John Fuller: When military life means living apart from your spouse for months at a time, how can you possibly keep that marriage healthy?
Jocelyn Green: 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 had to learn how to be a couple again- rather than two individuals.
End of Excerpt
John: That’s Jocelyn Green from our last Focus on the Family broadcast with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and Jocelyn lived the military life for a number of years while her husband served as an XO, an executive officer, in the coast guard. And uh, Jim even when couples do their best to maintain a relationship when they’re separated, it sounds like the reunification process can be kinda tricky.
Jim Daly: Uh, yeah I think it could be if you think about the deployment. Especially with the wars that we’ve been fighting these last many years. And uh, I was really intrigued by what Jocelyn shared with us last time, and I’m interested in where she’s gonna take us today. Also joining us is Dr. Gary Chapman, uh he’s the author of the best- selling, The 5 Love Languages series. Uh, and together, Gary and Jocelyn have uh researched and written The 5 Love Languages: Military Edition, which addresses the unique aspects of deployment and reunification, what we’re talkin about today and last time. Um, how do you show love to someone who isn’t physically there? Many of us don’t even have to deal with that question. That’s where we’re headed today, and I wanna say thank you to both of you for being back with us.
Jocelyn: Thanks for having us back again.
Gary Chapman: Yeah, we’re glad to be here.
Jim: Well let’s uh, get back into it uh, Gary I’m wondering if generally speaking, there are a lot of uh friction points- I guess- when a-a spouse comes back from home deployment um, the daily routine that a spouse has, you know? You’re gettin the kids off to school, or making their lunches and doing what needs to be done and handling the discipline and makin sure they’re gettin their rooms clean.
All that daily routine, and then all of a sudden the spouse comes back after being gone for maybe six months, nine months and uh, where do they fit in? Everything’s seemingly running pretty smoothly. Um, talk to us about that dynamic and maybe you know, you think of these particularly men in a combat position where they’re coming back from some very traumatic environments. What’s that like?
Gary: I think most of us do not realize the stress under which military couples live. You know, I sat around the table with the wives of 20 Navy seals and I said, “Tell me what it’s like.” And one of those ladies said, “I know this is crazy, but every time I hear a door slam outside my house when my husband’s deployed, I listen to see if there’ll be a second door slamming, because I know if there’s been a casualty, two people will come to my door.”
Gary: Those of us who have a civilian life don’t live under that kind of stress, the awareness when your husband’s deployed, particularly if he’s in, you know, harm’s way, that that possibility’s there. Another lady said, “You know, I know this is crazy, but sometimes I lie in bed and plan my husband’s funeral.” So, I think, you know, the emotion that military couples live under and that’s why I, I say to those of us who are civilians, pray for the military, not only for their safety, but pray for their marriages and for their families, because it is stressful and particularly when there’s deployment.
Jim: Well, it’s a terrific reminder to do that and we should be doing that. Uh Jocelyn, I want to come back again to your situation. Uh, give us some of the practical advice. What did you and your husband do once you realized, here we are. We’re um … stuck in this expectation mode. What did you begin to do, even though you had not read The 5 Love Languages? Talk about how that began to play into your relationship when you became aware of ‘em. What things did you do just out of your natural heart—
Jim: -to try to remedy this?
Jocelyn: We had to make adjustments to the ways in which we expressed and received love. I knew that I wanted quality time, quality conversations with Rob. So, one of the things that I tried to do in the beginning, was I had a blank journal and I - I wrote in it while he was gone. Uh, I wrote letters to him. I wrote what was going on. And when he came home, he could read it and then, I would like … I would’ve liked for him to take it with him and write in it back to me. But he was the XO and that was really not realistic.
Jocelyn: So …
Jim: -he’s just workin’ so hard.
Jocelyn: He’s working so hard. And he does not have time to write in a blank journal. I mean, come on. So, I had to adjust that expectation. I don’t know what happened to that journal. It’s probably still 99 percent blank to this day. Um … e-mail was good for us, because we could just be intentional about having those conversations when it was convenient for both of us. We did try some phone calls, but those were ss- worse than not having had the phone call at all for me.
Jim: In what way.
