Transition Tales

Marriage Tips from MilSpouses: Maintaining Connection

June 27, 2023

The transition from active duty to veteran or retiree family can be as confusing as it is exciting. Through the Transition Tales series, MFAN’s Advisory Board combines personal experience with practical advice and resources to assist the whole family through this complex adjustment period.


The opinions in this column are the views of the author, Maggie Van Lieshout.


The uncertainty that comes along with being a part of the military family community is a motif that even our founding fathers recognized. In 1789, our fledgling nation was navigating the formation of an unprecedented government of ‘We the People’ under a new Constitution, the inspiration for a letter from Benjamin Franklin which read, “…but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.That phrase is how you know that public figures of the time knew a thing or two about military life.


The thing is, to this day, his words aren’t wrong. For many of us who are connected to the military, we know better than most that you can’t be certain about anything — even what tomorrow will look like. This lifestyle, career choice, whatever you want to call it, makes it challenging to plan for the future. And whatever is on the horizon impacts everyone in the family.  


Transitions out of the military are inevitable. Even knowing that it’s going to come one day – the next civilian chapter of life – is still one of those things that has more uncertainties than you can count. We asked a few of MFAN’s Advisory Board members for their favorite tips, advice, and resources that helped their relationship not only survive, but continue to grow stronger.



Hana Romer

Marine Corps Veteran & Spouse, Married 15 years

Nick and I did couples counseling through Military OneSource when our marriage hit rock bottom. The fourth year of our marriage, I got out of the Marines and was going through an identity crisis. Nick was coming to terms with his PTSD and was newly diagnosed with TBI. I literally was ready to walk out on him with both of my children with zero income or plans of my own. Our last-ditch effort was counseling, and it saved our marriage.


I am also a big proponent of weekly date nights. We try and go once a week, even if it’s something small. We plan it a week in advance and it gives us something to look forward to.


Oh, and we just celebrated 15 years of marriage!  


Joanne Coddington

Army Veteran & Spouse, Married 16 years

Divorced Man Wrote 20 Epic Marriage Advice He Wish He Could Have Had is one of my favorite articles on marriage. I love it because it comes from the perspective of someone who has been divorced and learned something about marriage through that experience.


I also LOVE the Gottman Card Decks App. It’s free and the card decks are a great conversation starter and can also be used to take conversations to a deeper level.



Lauren Hope

Army Spouse, Married 17 years

Almost 17 years ago, Greg was heading off to a 15-month deployment, so a judge at the Savannah courthouse, who sounded like foghorn, leg horn, wed these two crazy kids. We went to Chick-fil-A afterwards for brunch, so it’s a fun anniversary tradition for us.

The closest to counseling we ever got – and the best advice we ever received – was when our first son died when I was in labor. The head of the OB department, a colonel, counseled us both together. He told us that everyone grieves uniquely and that we have to hold space for each other to process things in our own ways. 

That guidance reached far past that time period of grief and we have applied it to our lives together. We do things differently and that’s OK. We honor and respect each other’s feelings, as well as how we uniquely approach processing and growing. 


Fun update, it’s worked out pretty great.




Mary Monrose

Navy Spouse, Married 14 years

We have always been big on prayer and talking things out. I will say that since this Geo Bach tour, I have read Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages Military Edition and it has helped me learn my husband better in ways that I probably would have continued to brush off. The book has also given me tips on how I can better cater to my husband’s love language.  


We were 19 when we got married and we pretty much just took things as they came. We are coming up on 14 years of marriage in August so I guess you can say we are doing pretty well given all that has been stacked against us through the years.


“The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love.” —Dr. Gary Chapman



Mychael WilLon

Army Spouse, Married 10 years

49 Communication Activities, Exercises & Games is an article that I like.  It talks about setting aside time to talk without disruptions, which is probably the key to successful communication in my mind.   


We both like to laugh at the “thank you for sharing” response that is often given when you want to sarcastically respond to something you don’t agree with!  There is no doubt that the ability to laugh not only with each other, but “at each other” when you know that your other half is not being honest with you, keeps us sane.


What attracted me to this article was how concisely it discusses communication forms, ways to teach better skills, and how to be a better communicator.



Rachel Moyers

Air Force Spouse, Married 18 years

Operation Heal Our Patriots (OHOP) is a program of Samaritan Purse. It is designed to strengthen marriages of wounded military families. It starts with a week-long marriage retreat in Alaska to allow for dedication and focus on the couple while enjoying the beauty of the land and the lodge. It’s for current or former service members who were wounded or injured in combat or combat-related activities. 


This retreat was impactful because we were able to share the experience with an amazing group of service members and volunteers. It gave us time to focus on us and add a few “tools to the toolbox” to navigate communication skills and how we can tackle our everyday obstacles together. Another amazing aspect is the aftercare to help you continue to strengthen your marriage.




Me, Maggie Van Lieshout

Army Spouse, Married 4 years

My husband and I started dating while we were in college. Sometime in that first year we found an article, 5 Reasons Why Couples Who Sweat Together Stay Together, which talked about the benefits of couples working out together. For whatever reason, we really bought into what the article (and research) was saying. We started going to the gym together, and almost 10 years later, we still do as many of our workouts together as we can. 


We both love being active, and always have been that way individually, so it was an easy thing for us to incorporate into our life together. It’s also something that is really attainable. No matter where we are at in life, we always have had the time and means for an outdoor run together, a walk with the dogs, a gym session, or just generally being active. We get a lot of laughs in when we workout together, it’s great quality time, and we love getting to encourage each other in that space. I can see where that translates to other parts of our life too.


With these pieces of advice, and all of the resources available, you’ll be ready for any curveballs that military life can send your way.

About the Author

Maggie Van Lieshout

Maggie is a creative, strategic professional with experience in government, politics, and public relations/communications. She has a passion f…
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