You won’t find a single person that raises their hand and says, “Yes, please! Deployment! My spouse and I love being apart from each other six months to a year at a time.”
However, I do find the silver lining in deployment and I know that these times of separation strengthen my relationship with my husband.
The first separation we experienced was two years after we were married. To give you a little perspective, we were married 13 years ago this June. My husband received orders to Okinawa, Japan — however, you could choose to go alone or with your spouse. If you took your spouse, you had to be stationed there for three years. If you went alone your time there was only for one year. My husband wasn’t completely sure he wanted to do three years overseas, so we agreed that he go alone.
The early rough patches
To this day, I swear this separation was one of the saving graces to our marriage. You see, before getting married we had only known each other for three months. I was madly in love, and he was absolutely perfect. We were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. My best friend was coming to visit me from my home state, Iowa, and it just seemed the perfect time to head over to the courthouse and vow our love and life to each other. However, all of that conventional dating and ‘getting to know you’ time we skipped out on we quickly made up for in those first two years of our marriage.
This meant a lot of arguments, most of which weren’t too pretty. We were young and hot-headed, and neither liked to lose. We yelled and screamed. I wanted my point to be made and my side to be heard and understood, and so did he — yet we both failed in actually providing that courtesy for the other person. No battles were ever won, just on pause until the guns were reloaded.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
When he was stationed in Okinawa, there was a huge time difference between us. He was going to sleep as I was waking up. Calling cards were pretty expensive, and making an actual out of country long-distance call was out of the question.
Our only form of communication was through email, and the occasional Yahoo messenger chat. You know what happens when the only way to talk to someone is through reading and writing an email? You actually have to stop, shut your mouth and take the time to hear (or read) what the other person is saying.
We were finally communicating with each other. Taking turns. Listening and talking. Hearing and responding. I’m not joking when I say this was a huge breakthrough for us. We talked through all of our frustrations with each other. We regained our respect for one another, found solutions and ways to move forward — and in that fell even more in love.
As we talked through all of our rough patches, we also shared all of the wonderful things about each other we loved, and missed. Twice during his stay in Okinawa I flew out to visit him, and we had the time of our lives!
Love notes and strengthening bonds
Eleven years later, we certainly don’t argue like we did when we were first married. However, with three kids and very busy lives I can admit we don’t always find the time to properly communicate every day about every topic we’d like. We also don’t always take the time to tell each other all the wonderful, little things we love, adore, and appreciate about each other. I love how he comes home and not just asks me how my day was with the kids, but how my day was and how I am doing.
I miss his hugs. I miss the random flowers he shows up with for no reason at all other than he happened to be thinking of me as he was walking past the bouquet.
I love the daddy that he is for our children, and how cool and calmly he seems to be able to handle parenting. The man amazes me. And? Because I miss him and make it a daily priority to write to him, I also make it a priority to include all of these notes of love. He does the same in return for me. I have a special folder in my email where I’ve saved all of our love letters to each other.
Sometimes it feels like we are those two, head-over-heels young lovers again. While I don’t particularly like having to go through deployment on my own with three kids, we do have the benefit of taking some quiet time for each other, shutting out the world and listening to what the other has to say, and falling in love with each other all over again and strengthening the bond of our marriage.