Tag Archives: military marriage

How Stress Can Help Your Marriage

stress morguefile While it was not a stress-free summer for my marriage, it wasn’t a bad time either. I’ve seen several reports that indicate some stress can actually be good for us and for our marriages, and I have to say I agree in some respects.

In my case, the stressors were outside the marriage, and I think that makes a big difference in staying positive. My husband was in training in another city for several months, meaning date nights were out of the question, and even 15-minute phone calls a day were usually not available. Instead, the kids and I made the best with one or two day visits, or longer when that was possible. I think we viewed it more of a family challenge to handle the circumstances in the best way we could, knowing it would be best for the family in the long run.
Now, three months is much different than an 18-month deployment by a soldier. And unfortunately, a recent RAND Corp. study showed long and frequent deployments hurt military marriages, often leaving them feeling disillusioned. The longer the deployment, the greater the risk of divorce, it said. Often, it had to do with unmet expectations. “Couples who married before 9/11 just didn’t expect that deployments were going to be amped up,” said the study author. Read the study details here. Thankfully, resources are available to help support military marriages, as well as help from family and friends.

Other stressful events that can impact marriages may have to do with traumatic life-events, which 75 percent of us face at one time in our lives. In fact, in a given year, 20 percent of people are likely to experience some kind of a trauma in their life, according to The Greater Good Science Company. So, the odds are not in favor us living free of pain and suffering.

How can we either insulate our marriage from the negative effects of stress, or somehow extract some positive from the experience?

Be a Team
As much as I hate sports analogies, teaming up with your spouse against the problems you face is critical. None of us wants to feel alone, particularly when things are difficult. We went to be heard and have our feelings validated. We want to be encouraged and cheered on. During my husband’s stressful training, we sent him a barrage of encouraging cards and notes to let him know we were behind him. If financial stress is a problem, the couple must work together to attack it bit by bit. “We will get through this together,” is the message that is expressed, whether “this” means a serious illness, a loss of a loved one, a robbery, a job loss, etc.

One couple I interviewed who grew close after being very argumentative early in their marriage describe the shift as moving from opposite sides of the tennis net to playing side by side against an opponent. We as married people have to feel like our spouse is on our side in life.

Even if you can’t physically be together, you can feel like you’re a team, each playing an important family role, and each respected and valued.

Look for Growth Opportunities
“Our success and happiness depend on our ability not just to cope with (stress) but to actually grow because of it,” says Christine Carter from The Greater Good. She explains that the stress we experience as a result of adversity—and how we respond to that stress—tends to predict how much we will benefit from it. The individuals who benefit and grow the most are NOT the ones who are able to avoid the stress. Those who grow the most are the ones who may be shaken up, and then grow as a result.

In my experience, I would agree that people I have known who have overcome cancer or faced dire circumstances often have a unique perspective and wisdom about what is truly important.

And many of the couples I interviewed for First Kiss to Lasting Bliss experienced a great amount of adversity but grew together as a result. That is not to say your spouse must be your only support system in times of stress and need—certainly not. Friends, family, pastors, doctors, neighbors and others in your life often want to help when you are facing a tough time, and they can be part of the learning and growth process when we are ready to make those advances.

It kind of stinks that it takes tough times to truly grow and appreciate the good times, but isn’t that truly the case?

If day-to-day stress is affecting your marriage due to over-scheduling, family conflict, household disorganization, etc., then take action to address the issues. This kind of stress will deplete health reserves and will rarely offer growth opportunities.

What has caused the most growth in your marriage?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Marriage Education Reduces Military Divorces by Two-Thirds

There’s more evidence that marriage education works to prevent divorce. Marriage education involves teaching and practicing marriage skills such as communication, conflict management, etc., and is separate from marriage counseling or therapy.

John Crouch from The Family Law News Blog reported on a randomized study recently completed in the military which had a control group of couples that did not take classes, and randomly assigned couples who did take marriage education classes. The “PREP for Strong Bonds” program was delivered by Army chaplains. One year later, 2 percent of the couples who received marriage education divorced, while 6 percent of the control group divorced.

