Tag Archives: marriage

3 Easy Tips to Keep Your Military Marriage Shatterproof

Dating, loving, and eventually marrying a service member can bring a flurry of butterflies. The uniform, the exotic PCS locations (29 Palms, am I right?!), and the pride that goes with standing next to your military loved one is incomparable.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, and military spouse, myself, I often have other military couples who want guidance with how to make their relationships shatterproof. Here’s 3 tips I like to share:

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Keep civilian friends. Being a military family can start to bleed into every crevice of your life. Initially, maybe you’re simply dating someone in the military, but then all of a sudden, you’re moving halfway across the country, leaving your job, your friends, your church, and your family.

It can be extremely important to keep an anchor in the “real world,” and have someone there to remind you how exceptional your life is. Normalcy (whatever that means) still exists, and someday you will be faced with it again. It’s hard to imagine, but for many active duty members, the choice to stay in the military has a lot to do with the fact that they haven’t written a resume in years! They wouldn’t know how to begin interviewing and applying for jobs. They can become so engrossed in war stories and surreal job descriptions that to have a ‘9:00am-5:00pm’ job can be extremely jarring. Keep civilian friends around to help you from falling too far down the rabbit hole of an all encompassing military family lifestyle.

Remember your partner is fighting for YOU. In the words of Brad Paisley, “You think you’re one in millions, but you’re one in a million to me.” I know we can get lost in thinking that with all the hours, deployments, tests, and such, we’ve become an accessory to a military career. In all my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found it’s the complete opposite that’s true for the service member.

Often times, when a young person enters into the military, he or she tends to marry very young. Why, you might ask? They have money, a stable job, friends and camaraderie…why settle down so quickly? From my experience, it seems as though most times, these service members want to ensure that they will have someone to come home to, someone to fight for, and give a face to their mission. Therefore, dating is not enough. Some want to lock in their partners, and have a sense of security they might very well lose in every other aspect of their life.

Loyalty, compassion, forgiveness, motherhood/fatherhood, and other traits are LEARNED. I remember a time when my son was still very little and he felt sick. It was late, and I was a new mom so I was trying to decide whether it warranted an emergency room visit. I kept asking my husband what he thought and finally he said, “I don’t know! YOU’RE the mom!” I yelled back, “I wasn’t born knowing how to mom! I google things just like everybody else!”

In hindsight, this is pretty funny to me now, but at the time I was irate. As a military couple, we are given a lot of responsibility very quickly and it can feel like trial by fire, but its important to remember we were not born with innate values and the ability to love deeply, faithfully, perfectly. We must remind ourselves that even with the jobs, the marriage, the kids, we are never really grown up; we are always maturing and growing. The question is: do you want to grow together?

What tips would you give to other military couples? Leave us a comment an tell us!

Posted by Erin Calahan, M.S., LMFT, LCDC, military spouse and mother of two. Find out more about Erin.

What the Divorced Military Spouse Wants You to Know

The dreaded “D Word.” The one no one thinks about when they’re standing before friends and family pledging to a lifetime of love. Oddly enough, divorce in the military has been on a slow decline since 2011. But lack of commitment, miscommunication, infidelity and other stressors still manage to crack what was once the solid foundation of marriage.

The military community is tight-knit, and spouses often lean on their own for support and friendship. So what happens to that support system when a military couple gets a divorce?

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Losing the military community sometimes hurts just as badly as losing the marriage.
Sarah, a former Marine Corps spouse told me, “I had a hard time accepting I’d be losing the sense of community, support, and friendship from other spouses. Knowing the comradery and pride that went along with the milspouse title would go away was devastating.”

Sarah went on to describe how her military-connected friendships changed.

“It feels a lot like moving to a new school,” she said. “Some friends immediately write you off. Others say they’ll keep in touch, but never do. It almost makes me feel like they’ve discounted our whole friendship just because my life took this turn.”

It’s not you, it’s me.
One of my military spouse friends recently got divorced. When news circulated around the command and got to me, I reached out to let her know I was thinking of her. I never heard back, and I soon realized she unfriended me and others on social media. As much as that hurt, I’m sure it was the best decision for her.

Michelle, another former military spouse I spoke to, told me she did something similar.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be friends with them anymore, or that I never liked them,” she explained. “Removing certain people from my life after my divorce (especially on social media) was the healthiest thing for me–mentally and emotionally. Seeing my milspouse friends post pictures of their happy military marriages was heartbreaking; a constant reminder of what I’d lost.”

