Tip #4: Laugh at Your Differences
In most military marriages there is a tidier partner, a more frugal partner, a more spontaneous partner, a more health-conscious partner, and so on. Whatever the reason, it truly does seem that opposites somehow attract!
However, the more I work with couples, the more I find that it isn’t the differences that divide us, but not respecting those differences. Sometimes, it’s hard to remind ourselves that, just because someone has a different approach or mindset than us doesn’t mean that they’re wrong.
I try to help clients learn to laugh at each other’s differences. Lovingly teasing can be fun in a relationship, as well as acknowledging when you’re doing something you know your partner doesn’t approve of.
Find a Middle Ground
I have a client who is trying to save money and whose husband keeps buying things in bulk and on sale. While these are essential items, like extra shampoo and extra detergent, he ends up buying far more than they need, especially since she’d rather pay off their debt than have 20 cans of tomato sauce!
He is one of those guys who really likes to feel prepared. So, I suggested that she compromise by setting aside a little money each month for him to put toward his Noah’s Ark syndrome. When she shared this plan with her husband, he laughed at himself and agreed to focus on paying off their debt while keeping his hoarding to a minimum.
Sometimes we just need our spouses to understand us without necessarily becoming the same way—the balance between us can be extremely beneficial.
Rely on Your Shared Sense of Humor
For little things, however, a “talk” can feel daunting. So, instead, using intermittent humor can get a point across without an irritation escalating into a fight. For example, when my husband tells me, “Krista, there is another package out front from More Crap, Inc.,” I get the hint that I might need to take a break from online shopping!
My husband is also used to military style tidiness—he irons his undershirts and loves spraying the counters with Lysol. Sometimes, I tease him by calling him a “neat freak,” while being more than happy for him to call me a “free spirit” in return. After all, I would much rather do an art project in the kitchen than scrub the house like Cinderella.
I try to respect his neat freak ways in the same way that he respects my free spiritedness. We meet in the middle, using our shared sense of humor to laugh over the little things.
Communicate Your Truth
Most days I try to tidy up a little more than I would naturally out of respect for my husband’s needs. However, when the house gets really messy—as can happen with four kids— I at least let him know that I recognize he may be frustrated with the situation. I might call him and say, “I wanted to clean up the kitchen today but I had to leave for work before I got a chance to do the dishes.”
I find that telling on myself lets him know that his needs are important to me. I can show him that, just because I didn’t get to a task yet doesn’t mean his needs have been completely disregarded.
My husband also loves eating dinner right after work, while I could literally be fine with just a bowl of cereal to avoid cooking altogether. However, when I realized that it didn’t have to be a big fuss, I found lots of ways to create win/wins. For example, if I don’t feel like cleaning I might say, “Since I cooked for us, would you mind loading the dishwasher?” Or on a really busy night, I might just use paper plates.
After talking with my husband, I eventually came to realize that he just likes to eat and doesn’t really care how much time I spend preparing food. The idea of him loving a huge, home cooked meal was all in my head! So, most nights, I now try to plan something healthy but also feel completely supported by my husband when I tell him I’ve had a busy day and am picking up takeout instead.
I walk in the door with a dozen white boxes, chopsticks, happy kids, and a happy husband who forms half of a marriage where we try to respect each other’s desires most of the time. I forgive my husband for the occasional lapses, just as I’ve learned to forgive myself for needing a break every once in a while. Forgiveness is an essential component of a military marriage.
Tip #5: Plan Date Nights
I love going to plays with my husband or even staying in and playing Scrabble together. However, I can forget how important this couple’s time is when we get incredibly busy, such as during the spring sports season when all four of our kids, ages 8-15, have practice, games, school, and so much more.
When things get especially hectic, date nights seem to disappear from our shared calendar. However, these are actually the times when we could use a date night more than ever! Nothing keeps a busy parent’s head on straight like a nice evening out to see a movie or even a picnic together.
Schedule Couple’s Time
Now that my husband and I have come to realize that we have a tendency to deprioritize our date nights, we make sure to get up early a few mornings a week to coordinate our schedules. Then we find the time to plan a monthly date and get it in ink on the calendar.
It doesn’t really matter if we go to a fancy restaurant or just take a long walk together—it’s just about finding some time to spend alone as a couple. We have just as much fun grabbing a coffee and browsing the bookstore as we do attending a night at the theater, so I like to keep it simple, both in terms of cost and time.
Use Your Resources
While military marriage is challenging, one of the huge benefits is being able to see different parts of the country and becoming part of a loving and super reliable community. If you and your spouse are living in a new city, ask other spouses for fun date night spots. Or schedule a childcare swap with another couple so that both of you can get the date nights you need.
One military spouse friend of mine schedules a “date night” with her husband where they just get takeout and rent a movie. Because it’s time they have pre-planned to spend together, they make sure that it takes precedence over any other tasks that may arise.
Scheduling date nights ahead of time allows us to prioritize them, allowing us that special night out or in that we could use with the spouse of our dreams.
Share Your Success
Keeping the romance alive can take work, but our relationships are definitely worth the commitment! Ask yourself: What are some of your favorite date night activities? Have you ever tried a virtual date during deployment?
I hope these five tips will help you in your own military marriage—make sure to share your own successes and tricks in the comments below.