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Keeping Love Alive During Deployment (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 07/02/2014

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Authors Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green offer advice and encouragement to couples whose marriage faces the strains of long-term separation due to military deployment. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Gary Chapman: Military are deployed and sometimes for a long period of time.

Jim Daly: Hm.

Gary: And how do you stay connected emotionally when you’re half a world away?

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s a very good question from Dr. Gary Chapman and you’ll hear more from him and his co-author, Jocelyn Green, on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim: We talked about the five love languages in various iterations and applications, but with Veteran’s Day coming up on Sunday and Remembrance Day in Canada, we wanted honor our military families by returning to this program exploring how the love languages apply to military families. So often we get mail from listeners who are part of our armed forces and we appreciate each and every one of you and the letters and emails that you send. You’ll ask us to address some of our content toward you because you live with some very unique circumstances.

And while this program is directed toward you, there’s application for all of us that have careers that call them away from home and to extensive travel. Uh, for example, a lot of professional truck drivers listen to us too, and we appreciate you. We know you’re on the road for very long periods of time. And many other vocations call for travel on the road quite often. Uh, the things you’ll hear today will apply to you.

John: And our guests, as I said, are Dr. Gary Chapman and his co-author, Jocelyn Green. Dr. Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages, and he wanted to create a special edition for military families, which he did with Jocelyn. And we’re gonna pick up this Focus on the Family broadcast as Dr. Chapman gives a recap of the five love languages.

Body:

Gary: Well, one of ‘em is words of affirmation. It’s verbally picking out something about the person that you appreciate and just saying it. You know, “I really appreciate what you did for me,” or “You look tough today,” just whatever, you know. And you can write the words or I guess you could even sing the words, but it’s using words to communicate that you affirm the other person.

And then there’s gifts. It’s universal to give gifts as an expression of love. My academic background is anthropology. We have never discovered a culture where gift-giving is not an expression of love.

Jim: That’s really interesting. So it’s core to us as human beings? It’s something we do.

Gary: Yeah, because a gift says, “They were thinking about me. Look what they got for me.” So gifts and then there’s quality time - giving the person your undivided attention. I’m not talking about husband and wife sitting on the couch watching television together. Someone else has your attention. I’m talking about sitting on the coach with the TV off, looking at each other and talking with each other - quality time.

Physical touch - which you mentioned already. And then acts of service: doing something for the other person that you know they appreciate.

Jim: Hm.

Gary: Do you remember the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words”? For some people that’s true, not for all people. But if that’s their language, actions will speak louder than words.

Jim: Hm.

John: Well, and we have a quiz to find out what your love language is. We’ve got that over at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And as we talk about the five love languages and the military, Jocelyn, you’ve got military experience. You married into the military.

Jocelyn Green: I did.

John: And so you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, this makes a lot of sense for me and it’s been helpful.”

Jocelyn: It has been very helpful. When we were in the military, my husband was in the Coast Guard. He’s no longer active duty, but when we were, we were not familiar with the five love languages. So my stories are not, “This is how it changed our marriage when we were in military.” My stories are more along the lines of, “This is how we did things poorly and this is how we can rethink things.”

My love language is quality time and that’s hard when your husband’s at sea, three weeks, four weeks, home two weeks, gone again, back again.

Jim: Gary, let me ask that question of you, because uh, I had two questions that popped in my mind when you were talking about the love languages generally. One, is there a gender distinction? Do more women fall one direction and men another direction? Or is it gender neutral, that you know, human beings express their love language in a variety of ways?

Gary: You know, Jim, I am often asked that question and to be very honest, I don’t know.

Jim: You don’t see a pattern?

Gary: I - I’ve never done research to indicate that some of these are more female, some of are more male. The important thing is to discover your love language. I do know that a man can have any one of these five as his primary love language. And a woman can have any one of the five. So there may be some that tend more to male or female, but I haven’t really tried to figure that out.

Jim: Well, and then you look at Jocelyn’s application. I mean, I would think in the military particularly, if uh, your love language is quality time or physical touch, that’s gonna put a lot of demand on the relationship. Are there degrees of severity within the love languages then that will stress couples more than others?

Gary: I think any one of ‘em, if it’s your primary love language and you don’t receive that love language, it can be deadening emotionally...

Jim: Hm.

