OK, so your S.O. (significant other) is in the military. First, I'd like to thank you for choosing to embark on this crazy journey! Second, you go Glen Coco. Being in a relationship can be tough work. It involves a lot of caring, sharing, sacrifices, and learning. BUT—being in a military relationship is all that and some; especially when your S.O. is frequently sent off for training and deployments. We won't mention the days, weeks, months, and sometimes years spent apart because of this. Don't get all negative nelly on me just yet though—because if you have the right tools under your belt, you can get through anything.
That's where I come in. I have been in a long distance relationship with my fiancé for the past 3 years. For reference, he is an active duty officer. I have tips and tricks on how to survive and thrive in your military relationship that have worked for me and I am confident will help yours goes the distance.
Communication is K E Y in successful relationships. Start with the easy things first if you're nervous to tackle the big topics. Talk about your feelings about being in the relationship and worries you may have. If you hold all of these worries and thoughts inside your head, chances are they will build up and eventually you will find yourself eating an entire Ben & Jerry's phish food ice cream pint by yourself while watching Harry Potter. Been there & done that. I suggest building strong communication skills between you and your S.O. so you are able to talk about more than the sunshine and daisies aspect of the relationship.
Find what works for you! Maybe it's texting, calling one another, Facetime, or going totally old-fashioned and writing letters sent by snail mail (one of my favorites).
Communication includes honesty as well! Honesty is the bottom tier of the cake. Without that layer, things can't quite stay together and eventually things fall apart and all your left with is a big pile of mush. It's the basic building block. Being able to trust each other will make your relationship that much more successful. Military relationships have gaps of times being able to talk and see one another and that is why being able to trust one another is so important. You need to be able to be comfortable with your S.O. and feel like your heart is safe in their hands. Honesty paired with good communication skills make a relationship strong and able to conquer anything!
2) Live in the moment.
As hard as it is (and it can be REALLY hard), try your very best to learn to live in the moment if that's not something you already do. It can make things so much easier by thinking in the moment then constantly worrying about your S.O. or over-thinking things.
Being able to live in the moment and cherish the memories and experiences you are making with one another this very second are great ways to reduce the stress of the scary unknown. Taking some of this pressure off of trying to plan out every single detail (that you have no control over—thanks military lifestyle!) will help you to adapt much easier and live a happier life with your S.O.
3) Find your support system.
I am a firm believer that you can never have too much support. At times, you may feel lonely, especially if your S.O. is deployed or training. You may (and probably will) have weeks and even months, of time your S.O. is away and it might just be you at home. It's during these times that you may need the support the most.
So what support system's are you talking about?
Good question! My personal favorites are:
- Friends and family. Talk to your close friends and family and share how you feel. Whether or not they have a personal experience with military relationships, they can most definitely give advice on what has/has not worked for them with long distance relationships they have been through. It's always nice to know you have someone who will listen, even if they don't have advice to give you. Sometimes the act of getting something off your chest is enough to make you feel 10x better.
- Books. If you haven't read it yet, I HIGHLY suggest Married to the Military by Meredith Leyva. She has been a life savior. Her book is literally a girlfriend's guide to surviving the military life. It covers everything under the sun and only costs about 15 bucks off Amazon. I am so obsessed with this book that I have read it numerous times and even high lighted all of the important parts (which may or may not be 75% of the book). There are hundreds of military support books out there! 5 Languages of Love, Faith Deployed, and Modern Military Spouse are a few more.
- Facebook groups. I joined about 4 different military spouse groups on Facebook and love them. Easily one of the best decisions I have made so far because not only are they free, but they act as a 24/7 support/question-answering/military guru all in one. The best part of these groups is that everyone in them goes through the same thing. At one point or another, everyone in these groups feels happy, sad, alone, frustrated, and excited. There are so many intelligent S.O.'s on these pages that you could find information about how to acquire housing, BAH, schools in the area of the base, benefits, insurance, and pretty much anything else you might want to know with the military. These woman are also caring and will always lend an ear to listen and if you live close enough—a girls night watching movies and eating ice cream.
** Additional perk—you don't have to be married to be accepted into all of these groups. Some groups are totally fine with members who are dating and/or engaged to the military member. A common misconception is that you have to be married to be able to join these groups and that's not always the case so take the time to check these groups out! There are also groups specific to each military base. This allows you to make friends much easier and ask specific questions about the base. I recommend only joining these base-specific groups when you are certain you will be moving to that base. Some of these pages have a couple questions they like you to answer prior to being 'accepted' such as what your affiliation to the military is and when you expect to be moving to that base. They use this process to weed out anyone who may be joining for the wrong reasons or have no affiliation with the military and are just interested in being nosey ;)
4) Be pro-active.
Start early and discuss common goals. A big reason why long distance relationships don't work is that you don't discuss about goals and priorities you have for the relationship. I get it; being in the military isn't always easy to plan ahead. This is very true—especially when the military might give you two weeks notice that your S.O. will be heading off to train or that you need to get your booties to Fort Bragg, NC, by the end of the month. With that being said, it is crucial that you discuss the goals and plans you want for your future together. Discussing whether or not you want to get married, have children, how long your S.O. plans to be in the military, and where do you both want to be 6 months or 6 years from this very moment? These are all great questions to think about and discuss with one another.
If you already know distance is hard for you, take a mental note of that and plan to take more frequent trips to see your S.O. Make the extra effort to call them every night. Have them write you letters so that when they can't talk on the phone, you can read one of the letters and be reassured that you can do this and that their love for you is endless.
5) Be confident in yourself and your relationship.
If your S.O. wasn't into you, they wouldn't be with you. It's as simple as that. Believe in yourself and try to stay positive about your relationship. Remind yourself of how amazing you are! Remind yourself that you are beautiful and smart. You are funny, intelligent, and all these wonderful things. You are more than just someone to your S.O.; you are everything to them.
Military relationships are rewarding with occasional ups and downs. That's life and you will have that no matter who you are or what you do. However, it is SO important to remind yourself at the end of the day that if this person truly makes you happy (& is your person—Grey's Anatomy reference for you medical buffs) then it is WORTH the hard work.
So pick yourself up, remind yourself that are you a badass girlie and that you can do this! Go get your nails done, go to the gym, binge watch your favorite romcom, or take some cute selfies that make you feel good about yourself. Whatever reminds you to be confident and love yourself, DO IT!
6) Love your significant other.
Last but not least, don't get too caught up in the stress and distance to forget what made you fall in love with your honey in the first place! Take a few moments each day to think about your S.O. and what you love about them. Maybe it's their sense of humor, the ways they show you they care, their voice and laugh, their love of traveling adventure, or their shared interest in arts, sports, or other personal values.
Whatever it is—make sure to take time out of your day to give thanks to your S.O. and be appreciative that you get to ride this crazy thing in them that we call life. Overuse the words "I love you," remind them you care and support their decision to be in the military, lend an ear when they need someone to talk to and a shoulder if they need someone to cry with.
Relationships in the military may not be the easiest route, but when was the last time someone said anything worth having was easy?
Thank you for listening and I hope some of my words can help you :)