It may seem common sense to most people but I believe the key to making it through a deployment with your marriage or relationship intact is communication.
Regardless of how much mental preparation you do or how much of an effort you make to talk on a regular basis, deployments are draining and difficult. It is up to each person to make the extra effort to keep the lines of communication open and productive.
My husband and I decided that the best way to do this was to read the 5 Love Languages Military Edition (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/resource/the-5-love-languages-military-edition/) written by Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green. We both have friends that have read the books (military and civilian editions) and gave it rave reviews. Regardless of if their marriage was in trouble or not, they felt the book had really opened their eyes to a new way of thinking about communicating with their partner.
After reading the book, I wholeheartedly agree. Again, common sense dictates that we all know that our SO’s are different than we are. However, it usually doesn’t occur to people that you might also have different communication styles. For my husband, his “love language” is Acts of Service which very simply means actions speak louder than words. It means a lot to him when I make dinner, clean up the house, make his lunch, etc. For me, my “love language” is Words of Affirmation which means that I like to hear about how much he loves me and that he appreciates all the Acts of Service that I do for him.
While communication is always a challenge during a deployment, knowing how to communicate with your SO in a way that makes sense to them can turn a conversation from an argument to a healthy discussion in a heartbeat. What I really found helpful about the book was that it gave specific ideas for how best to communicate with your deployed SO (or homefront SO). Acts of Service are difficult to do for people who are half a world away but when they have a tradition of picking up a lotto ticket when the Powerball grows to an exorbitant amount, it will mean a lot to them to simply go pick up a ticket and tell them what numbers to hope for. Or, when things need to be handled around the house, it makes their day when you make the effort to deal with the issues rather than emailing them and saying “Honey, how do I handle this?”.
Any communication tools are helpful during a deployment, but I feel the special attention the 5 Love Languages Military Edition gives to our unique situation is extremely enlightening and I highly recommend it to everyone!
Always remember – Healthy Wife, Happy Life. “Healthy” also includes mental and emotional health as well.