Relationship Advice from a Military Spouse

As a military spouse, I’m offering the best advice I’ve ever received regarding my relationship.

Let me start with the elephant in the room: whoever told you that relationships should be easy lied.

Relationships are hard. They take work, lots of work. Whether you live together or you’re living miles apart. It doesn’t matter if your other half is in the military or you’re the one who’s gone for work more nights than you are home; every relationship takes work; and the number one thing I’ve learned through my marriage is this:

It’s Okay To Ask For Advice.

Credit: Frame Harirak
Credit: Frame Harirak

My husband and I began dating after he joined the military. We dated for six months before we got engaged. Over five years of marriage have taught us a lot along the way. 

That’s the biggest piece of advice I could offer you – Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Someone’s probably already been in your shoes.

Real couples argue. Our differences make our relationships so meaningful. There’s no way humans can agree one hundred percent of the time.

The stigma against letting other people see inside of a relationship when the couple is struggling, is complete bull. At the beginning of our marriage, my husband never liked when I told people we were arguing. He hated the thought of others judging our actions. If I told him I asked a friend for their opinion, he cringed.

As we grew in our marriage, he realized that asking for help didn’t weaken our relationship. In fact, it strengthened us. When we started openly talking about our problems with people we trusted; When we could walk away from an argument and seek guidance when we needed to, we got closer, even from miles apart.

Communication Is Key

Credit: Joshua Ness
Credit: Joshua Ness

I’m well known by our friends and family for my loud mouth. When something is on my mind, my husband is the first to know, but it took time to get there. I am a yeller, but I’ve come a long way since our first year of marriage. Talking about my emotions instead of letting them bubble up inside of me until I burst into a raging mess of the ugly cry, isn’t something that comes easily to me.

Couples hear it all the time, but it’s so true. Happy, healthy relationships rely on open communication. Being away from each other is hard enough, so it’s crucial that you and your partner remain as open and honest with each other as possible. Remain respectful and empathetic, even during hard times.

Theresa E DiDonato Ph.D. author of How to Make Long-Distance Relationships Work for Psychology Today makes some very important points when it comes to communication.

Theresa mentions a study of more than 1,000 men and women in relationships. The goal of the study was to identify specific personal and relationship characteristics that lead to happy and healthy relationships. Here’s what it found regarding communication between couples:

The couples that felt most grounded in their relationships were those that had the same goals in mind. When the couples openly discussed their plans for their future, they saw themselves as a team.

When couples stopped focusing on the distance and used that energy to build their relationship with their partner, the happier they became in their relationship.

Have Faith

Credit: Rachel Pfuetzner
Credit: Rachel Pfuetzner

Sometimes, communicating with your partner, who’s busy miles and miles away from you isn’t realistic. My husband and I would go weeks without talking during his deployment. Some days, it was so much easier to believe that something was wrong; that we weren’t okay. Stop thinking about what could go wrong, or what your partner could be doing and remember that he/she chose you for a reason.

When people say, “I don’t know how you do it so far apart!” It’s much easier to shrug the comments off knowing that our faith in each other is so strong.

Love Yourself, Too

Credit: Steve Halama
Credit: Steve Halama

In the beginning of our marriage, I always put my husbands needs above my own, always. When someone asked me what I enjoyed doing, I couldn’t remember my own hobbies, or the last time I had done something just for me. I couldn’t tell you the things I loved about myself or the reasons my husband married me in the first place.

Now, hear me out, I’m not saying to put your partners needs on the backburner. What I am saying is to remember to love yourself. Indulge in self-care when you need it. Your needs matter. Balance is key in any relationship.

Our relationship hit its lowest when I forgot about my needs. I’d stop going out with friends at night because I didn’t want to miss a phone call. I spent so much time trying to please my husband during our visits, instead of simply enjoying our time together.

He never asked me to change. He never asked me to put my friends, my needs or my wants on the back burner. When I learned to find balance, to make time for my needs as well as his, magic happened.

Get Involved In Your Community

Credit: Nathan Dumlao
Credit: Nathan Dumlao

This piece of advice made all the difference in our life as a military family. Moving constantly feels like a burden sometimes, especially when my husband is gone for weeks at a time. No amount of time reading books, scrolling through social media, or walking the aisles of Target make spending so much time alone any easier.

Take time to get involved in your community. Whether you’re living on a military installation or you’re living at your hometown, get involved! Volunteer at your local animal shelter, or go to the community barbeque you’ve been avoiding every summer. These events are a great way to surround yourself with people you can relate to, and can support you and your relationship when your away from your partner.

If You Take Anything Away From This Let It Be This: Grow Together

Credit: Azrul Aziz
Credit: Azrul Aziz

You’re human. Your partner is also human. You have to remember that personal growth never stops and neither of you are perfect. Give yourself, and your partner, grace. When bad stuff happens, push through. Sometimes, the light at the tunnel doesn’t appear for months, but remember that in everything you are going through – you’re in it together. 

When things get hard, talk about them, find a way to cope with them; do not shut your partner out, no matter how easy that seems.

My husband’s second deployment was a tough one for us. He was always so busy; phone calls were few and far between. When he called I wanted as much time as I could possibly get on the phone with him, he wanted to talk don’t get me wrong, but he also needed to use his downtime for himself.

I took so many moments as personal stabs during his deployment. Instead of being understanding that the situation was incredibly difficult for both of us, I let the stress beat the both of us down. I would get short and unhappy minutes after being on the phone, because I

knew the happy moments were short lived. I took the moments for granted, instead of creating memories while I had the chance.

We never really talked about my resentment until a few years later and man, did I wish I would have told him sooner. When he heard my side of things and I heard his, we had this mutual understanding of how we could better prepare for the next deployment.

We Had Plans In Place For When Those Times Got Hard And What Each Of Us Needed From The Other

Credit: Harli Marten
Credit: Harli Marten

Even now, as still semi-new parents, we’re growing together. We have days where our parenting clashes tremendously. When my husband gets back from weeks of being away, my entire routine is thrown. I become a little bit of a crazy person because I like routine. It caused so much built up aggression in our relationship. Then one day I let it go. I realized that it wasn’t a battle worth having; all my husband tries to do is help when he’s home. So, instead, we changed the game. I would ask for him not to do certain things and I’d let him take the lead in other situations. Our parenting still clashes when he first returns, but we’re growing as parents together.

Relationships require work; a lot of it. Long-distance relationships require even more. The crazy thing is, the study mentioned earlier found that most people in long distance relationships saw more positive outcomes in their relationship than those who were “geographically close” relationships. Keep your lines of communication open, don’t forget that you’re important too, and if you change your mindset, you’ll change the outcome. Trust me.

About the author: Jessica Gettle
A mama of one, a MilSpouse and former military brat, with a passion for serving others. I've been writing since I could put letters together and truly believe it's my shot at making a difference.

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