“You knew what you were signing up for.”
A phrase we so often hear from individuals who have never experienced this military spouse lifestyle. I even hear this phrase from my own mother in moments of tearful phone calls about how alone I often am in this type of marriage. But boy oh boy, there is nothing like going through a deployment to make you realize that there is no way you could ever understand the full depths of being a military spouse until you’re right there in the thick of it. There is no way you can imagine hugging your spouse and knowing that you won’t get another hug for over half a year, or hugging your spouse without being completely positive that there will be another chance to wrap them in your arms again. It’s moments like these that you realize how strong you really are as a military spouse.
My husband and I have known each other since 6th grade. We became best friends in middle school and stayed best friends through high school and college. We grew up together, shared all the most important memories together. It was winter break of my senior year in college that I realized I was in love with my best friend. In true, modern-day style, I was the one that pursued him. We started dating the summer after college, right before he left Colorado for Dallas and pilot training. We started our whole relationship long distance: phone calls at night, scheduled skype dates once a week, and trips back and forth to finally see each other in person. So when we found out he would be getting deployed, I thought “heck, I’m already a pro at long distance!” I had spent three years doing it before we got married and we had gone 4 months before without seeing each other.
We had 2.5 years to prep for the deployment. We knew it was coming from the moment we came to South Carolina and yet when it actually came it took my breath away. It was hard and emotional and I felt at moments like my heart would break. I felt as if I had moved across the country, left my family and friends and job all to be left far from home, alone. But if there is one thing that I learned from 7 months apart it’s that the time during a deployment is an opportunity for growth. The time is an opportunity to focus on you and your goals. I ran my first half marathon. I got back in size 2 pants. I started my own Etsy shop. I strengthened my relationship with God. And I somehow managed not to kill our crazy handful of a pup. I found my groove during the second half of the deployment: I had a weekday routine of the gym and work and a weekend schedule filled with the local market, gym, friends, and the usual dog walks.
Right before the guys returned home we had a reintegration meeting with the whole community of spouses welcoming their husbands/wives home. I remember thinking to myself, “Homecoming struggles? Pshhh we won’t have any of these. We have a strong foundation, a loving marriage, we’re best friends, we’ve known each other forever.” But despite all of these wonderful things that make up our marriage, being away from each other for 7 months is hard. Re-intertwining your lives together is more challenging than I ever imagined. I had accomplished so much while he was away on my own and felt that I found my personal identity again. Readjusting to unpredictable work schedules, late nights of him crawling into bed during night weeks, always somehow talking about flying or the Air Force, it was all hard. I had a certain way of doing the laundry, a certain way of taking care of the animals, and then just like that someone walks back in and has opinions about how things should be done when I’ve been taking care of all of it, alone the whole time.
For a long time I felt selfish for ever feeling upset with him inside. I was so thankful he was home, yet I felt like he had no idea what the past 7 months were like here. To be fair, I didn’t know the full depths of those months away on his end. I felt like I suddenly had to give up my independence to the Air Force again. But while you’re an independent woman and must carry on while he is gone, welcome him back in. Share with him the changes you’ve made in your life. Chris has taken up my Whole 30 eating habits and even cooks meals for me with my Whole 30 cookbooks! He also switched his schedule to work out in the mornings when I do so that we have the evenings together at home. Constantly communicate with each other even if it’s in tears of frustration and exhaustion. Share with him the part of you that you have grown. Have patience not only with your spouse but also with yourself. Just because you come across a bump doesn’t mean your marriage is a mess. Enjoy your time together, enjoy being able to wrap your arms around your spouse and roll over to see them lying next to you at night.
You are all wonder women for marrying into this life and I admire each and every one of you. Our husbands constantly make sacrifices for this country but all of us spouses do as well. Sometimes, our sacrifices feel unnoticed, but know that they are not. While this is a hard lifestyle, it is also a special one. Not many get to truly understand how precious moments together are. Sending love to all of you and yours!