MilHousing Network co-founder Lindsey Litton is joined by 2020 AFI Air Force Spouse of the Year, Bree Carroll! Join them as they navigate how to keep the spark alive when your spouse is gone and you’re in transition all the time.
LINDSEY LITTON: Bree, tell us a little bit about yourself.
BREE CAROL: My passion is strengthening military marriages. It actually sparked out of frustration. We had about six friends who decided to get divorces. I started the Hearts and Stripes podcast that I was hoping would be a one-stop shop to get resources and advice from people who have done the things and have figured it out. I bring guest experts and I share and am transparent about what I go through. Receiving the award made me want to take it a step further and found Military Marriage Day—the armed forces newest holiday celebrated annually on August 14th. Through Military Marriage Day, we encourage our service couples to come together and be intentional about their relationship. We offer education and some fun so that you can thrive in your military marriage.
LINDSEY LITTON: Let’s talk about military marriage because it is complex. It is very different from civilian marriages. Talk to us about deployment—how to prepare for it, how to get through it, and what are some of your tips on navigating this.
BREE CAROL: My first tip would be to have intentional communication about things that matter. There is a level of preparedness that you have to go into deployment with. Communicate about paperwork such as power of attorney, will, and finances. Once they are deployed, you often won’t have the time or the opportunity to have this dialogue. In our military marriages we have to be a lot more forward thinking prior to our service members leaving. Make sure you hit these big conversation points prior to them deploying because it will help save you some frustration. The other side of the coin is communicating about your relationship. How do you want to stay connected during the deployment? Maybe you can read a book together, or you can send your spouse a care package. How you stay connected as a couple during a deployment also depends on your and your spouse’s love language.
LINDSEY LITTON: There is a book specifically for military couples by Gary Chapman called “The 5 Love Languages Military Edition”. Maybe just reading that and understanding it prior to the deployment can be a huge thing for your relationship because it’s also about your needs as a spouse who is “left behind” dealing with everything. It’s worth having a conversation with your spouse to figure out what love language you may need from them to show you during the separation and vice versa.
BREE CAROL: Yes, for instance, if your love language is touch, this kind of love language would be impossible to fulfill during the deployment. One spouse told me that she simply likes to get a massage when her husband is gone because she misses the physical aspect of their relationship. Think outside the box how you can accommodate your love language during the deployment.
LINDSEY LITTON: Let’s talk about the day when they are leaving for the deployment. I myself try to distance myself a little bit and try not to get too emotional.
BREE CAROL: When you feel like detaching from the reality of them leaving and starting to be a little bit cold, make sure to explain to them why. It’s ok to not be ok. One of the frustrating things is that just because you are approaching the day they are leaving doesn’t mean that it’s the day that they will actually leave. Sometimes you say goodbye, and then they come back home but you were already prepared for them to be gone, and you have to go through the emotions over and over again. If you have small children, communicate the plan that you have for the “see you laters” in a way that’s meaningful for them and allowing them the space to process in a way they are able to. For instance, mommy or daddy is deploying but these are the things that we’re going to do as we count down. Pinterest has amazing ideas for the countdowns, getting a hero teddy bear or maybe your spouse will give your child an article and tells them to hold onto it until they return. Give them the freedom to communicate how they feel. And if they don’t like it or if they’re angry, if they’re sad, hear their heart. You can share your feelings with them too—yes mommy is sad and angry too, we miss him. So, because we miss him, let’s do something. Let’s channel that into healthy outlets to express themselves.
LINDSEY LITTON: Talk to us about when they start preparing to come back home.
BREE CAROL: Preparing for their return (don’t take nowadays technology for granted) may look like communicating the new things that you and the kids have been doing such as new routines. If you made some changes, or if something has gone on with the kids, let them know. I know sometimes we try to shield our spouses from some of the things so that we don’t stress them. It is ok to communicate what real life looks like as you prepare your spouse. Make sure that you are communicating the changes that are happening in your relationship. Share your personal wins, the growth that you’ve had in your own creative outlets or how you volunteered, or something new your kid is doing. Having those points of connection really matter and it keeps your marriage strong, and it also keeps your family strong, which is the ultimate goal.
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