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Military life is often filled to the brim with stressors, and a military marriage is no easier. This includes anxiety associated with finances, moving, deployment, and even reintegration into civilian life. And, to put it lightly, none of these factors make a marriage any simpler!
However, some military couples combat these life stressors with surefire strategies that allow them to not only survive, but actually thrive in their relationships. From their stories, I’ve created a list of the things that happy couples have told me are key ingredients in their fulfilling partnerships.
As with any goal, we need to define what we want in our marriage. Only then can we focus on the things that are going well. What we focus on grows, so if we can stop focusing on being competitive and instead try to create more intimacy, laughter, and compromise, we’ll begin moving in the right direction.
Envisioning the Military Marriage We Want
In the next five blog posts, I’ll begin guiding you toward envisioning the relationship you desire with your partner. I hear so many military spouse clients tell me, “I don’t like X about him” or “I am so frustrated with this marriage because of Y.” In response, I say, “Okay, we agree on what you don’t like, but what DO you want your marriage to look and feel like?”
This often causes them to look at me with blank stares.
We then work to focus on what is going well in their marriages, as well as what they want to build on. Just as I have career coaching clients make vision boards for their ideal jobs and lifestyles, I ask military spouse clients to make vision boards for the kind of marriages they want.
Just looking at photos of couples kissing and kayaking can motivate you to take small action steps that help you feel connected. Even clients who initially laugh at the assignment find it so helpful for creating positive spaces and helping them reconsider what they want in their love lives.
Tip #1: Prioritize Intimacy When Your Spouse Is Home
Intimacy is important in all marriages, but it’s especially essential in military marriages because it can be more difficult to feel connected. When you’re miles apart or your spouse is dealing with physical and emotional challenges that extend beyond the norm, coping can be incredibly difficult.
Sometimes spouses share that they were very intimate in the beginning of their marriages before that excitement began to fade. They just want to create a new normal versus constantly feeling bad that the intimacy isn’t as steamy as when they first connected.
Spouses are always surprised when I say, “you are not alone” after sharing various struggles—and I think it helps to share our difficulties. Sometimes, just talking it out and defining our ideal visions of what connection looks like can help tremendously. We’ll be discussing this topic at my monthly webinar, so check it out if you have time.
Finding That Flow Again
Most military spouses both want to continue to be intimate with each other, whatever intimacy looks like for them. However, between deployments, frequent moves, and other stressors, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things once the pattern has been disrupted.
Many of my coaching clients have also admitted that intimacy ebbs and flows in a military marriage (just like any other), even when both partners are living under the same roof. Intimacy can mean different things for different couples, including everything from handholding to sharing stories to love making. One person may want a more sexual relationship than the other, but remember that intimacy comes in many forms, many of which build upon and complement one another.
Even when a couple isn’t as intimate as they would like to be, they can still admit that it’s an important part of their lives. And a simple comment can have a huge effect here. Statements like, “Honey, I know I’ve been working late all week and this recruiting job is making me exhausted. But I want you to know that I’m so psyched about hanging out with you this weekend…” can go a long way to show your partner that you do prioritize your time with them, even when that time is limited.
Creating Intimacy During Deployment
Even when physical intimacy isn’t possible, you can still maintain that closeness and romance that brought you together in the first place. Consider writing each other love letters and making plans for when you do reconnect. Be creative!
One of my clients said that her spouse was thrilled that she redecorated their bedroom with red pillows and candles for a romantic evening to share when he eventually returned. Another military spouse decided to have my friend, photographer Janine Fazzina Boudo of Bella Blue Photography do a boudoir photo shoot of her for her deployed husband.
Anything that can help you feel connected despite the miles will go a long way in bridging the divide. Plus, it will build excitement for when you finally do reunite!
Whatever keeps you connected and thinking of each other will help create intimacy in your military marriage. One client and her husband started playing a phone Scrabble game during the day. Another client started sending her husband fun and sexy emojis even when she was busy.
What can you do today to feel more romantically connected to your spouse? How might you spice up your love life when your partner is in town, and how can you bridge the distance when he’s away?
As always, share your tips in the comments below, and check out my webinar on this topic later in the month.
Check Back for Tip #2
I definitely don’t have all the answers when it comes to what makes a happy military marriage. However, I can say that so many of my clients struggle with the same things. It can feel super validating and optimistic when we realize that we’re all in this together. Share your tips below and stay tuned for more suggestions from my coaching clients and the broader spouse community.