If you’re a military spouse or significant other, you’ve probably grappled with the reality that you may one day be facing a deployment that puts significant distance between you and him or her. In fact, there are more than 1 million deployed service members at any given time, around the United States and in more than 150 countries around world. This can add an understandable strain on a relationship, as well as spark other emotions such as loneliness, frustration, and sadness.
In these cases, it’s beneficial to remember that many other military spouses have walked and are walking the same path. There is strength in numbers, and taking advantage of the support offered by not only the U.S. military but other online resources can help make the deployment as painless as possible. You can also use the time as a chance to build your relationship and discover new ways of communicating and connecting.
Below are 5 ways to make the most of a long-distance relationship with a service member.
- Take Advantage of Technology: While it can be a pain to depend solely on sometimes-persnickety tools like Skype, it’s so encouraging to see your loved one face-to-face, even if you are juggling different time zones. You’ll learn to love and hate the technology that can make or break a long-anticipated conversation, but it’s worth the hassle to be able to see a smile from miles away.
- Get on the Communications List: Each outfit has an ombudsman (also known as Family Readiness Officers/Family Readiness Group Leaders/Family Readiness Support Assistants/Key Spouses/Family Readiness Liaison) responsible for communicating important information to the spouses back home. They may even have a Facebook page or group to make it easy to keep updated. However, if you are not engaged or married, you may have to take extra steps to be added to the communication string. For example, your boyfriend or girlfriend may have to request that you are added. Also ensure that your loved one’s Command has your contact information as well in case of urgent communications or updates.
- Join an Online Community: A quick search for military long-distance relationships – or “LDRs” in true military acronym fashion – will reveal many great resources for people in a similar situation. You may enjoy the lighthearted but realistic channel called Diamonds Off Duty which recently dedicated one of its recent issues on “what to expect during LDRs for military deployment.” Other blogs and websites are plentiful, giving you perspective into what it’s like to be the spouse or significant others of a deployed soldier.
- Use the Time to Grow as a Couple: If your spouse or significant other is not deployed in an active arena, it may be easier to keep in communication during off hours. Why not do something special together – even though you’re miles apart – to help build your relationship? The site, Loving from a Distance, specializes in helping couples in long distance relationships, and has a dedicated section for military couples. They offer a workbook and activities that you and your spouse can do remotely, and then compare answers. You might be surprised at his or her answers, and the exercise may help you too grow together, even while miles apart.
- Send Comforts from Home: Deployed soldiers will love a special care package from his or her loved one at home, and this little gesture can make the distance seem shorter. There are many creative ways you can spice up a care package, including decorating the inside of the shipping box with a holiday theme using scrapbooking paper and stickers. Remember the store-bought items usually fare better in the shipping than homemade items, and individual serving are great for taking on mission. Also consider the stipulations and regulations of shipping, especially to foreign countries. If your soldier is deployed domestically, he or she would still appreciate a care package; you may also be able to send a treat for his or her office, housing, or mess hall.
Written by Megan Hammons