Advice to Help You Deal with Your Spouse's Deployment
Dear April Masini,
I'm the wife of a Military Sergeant currently deployed in Iraq. I love my husband dearly, but sometimes the stress of caring for our child, maintaining our marriage and relationship, and keeping up the household while he is away is so taxing. I want to ease the loneliness I feel without him. I find myself constantly worrying about him, and wondering what I can do to lessen the pain of being a military wife on top of making sure my son is maintaining a regular schedule. I feel so overwhelmed. Do you have any advice for what I can do to maintain my relationship and my sanity?"
Devoted Deploy Wife
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Devoted Deploy Wife,
You might have what many call Deployed Military Spouse Stress, or DMSS. The stresses and strains that are shouldered by the spouses of our military men and women (to say nothing of the soldiers themselves) are Herculean, and something most of us "commoners" often seem to take for granted. And before I offer the answer to your question, I'd like to first sincerely thank you, and your family, for your awesome sacrifice.
Now, as far as my advice on some coping mechanisms for DMSS, here we go:
DMSS Problems and Solutions, Tips and Advice:
A loved one in the military is deployed at home or overseas. There is uncertainty about whether or not the deployed husband or wife is safe, or when they are coming home.
Write Letters Constantly. You can't control where your husband is deployed, but you can keep him in your life and keep you in his, by writing regularly – whether or not you hear from him. Also, try numbering your envelopes and letters so that he will know if he missed one or not.
Keep A Scrapbook. Document everything that goes on with you and the children while he's gone so that you can cuddle up with him when he returns and go over each page and tell him what happened while he was gone. He'll have more of a grasp of what it was he missed – rather than it being a big cloud that keeps the two of you apart. You can't make up for the fact that he wasn't with you, but you can keep him in the loop when he's home.
Suddenly Single Mothers. It is hard to be a suddenly single parent. Just having an extra set of hands and a warm hug that your husband (or wife), who is now deployed, provided before he left, can be a big loss. It's easy to get overwhelmed and harried. Children also suffer the stress of a deployed parental figure and they need extra care and attention during this trying time.
Get Involved! Connect and get involved with other single mothers in your area or neighborhood. They are used to pooling their resources and helping each other out. You'll learn a lot, and won't feel so lonely. It's nice for the children, too.
Intimacy Goes Missing. Intimacy is MIA when your husband or wife is deployed. I'm not just talking about sex. Having someone to tell your feelings to – whenever you want – is a luxury many of us take for granted.
Avoid Adding Pressure. Be aware of not putting too much pressure on each other in phone calls or e-mails with your deployed husband. They may be few and far between and if you don't "connect" the way you had hoped you would, don't spend the time waiting for the next phone call worrying that something is wrong. Remember: you don't really know what's going on over there, and he may be stressed about things he's not telling you about. It's probably not about you.
Financial Stress. The financial stress of having a husband who has a good salary in a job, suddenly not have that salary, and the family has to rely on military salaries, which are comparatively low, can be great. Especially if his tour of duty is extended longer than you thought it would be.
Spend Carefully. Don't spend money to cure anxieties. This is a time to watch your budget and look to family for help if you need to. Use public parks and beaches for entertainment instead of going to dinner and movies with the kids. Make gifts instead of buying them.
Loneliness. It's common for friends and neighbors to be there for you when your husband first ships out, but that attention can whither away with time.
Turn to the Community. Find a community of other military families who have loved ones deployed. They will offer support that other friends and family can't because they know what it's like firsthand. Having regular get-togethers with the adults and the families will be helpful for all of the family members.
Check Online. Online communities designed for military families are helpful for support and communication between families and their soldiers who are deployed.
Check Hotlines. There are many hotlines for military families, which offer information can alleviate stress.