Gary: ...to the relationship. Because when we feel empty, when we feel, “They don’t really love me,” or “I wonder if they love me,” life begins to look pretty dark. And one of the reasons that motivated me to work with Jocelyn on writing this book is that there’s so many military couples - the divorce rate’s much higher, as you know, among military marriages. And wherever I’ve gone the last 15 years, uh, military chaplains have said to me, “You know, we use your book all the time, The 5 Love Languages, but if you could write a military edition, which speaks to the unique factors of military life, it would be really helpful to us.” And when Jocelyn and I got together and I realized she had this background and she’s a - a writer - an excellent writer...

Jim: That’s helpful.

Gary: ...and we both interviewed a lot of military couples and got the ideas that we share in this book on how to stay connected when you are deployed. These languages can be spoken. I know it may seem impossible - physical touch, quality time. It can be done and we’re sharing that in this book.

Jim: Jocelyn, I want to come back to your story, because when I read it, I was like, “Oh, my goodness, this poor girl. Uh, and what I mean by that - you lived it. You and your husband were married and two days later he’s deployed - two days after you got married. Is that right?

Jocelyn: Two days later we moved...

Jim: Okay.

Jocelyn: ...from Washington, D.C. to Alaska.

Jim: Okay, that in and of itself is big.

Jocelyn: And on our one-month anniversary, he kissed me goodbye and went to sea.

Jim: For how long?

Jocelyn: Oh, not long according to military standards. It was maybe a month or two and I had the privilege of moving our furniture into our house once it came and painting the house without him and...

Jim: How did you - I mean, again, you’re a person who uh, your heart yearns for quality time and here you are married, your dream fulfilled; you met your man.

Jocelyn: Yes.

Jim: And you know, life is going to be “fill in the blank.” You had some expectations. And then all of a sudden, you move in two days from an urban city like Washington, D.C....

Jocelyn: Mmhmm.

Jim: ...to Alaska...

Jocelyn: Right.

Jim: ...which many of us would say, that’s a great move.

(LAUGHTER)

But then to - to lose him a month later to be deployed and then to have everything kinda crash in on you, how did you feel emotionally?

Jocelyn: Well, I’d like to point out that it was not a surprise. When we do marry an active-duty military person, it’s not like we expect to have all of our time with that person. And I think all of us would say, we made the decision that we would rather have some time with this one person that we believe God has chosen for us, than to have all of our time with the wrong person.

Jim: But...

Gary: Hey, that’s true love. Hear that?

Jim: Yeah, it is true love. I’ve gotta challenge you a little bit though, because I think generally in marriage, we all go in with expectations of marriage being a certain way and it’s going to meet our needs in a certain way.

Jocelyn: Right.

Jim: And whether you’re in the military or just a civilian...

Jocelyn: Mmhmm.

Jim: ...marriage can be tough...

Jocelyn: Yes.

Jim: ...and your expectations aren’t met. So I applaud the fact that you were aware of what to expect, but underneath that and Gary mentioned it, military uh, marriages suffer a higher divorce rate...

Jocelyn: Yes.

Jim: ...than the civilian side. So something’s happening there.

Jocelyn: Well, I’ll tell you what - which of my expectations was not met. We all expect deployment to be hard. I don’t think that I had any idea that when he came back, that things would not be perfect. I think we all expect that when we have that reunion, it will feel like a honeymoon all over again. We will just pick up where we left off. But we have to learn how to be a couple again...

John: Mmhmm.

Jocelyn: ...rather than two individuals. And that’s where my expectations went unfulfilled, especially since I’m a quality time person. When he came home, I was expecting to have him to myself for a certain period of time before he went off and saw his friends. But he had spent a tour in Alaska before. He had community there. He had friends. He would come home and after being on the ship for weeks at a time, he wanted to go out and see his friends. He would invite me to come along with him, but in my mind, that does not count.

(LAUGHTER)

So that’s where some of the tension really came out.

Jim: How did you communicate that to him? How did you guys struggle through that?

Jocelyn: I probably was not very gracious about it and because we had not read The 5 Love Languages, I was not able to articulate clearly, “Hey, Hon, my love language is quality time...”

Jim: Yeah, your...

Jocelyn: “...therefore...”

Jim: ...heart was yearning for something.

Jocelyn: Yes. So what happened was I grasped after it. I wanted to spend time with him alone and he felt suffocated by that, because he did not understand. And he had a different love language, which I was not meeting.

Jim: What is his love language?

Jocelyn: Acts of service.

Jim: Oh, well, man, that’s incredible.

Jocelyn: Which you would think...

Jim: Yeah.

Jocelyn: ...for a military home front spouse, we do acts of service all the time...

Jim: Right.

Jocelyn: ...when they’re gone. We take care of the property and the home. We did not have children at that time, but that would be part of it. But somewhere in our first year of marriage, there were some things around the house that I decided was the man’s job.

