life here is on “Pause” while he’s away. It’s not easy when you have kids who learn to walk, talk, dance, potty train, etc while he’s gone, but he tries. It helps him. It makes the transition of homecoming a little harder, but it helps him survive a deployment. So I let him. I should note that it doesn’t prevent me from doing the things I want to get done, though. I get a bit of a thrill walking around with him showing him everything I’ve changed. But I don’t rub it in his face that our kid said her grandfather’s name before Da-da, either.