Several months ago, I shared with you ways to combat loneliness, while your service member spouse is away. Those tips were aimed for you to cope and hopefully help with passing the time.
But, what if you’re struggling to get through?
Even if you do some of my suggestions, it’s hard to get through the mental battle with separation anxiety, especially a long-term one. My spouse and I endured an unaccompanied tour a couple years back that was really challenging.
We were thousands of miles apart for the unaccompanied tour and almost a day was separating us from each other (he was 13 hours ahead). Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect going into a long term separation.
A couple months in, I felt a heavy weight because of a culmination of things.
It was challenging to communicate. I was working during his off time and vice versa. Literally, we would have a small window in my morning, if we both happened to have time available. There was a lot of uncertainty. It didn’t help that the military is a little last minute on things and I really had to learn how to roll with the punches.
Two to four month TDYs seemed like nothing because of the breaks we would get in between.
However, I knew at the end of the difficult year, it would be better. So, if you have a long separation coming your way, whether it is an unaccompanied tour or deployment, here are three big tips that helped me survive when I thought all was lost.
Establish a communication plan.
We didn’t have any expectations and to top it off, we didn’t even talk about it. Then, my spouse left…and I didn’t hear from him for weeks…! In country, my spouse had to figure things out and then had the chance to call me.
I understand you might not have any idea how communications will be for your spouse, especially for a deployment, but I believe you still should have something prepared (i.e. phone cards, figure out USO locations, etc.). At least get yourself prepared for spotty communication, because I think that would have helped me greatly.
Create a goal list and stick to your deadlines.
Yes, I kept myself busy, but I think having long-term goals is helpful to maintain focus during long-term separation. I did a lot of career development and soul searching during our separation because I would be leaving a job I had worked in for more than five years.
Also, we had our church wedding planned for when he came back (we had a courthouse ceremony before he left). I’m definitely not saying you should plan a wedding, but having a very detail-heavy goal kept me truckin’ along when I felt like things were going by so slow.
Don’t forget to keep your head up.
There were lots of instances I wanted to stay curled up in a dark place because communications with my spouse reached its all-time low or I just did NOT want to do something on my goal list. While it’s okay to have “no” days, be sure you keep yourself on track because you will feel better once you are back.
Although you might not have any control with what your spouse is experiencing, you have all the power to get yourself where you need to be. Now, that leads me to my last and possibly most important point.
Remember you have a village behind you.
I cannot ever fully explain how much having a support system is important for when your service member spouse leaves. Seriously, your people will help you more than you can know. They will nudge you in the right direction when you have reached a point where you’re like “no.” They will also remind you that you are awesome.
Despite not living near a military installation for my husband’s tour, I went online and found a wonderful tribe of spouses. Plus, my current friends and family always had my back. They have helped me get through that year without really understanding how they did it.
What tips have helped you survive?
About the Author:
Rachel Tringali Marston is an Army spouse and daughter to an Air Force retiree. Rachel’s family settled in Texas and that’s where she calls home. Before getting married, she lived in New York City for almost 10 years and considers that her second home. Rachel enjoys learning and exploring the area around her husband’s duty station and is embracing life in the military. In her spare time, she shares her adventures on her personal blog called The Professional Army Wife.