Welcome to Amanda, a veteran, military spouse, and blogger, who is writing today’s post from a unique perspective.
Mil to mil life isn’t easy. With the Temporary Duty (TDY), deployment, exercises, long hours and working to actually live in the same location it can be hard to stay connected. My husband and I lived the dual military life for just over six years. And then there was the whole year when he was active duty and I was planning our wedding and finishing college.
Through the years that we were both in the military, we experienced many times apart. But we learned a few tools to help us prioritize our relationship. And since he is still active duty and we face times of being apart I can still use these tips today.
1. Communication Is So Important
My husband and I talk a lot. And I didn’t really realize that it wasn’t normal how intimately involved in each other’s lives we were. But then I remembered that when I was deployed not only did we Skype two to three times a week, we also had a rare phone call, emails back and forth, and even snail mail letters. I sent him letters; he sent me care packages full of random things from the US. We kind of go full throttle on the communication piece, but it helps us stay connected to each other even now years later.
2. Check In
My husband is my sounding board, my go to–someone I know I can confide in and he won’t tell anyone. We made a rule early in our marriage that if we wanted to spend more than $100 we would check in with each other. Although we both had jobs and could easily spend our money how we wanted, this was a good way to stay connected and on the same page. I use this philosophy for all big decisions. I need to check in with my hubby to see if he is okay with it.
3. Make Choices Together
The choices you make for your career will affect your spouse’s career. My husband and I decided to both apply to school hoping that we would get in. In the end it didn’t work out like we planned. We knew the risk when we made the choice to apply. If you are on the same page when you make choices then it is easier to accept things that may happen because of those choices.
4. Enjoy Life Together
We tried to do one big trip every year. When I was deployed it was New Zealand, then Hawaii, then Norway. We got to travel to some pretty cool places and we loved spending time together. We still travel a lot, but with kids everything changes (so far, no big trips unless you count Disney World).
5. Celebrate When You Can
The first few years we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary on the day it happened. One year, the base planned a huge exercise and I was out sleeping in a tent. Another year he was gone for training. So, we just celebrate the anniversary, birthday, or special occasion when we are together. The actual day doesn’t matter. Just focus on the time you do have together and try not to get hung up on the dates.
6. Get Connected With Friends
I would say my husband is my best friend, but he certainly isn’t my only friend. Having a network outside your spouse is so important. Obviously you need to take time to prioritize your relationship, but what do you do when you end up alone on your birthday, again? Celebrate with friends. It is healthy to have a good solid support system outside of just your spouse.
7. Talk About Things Besides Work
It is funny that I said earlier that I know a lot about my husband. I really have no clue what he does at work. We made a point to not talk about Air Force stuff when we were home. And six years makes habits stick. I sometimes feel like the worst spouse on the planet, but I also don’t really care that much about what he does at work each day.
8. One Person May Have to Sacrifice More
When my husband got into school when I didn’t, I could have been resentful. Instead, I choose to be excited for the opportunity he got. At the time, I thought it meant the end of my military career, but instead I was able to get assigned with him. If you allow bitterness to creep in when you make a sacrifice for your spouse, it can cause a wedge between you. Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader and hopefully they are yours, too.
9. Having Kids Will Make Things More Complicated
Dual military life was hard without kids. Adding kids to the mix makes the complication factor go up. It isn’t impossible by any means, but it does require a lot of work and adjustments here and there. Part of the reason I separated was my career field’s high op deployment tempo and never actually moving to the same assignment at the same time: inconvenient without kids, but a whole lot more difficult with kids.
10. Pick the Same Career Field as Your Spouse
This is the advice I wish I had as a young cadet. Most of the dual military couples I have met that are doing it for the long haul are in the same career field or they have extra help. Saying goodbye to the military was really hard for me, and I sometimes wonder if I would have stayed in the military longer or if it would have been easier if we both had the same career field. The career fields in the Air Force are getting narrower and it is often hard to find jobs for both career fields at the same base.
Did I miss anything? How do you stay connected with your spouse?
The military has programs to help military members stay together, but it doesn’t mean that it is easy or that it doesn’t require a lot of sacrifice. We always weighed the pros and cons of mil to mil life and took it day by day. That’s all you really can do.
Amanda is military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. Which currently has them stationed in Southern California, living the dream and making frequent trips to Disneyland. Her blog Airman to Mom incorporates stories from her past military life and how she views life through her unique life experiences of both a veteran and military spouse. You can check out more about Amanda on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.