This time of year is all about love and romance, but ask any couple and they’ll tell you a good relationship requires a lot more than just a card and some chocolates. All relationships take work, but the added stressors of military life mean that military couples need to be especially conscious about taking care of their relationships with their spouse. By taking the time to invest in your relationship with your spouse you can help make sure that the two of you are ready to handle whatever the military throws your way next.
You’ve heard it before and you will hear it again, but communication is key when it comes to relationships. As a couple, it’s incredibly important to be able to talk about how you are feeling about the challenges you are facing and listen to your partner’s feelings without judgment. Adding in the stressors of military life like deployments and frequents moves makes it all that much more important to have clear and open lines of communication. Asking for help, whether it’s from a chaplain or civilian marriage counselor is a great way to help build those skills.
Take time for each other
With busy schedules, kids and other commitments outside of the home, it’s easy to see how you and your spouse could end up living more like roommates than a couple. With all the things military families are juggling day in and day out, it’s important to make sure you are taking time (even if it means scheduling it on the calendar!) to spend together, just the two of you. Military couples have the advantage of being able to find new experiences, favorite restaurants, and couple’s activities every time they move! Even if your kids are younger, it’s possible to carve out time for yourselves without having to find a babysitter – take advantage of nap times or let your kids have a movie night so you are your spouse can sit down and have an adults–only conversation together.
One of the biggest stressors on most relationships is managing finances together. Very few of us come from identical financial backgrounds and our financial plans and goals change with time. It’s important that couples sit down and plan out shared financial goals and check in on their progress regularly. Especially in cases where one spouse manages the family finances, it’s important that they take the time to update their partner on the overall financial picture of the family on a regular basis so no one is taken by surprise should challenges arise in the future.
Be a team
Sometimes, the military throws us a curveball. It’s never a good feeling when your service member comes home to tell you that the orders to your top choice have now been changed and you are heading to the ONE BASE you specifically said you didn’t want to go to. Or when your orders get changed, again, for the third time in a week. But when you are dealing with that disappointment and frustration, it’s important to remember that your spouse is dealing with the same frustration and disappointment as you are and that they have no more control over the situation then you do. When those challenges come your way, work with your spouse to find a way to turn it into an opportunity – research your new duty station and start to make your bucket list before you even get there or find out from friends what great new restaurants or cuisine there is to try. By treating the challenges as a new adventure, you’ll be able to find new opportunities to grow and learn as individuals and as a couple.
Taking care of your relationship should be something you work on year-round, not just around Valentine’s Day. Life as a military couple isn’t always easy but by putting in the work to help keep your relationship strong, you can make those challenges seems a little bit more manageable by tackling them together. And taking advantage of those big boxes of chocolate never hurt either.