Jocelyn: The quality was so poor. There was a delay. There were also echoes, like ship echoes and-
Jocelyn: -people behind him. He was also still an XO-
Jocelyn: -at that moment. He was still in what I call “work mode.” And so, his - his words to me were very terse and short and to the point. It just didn’t feel very good.
Jocelyn: And so, we made the decision to just skip phone calls altogether because when I had the phone call, I thought now I’m gonna feel good, ‘cause now I’m connecting with him.
Jocelyn: And I didn’t feel good.
Jocelyn: I felt worse. So, I am not suggesting that people stop talking to your deployed spouse. I’m not suggesting that at all, but for me, it was better to just do it through e-mail, where we could be intentional with our words and do it when we felt like talking to each other.
Jim: Right. And … and that’s part of it, I would think, Gary, is identify how your communication styles fit with your love languages and see the best fit there.
Gary: Yeah and you know, ways of spending quality time when you are deployed are really important, particularly if one of you has that as your primary language. And yes, I think e-mails today can certain help. You know, we didn’t have that in World War II when my father was in the Navy. He wrote a letter to my mother whenever he could, my mother wrote a letter to him every day.
Gary: Sometimes he got them three weeks all bundled together. You know, he was on a ship. Uh … but that was about all we had in those days. But now we do have e-mails. We do have Internet and it is a way of spending quality time even when you’re deployed.
Jim: I would think that’s one of the greatest things that you struggle with, because in your case, Jocelyn, your husband’s out to sea.
Jim: Uh … you’re not out there. You don’t have the experience. You can’t talk about the beautiful sunrise that you saw over the Philippines or something like that.
Jim: You’re distant from that. So, finding some common ground to--
Jim: -really be able to communicate. In fact, there was an example of someone who used photos to communicate. They would take I think 10 pictures a day and send them to their spouse and they would talk about the pictures and what were, you know, kids were in ‘em, etc. Um, what are some clever ways that you can create that environment?
Jocelyn: Well, you can certainly do it with photos. You can do what Gary mentioned, go online and read an article. If you have a book, an e-book or a - a print book. You can read a chapter in that and discuss it. These are all things that are really helpful, because so many times the deployed spouse does not want to talk about what he or she has been doing during the day
John: Yeah, they’ve been in work mode so long.
Jocelyn: Right, or they’ve seen some things and they don’t want to share it with their spouse or they just need a break from that. And when I was the home front spouse, I felt like my life was a little on the dull side. And I did not want to spend all of our talking time with me saying, “Well, the washing machine broke and the dog is not doing well with his house training.” So, to have something else to talk about and to really go a little deeper is very helpful.
Jim: You know, we kinda smile at that, but you’re describing marriage. (Laughter) I mean, really, it, it’s true.
Jim: And Gary, I want to ask you, because a lot of us just went, wow, that’s what our relationship, we’re not in the military, but that’s what our relationship is. My husband gets home from work and that’s what our conversation is. Speak to all of us in that regard. How do we ensure that our communication isn’t that simple, that it is just so perfunctory now, it’s did you mow the lawn? Yeah, I did. And that’s basically where you’re at. What’s for dinner? Meat loaf again and that’s where … you know, that’s kinda where the rela- what do we need to do to ensure that we keep it um … God-honoring?
Gary: You know, Jim, one of the things I’ve suggested for years to couples is that you share a book together.
Gary: Each of you read the same chapter and on Friday night or Saturday, you spend a few minutes talking about what I learned out of this chapter. It brings in new ideas to each of you, but you’re both responding to the same ideas. And you both are gonna learn something different. Each of you will learn something different. But it gives you a topic to discuss with each other that you probably would not come up with on your own. If you read a book that has 10 chapters, you read a chapter a week, at the end of 10 weeks, the communication level in your relationship is gonna be greatly enhanced. If you didn’t read a book and you just discussed meat loaf (Laughter), the relationship is gonna be right where it was 10--
Gary: -weeks ago.
Jim: -it, it’ll be highly separate and that’s what so many of our relationships exhibit today. And again, whether it’s civilian or military, it’s accentuated in the military environment. Let me, let me ask this question. I mean, here at Focus on the Family, we’re all about marriage. We want to see marriages thrive, particularly in the Christian community. And I think as we look at where the world’s headed with more and more spiritual conflict, the ability for us to show what healthy, loving marriage looks like will actually be a great appeal to the unbeliever, because I think they’re gonna find less and less satisfaction in those relationships. Now that’s a bold and broad statement, but I think that could be a potential point of reaching people for Christ. Um, in the military again, is that applicable in Christian marriages in the military? Jocelyn, you lived it.