My life is not a reality show for you to gawk at.
Most of the military spouses I asked admitted becoming a gossip topic after divorce was tough for them.

Katelyn, a former Coast Guard spouse, said she tried to ignore the gossip.

“It’s hard because I still had friends in my husband’s command, and they’d tell me ‘Oh, so-and-so was talking about you at playgroup yesterday.’ My divorce was devastating to me and my children, and hearing other wives speak negatively, and without merit, about me, hurt badly.”

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Divorce isn’t pretty, and it certainly isn’t a walk in the park. Sarah, Michelle, and Katelyn all agreed on one thing: having one or two people reach out and see how they were made all the difference.

“It made me feel like it wasn’t all about my ex-husband. My life was always focused around him and his job, so knowing that I had some friends who were supportive of me made me truly thankful for the relationships I built during my time as a milspouse,” Michelle shared.

Are you a former military spouse? What would you tell your milspouse friends?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

You’re Engaged! Now What? 3 Tips Before You Plan Your Military Wedding

Congratulations! You’re engaged to be married! By now, you’ve called your parents and closest family to tell them the news; you’ve probably shared a photo or two on Facebook and Instagram, and you’re one step closer to #MilSpouse status.

Planning a wedding is next on the list, and many of us can tell you: it gets a little overwhelming sometimes. Should your significant other wear their uniform? Will you have a saber arch? What happens if your partner-to-be gets deployed at the last minute?

Good questions. I’m glad you asked.

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Wearing military uniforms in the bridal party.
Always a classic, patriotic, and let’s be honest – sexy – choice. Seeing your love in their dress uniform always brings out the butterflies in your stomach. And you know those portraits and photos are going to be amazing, so why not wear the uniform?

TIP: Consider the time of year you want to be married, and which uniform your significant other will be wearing. Will it be dress whites? Dress blues? Mess uniform? Once you figure that out, the civilian bridal party members will be easy to coordinate. Another tip: boutonnieres and other flowers aren’t allowed to be pinned on any military uniform.

What to know about an Arch of Swords.
They make for fabulous photo ops, and are a fun and unique tradition for military weddings, the saber arch (also known as the Arch of Swords) is a way for the new couple to be ‘welcomed’ in their new life together. The bride and groom walk through the arch and just before exiting, the last two swords are lowered, the couple exchanges a kiss, and enter married upon the swords being raised.

TIP: If being married at a military church, check with the church to see if they have enough swords on hand. Rifles can be used as a substitute if there aren’t enough swords. But don’t mix. Also, ask your service member about the “wife swat” and decide if that’s something you’re okay with.

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What if an unexpected deployment happens?
It’s not ideal, and it’s certainly not romantic, but it could happen. What do you do if your wedding planning is going smoothly and the bomb is dropped: your service member is deploying during your wedding? The first thing to consider whether a short ceremony before deployment might be something you’re both interested in. Many military couples have been married in courthouse ceremonies, only to have all of the pomp and circumstance after the service member returns. This idea is a point of contention among military spouses, but do what feels right for you and your soon-to-be-spouse.

TIP: Wedding insurance is a thing. Check into it. Ask your vendors, venues, and other wedding-specific people what their terms and conditions are should a deployment derail your perfect day. Wedding insurance can also protect you from inclement weather, freak accidents like your wedding dress getting lost or ruined, or other unexpected events.

There are many things to think about when planning your wedding because we know you want it to be memorable and filled with love. Don’t forget the little details, and keep your focus on what makes you and your partner happy. This is an exciting time and we’re so happy for you!

Now, go ahead and take another photo of your ring…

What tips do you have for newly-engaged and soon-to-be military spouses? Share them with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

But I Didn’t Really Know What I “Signed up” for…

News flash: military life isn’t a Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure book. But it can be scary, and the choices you make might not turn out the way you think, because I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they marry into the military.

I wish people would stop saying “You know what you signed up for.”

Because, actually, I didn’t.

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Telling a military spouse that he or she should know what to expect out of military life is condescending and should be banned. Sure, there are some obvious challenges, but no one’s challenges are ever exactly alike, and by bunching them together and saying they’re all the same can make someone feel like their experiences really don’t matter. It makes them draw back from their peers, and disconnect from the ‘support’ network they thought they could count on.

Military spouses, we have to stop telling each other to suck it up. Each time we do, we crack the foundation in our solidarity a little bit more. We need to support each other through the ups and downs of military life. Let’s be in this together.

