The other day my husband and I were talking about his past deployments and it occurred to me that it has been awhile since he has been on one (thank you grad school). Typically, during this time of year, he would either be on, coming home from, or preparing for a deployment. I am so grateful to have him home, but I will admit it is a little weird not to think about or to be mentally preparing myself for a deployment.
I am no expert on this topic. In fact, I was really bad at surviving deployments for the first year of dating but then it just came a normal part of our relationship. In the three years of dating we went through probably 5ish deployments and I know in the future this may be the norm again. Some deployments were long and some short. Some we could text and call. Others we could only email every couple of days.
Deployments suck. It never gets easy saying goodbye to someone you love but it does get easier coping with them.
You will have good days and you will have bad days. And that’s ok. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made early on was telling people I was fine when I wasn’t. There were plenty of times where I wished Marek was with me, but I never said anything because I didn’t want to be perceived as weak or unable to handle this lifestyle.
I think the turning point for me was when Marek and I sat down and had a talk about deployments. We then came up with a plan of ways to make them easier for both of us. Obviously, there were times were the plan had to change but that is just #militarylife for you.
These are some things that worked for us and I hope they work for you too!
Pray together – Praying together has always been a big part of our relationship. When we would face deployments that is one of the things I missed. We obviously prayed for each other separately but not together. We usually were only able to text or email for a little bit each night. And when we could talk on the phone, we mostly were catching up about what had been going on in each of our lives. About two years into dating I was talking to a mentor from college about this challenge of praying together while he was deployed. She had a great idea. She suggested we both set our alarms for the same time and when they went off, we both would stop and pray for each other. I loved this idea and so did Marek. It was something we started to do right away and continued to do on every deployment after that. It was so cool to think that he was praying for me even though he was far away and most likely in a different time zone. It definitely strengthened our connection during deployments.
Keep a journal – The first time Marek deployed I bought a journal and wrote letters to him everyday that he was gone. During that deployment we were only able to text every couple of days and I think we talked on the phone twice. When he came home, I gave him the journal and he loved it. It was an easy and simple way to show him what I was up to while he was gone. He recently told me that journal is his favorite gift that I ever gave him. He still occasionally reads it. It was helpful for me because I felt like I was having a conversation with him every night.
Create goals for yourself – This was something we did on some of the last deployments. Before he left we both sat down and created three goals for ourselves. For example, one of mine was to read three books by the time he came back. Every week of deployment we would check in with each other and see how we were doing with the goals. This is a great one because it helps keep you busy and gives you something to talk about when you can talk.
Care packages – I know this one seems kind of obvious, but it does make a difference. I wasn’t able to actually send him care packages so I made them up a head of time and put the date he could open them on the box. It was so much fun. I created different theme ones and also included some of his favorite items that I knew he was missing. He made care packages for me too. He made them up before he left and had one of his friends ship them to be on certain days. It was so fun to come from a long day of work and see I had a package and note from him.
Email everyday – This is one I learned on our last deployment. We could only email on that one. So, I would send Marek an email and then not email him again until he emailed me back. I didn’t want to be annoying and bother him, so I waited for him. When he was in port one day and able to call me, he asked me if I could email him everyday even if he doesn’t respond. He explained to me that some days he only had time to look but not respond. He said he missed not seeing something from me in his inbox at the end of a long days. He said it helped him feel connected to what was going on at home even when he was away. So, I emailed him everyday and it helped me too because I felt like I was having a conversation with him.
Deployments are hard but one of the best feelings in the world is getting to hug and kiss your person for the first time in months and you realize that all those bad days were worth it.