So you’ve received the dreaded two words that every military wife hates to hear, huh? Your husband comes in full of excitement and exclaims, “I’m deploying!” Ugghh, here we go…
Every man (and probably woman) who joins the military is excited and ready to serve. The first night in our first home at our first base together, my husband looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to deploy!!” I took it personally and thought he was ready to leave me after just getting done spending nine months apart between basic training and tech school. It definitely caused a few fights.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s very normal to take statements like that personal. To you, it’s hard to understand why he is so excited to leave his family. To him, it’s what he joined the military to do. He’s been training for this for a long time and he finally gets to do his job. I know you’re upset right now, but I’m here to tell you that his first deployment was the best thing to ever happen to our marriage.
A deployment, like anything else in life, is what you make of it. We chose to make it fun and exciting and our relationship changed for the better forever! If you choose to be sad and be upset about it, you’re going to have a tough time. What I’ve listed below is what we did to take our deployment from a sad mindset to an excited and fun one.
I’m not going to lie, this post doesn’t have much to do with children. Trent and I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what it’s like to experience a deployment with one. I do know that the majority of these ideas will work even if you have children though.
Remind yourself it’s nothing personal
This might sound harsh, but this has nothing to do with you or how you feel. At this moment in time, you are going to come second to their excitement and that’s okay. Know that they are going to miss you so much, but don’t make them feel bad about it. They have been wanting this for so long and they’ve finally gotten the opportunity. How would you like it if you got an opportunity that you’ve been dreaming of and you can hardly contain your excitement, but then your spouse made you feel bad about it? That would suck, wouldn’t it?
“But Sarah, that’s totally different. My dream wouldn’t consist of me leaving for ___ months.” Nope. Stop. I don’t want to hear it. A dream is a dream and no one deserves to have their dreams discredited because you don’t agree with them.
I struggled with this a lot after the first few weeks after receiving the news that a deployment was coming. My therapist told me what I just told you and she never let me feel sorry for myself and always put it into perspective for me. So that’s what I’m going to do for you.
Communication is key
If you don’t take anything away from this post, please just remember this. Communication is the most important part of a deployment. You guys need to share what you’re feeling and keep each other in the loop. Make it a priority to hear from each other at least once a day. Even if it’s just a text that says “I’m okay and I love you.” Deployments are difficult for everyone involved. One of the things my therapist stressed when I brought Trent along with me was how important it was to talk.
She talked about how she had spouses who would go days or weeks without talking and eventually end up being okay with it. Not because they didn’t have any WiFi, but because they didn’t work to keep that connection strong and their relationship quickly dwindled. That’s what leads to cheating on either side. Nothing good can come out of not communicating. It gets lonely, but you need to find ways to creatively take care of each others physical and emotional needs.
We made sure to take her advice and let me tell you…it was the best thing that could have ever happen to our marriage. Our relationship was good before the deployment. Afterward though? It was (and still is) totally wicked! Truly, I thought the closeness would wear off after he got back, it’s only gotten stronger as time goes on. He’s been back almost 18 months now and by using the skills we learned during the deployment, our relationship is basically a real life fairytale!
Go to at least one or two therapy sessions together before the deployment
No, this isn’t marriage counseling. It’s a session or two to get on the same page. This allows for both parties to speak their minds about what they are thinking and have an unbiased third party to help them to see and understand what the other is going through. Honestly, talking with a therapist there makes it easier to tell your spouse how you’re really feeling. You don’t have to look at them when you say uncomfortable worries and the therapist will rationalize everything for them and for you.
My therapist is one of the best things on the face of this Earth. This lady literally saved my life and I couldn’t speak more highly of her. Anyways, she asked if I could bring in Trent for a session or two, just so she could understand what we were both thinking and to help get us on the same track before he left. She also was able to communicate to us different things she’s seen deployments do to couples and advised how to avoid any complications.
Set a few goals for yourself
What’s something you’ve been wanting to try or work on but haven’t allowed yourself the time? Well now you’ve got months and there is no better time than now to figure it out! Your goals can be small or large. They can be about mental health stuff or physical projects.
My main goals:
- Build a blog
- Learn how to become independent and be happy without my husband
- Quite a few different craft projects
- Work out 3x/week
Find a few different projects to work on
Keeping busy is the key to a successful deployment.