I didn’t know what I signed up for. I knew the title of the book, but I had no idea who the characters were, what the plot twists would be, or how it might end.

So why do we tell each other “You knew what you were getting into?”

How could we know all the twist and turns of a life we hadn’t even lived yet? Some challenges require us to stand there in a full-blown, can’t-get-through-this moment in order to come out stronger on the other side. How else do we glean the knowledge (and survival skills, am I right?!) to pass along to MilSpouses who follow us?

If we don’t leave the bread crumb trail, who will?

When we marry a service member, we have no way of knowing what plot twists will be waiting. We might not have the tools to fix cracks in our relationship. We might not know how to process the emotional stress of going through labor alone during a deployment. And we certainly won’t ever be able to understand why fate calls on our loved one to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

We can’t read the book of life backwards, people!

I really appreciate military spouses who tell me some honest, raw, emotional truth based on what they’ve lived. There were times they didn’t want to finish the book, but they kept reading. And now they know things others don’t. They have suffered and survived.

Imagine if we didn’t have those people in our lives, but rather, ones who tell us to ‘suck it up’ because we knew what we were getting into?

Did we choose our own adventure? We sure did. Are we strong enough to survive? Absolutely. But should we have to ‘suck it up’ because we ‘knew what we were getting into?’ Absolutely not. We deserve better. And we owe it to each other.

Do you think a military spouse really knows what they ‘sign up for’ when they marry a service member? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

5 Ways to Savor “The Lull” of Military Life!

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Over the past few years, military life has afforded our family many changes and calamities. We have survived a deployment, reintegration, and we moved across the country (again). We have closed up shop at one duty station and set up our lives in another new town. We have spoken countless goodbyes, unpacked all of our worldly possessions, and felt the sting of loneliness being new in unfamiliar, uncharted territory.

After one full year at our current assignment we have nested, settled, and established our lives in our professional, educational, religious, and social communities. And here we are now at what I call, The Lull.

A lull, as defined by Merriam Webster, is a “temporary calm, quiet, or stillness.” In military life, The Lull is a phase of time that can feel hard-fought and hard-won. Much of the time, life in the military demands that we live in fight-or-flight mode. For many of us, we almost forget how to live during the downtime; life without furious activity feels unfamiliar and awkward.

For the past handful of years, circumstances have conditioned my husband and me to function on little time together, a “B.L.U.F.” (Bottom Line Up Front) style of communication, and to be honest, a tendency toward a frenzied and often frazzled atmosphere in our home.

At our current assignment there are no deployments, few TDYs, and for once, my soldier has some pretty regular and predictable hours. Thankfully, there have been no late nights, no middle-of-the-night crises, no separations, no time in grueling training or study for school, and we have nothing else to unpack or organize.

I am finding myself at a loss with how to behave with all of this sacred family time. Instead of becoming hyper-vigilant about the next hard thing on the horizon, I’m choosing to focus this season on savoring The Lull. This rare period in our family’s op-tempo is a perfect time to refocus and refresh a few areas our lives.

Here are my 5 suggestions for savoring The Lull.

1. Make your marriage your mission
Just like any military mission, our marriages need a clear focus and goal. If having a dynamic relationship with your spouse has taken a hit during times of stress, now is the time to address it. During this respite, re-calibrate what matters in your relationship. Spend some intentional time together. Set aside time to really connect. Maybe that looks like a regular date night, going to a marriage conference or retreat, seeking professional counseling, or incorporating a nightly practice of sitting together and reflecting on the day’s blessings. However big or small, the investment in your relationship, as a couple, will help to establish patterns for defining your priorities.

2. Let your home be a place of rest
As a typically Type-A person, I tend to focus on making our home run on efficiency. With cleaning schedules, chore-charts for the kids, meal plans, and regular family budget-meetings, I can turn our home into a process-driven, tightly-run ship. As military spouses, there are times when that level of competence is a necessity. In certain seasons, resolute organization is the only way I stay mission ready. During The Lull, some of that compulsiveness should be traded for rest. Structure is good, but so is taking a breather. I want our home to be a haven of refreshment for my soldier, myself, and our children. We aim to savor meals around the table, have family game nights, enjoy the scenery our current duty station affords, and we especially enjoy quiet when can find it.

savor-the-lull--pinterest3. Let this be your time
During a deployment or PCS, you may not have the flexibility to focus on your own needs. Often, the needs of the military, your spouse, or family comes first. During The Lull, it is the perfect time to find your groove. Take up knitting or photography, learn a musical instrument, practice yoga, join a book club, get a part-time job, or enroll in a college course. If you find yourself in a situation where there’s a bit of a reprieve from the demands of the typical military hustle, use the time to fill up your own tank. None of us can run on fumes! As human beings, we aren’t built for long periods of physical, emotional, or mental stress. Take this time to make sure you are finding the stillness, rest, recreation, or relief you need.