Jocelyn: Yes, definitely, definitely. And I think um, as we’re talking about quality time and how to do that and how it’s so difficult when there are deployments and separations that get in the way, another creative way to overcome that is to think about what activity your spouse might enjoy doing with you when he or she returns. If your spouse enjoys golf, take a few golf lessons. Give it …
Jim: What love language is that one? I, I, that’s my love language. (Laughter)
Jocelyn: Golf? Well, that could be quality time for one. If I were to take golf lessons, assuming my husband enjoys golf, which he doesn’t, um … that would be an act of service.
Jim: That would be.
Jocelyn: -wouldn’t it?
John: Hm … yes.
Jocelyn: But, and something that I did when he was apart, I knew that he really enjoyed volunteering at the nursing home. So, I did that in his absence-
Jocelyn: -and so, then when he got home, we were able to volunteer at the nursing home together. We played Scrabble with the residents. We did karaoke with them. Not my thing. I’m an introvert. Maybe that was an act of service. But we were together and we were doing something that we felt was valuable.
Jim: Uh Gary, we talked about physical touch and Troy, my youngest being that, that kinda guy. And I see it. I see it so obviously. This has to be of the five love languages, I would think physical touch, just by its very nature when a spouse is deployed, it can’t happen. Um, how do they feed that primary love language of physical touch?
Gary: You would think it would be impossible, right?
Gary: But it’s very interesting the things that we heard that couples have discovered. For example, one lady said to me, “My husband’s language is physical touch.” He was deployed. “I put my hand on a sheet of paper and I traced my hand and I mailed it to him with a note that said, ‘Put your hand on my hand. I want to hold your hand.’” And he told me later, “Dr. Chapman, when I put my hand on that paper, I felt her. I felt her.”
Gary: It’s not literal touch; it’s emotional touch and that’s what we’re talkin’ about. Another husband said, uh … “My wife’s language is physical touch, so when I got ready to deploy, I said to her, ‘I’m gonna leave this jean jacket here in the closet. And when you want a hug, you put it on and I’ll hug you.
Jim: Oh, man.
Gary: And she said, “Every time I put it on, I felt his arms around me.” So, even if physical touch is your language, you can touch emotionally even when you’re deployed.
Jim: And that’s what’s happening. It’s something in the heart. It’s not-
Gary: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: -the act of, it’s what you’re experiencing in your heart and in your emotions.
Jim: That’s beautiful.
Gary: And we talked about such things as, another example was, a lady said, “I cut, when I cut my hair, instead of throwing it away, I put it in an envelope and I mailed it to him.”
Jim: Is that right? (Laughter)
Gary: “So, he’s touching a part of me.”
Jim: Man, it shows you the extent at which people miss each other. I mean, and that’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a difficult thing. Um … do you remember any particular moment, Jocelyn, when your husband was out and at sea and it was months and you were missing him?
Jocelyn: Oh, yes. I remember a very dark bleak day in November. Um, it may have been my birthday-
Jocelyn: -and I really wanted him to tell me happy birthday and he didn’t have a chance to. I found out later that he had sent an e-mail, but because the ship didn’t have Internet connection where they were at the time, it got sent to me later. But I do remember. And of course, my bleak feelings were accentuated by the darkness of Alaska. So, we have to be aware of our surroundings. We have to make sure that we’re plugged in to community and, and I also had to give myself permission to just say, “This is a bad day. It’s one bad day.” It does not mean that our marriage is in trouble. It does not mean I’m slipping into depression, because I had been depressed years earlier and I was always afraid that that was gonna come back to haunt me. Um, but yes I remember that. But I do remember that there was an end to that day and that we can do things to get out of that.
Jim: It, um I appreciate that disclosure. I really do, because I think it helps a lot of us connect to the world you lived in at the time. Um, this is very thoughtful and very self-aware. Um, speak to the person that may not have that level of self-awareness. They’re in the military right now. Their spouse has been deployed. They’re over that edge of depression. They’re in it. What would you suggest some tools that they could use to get back to a healthy place?
