In military life, between the training, deployments, frequent moves, and every-day duties at work and home, often there isn’t much room leftover on the agenda for couples to take much-needed time for themselves. However, caring for our emotional health means caring for our relationships, as well.
Couples need time to connect on an intimate level, re-group, and simply enjoy being with one another on a regular basis in order to overcome the unique challenges and stressors military families face. Just like every other health-care habit, taking this time out of an already hectic schedule requires a great deal of planning and commitment. Flexibility, creativity and effective communication can also go a long way when it comes to taking time together as a couple and making it count.
Flexibility. Military life requires couples to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice. In order to follow through with the commitment to spend quality time together, flexibility is key. Preparing for the unexpected by having several back-up plans, being open to spontaneity, and just going with the flow, however, helps to relieve potential stress and frustration. Some of my favorite dates have been spur-of the-moment meet-ups in between shifts.
Creativity. Many circumstances also require plenty of creativity. For example, couples with young children stationed away from extended family members may find it difficult to find a sitter to work within their budget and schedule. Taking time as a couple may look like having a make-shift picnic on the living room floor together without any other distractions once the children go to bed.
Effective Communication. The way couples communicate says a lot about their relationship. Even throughout a lengthy separation due to training or deployment, couples can remain close by taking the time to reach out to one another as often as possible by calling home or sending thoughtful text messages, care packages, and hand-written letters.
Just as members of a unit spend time working together to successfully complete a mission, solid couples must work as a team by remaining flexible, getting creative, and communicating effectively throughout the many challenges of military life in order to take the time needed to strengthen their relationships.
Courtney Woodruff is the wife of a soldier and mom of two little boys. Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Services Counseling with a focus on Military Resilience, she hopes to one day use her education and experiences to serve veterans and military families.