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June 07, 2010

Coping With Deployment

CJ Grisham writes:

We all know that not all Soldiers are cut for the military. What seems to be overlooked, but should be taken just as seriously, is that not all spouses are cut out for the military either.

... It’s not an easy life to live. Frequently, spouses are required to raise kids alone, handle difficult moves, deal with school issues, and take care of the family’s finances while the troop is deployed. It’s a LOT of stress to put on anyone, especially young and newly married couples.

In the recently begun spouse blog, Tales from the Homefront of the 103rd ESC’s Deployment, the author wears her emotions on her sleeve about her husband’s recent deployment:

I know I don’t want to do this.

I hate the Army right now.

Freedom isn’t free. I am very aware that there are many who have paid a higher price for our cherished freedoms, but right now, I’m feeling that the price that my family and I are paying is pretty damn high.

I think after this deployment is over I’m done paying the price. Someone else’s turn. We will have done our time.

Over the years I've learned a lot from other military wives, and so it occurred to me that rather than blather on about my own experiences it might be more helpful to ask you all for your suggestions.

CJ offered some sound advice. How have you coped with deployments in past? What worked for you?

Posted by Cassandra at June 7, 2010 07:19 AM

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Always have some battle buddies and some cotact with other families in the unit.
It helps you realize that your situation, while it may be difficult, isn't abby-normal (whatever normal may be definied as).

Don't watch the news 24/7. You'll go mad. Filter out the world sometimes and take a break.

Create a place where you can go for peace and quiet. In 2004, it was my back patio with the pie sliced view of the Pacific Ocean. Night blooming jasmine and dwarf orange bushes all around edges helped create some calm and beauty in a world that didn't have a whole lot of it.

Throw yourself that damned pity part at the beginning of the deployment. You're entitled and acknowledging that it sucks is better than denying the obvious. One day only though.
Self pity is a dangerous thing in large doses.

Set some goals. Learn a language, a craft, read a book you've always meant to but haven't.
A home improvement project that has been on the to do list.

Focus outward.

Be busy.


Posted by: Carrie at June 7, 2010 12:12 PM

Great suggestions!

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2010 12:14 PM

Hit things.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 7, 2010 02:12 PM

I mean, hit socially acceptable things. Like a heavy bag. Or French people.

Posted by: airforcewife at June 7, 2010 02:14 PM



Posted by: Mime at June 7, 2010 02:24 PM

LOL AFW....:)

I like your coping method better than any of mine.

Posted by: Carrie at June 7, 2010 04:05 PM

There's so much I could say here but I'm not sure how to say it. I guess I will just come straight out with it.

I liked what CJ said about happiness being a decision. In or out of the military, there are a million things we can't control. Many civilian spouses work long hours, risk their lives, or have to endure frequent separations. Other spouses have to deal with illnesses or simply the fact that people change over time. There are precious few guarantees.

I can't control the fact that my husband deploys but then I can't control his personality either (just as he can't control mine). At the end of the day, HE is the one who chose this profession. It's part of who he is and he's there b/c he wants to be.

I get to decide whether the times we're together are worth the hassle of separations and the extra work they cause. That's my choice, and the truth is that I could always walk away. I'm not helpless. He could walk away too - even the best marriages don't always last.

The thing is, I've chosen not to. I can't control him, nor would I even if I could.

So it comes down to a decision every single day: am I going to think about what I don't have (which will make me unhappy)? Or am I going to focus on what I do have - a happy marriage and a husband who is doing work he loves?

The surprising thing over the last 30 or so years is that although some duty stations have been better than others, I've always managed to be happy. I think that's because I don't view myself as only half of a couple. I'm a whole person in my own right.

I try not to dwell on the down sides, or to worry over things I can't control. My oldest boy chose to be a cop. I don't think about whether he will get hurt or killed on the job because that's not something I can control. Thinking about it won't make me feel better - in fact, thinking about it would make me miserable. But I don't have to think about it. I refuse to.

I don't wonder why my husband picked a job that involves leaving me for extended periods of time. The fact is, he did and so he thinks it's worth it. He doesn't have to be in the military - no one is forcing him. And I know from experience that if anything, he misses me more than I miss him.

