Moving every few years, single parenting and a lack of opportunity for communication -- these issues are an unfortunate reality for many military wives. Marriage requires work for any couple, but when you throw in the complications generated by life in the military, it becomes even more challenging. However, despite the challenges, military couples are less likely to divorce than civilian couples, according to a 2012 article by Benjamin Karney et al. in the Journal of Family Issues, so there is hope.
1. Job Priorities
Ideally, your marriage and family comes first, but with a husband in the military, that might not always be the case. Deployments, frequent moves and job commitments for career advancement are likely to come before family commitments at some point in your marriage. This might mean missed family events, holidays or trips. Understanding the priority of your husband's job helps alleviate conflict because you are prepared for the eventuality and necessity. Remembering that the job will need to take priority at times can also help you and your husband to make precious memories together when you can to carry you through those times -- a benefit to you as well as your children.
Communication is a necessity in every marriage, but it becomes even more important when you face communication challenges due to deployments or time in the field. Depending where your husband is stationed, you might only be able to communicate with a phone call every few weeks or through email. In the limited communication you have, keep him up to date on the daily activities -- how the kids are doing in school, what you're planning for dinner and how the kids' extracurricular activities are going, for example. It’s also important to establish strong lines of communication before you spend time apart to prevent misunderstandings when you can't communicate on a regular basis. In an article on Military.com, military wife and therapist Ms. Vicki recommends making time to talk together each day, taking turns listening and speaking and avoiding anger as often as possible. It's also important to spend time together to strengthen your bond and remind yourselves of the good things in your relationship. Ms. Vicki points out that minor communication problems can become exacerbated if not taken care of before spending time apart.
Trust is another important component of marriage which can be difficult to maintain in a military marriage where you face the possibility of months apart at a time. Give your husband the benefit of the doubt and talk through any issues you might have. In an article on Military.com, military mom, wife and author Sara Horn suggests giving each other access to all email and social networking sites the two of you use to help hold each other accountable. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center recommends building trust by spending time together when possible; establishing reliability with each other by keeping your word; understanding your differences and having realistic expectations for your marriage; sacrificing things for your marriage such as time or hobbies and recognizing and showing thankfulness for your husband's efforts.
As a military wife, you can expect to move every few years, often across the country or even the world. So, part of having a good marriage with a military husband is being flexible in where you're willing to live. After all, your husband doesn't usually have much say in where you move. A 1999 marriage survey by Life Innovations showed flexibility as the second highest predictor of a successful marriage. Whether you end up in a big city or a small town, whether you are a couple hours from your family or across an ocean -- flexibility helps you, your spouse and your kids deal with the changes. Phone calls, emails and social networking sites are a good way to stay in touch with family when you move away, just as they help you stay in touch with your husband while he is away.
Depending on how long your husband serves in the military, you’re likely to spend at least a few months apart, if not more, at some point in his career. It’s important to be able to manage on your own and be happy even while apart. You might have to take over the finances, change a tire and completely run the household on your own while your husband is gone, though a good support system can help. It's also important to create a balance between independence and a willingness to share duties when your husband comes home from a deployment. In an article for the Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences and Community Development Educator, Cindy Bond-Zielinski writes that too much independence leads individuals to focus more on themselves and not count on their spouses to give them support when needed. Readjusting household responsibilities and leaning on each other for immediate emotional support can be difficult between deployments, but it is necessary so that you can both feel valued and needed in the relationship.
The military offers a number of resources to support strong marriages. Take advantage of these opportunities, which are usually free. Many base chapels offer marriage retreats, the Army has a marriage initiative called “Strong Bonds” and the website “Military One Source” offers online consultants and articles to strengthen marriage. Strengthening your marriage together while your husband is home makes the difference when you are forced to spend long periods of time apart.
- Journal of Family Issues: Comparing Marital Status and Divorce Status in Civilian and Military Populations
- The Huffington Post: Military Marriage -- 10 Things You Might Not Know
- Military.com Spouse: 5 Communication Tips for Couples
- U.S. Department of Defense: Family Matters Blog -- Keeping Military Marriages Strong
- Military One Source: Making the Marriage Decision
- InCharge Debt Solutions: Military Marriages -- A Team Approach to Military Life
- Military.com Spouse: Keeping Your Guard/Reserve Marriage Strong
- Army.mil: Army Programs Help Keep Military Marriages Strong
- Military Spouse Central: Six Pillars of a Strong Military Marriage
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center: Why Trust Matters in Relationships and Marriage
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