(LAUGHTER)

And I did not want to do that, ‘cause I grew up watching my dad do that type of thing and by golly, I was just gonna make a list.

Jim: How did that go?

John: The list.

(LAUGHTER)

Jocelyn: Not well.

(LAUGHTER)

Not well.

Jim: The old list maker. Are you a list maker?

John: Glad you’re home.

Jocelyn: I’m a list ma - yes, exactly, John. So from his perspective, he would be on the ship and he was XO, which is second in command. So he was doing things, fixing problems all the time with no break. Come home and I would say, “So glad to see you. By the way, this is broken; can you fix it?” That did not communicate love to him.

Jim: Hm.

Jocelyn: It would’ve been better if I had just called someone, if I couldn’t figure it out myself, just call someone, and hire someone to come fix it.

Jim: Let’s test this. Is that true, John? I say amen to that.

(LAUGHTER)

Gary, Jocelyn is really putting her finger on it and again, the application here goes well beyond military marriages. The stress of it though is probably heightened in that military environment. But talk about that expectations, unmet expectations. Let’s - let’s dig into this right where Jocelyn and her husband were at, at that moment. What could they have done to uh, begin to set the path in front of them in such a way that it would help them strengthen their relationship?

Gary: Well, I think if couples understand some of the dynamics that we’re talkin’ about in this book, in terms of how do you reconnect when you come back, this is the key issue. Staying connected however, while you’re apart is a big issue, because if you can stay connected emotionally while you’re apart, then when you come back, it’s much easier to reintegrate back into the relationship. But I think recognizing what Jocelyn said, that it’s not gonna be a second honeymoon when you get back together. It’s gonna be friction. It’s gonna be some tension there. And if we simply recognize that and talk about it, this is the big thing: talk about it.

Jim: Hm.

Gary: “Honey, this is the way I felt last night when you did so and so.” You might preface it by saying, “Don’t want to hurt your feelings. I know this is all kinda new to us again. We’re gettin’ readjusted here, but last night when you did da, da, da, da, da, this is the way I felt.” It’s those kind of conversations that help you get back together, reconnect emotionally, and learn how to be a team again, because when he’s deployed, she’s running the whole show. He comes back; he’s on the team, but what role is he gonna play now?

Jim: Uh, Jocelyn, let me ask you, how many iterations of that process did you and your husband have to go through before you began to think about it? What’s...

John: Hm.

Jim: ...not working here? How many times did you give him a list and he looked at you like, “What are you doing?” I mean, I’m sure it was more than once.

Jocelyn: Um, it was more than once, but not many more. It may...

Jim: Ah, so you’re a...

Jocelyn: ...have been...

Jim: ...fast learner?

Jocelyn: I’m a fast learner. But when he looked at me and there was just a certain expression on his face, like he just looked weary. And I...

Jim: Oh.

Jocelyn: ...it clicked for me. I was able to read his face. And when I thought, “Okay, you know what? I need to forget what I grew up with in my home.”

Jim: Hm.

Jocelyn: “This is different. Military marriage is different from...”

Jim: Can...

Jocelyn: “...a civilian marriage.”

Jim: ...can you describe for me his emotional state coming off a tour when he would do his duty over weeks and months and he would get back to the home? Describe where he was at emotionally as best as you can.

Jocelyn: Well, he was not in a combat situation, so what I’m describing is not typical of many others who have these additional stressors of um, combat trauma. He was very tired. There were some search and rescue issues. There were - he was just on all the time as XO. I mean, you’re always on and so, when he comes home, he wants to relax. He certainly doesn’t want a “honey-do” list. He wants to connect with people. He wants to be able to have fun and be in his own personality, because he had to train himself to fit into the XO personality, to just be very - to carry out orders, to do the mission. That’s not naturally who he is. And so that’s a very draining thing to do.

John: Well there are so many applications of these five love languages that Dr. Gary Chapman has written about and we have him, along with his co-author, Jocelyn Green, talking specifically today on Focus on the Family about the impact of military life on a couple’s relationship. And we’ll suggest you stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast for the download or a CD and to get a copy of the book The Five Love Languages: Military Edition. You can also call us. Our number here: 800-232-6459. And by the way, we can send that to you for a donation of any amount to Focus on the Family today.

And Jim, we still have a few minutes for those in our gallery to interact with our guests. And we didn’t mention it earlier, but we have several military families observing the conversation today, and I wonder if any of them might have something on their mind that Dr. Chapman or Jocelyn might be able to help with.