Jocelyn: Well, the first thing is to be in community with other people. As I mentioned before, isolation breeds depression. So, even though the last thing you want is to be around other people, you have to do that. But-
Jim: Force yourself.
Jocelyn: Force yourself, but make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are healthy people, that will speak truth to you and love you. I’d also encourage you to write down all the thoughts that you’re having and take them captive to Christ. Which means, look at them and say, does this line up with Scripture? If it does not, throw it out. Now previously, I had gotten to a point where I needed more help than just praying harder, just going to church more. You know what I mean? I needed some counseling and some outside help and I got it. And I- the Lord healed me through that. But the biggest factor, the biggest aspect of my healing came from godly community.
Jim: Godly community.
Jim: That’s wonderfully said and that’s when it’s functioning in a healthy way-
Jim: -and working. I mean, that’s a beautiful picture that you paint. Um, as you did all the interviewing, what is something that jumps out to each of you that you heard with the military families that you interviewed?
Gary: I think one of the things that really stood out to me was the day I spent with those wives of those 20 Navy seals and just listening to them talk about what it was like to live with a husband who was in harm’s way and often they didn’t even know where they were or what was going on in their lives and listening to the pain and the hurt and seeing the faces of them. And yet, seeing the positive spirit that almost all of them had, that we’re here because this is our calling. This is our husband’s calling and we’re with him and, and they were committed to it. That just stands out emotionally in my mind, as the day I spent with them.
Jim: Uh, Jocelyn, I want to come and ask you that question as well. What stuck out in the research with the various couples?
Jocelyn: What really stood out to me was how hard some of these couples are working at keeping their marital connection alive, that emotional connection. So often in our culture, we have this certain idea of romance being the definition of love, with the roses and the chocolates and poetry. But when I hear from a couple where one of them has severe PTSD and I hear what they’re doing to overcome it, it really touches my heart.
For instance, an Army chaplain came home with PTSD, and his wife’s love language um, one of them is quality time. So they decided instead of having date night, they would have date day. They would go out for lunch, because there are more crowds in restaurants at night and that is not a good thing. It will be more likely to trigger-
Jocelyn: -someone with combat trauma. So they’re working at it that way. And this gentleman with PTSD knows that he wants to get something for his wife for Mother’s Day. And he’s got two little boys. And for him to take his two sons to the mall when everybody else is out there shopping for Mother’s Day gifts, that was a huge act of service for him to do that. And when she was able to get gifts from her husband and two sons on Mother’s Day and know what that put him through, to go into those crowds at his degree of PTSD, that is true love. That is a better picture of romance than anything you’ll see in Hollywood.
Jim: Well, and what’s so hard for us that have never been through that is to understand it. But you’ve described it so well. I mean that um, touches my heart, that a man would have to go through that, just to say I love you-
Jim: - to his wife. I mean, that’s, that’s what we don’t understand when you don’t go through it as a military serviceman.
Jocelyn: And he could’ve said, “You know I love you, Honey. It’s just too hard for me to go out there.” But he chose to speak her love language and I’m sure that that spoke to her for days, weeks, maybe longer.
John: Well that’s beautiful, Jocelyn, and I’m sure that those in our gallery outside of the studios here today who have served a tour of duty or two or multiple tours, can relate with that story. In fact, Jim as we did last time, we’re gonna open up for some questions from the military families who are here and have been listening in to the conversation. And they’ve each received a copy of The 5 Love Languages- Military Edition, and so after looking at that a little bit perhaps and listening along, I wonder if they have any questions.
Jim: Anyone have an example of where you reunified and there was some emotional tension in all of that, maybe beyond the chore list, but as your spouse and you reunified, there was tension? We have one couple kind of debating here I think.
Joe: Good morning, uh, my name’s Joe. I’m an active duty officer. Uh, we just recently redeployed in October from a deployment. And because of some uh, reorganization within the Army, we’re deploying again possibly next year.
Joe: Um, and the problem we see is, that not the deployment, because me and my wife have kind of, we have our systems in place. We know uh, how we’re gonna handle things. It’s coming back, having uh, the fifth baby due in July and a training tempo, which means I’m gone two to three weeks a month, from January into December and then uh, a deployment again.
