Deployment separations really do put the damper on a marriage and a family.
Families are tested and tried as the regular routine and atmosphere of the home is temporarily disrupted. Children question where mom/dad is and even most times, can be difficult to reason with.
Although we thought we knew what we were signing up for, the actual “living it out” situation is much different.
There are briefings, townhall meetings, Family Readiness Group meetings, newsletters, retreats and an unlimited amount of resources to inform you and prepare you for what is to come. Discussions between husband and wife, child and parent, soldier and leader are held prior, during and after family separation. However, the concept and idea of the ‘military life’ is different than when actually living it out.
At least, I have discovered that personally over time.
It seems no matter how much you try to mentally prepare yourself, keep yourself occupied and productive, there is always a different intake and impression received or given. I found it quite interesting that, like many other areas of my life, even if I have an expectation of an outcome, I somehow move with the current. However, although the Army remains to be one of the most informative, and seemingly resourceful careers for soldiers and families, it is the least predictable. Families are pretty sure about how they’ll address this or that deployment, how they’ll approach this or that permanent change of station move, but the contrary is usually the outcome.
I’ve read and even casually scanned over little memes or quotes of how inconsistent and reactive the military life can be. It is all jokes and giggles on the surface, but if I am frank, it is quite the challenge. At least what I have noticed about the Army is that we very much put a blanket concept or solution over our daily lifestyles. This very much goes for the life of the soldier, as it is always a matter of “figure it out” state of mind. However, the plethora of variables to take into consideration for family dynamics to fit into the military molding will cause friction.
My husband’s love language is Acts of Service, so he needs to see movement in action. He has shared with me, “Words are always less harsh than the action that can follow or happen.” So how do we combat this conundrum? I have found that it is a matter of walking it out a deployment at a time, a schooling at a time, a separation at a time. Not one will ever be the same, no matter how we try to reevaluate and recalibrate our approach. What does remain constant is self. We each have the choice how we will respond, contribute and support our soldier during these times. Sometimes that may mean giving allowance for one another’s errors. Perhaps it means being patient with a subject/topic that needs to be addressed, but the order of events and maybe even time difference should be taken into consideration. It could even be listening more than speaking. What I have discovered in these last 12 years of being an active duty army spouse is that, the more you seek to fulfill what you want, the more miserable you become. However, the more you seek to give than receive, support than complain, or listen than speak, the more at peace you find yourself. It is not a place of arrival though. It is a “work at it day in and day out” effort. One of the greatest lessons I continue to learn until this day is that you have to give yourself room to fail, because you will. You may have a moment of selfishness, a moment of annoyance and frustration, and a moment of weakness. We must identify these moments before, during and after they have occurred, then try again.
Let us live this out making allowance for one another to mess up, because that means the opportunity for growth is on the cusp. Let us not view it as a loss, but as a gain to move forward toward what we didn’t realize we needed to work on.
Lori Ann PALOMARES is an Army spouse and Killeen area resident.