That, too, is a decision. I love him more than I know how to express but at the same time, I'm important. My happiness is important, too. I know if I asked him, he would retire.

And this time after 29+ years, I did finally say: no more deployments. But I did that mostly b/c he's getting out anyway and therefore the benefits don't outweigh the costs for anyone (even him).

To me, the hardest part of being a military wife is playing the supporting role but in the end, I chose how to play that role: what I am willing to do and put up with. I think I'm a better, more independent, stronger person for the experience.

In closing, I think it's important to be honest - both with your spouse and with yourself. It's tempting to blame the military at times but the truth is that this is the life he has chosen for himself - even knowing that someone else has to bear part of the cost of that decision. I think men are more clear headed about that sort of thing, or maybe they just don't think about it at all.

In the end, it doesn't really matter. Each day is a choice.

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2010 05:19 PM

So it comes down to a decision every single day

It may seem a cop out, but this is why I think the "Why do you love me?" question from an earlier post is the wrong question.

The answer to "Why?" is "Because..." and "because" implies a conditional. What happens when the condition goes away? Does your love go away too?

No! Love is a decision you make every single day. You can either choose to love your spouce despite the obstacles or you can choose to resent your spouse because of those obstacles, but choose you will.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 7, 2010 05:36 PM

Well, to be fair the question I asked was, "Why did you fall in love with me?", not "Why do you love me?"

After you get married the answer is, "Because I promised to, for better or for worse."

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2010 05:50 PM

Sorry, wasn't talking about you, but the author who wrote in. And while that may not have been the exact wording she used, I think that was the question she was really asking (it also explains why she thought an 8 wasn't good enough: she thinks he only loves her 80% and not 100%).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 7, 2010 06:30 PM

Well, and indeed that's right: if he loved her deeply and truly, she would be the most beautiful woman in the world. The person you love most is the most beautiful sight in the world, not just the most beautiful person: they are a joy to the eyes.

The question is, does he fail to find her that beautiful because he isn't adequately committed to his promise to love her; or because she's a person whom it's very difficult to love?

Posted by: Grim at June 7, 2010 07:04 PM

Shakespeare's sonnets are not classics after five centuries because he believed everything about his beloved was ideal. No doubt he did, and rightly so, but what his beloved wants to hear is detailed, attentive, loving particulars. (If they also can be expressed brilliantly in some of the best English in history, that's a plus as far as the immortality of the sonnets goes, but not strictly necessary for domestic bliss.)

Posted by: Texan99 at June 7, 2010 07:28 PM

Shakespeare? What of Ovid?

Lyde was not so dear to Antimachus,
nor Bittis so loved by her Philetas,
as you, my wife, clinging to my heart,
worthy of a happier, not truer husband.
You’re the support on which my ruins rest,
if I’m still anyone, it’s all your gift.
It’s your doing that I’m not despoiled, stripped bare
by those who sought the planks from my shipwreck.
As a wolf raging with the goad of hunger,
eager for blood, catches the fold unguarded,
or as a greedy vulture peers around
to see if it can find an unburied corpse,
so someone, faithless, in my bitter trouble,
would have come into my wealth, if you’d let them.
Your courage, with our friends, drove them off, bravely,
friends I can never thank as they deserve.
So you’re proven, by one who’s as true as he’s wretched,
if such a witness carries any weight.
Neither Andromache, nor Laodamia, companion
of her husband in death, exceeds you in probity.
If you’d been assigned to Homer, the Maonian bard,
Penelope’s fame would be second to yours:
either you owe it to your own self, not being taught loyalty
by some teacher, but through the character granted you at birth,
or, if it’s allowed to compare the small and great,
Livia, first lady, honoured by you all those years,
teaches you to be the model of a good wife,
becoming like her, through long-acquired habit.
Alas, my poetry has no great powers,
my lips are inadequate to sing your worth! –
if I had any inborn vigour long ago,
it’s extinct, quenched by enduring sorrows! –
or you’d be first among the sacred heroines,
seen to be first, for the virtues of your heart.
Yet in so far as my praise has any power,
you will still live, for all time, in my verse.