Other studies have also confirmed that professionally developed curricula is effective at reducing divorce, whether the education is delivered in a religious, ethnic or occupational setting.

Marriage education can be effective for engaged couples and couples who have been married for decades. Just a reminder that many organizations offer marriage education, often within different states or within religious organizations. In addition, if you can’t get away for an entire weekend,
poweroftwomarriage.com offers marriage education skills online where couples can have complete privacy and can go at their own speed.

LINKS:
The Divorce Delusion from NYT gives its take on what divorce looks like in modern America.

Related to last week’s post about how reading romance novels affects women’s relationships, a new study just came out that suggests reading romance novels may be hazardous to one’s health. (Someone seems to be on a campaign against romance novels.) The gist of it is that people who read romance novels are more likely to act like the characters in the books and eschew the use of condoms, putting them at risk for STDs or AIDS.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Elliot Nevills

Giving Military Marriages a Boost

As if it isn’t enough that soldiers risk their lives from our country, they also risk their marriages due to long separations and the stress that accompanies active military service. I’ve had requests from some service members for tips on keeping the home fires burning, as well as how to effectively reunite the family after a tour of duty. Thankfully, two in-depth interviews with exemplary military families helped shed some light on this topic. Any families enduring a long separation could use some of these tips.

Before the soldier leaves:

  1. Enlist the help of family, friends, church members and neighbors to help support the family while the soldier is away. Make a list of concrete ways your family will need help, from lawn or home maintenance to babysitting or grocery shopping.
  2. The spouse at home may need to learn to accept help, even when he or she hasn’t in the past. It helps to focus on the support and love rather on the negative circumstances of being separated from the spouse.
  3. Invite letters, care packages and prayers and provide simple guidelines that would be helpful for the soldier or unit.
  4. Give the immediate family plenty of alone time prior to the deployment.

While the soldier is away:

  1. Consider a blog to help keep family and friends updated on your own schedule. This prevents having to repeat updates on the soldier or unit (for the soldier and spouse at home) and keeps the soldier updated on the family.
  2. Remember phone calls can be inconvenient for one or both spouses. Plan a convenient time if phone calls are important.
  3. Play upbeat, fun music to keep the house from getting somber. Plan fun activities with friends or family.
  4. Use videoconferencing only if it makes sense for your family. For some spouses it is too painful. For young children, they may not understand why mommy or daddy is on the screen, but they can’t touch them.
  5. Focus on the positive aspects of your spouse and your life. Keep negative news at bay by turning off the news and keeping TVs out of the bedrooms.  
  6. Keep precious reminders of loved ones close at hand—a special letter, a photo of each family member, perhaps a special piece of jewelry or memento.
  7. The traveling spouse may still be able to handle certain home responsibilities, such as banking, with online services.
  8.  Young children who don’t have a concrete understanding of time could make a paper chain with a link for each day the soldier will be away. Invite them to send pictures and letters to their absent parent.
  9. Reach out to support groups or other spouses in similar circumstances.

When the soldier returns:

  1. Plan a welcome-home celebration to thank everyone who has offered support and to honor the soldier for his or her service.
  2. Be patient. Particularly when the soldier has been gone for a lengthy tour, the family has often adapted to his or her absence, and the soldier may no longer feel as if he or she fits in as before. The at-home spouse became the leader and took the role of two parents, so time to assimilate is needed. Give the immediate family space and time to sort this out. Children may also need time to sort through their emotions.
  3. Be sensitive to soldier’s sleep needs. The soldier has just returned from a different world and may be battling anxiety, nightmares, difficult sleep patterns or may awaken disoriented after having just returned.
  4. Express your gratitude and praise to the spouse who cared for the family as well as to the soldier who performed in the field.
  5. Stress can often bring a couple closer together. Use the experience as a catalyst for recognizing and appreciating what is truly important to you both.

Two in-depth military profiles will be shared in my upcoming book, From First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, Secrets of Successful Marriages. Contact me if you would like to stay updated on the book’s progress. Special thanks to all members of the military, single and married.