So, really I guess what it, my question would be is, how do we identify that it’s not just the deployment, but the, the time in between where we- you anticipate, okay, I’m gonna have all this time home. And then you get home and don’t.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a great question, great question.
Joe: So much a question as it is a comment
Jim: That’s something most of us would not think about um, the fact that you’ve got those commitments to the military when you’re home-
Jim: -and in that case, I mean, to be training two to three weeks a month, to be gone when you’re home. That’s not really feelin’ like you’re home.
Gary: Yeah. He’s still working full time when he’s at home, is the point he’s making. And for some, when that work requires him to be gone for two or three weeks a month while they’re home, it does pose another dynamic. Uh, I think it’s similar to what others would do who are working full-time, as well, and that is that we have to decide how we can speak each other’s language sufficiently, so that we both feel loved, even though his job is very demanding right now, even though he’s at home. And also with a new baby coming, that may mean talking about how can we get some relief when I’m not here for you, so that you’re not 24/7, you know, for a month at a time? Whom could we bring in that might help us with this? And this is where community becomes important because if you’re connected to a, a church community or a chapel community, sometimes they provide or help provide childcare for example, so a mother can have some free time to breathe, you know, and not sense that responsibility. So, I think working out all those dynamics uh, become really really important. But I think they can be worked out so that we both feel loved, even though it’s a stressful time and we don’t have much time together, we are speaking each other’s language. We’re staying connected and we’re figuring out how others may help us in this process.
Jim: And Gary, let me ask you this question uh, because you’re connected to your church there, Winston Salem, what can we do in a particular church to reach out to the military service men and women to help them?
Gary: Yeah, I think churches that are near military bases, many of them are doing wonderful things. Some of them are providing childcare, for example, a night a week in which they will have, you can bring your children to the church and leave them and you can go shopping or do whatever you want to do
Jim: That’s a great idea.
Gary: That’s a great help to those people. I think also, when there is sickness, many of those churches are moving in with meals, to help, help them even if the husband’s at home; they’re moving in to help with meals, which is always helpful. Uh, I think also, many churches are asking the spouse at home, you know, what can we do to help you? Or if you have problems with the washing machine or whatever, you know, here are some men in our church who are willing to help with that sort of thing, so that you don’t have to have the expense of calling in a professional to do it. So, I think those are the kind of things that churches that are near military bases can do. Now a lot of churches like mine, we’re not near a military base. But I think being aware and having a list, as it were of all the people in your church who are in the military and keeping up with these people, sending letters to them, having individuals in the church who are sending them gifts from time to time, particularly you know, homemade cookies and that sort of thing, or whatever else is needed. We have a group in our church, for example, that make cards that they send to the chaplains to be distributed to, to guys that he’s working with. So, those are the kind of things that I think churches can do.
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. Thank you so much for bein’ with us and for encouraging our military in this way. Thank you.
Gary: Thanks Jim, always good to be with you.
Jocelyn: Thank you for having us.
John: It really has been our pleasure, and it’s been time well spent the past couple of days. I think all of us have a greater appreciation after this for the unique circumstances and challenges that married couples in the military face. And I’d like to remind you as a listener, that Focus on the Family is here for you. Um, we’re listener supported, we’re grateful for your prayers and your financial support. Your pledge of a monthly donation allows us to plan and budget for programming to reach families with truths and answers for their difficult situations and everyday questions, and I’d like to encourage you to donate to the ministry today. It’s very easy, and uh you can do so at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And, if you can make a monthly pledge of any amount today, we’ll say thanks by sending a complimentary copy of Dr. Chapman and Jocelyn Green’s book, The 5 Love Languages: Military Edition. And uh, perhaps you’re not in the spot to commit to a monthly amount, well that’s okay. Make a one- time gift of any amount, and we’ll say thanks by sending that book to you as well. Trusting you have a wonderful weekend, and that you can join us on Monday to hear from Pastor Ted Cunningham, he’s got some fun encouragement for every marriage, even if you’re not a perfect match.
Ted Cunningham: Here’s the bottom line, you will never find compatibility. You’ll never discover it. There’s not an algorithm in the world that can put you with someone compatible. Compatibility is something you choose. It’s something you create.
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Gary ChapmanView Bio
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.