I have been to many pre-deployment readiness meetings. After half a dozen of these meetings, there is one piece of advice that is practically burned into my forehead: “You should not bother your spouse with trouble and problems at home.”
Military spouses need to be focused on the mission at hand, not worried about finances, broken down cars or fights between teenagers and mom. Keeping things squared away is the best method of helping your spouse during deployment.
I agree, in theory, but some advice can be taken too far. It can even be abused and hurt your relationship.
An important role of military spouses is making sure we take care of problems at home. That doesn’t mean we should keep things that go awry at home from our spouse and put on a happy face. That can be harmful to your relationship. Feigning happiness once in a while is fine, but in the long run, it’s just not authentic. Your spouse will know the truth.
On top of that, your spouse will quickly feel disconnected when left out of all the ups and downs of life at home.
Your spouse is your partner and that means they’re with you, good and bad. Not discussing problems prevents your spouse from taking part in a very important part of your relationship: helping you solve them. Frame conversations carefully, but still let your spouse be involved.
When our water pipe burst in the middle of the biggest blizzard in the record books, my instinct was to panic but this is not the time to phone in a frantic phone call! Get everything sorted out and yourself calm first.
When you talk about it, start with, “I have everything under control”. Give your spouse constructive ways to help you. You can ask for advice on what to ask the plumber or just talk you through what to expect. This will let your spouse know that you want their support but you can handle what is going on. It important to stay a team even when your spouse is deployed: Ask your husband’s advice on how to deal with your 4-year-old’s recent habit of waking in the middle of the night, but don’t present it as a crisis.
My advice for when a crisis or problem strikes you during deployment is multifaceted:
Think of what you are going to do to solve the problem. Think of some ideas, rustle up some back up from your support system (friends and family) and get a handle on your emotions before talking to your spouse.
What’s your best course of action?
A) Ask his advice.
B) Tell him after I solved the problem.
C) Just leave this one for another day.
Tell your spouse what happened, how you feel about it, and some of your ideas for solving the problem. Then try to have an action item for your spouse. Tell your spouse exactly how to help — for example, “It would really help if you tell me what you think about this approach” or “Do you know who I could call in town that would know about car batteries? I got one estimate today but it seems high.”
It always helps to follow it all up with a big dose of “It really helped me to talk this over with you” and “Thanks for helping me figure it out.”
Don’t push your spouse out of the loop to prevent them from worrying about you, but instead you send a message loud and clear: I got this but I still value your input and want to discuss things and make decisions with you.