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Making It Through A Deployment
Image: Max Winegar – Civilian Male Military Spouse Max Winegar Shares About How To Make It Through A Deployment – Macho Spouse
First, turn off the news! As a spouse, naturally, you worry. The media certainly does not help you out. Occasionally, I would watch the news or see internet headlines that just “grab you” to make you read. But, this really is a balancing act. If you have the news on all day, you will end up making yourself sick!
Believe me, I have been there too many times. You need to separate yourself and (for my second point) find something to do with your spare time. Some spouses may find they have no time, especially after working full time and then spending time with their kids, doing all sorts of housework, playing with their kids, etc. But, somehow, try to find time for you.
Through my wife's first deployment, after work, I spent just about every day working out in a gym and running around the neighborhood. But, granted, I was not a father during this time. Through this last deployment, I did not follow my above advice, and I can tell you the stress can really get to you! Exercise is a great release -- not only for the stress, but it also makes your body feel physically better. I've recently taken up running again, and hope I can stick with it no matter how busy things get. I recommend setting a goal for yourself before your spouse gets back.
Third, social interaction is important! This is where I think it is harder for male spouses to interact with other military spouses (which I would like to discuss soon), but joining a Family Readiness Group (FRG) allows you to meet with other spouses, discuss important events/things on your mind, and it helps you build relationships you can count on when you are in a bind. I have had the opportunity to be a company FRG Leader through my wife's first deployment and as a Company FRG Co-Leader through this last one. All of us are really a “family” and, even after our spouses get back, many of us stay in contact with each other for years to come.
Finally, teach your children to take age appropriate actions should your family have an emergency at home. For instance, I thought it was important for my eight-year-old to know how to call local emergency numbers and family members. I made a list and posted them on our refrigerator.
These are the four things I would share with a spouse experiencing their first deployment. I want to encourage other military spouses that have been through a deployment to share your thoughts or advice. And, if you are a military spouse currently making your way through a deployment, hang in there. You are not alone!
Thanks, and God Bless!
I have focused the last 10 years of my career as a research psychologist on trying to better understand the needs, struggles, and success of military couples and families. I've worked with hundreds of couples, given numerous presentations, published several articles, received multiple research grants … yet it is quite clear to me that in some ways, I have failed in my efforts.
To give some background, I began my first academic position in 2005. Given all that was happening at that time, I wanted to give back in some way to service members and families who give so much of themselves in service of our country. As a civilian, I saw two main ways of being able to actively engage in this. One was to volunteer when I was able. The second way was to find a way to build this commitment to military families into my everyday life.
For me, the second approach – folding my efforts into the very fabric of my life – was the way to make a sustained commitment over time. That is when I set about trying to connect my everyday work as a clinical psychologist and researcher to helping this unbelievably deserving group of people. I took my expertise in research on couples and anxiety, and applied it to researching the experiences of military couples, with the goal of learning how best to help those couples when they struggle.
What is like to be a military male-spouse? I will tell a little bit of my take on it... I am Crazy Dave Etter, also known as Old Fart. Â Imagine the surprise of over 200 women in a historically all female attendance annual Army event called "Spouse Appreciation Night" when this 6 foot 300+ guy walks in and makes himself at home...