I'll never forget the day it became official. I was waiting for the service station to finish an oil change on my car when my husband forwarded me the email. His orders had just come in. He was going to Afghanistan for six months. I started crying right there in the waiting room. We knew it was coming, but this made it real.
Three years later, I can look back on his deployment with gratefulness. I feel like his deployment made our marriage so much stronger because it taught us things I should have known all along.
1. Change Your Perspective
My husband works a lot. Like seven days a week, 12 hours a day, a lot. He's a neurosurgeon and when he's not working at the Air Force base, he moonlights at other hospitals. He's gone all the time and I used to resent him for it. I'd see all the other dads at school drop-off and t-ball games and at the park, and I used to get so angry that he chose work over us.
A few months into his deployment, I noticed how un-angry I was at my husband. I realized it was because I wasn't blaming him for being gone; I felt sorry for him. Uncle Sam forced this on us and we didn't have a choice. Instead of being mad at him for missing the first day of school, I felt sorry for him that he had an obligation bigger than us. I have kept up that mindset once he's gotten home. I know he wants to be with us, but he can't. His patients and his country need him more than we do. Now, I try to remind myself that I need to be happy when he's home and pity him when he's gone. It's made us both much happier.
2. Sleep On It
Due to the time change from Afghanistan to the U.S., it worked for us to Skype every morning (our time). My husband would call right before bed, as we were getting ready to start the day. Sometimes, he would say something on that phone call that would make me mad or sad (as spouses have a way of doing). If he were in the U.S., I would have called him back to tell him what I didn't like. But, because of the time change, I couldn't call him back as he was asleep.
More often than not, by the time we talked again 24 hours later, I had forgotten what it was that I was upset about. Must not have been that big of a deal.
I've tried to maintain this now that he's home. If something has gotten under my skin, I wait 24 hours and usually I'm over it.
3. Appreciate Your Time Together
Many military spouses tried to comfort me by saying, "It'll be easier when he's gone. There will be less laundry to do."
While there was less laundry, less mess, and many nights where I had no guilt over serving a bowl of cereal for dinner; all that couldn't make up for not having a partner by my side.
There was no one at the end of the day to listen to stories about the funny thing the toddler said. Or no one to be my date at a wedding. For six months, no one told me I was pretty, or kissed me on the lips.
His being gone made me appreciate him when he got home. Even if his presence does sometimes make things harder sometimes.
4. Watch Your Parents
For three of the six months my husband was gone, my kids and I moved in with my parents so they could help me with the kids. It was so interesting watching their relationship again as an adult.
You know when you're watching a movie, and one person says this, and the other person thinks they're saying that, and you're sitting in the audience wanting to scream, "That's not what they meant!" I felt like I did that the entire three months I was there. I ended up playing translator to my parents, and they were both speaking English. I think…
It made me realize that my husband and I did the same thing. I realized where I had picked up many of my relationship habits, for better or worse.
For the most part, my parents get along great, but watching their interaction taught me that when my husband and I are disagreeing about something, I simply need to say, "Wait. What I hear you saying is...(and then I repeat what I think he meant)." More often than not, I misunderstood him.
There was a teeny, tiny part of me that was sad when my husband's deployment came to an end because I knew it would mean an end to our long conversations. I felt like we truly talked about life, in a way we hadn't since we first started dating.
When you can't show your love for each other through hugging, spending time with each other, and doing favors for each other, communication is about all you have left.
We need to incorporate that into our marriage more now that he's home. Life gets so busy, you barely have time for the mundane conversations much less the deep ones.
Whether you're facing a deployment, or you'll never be a part of military life... live each day like s/he deploys tomorrow. It's amazing the love you'll feel.