Jim: All right, so do you folks have a couple of questions?

Kathryn: Hi, I’m Kathryn and um, I’ve been a military spouse for 20 years.

Jim: Oh, thank you.

Kathryn: And um, my husband’s been deployed five times. The first deployment was much different than the fifth one. We’re much better at it now. But in it, we um, I’ve become very independent and I found that I’m not very perceived as the submissive wife. And we are facing um, 11 to 23 months apart and what kind of comments could you give us on becoming the submissive wife when he doesn’t live here?

Jim: Wow. That is a heartfelt question. Thank you so much for that. Thank you for your service, your whole family’s service. Gary, boy, she’s speaking to so many people with that question...

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: ...’cause it’s just - it’s the nature of being separated. You’ve taken the bull by the horns and you’re getting’ things done and...

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: ...it just doesn’t feel like that’s my role any longer. How does a woman particularly, find her biblical position in her marriage in a good and healthy way?

Gary: Well, you know, let - let me remind you first of all that “submission” is not a female word. It’s a Christian word. The Scriptures say, “Submit yourselves one to another,” before it says, “Wives submit yourselves to your husbands, and husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Each of us has to have an attitude of submission to the other. It’s very clo - love and submission are very close.

Jim: Hm.

Gary: They’re both sacrificial. They’re both thinking about the other person. “How can I help you? What can I do to make your life easier? How can I minister to you? How can I be a better husband or a better wife?” But I think however, coming back to this specific situation, that when we are deployed and the wife is running the whole show when he’s gone, and then he comes back, it’s difficult for her to know “What would be helpful for him for me to give up, and what would be helpful to him for me to continue doing?”

Jim: Right.

Gary: It’s a matter of kinda rethinking the whole issue of “Who is going to do what in this relationship?”

Jim: Is it necessary to, I mean, this sounds very practical, but you sit down over the course of the - a week or so each evening after the kids are in bed and you actually begin to write a list of these things...

Gary: Yep.

Jim: ...and agree on who’s gonna do what. It sounds almost too perfunctory, but is that helpful?

Gary: I think it can be very helpful because it’s concrete. When you write it down, it’s concrete. And so I would suggest that you sit down individually and let him make a list of the things that he thinks that he would like to be responsible for now, and her make a list of what she thinks she would like to be responsible for. And if you think you’re gonna share them, you know, you could put the other’s person’s initials by them. “We’re both gonna buy groceries together,” or whatever, you know. And then get together and look at your list and see where you agreed and maybe where you disagreed. And where you disagreed, you talk about it and you negotiate it. And you say, “Well, for the next three months, why don’t we try it this way? You’ll do that.” And so, now you’re both on the same page in terms of who is going to do what.

This is often a point of conflict when we don’t do that. When they’re not clarified, we run into each other, because he thought she was gonna do it. She thought he was gonna do it and nobody did it.

Jim: Well, and frankly, that’s where that - the Christian communication, if I could call it that, that’s where we can misuse “submission.”

Gary: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim: And we begin to bludgeon each other with it and that’s not what the Lord intends with that at all, like you said. Jocelyn, you lived it, so speak from that experience.

Jocelyn: Sure, well, I would say it is very difficult to come across as a submissive wife when you are doing everything while your husband is not there. I think it really does come down to your attitude. For instance, if you know that your husband does not want you spending a certain amount of money, if you’ve got a budget, respect that and don’t go beyond it. That’s just one example.

Um, other people might look at a military wife’s lifestyle and say, “That’s not a submissive wife.” Well, it looks different in a military marriage. Um, you might, before a deployment, find out from your husband, “What are the things that you just would like me to handle in your absence?” Because I don’t think that a deployed spouse really wants the wife to come to him and say, “What do you want me to do about this? What should I do about this? What do you want me to do about this?” I mean, there are other things on his mind. So if you come to him, if you have a conversation before he leaves and say, “What do I - what should I just do in my best judgment, knowing what I know about your values and your principles and where you stand on this?” And, “What should I really bring before your attention?” And just hash this out and I think a lot of it comes down to attitude. And frankly, some people are gonna look at a military wife and say, “That’s not submissive.” But oh, well.

Jim: Yeah, just take it.

Jocelyn: Just “oh well.”

Jim: Let me ask you this, because in her question particularly, what I heard was that almost um, fear that he’s being deployed for a year, maybe even almost two years at a time. I would think that fear is appropriate, that even if you do a good job of hashing this out, you know, you’re together for a few months maybe and then he’s gone again. And it would create in you a guardedness that could be unhealthy and natural, because you know, “I’ve been doing it and I give all of this back to you and then you’re gone. I feel abandonment.”

