The military eases the lives of service members and their families in some very significant ways. Paychecks are regular. Benefits, such as healthcare and legal assistance, are unparalleled in the civilian world. And, in a time of economic uncertainty, the job security provided by the armed forces is a true blessing.
But every positive aspect of military life is matched by at least one negative, especially for married service members and their families. Military and civilian marriages face the same marriage-stressors and marriage-killers, but the challenges faced by military marriages are both compounded and additional.
Stressor: Frequent separation
Fight Back: Military life often means a substantial amount of time apart, especially during the early years of a career. Make the most of the time you do have by completing chores, running errands and studying together. Balance "couple time" with a healthy amount of "me time" and you've got a recipe for a realistically smooth relationship while you're together and a foundation for a solid relationship while you're apart.
Stressor: Difficulty communicating
Fight Back: The task of keeping in touch while deployed can be extremely daunting. When you can't communicate via computer or phone, write letters to your spouse. The steady flow of mail alone is very reassuring. Be sure to pray, asking God to let your spouse know he or she is loved and cared about when you can't communicate the message personally.
Stressor: Frequent moves
Fight Back: If this is your first move (or if your last move didn't go so smoothly) find a moving mentor, perhaps a couple from the chapel at your military installation who's "been there, done that" several times. Over desserts or at a BBQ, discuss the best way to approach the move and how to troubleshoot stressful situations. Search the Internet for tourist sites, local attractions and shops you'd like to explore as a couple during your first free weekend in your new location.
Stressor: Long work hours
Fight Back: Service members are often required to work late, train in the field during odd/extended hours or take work home – all of which hinder family time. When possible, build flexibility into your personal plans. If your husband returns from work early, reschedule your shopping trip in favor of time together. Or, take him with you. If he's pulling late-night duty and visitors are allowed, stop by with his favorite snack or soda and a quick kiss.
Fight Back: Being honest with your spouse in the little matters makes honesty in major matters easier. "Fudging" or telling "white lies" only builds a foundation of dishonesty. Did you slightly overspend your monthly budget or ding your husband's truck while he's away? Fess up; you might find his reaction to be better than anticipated. Regardless, you're investing in your relationship by building trust.
Fight Back: Both spouses will be tempted during time apart, be it with an emotional affair, physical affair or pornography. Have a plan of action: Memorize a temptation-fighting Bible verse, recruit a readily available accountability partner and install filtering software on your computer. Shy away from excessively sensual movies and romance novels that will only tease you with what you can't have at the moment. Entertaining romantic thoughts is extremely healthy for a marriage as long as those thoughts are about your spouse.
Killer: Excessive emotional spending
Fight Back: It's easy to use spending as an emotional band-aide, especially while your service member is away. Budgeting for a reasonably priced "splurge" now and then will prevent you from blowing your budget with impulse buys. If you're planning to order new checks, customize them with pictures of your spouse or family as a reminder to keep their financial well-being in mind. Emotional spending is the source of temporary warm and fuzzy feelings, but money is one of the top causes of marital discord.