4. Find community
John Donne once said, “No man is an island unto himself.” This adage is certainly true in military life. Were it not for unit wives, auxiliary ministry groups, social media, and real-life friends, I don’t know that I’d survive the madness of what our military duty asks of me. This is true during times of tension and strife, but this is also true during The Lull. It’s vital to our marriages and families to find connection with others. Invite the neighbors over for a barbecue, join a church, connect with others in your town who share hobbies or interests. It may feel natural to hunker down at home during a time of reprieve, but we all need a network of camaraderie. Go out and find your people!

5. Remember your “why’s”
Those of us in military service have dozens of varying reasons for our affiliations. To some, it’s a steady paycheck, a strict sense of patriotism and pride in our great nation, and to others it may even be a calling to protect and defend. There’s no better time than The Lull for you and your spouse to recall your motivations for serving. Call to mind why you got started, recollect your high times and victories, revive that sense of purpose, and determine your strengths for going forward, intentionally. It will be this sense of significance that will anchor and sustain you, your marriage, and your family when the going gets tough. Being principled in your convictions goes a long way in maintaining positivity and resolve.

The Lull doesn’t seem to come around often. But if, like me, you find yourself in the midst of some downtime and don’t quite know how to respond, savor it!

What do you do when you’re in The Lull? Share your thoughts with us!

claire-woodClaire Wood writes about her own struggles to make sense of military life at elizabethclairewood.com and she has recently released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage. She enjoys reading, early morning outdoor walks, trying out new recipes, and hosting friends and family in her home. Claire is married to Ryan, an Army Chaplain. They and their three children are stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA. 

Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Military Marriage!

sailor-and-wife-selfie-picWhether you’re married or in a relationship, you may as well just change your status on Facebook to “It’s Complicated.” Why? Because just being on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites makes it that way. I had a chance to talk about social media and marriage with Military.com’s Ms. Vicki at yesterday’s Spouse Experience. Ms. Vicki is a therapist for military families and says that every couple who comes to her with marital problems blames social media for at least part of it.

The problems range from a lack of intimacy due to one person’s social media addiction to full-blown affairs that started from online flirtations. How can you make sure you and your husband aren’t the next victims?

“You have to set up some agreements,” says Ms. Vicki. “Don’t call them rules. They’re just agreements about how you choose to handle your social media as a married couple. Have an open and honest talk about what’s ok and what isn’t.”

But what is ok? Is it ok to be friends with your ex on Facebook? Is it ok to post pictures of yourself in your bikini on your latest girls’ weekend? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. What’s ok for one couple spells disaster for another. But there are a few agreements that Ms. Vicki says are non-negotiable.

  1. Thou Shall Not Snoop. Do you know your husband’s passwords? Does he know yours? Snooping in each other’s accounts is no way to confront a problem, but it is a way to create one. “You can’t become a checker. If you become a checker, that’s when you’re in danger. It ruins your self-esteem.”
  2. Thou Shall Not Block Your Spouse. Be “friends” with your spouse on Facebook. Allow them to follow you on Twitter and Instagram. “You’d be surprised how many people block their own husbands,” says Ms. Vicki. “You have to be open and honest. Don’t block parts of your page and give them a reason to want to snoop.”
  3. Thou Shall Not Assume You’re Immune to Social Media Problems. “It’s not just the nasty people or the bad people,” said Ms. Vicki. “It’s everybody.” And in the military community, people seem to be even more invested in social media. With frequent moves and long deployments, people depend on social media to stay connected and spend a lot of time there… which often translates to more opportunities to run into relationship trouble.
  4. Thou Shall Not Forget You’re Sexy. Take the time to nurture your relationship outside of social media. “Don’t ever stop looking at yourself as a sexual being. You’re more than just a mom,” said Ms. Vicki. “And don’t forget that your husband is sexy, too. Be open and honest with one another about your feelings and always stay connected—in the real world, not just the one on your smartphone screen.

Has social media ever gotten in the way of your relationship? How did you overcome that problem? Let us know in the comments!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director