Long-distance relationships are hard under any circumstances. Add in stress of danger, work, separation of home life, and more (you know, the other stuff that comes from being deployed, not just on a work trip), and it's a scenario that's downright painful. Yet there are plenty of spouses who live this reality every single day.
It's also one that I lived for nine months. After less than a year of marriage, my husband was shipped out and overseas for a deployment. It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty, but we made it through and landed better on the other side (if I do say so myself).
But that doesn't mean there weren't some lessons I wish I'd known before going in. Steps that would have made the entire ordeal easier to stomach, and that would have – in theory – provided a little more sleep.
Trying to put yourself in their shoes – kind of, anyway. There are things about deployment my husband will never speak to me. I know this. But even though I don't know the details, doesn't mean I can't understand how life was stressful on a whole new level for him. How, after coming back home to a comfy bed and a clean bathroom, it was still hard not to focus on all the world's problems.
That empathy helped bridge some of the gaps, even when he couldn't tell me it was needed.
Quick isn't always bad – If you can only talk for a few minutes, it isn't the end of the world. In fact, on those days, I was excited to get to talk with hubs at all. Eventually, we even got our notes down to a T. Quickly back and forth our convos would state the basics, like "Did you send more socks?" "Bills are paid and the dog is going to the vet; he's fine." "Ok loveyoubye."
Spread out your conversations – In such different time zones, it can be hard to catch one another. If I hadn't talked to hubs in a bit or he called while I was at work, I'd write him an email or send an extra long letter in his next care package; iMessages were also a huge lifesaver. So long as we had a little contact, it made the day easier.
Remember they don't want to be gone – While being deployed is part of a job, that doesn't mean your loved one chose to be gone. In fact, they probably don't want to be away anymore than you want them to be. It's hard on all sides. I had to constantly remind myself that something simple like – checking the mail, for instance, or family dinners – he missed out on so many of these events, and I tried my best to include him as often as possible.
Which brings us to our next tip, whenever possible, include your loved one!
I had countless days of FaceTiming while eating meals, attending events, or just catching up and telling him about my day. Whether he was out working or sitting bored in an empty room, it cheered us both up to do things "together."
Send them something sentimental – Favorite snacks, tobacco, clothing essentials, etc. – all of those and more are welcome care package items. But adding something personal, like cards or special gifts can make their gift even more memorable. It can add a perk to their step and make an entire day, just knowing you did something extra for them.
Know it's temporary – Deployment will end. It might not go quickly at the time, but there will come a day when it's over and you can transition into a whole new routine together. Don't get caught up on the negatives. Yes, deployment is difficult, but you'll get past it and move on to happier and better times.
Communication is an important part of deployment. Practicing how you talk to one another and how information is shared will allow you an easier go at being apart, no matter how long (or how often) Uncle Sam calls.