“SO” as in Significant Other.
In January 2010, my boyfriend deployed for a year-long tour in Afghanistan.
In one week, he will be home. Granted he will be in Tennessee instead of Colorado because that is where his home station is in the US, but am flying out to see him in a week. I saw him once (for 12 days) in the whole last year when he had his R&R and I flew to Thailand to meet him for a wonderful vacation.
I thought, in light of reflecting on this last year that he has been gone, that I would make some points about dealing with your SO’s deployment
B and I stayed really close during this hard year. I know every relationship is different, but I want people to know these things. I feel like in the general military community, there isn’t much focus on SO’s and/or the wrong ideas are put out there.
These are things that I did right during this year…and things that I would work on more the next time around. Fortunately, there won’t be a next time around because he is planning to get out of the Army when he comes home.
So during your SO’s Deployment (and a little of my story):
- Don’t ever let anyone make you believe that you should hide all of your hardships to “make it easier for the soldier”. I feel like this is the general attitude from the collective dependent (non-military) half of the deployment and it makes me angry. The SO’s struggle, in my opinion, is just as hard or harder than the soldiers’. It is hard in a very different way, but it is still hard. Keep a perspective, but still share with them your struggles and communicate and support each other. Holding stuff in from the person you are supposed to be closest to is only going to make you feel more alone. Likewise, holding stuff in from people at home (friends, family) isn’t going to help either. Talk to people! I feel like B and I grew so much together because we shared this with each other; we were really open and honest. I don’t push him to share combat stuff, but he did share a little and it was really important to me and special to me that he did. It made me feel a lot closer to him. And I shared a lot with him. Sometimes I honestly felt like a burden, but he told me it was really special that I shared too and that it made him feel closer to ME and that was awesome.
- Don’t let anyone at home make you feel like you are an idiot for “choosing” to go through this…or that you should not fall apart so much. I let this get to me too much. I know I didn’t cope well this year in so many ways, but when do I ever?! That is my downfall. I have mental illness and I have self-destructive behaviors so that is kind of my MO and what I am constantly working on. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through. How could I not let it affect me? The person I love and am closest to in the whole world was away. I had to deal with my already existing problems all alone. I had to worry about him being safe. I felt more fear than I ever have in my life. So I wish I wouldn’t have judged myself for not being able to do more this year. Secondary judgments to your feelings (in any case) always make everything so much worse! You shouldn’t judge yourself for how you feel. Give yourself a break if you literally can’t handle what you normally could. My aunt helped me alot when I was in Montana when she said, “maybe your purpose this year was just to support him and just make it through…who cares if you didn’t have a job or start your career yet.” Man, I am still working on this one!
- Lastly, don’t let Army people let you feel like your hardship is less than their’s because you aren’t married or engaged. My friend K and I (whose bf was also deployed) feel like this is the general attitude in the Army where everyone gets married ridiculously fast. I am so glad we had each other to talk to this year, even though we live across the country from each other. We talked a lot online. We talk all the time about getting engaged when he gets home anyway. He brings it up all the time and it makes me very happy. But your struggle isn’t any less because you are the girlfriend, not the wife. You still love them. You still plan your future together. I learned to belive in my own relationship and to remember that every relationship is different and that ours is really special.
*These are just my opinions, but I hope they help somebody.
I am still really struggling with the fact that I don’t feel like the hard times will be over yet. That is what really got me down in the last week or two. I feel like he is coming home but we are still going to be apart until March and that really bothers me. I feel like I will still be really alone. I also feel all this stress about the next few months because I don’t know exactly what’s happening. I just want to be together in the same place and I don’t know exactly when that will happen or where I will end up. I want something very badly and I am really tired of waiting. It is almost creating this anger in me. Irrational anger at B and just anger at everything. So I am trying to set up some stuff with volunteering (got my one placement interview for Jan 20th – yay!) but I am just still so overwhelmed I can’t think straight and so frustrated. I am trying to TRUST but I am getting very impatient and it’s making me angry. Just so many different emotions going on. This is really common (and normal) before they deploy and when they get home, and I know that. But it’s still confusing and I don’t know what to make of the anger.
Anyway, I HAVE to get back on my feet this week. I am making myself go swim today. I am so sick of swimming. I wish I could do some other physical activity but I can’t. It’s just so hard to go in the winter! Brrr. I really want to make myself go swimming every day this week. I also need to stop binging. I got in this depressed cycle the last week and it has to stop. It is just driving me down even more. So those are my two goals. Just can’t think about it too much though. I just have to do those two things today and do one thing at a time. I really need to practice MINDFULNESS and LIVING IN THE MOMENT again! I need to get my mind to stop thinking constantly of the future and being afraid of it.