Some awesome project ideas:
- Redo a room
- Learn how to build/paint/redo your furniture
- Start a garden
- Marie Kondo your home
- Learn a new trade/sport/craft
Don’t count down by days
Do you want to know how to make a deployment drag? Keep one of those daily countdowns on your phone. Don’t even bother! Countdown by weeks or months. It’s a much shorter countdown (IE: 22 weeks vs. 154 days) and makes it go more quickly.
You will be surprised by how quickly it goes, honestly. The first couple of weeks are slower because you’re getting into a routine. After you both settle in and figure out your new life, it’s going to fly!
Try to understand that your family and friends want to help
You have no idea how many times I wanted to yell at different people who talked to me about my husband being deployed. But, I knew they were just trying to relate and make me feel better about the situation. It had an opposite reaction though.
One family member said, “how much longer until he comes home?” I said, “about 8 weeks.” You know what they said? “Oh, that’s nothing!”…cue the steam coming out of my ears. Okay, Sharon, you tell me 8 week is nothing when your husband has been gone for over 16 weeks already. Then add another 8 to that. That’s something. I just bit my tongue and smiled and said, “hopefully it goes by quickly.” and walked away.
A friend of mine literally said to me, “I know exactly how you feel about Trent being gone. I felt the same way when my husband was gone for a weekend fishing trip with his friends.” Really? A fishing trip? My husband is in a freaking WAR ZONE and you are comparing that to your husband’s FISHING TRIP?! Let me tell you…I was seeing red. Seething doesn’t even come close to describing how mad and dumbfounded I was. I thought that when military wives said civilian people do that, they were joking. Nope. People are really that dumb and inconsiderate.
I just had to remind myself that they just wanted to make me feel better. It didn’t help, but their intentions were good.
Buy a present each week
THIS! This was my favorite part about the entire deployment! Every single week Trent was gone, I bought him a present. Some of them were bigger, some were smaller. I had them wrapped and labeled each present with the week I bought it and had him open them in order. Some were clothes, some tools, items for vacation, shooting accessories, gym accessories, etc. It was SO fun! The best part was that Trent had NO idea about it! His face when he walked in the door and his reaction when opening up the gifts…I don’t know if he ever felt so loved in his life! He kept saying, “this is seriously the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
I will continue to do this for each deployment. Now that he knows about it, I have to find ways to incorporate more surprises. I love surprises! I also made him one of those candy bar message boards. He loved it!
Plan a vacation
See all those balloons? Each balloon had an envelope attached to it that had different details to a preplanned and prepaid vacation! Some were gift cards, some were tickets to different events, some were about the place we were going. That was a fun touch!
I also planned a lot of our Europe/Africa trip during this time as well. I was able to find a lot of amazing information that really helped us out!
Time to have a little fun with your camera
Dad, if you’re reading this, I apologize in advance! Please skip and go to the next one!
You know, when your hubby has been gone for quite a while, you both start feeling lonely. That’s just how life goes. Every Sunday, Trent and I made it a priority to send pictures to each other, if you know what I mean. Now, I’ll spare you guys the details, but I promise you that you will both need this day and towards the end, it will turn into every single day! Ha!
Not only sexy pictures though, this really helped build my confidence a lot! I would get dressed up and send pretty pictures to Trent a few times each week. Seeing how he reacted to my pretty pictures made me feel so much more loved and confident. It was a lot of fun feeling so pretty all of the time 🙂
You will become much more independent and confident
When Trent deployed, I had been out of the hospital for being suicidal for 6 months. Trust me when I say that this was the best thing that could’ve happened to me at that time in my life. While Trent is everything to me and more, I couldn’t keep living my life the way I was. I was still severely insecure and didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it. Trent and I were honestly both worried what this deployment was going to do for me.
I wasn’t going to let that get the best of me. My entire life I had been pushed around, bullied, and left feeling suicidal. I knew that if there was going to be any time for me to get better, it was going to be this deployment. You can have the best support system in the world, but sometimes you aren’t going to fully heal until you are alone.
I had never been alone in my entire life. I went from living with my parents and sister to living with Trent. Never once did I have the opportunity to build up the independence that comes with living alone. I don’t regret my choices at all, but I’m thankful for the time living alone that I did have! It helped me to learn how to make my own choices, to speak my voie, and to figure out what I really wanted in life.
Again, it will be what you make of it though. You have to make the decision to not sit and mope around the entire time. You have to learn how to find yourself again. It is absolutely thrilling and the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I cannot stress that enough!!
