The first true separation that Kyle and I ever had was in 2013 for his initial military training. He swore in at the beginning of April, and we knew right away that he would be leaving in July. At the time, we were still just dating and had been together for about 2 years, but we hadn’t moved in together yet. As July got closer, we spent those last days on the beach or eating at some of his favorite places, trying to avoid the thought of what was ahead.
We talked about what we would do when he got back, and made tons of plans for how he would save money and we would get an apartment. We talked about being together forever, but not about marriage specifically. We had all of these child-like plans, but nothing set in stone.
Fast forward a few months, and we found ourselves arguing over the most silly, obscure things. And all of those plans we made so freely? They didn’t happen. Not because we didn’t want them to, but because we didn’t have those serious, necessary conversations prior to him leaving. Instead, we tried to have those talks while everything was already happening, and the stress and separation was just too much at the time.
This time around, our separation is much longer. But luckily, we’re armed with the tools and lessons we need to conquer deployment and well beyond it. Here are our 5 key conversations that we had predeployment.
Establish what you need from eachother
I can’t stress this one enough. In my previous post about the different love languages, I talked about how we often don’t tell our significant other what we need from them. Instead, we hope that they’ll figure it out on their own. This usually leads to a lot of frustration, and is easily avoidable.
One of my love languages is words of affirmation, and actions of affirmation. I want him to tell me how he feels about me, but I also want him to be thoughtful. Do I know my husband loves me? Absolutely. But it’s all about finding those key things that make you feel connected when you’re faced with a long separation. The things that keep the fire burning, because that fire will be tested time and time again.
So, tell your significant other what you need from them. Maybe that’s a Skype date once a week (if possible, obviously) or maybe it’s a hand-written note or an actual gift. Whatever it may be, talk about it. Establish what’s reasonable and what isn’t for both of you. Have the conversation now so that there aren’t hurt feelings and failed expectations down the road.
Get your finances in order
In our family, I’m the bill payer. I’m the most organized and I keep track of everything, so it’s a role that I’ve always been comfortable filling. But there are some bills that were there before I came along, and Kyle has always just taken care of that part himself. Since we found out he was deploying, we organized everything so that I would have access and could pay the other bills as well in the event that Kyle didn’t have WiFi or a way to contact me. We organized this in the last few months before he left so that we would be well prepared with the new bill-paying schedule in place.
We’ve seen many of our military friends run into trouble in this area. When deployments are unexpected, it’s especially hard to decide how this will be handled in their absence. Unfortunately, sometimes this leads to things going unpaid, followed by a lot of panic. Get a plan in place, and make sure you’re both on the same page.
Have an Emergency Plan
It’s never an enjoyable conversation, but it’s important to talk about what to do in the event of an emergency during deployment. Whether that be illness, injury, natural disaster, or death, you don’t want to be making every major decision while you’re on the spot. Two weeks after Kyle left, our puppy got attacked by two other dogs and was in really rough shape. She was in and out of the ER with staples in her chest, and it took about 3 weeks for her to recover. I was a giant ball of stress that entire time, but I stuck to my plan and kept my routine, taking things day by day.
I let Kyle know what was going on after I knew that she was going to be okay. How you decide to handle an emergency and at what point you deem it necessary to tell your spouse is entirely up to you and your situation. But make sure that you have communicated about this plan, including any emergency funds, a place to stay, back-up babysitters, how to contact each other, etc.
Who to contact
This goes hand-in-hand with your emergency plan, but relies heavily on YOU. Most of your predeployment info will come from the briefings and ceremonies, and they will flood you with information, including the most important of all: what if I need to contact my spouse ASAP. They will tell you who to contact if there’s an emergency, and they do everything within their power to get your service member back to you if necessary.
Make sure that you communicate with your spouse and confirm who these contacts are, just in case they have additional information. Just like you, they’re being flooded with information and they will forget to tell you things! It’s important to provide them with primary contacts that they can reach out to as well, including any family you may be staying with if an emergency situation were to happen.
Talk about goals
This part is more fun, and I found it necessary because it added some excitement to an otherwise gloomy situation. Take some time to discuss your goals for predeployment, during deployment, and after they come home. It can be practical things like getting the basement finished or building a savings, or personal goals like weight loss and mental health. When the deployment is underway, you can compare your goals and find ways to connect through your progress.
What are some of the major conversations you had with your spouse before a major separation?