Live like he's leaving tomorrow.....or not.

This came up on one of the many facebook support groups I frequent.

The next deployment always comes way too soon, live like he deploys tomorrow!

It's a nice sentiment, similar to "live like you were dying", that Tim McGraw song that never fails to make me cry like a baby. I'm not sure I agree with it though. I know that the thought is as the moderator on this forum describes it:
  I guess it means the part where you go out for dinner every night together and go on big family trips and every night you fall asleep making sure you're holding him :) were all so busy so often that we don't appreciate the every day things all the time but when you know he's deploying soon you make sure every last thing counts :) 
It's a lovely thought but not for every military family. Even harder for my family than the times that B is actually deployed, are the times just before he deploys. The first deployment was just awful for us before it began. I was angry at the army for taking him, angry at him for being just a little excited about going, angry at myself for not feeling like that uber gung ho army wife and packing love notes in his pockets and tying yellow ribbons around my trees. I didn't feel like I had the right to be angry which left me feeling more angry and I lashed out at him. He in turn started disconnecting from me and the children because he thought it would make it easier to do his job when he was gone if he missed me and the kids less. We fought constantly. Dinners started off with good intentions and turned into fighting loudly because we were both so miserable at the thought of being separated and frustrated that we took it out on one another. We did take a big trip as a family. A cross country drive to see family so that he could say goodbye to everyone in case he didn't make it home. This was a breeding ground for more fighting, terror at the thought that he might not come home, and as awful as this is going to sound, jealousy that unlike other families who isolate themselves and spend as much time together as possible, I was forced to share my husband with everyone else when he could barely find the time for me. By the time he left it was almost a relief to have the fighting done and over with. Unfortunately there was still a lot of resentment bred from that and it spilled over into mistrust, more fighting and a lot of horrible moments that could have easily been avoided if we had been better prepared.

    Over time and more deployments we developed what we call our "rules" for managing pre and intra -deployments.
   1. No fighting. He doesn't want to go, I don't want him to go. This isn't something we choose. I had to learn that it wasn't that he was anxious to leave me, he was anxious to protect his soldiers. It was a hard lesson for me to learn but once I did it made things so much easier for me. You would think I would already know this being prior service myself but I didn't. Of course there was also my guilt for not being overseas with my battle buddies and my anger that he was the one going and I wasn't so if you're prior service, be prepared for this one. Don't think you skip over this stage just because you "know". Being on the spouse side of the house changes the dynamic entirely.   If you catch yourself starting to fight, stop. Announce it. "I'm trying to separate emotionally. I apologize. I need a few moments to compose myself and lets start again".
   2.  Do not try to separate emotionally. It won't work. Don't distance yourself thinking it will make you miss one another less. It won't. It will just add guilt into the mix because you'll know you wasted what time you did have together avoiding each other unnecessarily.  Instead of not missing each other as much while you must be separated, you'll miss each other while you're not.
   3.  No arguing online. Ever. Tone is so incredibly hard to gauge in the written form. You may think he's being sarcastic and bitter and he may think he's being funny.  While you may have the urge to fire back with some random snarky comment, don't. Clarify.  "This is reading like xxxxx. Is this what you meant or were you saying xxxxx?"  Or wait until you can speak over the telephone. You will save yourself oodles of drama this way.
     4.  Avoid listening to your battle buddies. Misery loves company and guys downrange LOVE to tell each other that their spouses are cheating.  Same goes back home. Women will gossip about each other and about rumors from downrange and it will cloud your head with doubt.  No joke, I live next to an Army Husband who happens to be one of my best friends. He has lots of female friends but no "friends" if you catch my drift. He is utterly devoted to his wife and they're so in love it gives you a toothache just watching them. They're definitely going to be that cute little couple everyone oos and awws over when they're old. Even he was subject to rumors. One deployment the neighborhood had him being a virtual stud with at least three or four girlfriends on the side. A good way to avoid this is to set up rules for yourself. If it's not someplace your spouse would be comfortable with you being without him, don't go. Even if Susie down the block makes you feel like you HAVE to go to the bar with her or lose your woman card, if you know it will upset your spouse, don't go. It's not worth it. Besides the gym, my rules are not to go anywhere that my kids wouldn't be welcome.  As my neighbor phrases it, faithful doesn't just describe your sexual activity. It describes your desire to make your spouse happy.  This shouldn't change just because you are physically separated. Continue to do the things that will make your spouse happy while they are away, respect their wishes and odds are yours will be respected in turn.
     5.  Keep them part of the stuff back home. The general thought is that you shouldn't bother them with the stuff going on back home, it could distract them from their job. The truth is, while you need to be independent enough to make the day to day choices on your own, big stuff should still be discussed.  I don't ask my husband to discipline our children from downrange, but we discuss what they did, how I handled it, and how he feels about that.  Keeping big things can backfire horribly as well.  B's favored uncle died when he was in Iraq. His mother didn't tell him he was suffering from cancer for fear that it would upset him and distract him.  What it did was prevent him from being able to take emergency leave (as his uncle raised him) and say goodbye to him.  They didn't even tell him when he died. I found out from a family member and had to break the news to him on Christmas because he would have been even more angry if I had kept it from him.  It's caused a rift with his mother than can never be healed and prevented him from saying goodbye or supporting (even via email) the man who had raised him to be a man himself.  Keeping your spouse out of the loop may leave them feeling unnecessary and unwanted. Make the choices you need to make for your own family, discuss it with one another and weigh the pros and cons of each.

In summation, pre deployment can be horribly stressful, but being open and honest with each other and knowing what to expect can save your family from unwanted drama and tears.
I prefer to live like his just got home yesterday. Dressed to the nines, thanking God he's safe, relishing in the feel of his arms around me and practicing making babies like rabbits. :)

For you seasoned wives, what tips would you give younger wives experiencing their first deployment?



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