This original post was first published on Corvias Military Living. I am excited to be a collaborator for them.
When you hear that your spouse will be deploying, dread may come over you. You easily think of all the bad things that could happen, and become overwhelmed with the possibility of running a household on your own.
Here are four truths about deployments no one tells you, and how you can use them to navigate the ups and downs of the next year or so.
1. Day one is likely not the worst day of the deployment. It will come later on, at the least expected moment.
I’ve heard time and again that the first day is the worst and that it can only get better as the deployment gets shorter. The reality, however, is that your worst day will likely happen on a random day a third of the way in, just when you have hit your deployment stride.
One of your kids may have been sick with a cold for several days. Maybe you just happened to catch it as well. No biggie, right? That’s when you notice the dishwasher overflowing into your kitchen and as you start scrambling for whatever towel-like material you can find within reach, you realize that dinner on the stove has just burned to a crisp due to your negligence. After you order pizza, you realize that your house appears to be cold. Yep, the furnace has now stopped working. But wait, the smoke detector is now going off, too. Oh no, did you forget the brownies in the oven that were for the school bake sale? Now they, too, are burned, and all you can think of is, now what else will happen?
All of the things on their own could easily be tackled, but when that tornado of Murphy’s Law comes at you and everything seems to go wrong at one time, that is the worst day of deployment. Then, and only then, will things get better because now you know you can survive even the worst day, and still keep going.
2. You can’t control the military or the deployment, but you can control how you respond to the situation.
I used to find myself getting upset over every little thing. I am a Type A perfectionist who wanted to control the deployment and how it affected the marriage. I wanted to speak to my husband and make sure every conversation went over well. I would curate the conversation, making sure to not let too much bad news or bad feelings seep into our interactions, out of fear that it would harm the relationship. Instead, by denying how I felt, it hurt us even more.
When I started to be open about how much I missed my spouse, how it was tough being a solo parent, and how it was unfair sometimes that I was in this position, the deployments and distance got easier. I was able to get my feelings out, but then I also was able to see how distance can be good for us sometimes. The deployment didn’t get easier, but the conversation did. Both of us were able to connect more because we were being real with how we felt, and there was no veil cast over us to make everything perfect when reality was far from it.
3. You really do need help from friends.
The easiest thing any of us does is isolate ourselves. It’s a survival tactic, and we think it works great, until it doesn’t. We don’t want to burden others with our problems, and we don’t want to reach out and ask for help from someone who might have it worse off than us.
The truth is that you really do need help from friends and you really do need to ask for it. But no one friend can be everything to you all the time. So seek out several friends who can provide support to you in different ways, whether it’s a friend who will create a fun distraction from daily life, or a friend who provides sound advice when you need it most.
4. Allow yourself to be happy and successful
A deployment is not supposed to be sadness and heartache and bad times for an infinite amount of time. You will have rough days, but you will also have wonderful, successful days, too. Do not, under any circumstance feel guilty for having a great day. Celebrate your successes, no matter how little they may be. Find ways to create happiness in everyday life.
Life is one big journey and a deployment is just one part of that. Take it in stride and recognize when things are going well. Find others who will encourage you and cheer you on. Deployments suck, but they don’t have to every single moment of every day.
– Read more posts from Military Family Contributors at Corvias Military Living.