Posted by: Grim at June 7, 2010 10:08 PM

Cass ~ you hit the nail on the head. I've not been through as many deployments as other spouses but the separations I've been through have, for the most part, sucked.

But they are a part of the life that WE chose. (and this is where I differ from you, Cass) WE chose this life. My husband enlisted in the military after we were married. It was a decision that he made with me. And after his initial enlistment, WE chose for him to go to flight school. And it was always with the caveat that, should this life stop "working" for us, he would look elsewhere for employment. The Army and flying are his first choice for employer and employment but not his only choices.

And not only did WE choose when he signed his name on the dotted line at MEPS, *I* chose when I said "I do" at the altar. I knew full-well what I was getting into and who I was marrying. The Army (up until the last year of my life) was never a surprise. He chose the military lifestyle by vowing an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. I swore and oath to live him "for better or for worse". Both hold true today.

It's a choice. The author apparently has made her choice today - "I think after this deployment is over I’m done paying the price." Hopefully that pertains only to her husband's profession and not their marriage.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at June 7, 2010 11:34 PM

Don't watch the news. Keep a journal. Write letters to your service member that are upbeat. I am not talking about Pollyanna Positive here, but just share some of the funny stuff you go through.

Do some home movies so the catching up won't be nearly so hard. Have the children write.

I had friends, but they had to have something in common with me besides the Army. Sewing was good, as was gardening or cooking.

It helped keep my mind off of 'poor me' and more focused on the family.

In the end, it was really up to me as to how I dealt with things.

I chose to be happy and to treat it like a challenge. It was not easy, because we had just arrived here, but as I got to know our neighbors and the children became friends with the other teens, it got easier.

Posted by: Cricket at June 8, 2010 12:03 AM

Yes and no Grim.

I agree with you as far as it goes, but I don't think it goes so far as to realistically believe your spouse could compete for Megan Fox's replacement in the next Transformer's movie (let's be honest, there's only one criteria for that role and it ain't acting ability).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 8, 2010 09:36 AM

I'm just going to note that this gal is in the first two weeks of a deployment. The first month of this last deployment was really awful or I guess...I was. I should have had "I don't want to do this" tattooed on my butt, I said it that much.
For the first month anyway and then I got over it/me.

Deployments have stages. The first and last stages are the hardest. No matter how many deployments you've dealt with before.
I agree with Lia that it's a choice we made/make but I hope this was just "I'm having a really bad day and I need to write about it" vice "I'm about to have a really miserable year."

Posted by: Carrie at June 8, 2010 10:21 AM

That's a good point, Carrie.

My comment wasn't meant so much to imply that she shouldn't be feeling those feelings, but that I personally have not found it helpful to dwell on them even though they're understandable.

What I was attempting to address was her statement that she thinks those feelings are permanent (i.e., not a temporary reaction). That places them in a whole different category. I think I also reacted to a few things in her post that I find difficult to reconcile with the reality that we have an all volunteer military.

We may go years without seeing a war, but the entire reason the military exists is to fight wars. It's a career those who join chose voluntarily, knowing full well what that would entail - both for them and for their families. Even in peacetime there are long separations. As you know, my husband was gone for two years before we went to war.

I have a hard time with blaming the institution when the real source of the "problem" is that you are married to someone who *chose* a job where long separations are a known working condition. Maybe it is a way of displacing that realization. I don't know.

Posted by: Cass at June 8, 2010 10:39 AM

Yes, I know she says they are permanent. Maybe they are. I don't know and I don't know her.
I could just relate, a little, to the dark place she's in right now.
I don't know if I would have ever written the things she wrote. I never hated the Marine Corps for choices my husband and son made.
That's really not me but as we talked about privately, I am just cutting her a little slack in the hopes that this really is just temporary.

Posted by: Carrie at June 8, 2010 10:48 AM

I can relate too, somewhat.

My intent was not to criticize her. Far from it! I think she ought to be able to write whatever she wants on her own site, and venting may help her feel better. I have not found that to be the case but then I'm not her.

You know that there were many times during this last deployment when I felt sorry for myself. I'm hardly a shining exemplar of military wifedom :)

It's just that in pretty much every case, what helped was to look around at my house and my life and be able to say two things:

1. "This isn't bad." I've seen bad. So many people have it worse and I can think of so many things that would be harder to bear than this. Losing your oldest son, for example. That's something that happened to my sister and brother in law and something that happened to Cricket.

