Over the weekend, we attended the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony for Kyle’s unit. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, since this is the first deployment that I’ve been through with him. For those of you who haven’t experienced this yet or aren’t familiar, a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony is for spouses, children, and other family members to gain insight into what their deployed service member will be doing each day, and we can prepare for the separation. We take classes on how to handle emergencies, how to nurture our relationship, OPSEC, benefits, and even care packages. It was a long weekend, but I got some great tips to keep us thriving through this challenging year.We had about 6 sessions per day, all with a different topic/speaker. But the speaker that really caught my attention was a woman from our local police department that serves as their clinical psychologist. She provides one-on-one counseling for their officers and detectives, but also serves as the counselor for Kyle’s unit. We all expected the typical “death by PowerPoint” experience, but to our surprise, she just stood in front of us, and asked 1 question:
“What is your biggest worry right now, in this moment?”
There was a silence in the room, and I looked around to see a lot of blank faces. Because how do you answer that? I have a million worries, and so does everyone else. How do we narrow it down to just one? It took a long time for people to start blurting out their thoughts, and even then, there was a wide array of worries from cheating to financial struggles. She went on to talk about how we communicate with each other, and the importance of not just thinking these things, but saying them. These worries are real, and if we don’t talk about them now, we’ll be forced to talk about them when they do become an issue. She explained that everyone will choose to communicate a different way, especially under pressure, and a lot of this has to do with our Love Languages.
Everyone has their own “love language”: the way we express our love and commitment to our significant other, and what we need to feel whole in return. There are 5 true love languages, varying from physical touch, to quality time. When you dive deeper into your own love language, you’ll find that there are some very specific things that make you feel satisfied or fulfilled in your relationship. Sometimes it’s something as small as a kiss before walking out the door, or more in depth, like making sure you take 10 minutes every evening to talk about your day and how you’re feeling.
Going into deployment, one of our biggest worries has been how we will communicate when we can’t see each other in person. I can be extremely independent, but since I’ve been with Kyle for many years, I’ve grown to depend on him for certain things. When he started the training process, I began to adjust yet again to doing things on my own. I would wake up extra early to make sure everything was complete before leaving for work, and I relied on myself to remember everything it takes to run a home. Needless to say, it’s been a lot of back and forth between training and home, so I’ve had to adjust a few times.
The speaker opened my eyes to one important factor that made us approach communication differently: Telling each other what you need. Last time Kyle and I went through a long separation, we did very poorly in the communication department. I was constantly asking him, “Why didn’t you do this?” or “Why didn’t you tell me that?” I’m sure other spouses are very familiar with those questions, especially when the military is involved. I was expecting things of our relationship, without making those needs known beforehand. And when those needs weren’t met, I blamed him, even though there’s nothing he could have done. He can’t read my mind, and I can’t read his.
Any major separation can bring out weaknesses or stressors that already exist in a relationship. As one of the other speakers pointed out, they can make us feel like we/our significant other don’t “fit the bill”, while other relationships around us seem to be thriving. You can’t assume that your significant other knows what you need, and over time, those needs can change.
I know that through this experience, there are going to be days when I give my husband everything he needs, and I get little in return due to the circumstances. And vice versa on days when I’m struggling to communicate. This deployment will bring its own special kind of love language as we learn to adapt from what we’re used to, and those moments together will have to be through a webcam for now.. but when we do get to see each other again, it’ll be even sweeter knowing how much stronger we will become.
What’s your love language? How did you include that language in your relationship while separated?