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: How do you manage that expectation of loss again?

Gary: I think that’s why it’s important uh, once you’re getting ready for another deployment, to sit down again and talk about just what Jocelyn said. You know, “Okay, now are we gonna handle it this time? You know, what do you want me to do on my own? And what do you want me to bring to you, to your attention?” You know.

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: If you’re gonna buy a new car or a new house, I think you should bring it to his attention, you know. But there’s a whole lot of other things that have to be done that she will do exactly what she did last deployment. Or maybe there’ll be a few changes. So you’re always tweaking it, so that both of you feel comfortable about what we’re doing.

Jim: Hm. We’ve talked a lot, Gary, about the five love languages, which the Lord uh, really gave to you many years ago and the way that it’s been applied here specifically with the military. I hope military families are listening. And I hope they’ll get a copy and I would love to offer the book for any donation, John. If someone, you know, if it’s just a dollar to cover the postage, that’s great. And uh, we want to make that available to people, so that it would help them to cope with their environment. And thank you so much for being with us and for encouraging our military in this way. Thank you.

Gary: Thank you, Jim.

Jocelyn: You’re welcome.

Closing:

John: And we’re gonna pause this conversation right there. This has been a great discussion with Dr. Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green on Focus on the Family, and there’s a lot more to come tomorrow.

Jim: John, I love how Dr. Chapman and Jocelyn Green applied The Five Love Languages to military life. And as we said at the top of the program today, it really applies to any vocation that takes you out of the home for an extended period of time. Distance can take its toll on family relationships.

John: Mmhmm. Yeah, and that’s why Focus on the Family is here. We wanna give you the tools and the resources to really make sure your family relationships thrive.

Jim: Yeah, we have articles on our website. We have an online store to order resources on a variety of topics that affect the family. We have a team of caring Christian counselors who will listen to you, pray with you, and give you direction as you’re dealing with these difficult situations.

And for marriages that are in trouble, maybe even on the brink of divorce, we have our Hope Restored marriage intensives. These programs are all-inclusive extended periods of counseling over, typically four days or so. This intensive approach allows our team of marriage counselors to work with you to get to the root of the problem and provide answers and a better pathway to deal with conflict. The success rate is outstanding. We do a post-two-year follow-up with the couples who attend, and four out of five of the couples are still going strong and report a better marriage than before. We’re really excited about what God is doing through Hope Restored.

John: Yeah, and Jim, we hear from listeners all the time, whose lives have been changed by these broadcasts. Another great tool that we’ve had for 41 plus years now. In fact, one listener told us: “Many years ago in 1977, when Focus on the Family made its debut, my marriage was in serious trouble. We were on the steps of divorce court. While taking my children to school one day, I discovered the Focus radio broadcast, and every day seemed to speak to me personally. I started reading the Bible more and started applying it to my life. And God turned our lives and our marriage around, and I’m happy to report that today we’re celebrating 47 years of marriage and have been able to use our experience to lead many other couples to hope in Jesus and help through the Focus ministry. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Jim: I love hearing stories like that one. It means so much to all of us who work here. And I hope it touches your heart too because this ministry wouldn’t exist without you. Focus on the Family is listener supported and we need your partnership. Help us help families like the one we just heard from, and like yours. When you pledge a monthly gift, you allow us to plan and budget for programs that will reach families with Biblical truth and answers for their very difficult situations just like what we’ve talked about on today’s program on keeping love alive during deployment. When you make a monthly pledge today, we’ll send you a copy of The Five Love Languages: Military Edition: The Secret to Love that Lasts as our way of saying thank you for contributing to the ministry and supporting the family. And if you can’t commit to a monthly amount, we’ll send it to you for a one-time gift too.

John: Donate today and learn more about our counseling team and Hope Restored and get your copy of The Five Love Languages: Military Edition at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we continue the conversation next time, hearing more from Dr. Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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More Episode Resources

Guest

Gary Chapman

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Dr. Gary Chapman is the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He's also an international public speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages which has sold more than five million copies and has been translated into nearly 40 languages. Dr. Chapman holds several academic degrees including a Ph.D. in adult education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Guest

Jocelyn Green

View Bio
Jocelyn Green is an award-winning, best-selling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the King, Wedded to War, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she co-authored with best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and have been honored with the Christy Award, the gold medal from the Military Writers Society of America, and the Golden Scroll Award from the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association. Jocelyn lives with her husband, Rob, and two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Learn more about Jocelyn at her website, jocelyngreen.com.