2. "I chose this". The reason I think that's important to face is that it's easy for military wives to feel they have no control. But we always do - not over everything (but then no one, civilian or military can control every detail of their lives) - but over an awful lot of things.

What I was trying to convey was not that it's bad to rebel against circumstances, but that it rarely makes a person happier. Does that make any sense?

Posted by: Cass at June 8, 2010 11:02 AM

It absolutely does.

Posted by: Carrie at June 8, 2010 11:12 AM

...to realistically believe your spouse could compete for Megan Fox's replacement...

This is my point, is it not? Love allows one to see the luminous beauty that transcends mere physical attractiveness. Megan Fox, or her competitors, may be lovely enough; but only foolish men would prefer to look into her eyes instead of into eyes that love him.

Posted by: Grim at June 8, 2010 12:44 PM

This is my point, is it not?

I don't know, is it?

but only foolish men would prefer to look into her eyes instead of into eyes that love him.

Agreed, I'm just saying that while love means your spouse is much prefered for you to gaze upon, it does not necessarily mean that you believe that preference will be shared by everyone else (whom, by definition, she neither loves or is loved by).

*...and since this this has gotten far off topic for this post, if there's any desire/need to continue it, perhaps it would be best to do it on that other post instead.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 8, 2010 01:27 PM

Carrie ~ you're right. The first and last months of a deployment suck fora variety of reasons. I remember lying in the middle of my living room floor, late at night, sobbing that I didn't want to "do this" early on (and toward the end). Neither time period was easy.

Hopefully things smooth out for her. I hope my last comment didn't come across as critical. It's easy to be critical of someone else's life, especially for military spouses due to the fact that we share very similar experiences (whereas civilian life tends to offer a little more variety). But I find often that when I'm busy being critical of someone else's handling of a situation, I miss the fact that I had probably reacted in much the same way when I was dealing with it.

My mother used to tell me to be careful pointing fingers because, while one is pointed at the person in question, THREE are pointing back at me.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at June 8, 2010 02:12 PM

I didn't think it was critical at all. It was true.
As a matter of fact, nobody here was being critical. All of us have some experience with deployments and were chiming in with them.

Posted by: Carrie at June 9, 2010 09:17 AM

My husband just returned home on May 28th from a deployment to Iraq. We are so thankful for his safe return as well as all the others in the unit.
I have been an Army wife for nearly 20 years. There have been good times and bad times.. but I wouldn't change anything.

It was interesting reading through the comments, thank you to those who shared.

blessings ~ Pam

Posted by: airbornewife at June 13, 2010 02:07 PM

I freind recently said somemone expressed "it" this way, "I miss my partner so much, I feel as though I left my right hand at home." I"m a newb in this realm. I'm in love with someone who is leaving for 6 months. When I think about his departure I feel as though my guts just want to melt away. At the same time, I know that I must be supportive of his goals in the service. My focus had to radically change and my perception of his departure took on a different shape. Rather than seeing the seperation as a loss, I see it as a means to refocus our goals together, and yes, I constantly remind myself to look a the bigger picture here....I feel gratitude for having him in my life, to simply have met him is a miracle in itself! To love his company; his partnership can't compare to the 6 months that we will be seperated!

For those out there who feel the pain of seperation, Pray for eachother fervently!

Posted by: lydia guerrero at July 8, 2010 01:27 PM

Rather than seeing the seperation as a loss, I see it as a means to refocus our goals together, and yes, I constantly remind myself to look a the bigger picture here....I feel gratitude for having him in my life, to simply have met him is a miracle in itself! To love his company; his partnership can't compare to the 6 months that we will be seperated!

Good for you, Lydia!

I've been with my husband for 33 years now. Long term relationships are so much stronger and healthier when both partners are able to bring something new to the table from time to time - it helps to keep things fresh and interesting.

I still remember the first time we were apart for a year. It was a bit scary. Now, having completed many, many such deployments, I know I can handle it and that our relationship will not only survive but be even better for the experience :)

Posted by: Cassandra at July 8, 2010 01:59 PM