Set up weekly traditions
Have something to look forward to every week! You should have one night a week designated to your own little weekly tradition
- Movie night
- Pottery class
- Pizza night
- One new outfit at TJ Maxx
- Home Depot’s free classes
- Yoga or workout classes
There are so many different things you could do! For me, I choose a weekly movie night and watched a movie each week that I’ve never seen before. It was a lot of fun! I wanted to do pottery classes as well, but I kept forgetting about signing up. Honestly, time starts going really fast after a while and it’s hard to remember to even complete your weekly traditions!
Have a designated Skype date night
Trent would work six 12-hour days and then have one day off. That day off is when we would Skype. We Skyped every single day off that he had. It was date night! We’d talk on the phone a few times throughout the week, but mainly we stuck to text messaging because it was easiest and his WiFi connection was never completely stable. We LOVED WhatsApp. You can use it in the states anywhere at any time without WiFi, overseas you need WiFi to use it.
To be honest, as much as we loved our date nights, sometimes they got awkward. I mean, you can only stare at each other through a screen for so long without saying anything. It’s not like at home where you can just snuggle on the couch without talking. You’re just looking at each other and it does definitely get weird sometimes, especially on the nights where there really isn’t much to discuss. Just be aware that this will probably happen to you as well!
Treat yourself once a month
Once a month go get your nails done, get a massage, get a new outfit, do whatever it is to treat yourself! I had planned to do this one but never went through with it. I’m too cheap to spend money on myself. Trent? I’ll drop $1,000 just like that *snaps fingers* and not bat an eyelash. For me, I get uncomfortable spending anything on myself. I know that I don’t need it so I talk myself out of buying it more often than not.
Deployments are hard though. You definitely deserve to spoil yourself once a month without any guilt.
Pay off debts
Have any debts you’re looking to pay off? This is the time to do it! There will be many different monetary bonuses that come along with a deployment, depending on your spouses’ job. This is really the time to buckle down and throw all that extra money towards becoming debt free. We were able to pay off $20,000 of debt with the help of his deployment money.
He won’t be spending hardly any money over there and you are in control of what you spend here. Why not make this one of your main goals? Life is so much easier when you’re debt free!
Go back to school/get a new job
You’re going to have a lot of time to yourself and you’ll need to keep busy. Why not look into getting a new job (or better paying) to help pay off those debts? Not in school? Consider starting up a new program. There are many technical schools that offer different certifications, some take as little as 6-8 weeks to obtain! This means a much better paying job than retail or fast food.
Even better, look into going back for your undergraduate or graduate degree. I’ve always said that a military wife should never live her life through her husband and his job. I think it is very important to find a voice of your own and to follow your dreams as well! I graduated with my B.S. in Psychology AND started my Masters of Social Work program while he was away. No, these aren’t programs that you can finish in the time he is gone, but you can get at least a semester or two out of the way!
If you’re looking for something more short term, consider getting a CNA certification or work to become a dental hygienist. You’re going to feel much better about yourself if you do something productive during this deployment instead of sitting around.
Even if you have children, this is still something you can do! Look into online programs that don’t require interning or clinical work. I’ve heard medical coding and the training for it is something you can do completely from home. This way you don’t have to leave your kids, but you can still better your own life.
Get back into shape
During the deployment I had lost ten pounds and finally had my dream body! It was so much fun feeling so confident and sending pictures. I didn’t go to the gym too terribly much, but I did a lot of at-home workouts!
Now, I’ve gained back those ten pounds, but my measurements stayed the same! I have really gotten into weight training the past six months or so. It has been amazing! I know that isn’t deployment related, but it led me to write the post, “Top 10 Instagram Fitness Influencers to Follow”. I have gotten some amazing workouts from these ladies. They show a lot of workouts that can be done at home or at the gym! Since you always have free access to the base gym, I highly recommend taking advantage! I’ve always been very pleased with their weight areas.
Don’t worry about how you look, I promise no one else is watching! They’re too busy looking at themselves in the mirror to make sure they don’t embarrass themselves. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to take progress pictures and see those booty gains. Not only will this make you feel better physically, it’ll give your mental health an amazing boost as well!
I recommend not going home
It’s ultimately your decision, but staying at our base was the best decision I made throughout the entirety of the deployment. Granted, I had no choice. If I wanted to graduate and start grad school, I had to stay. Regardless, I wouldn’t have gone home to Illinois. I did go home for a couple weeks to visit family and have a graduation party, but other than that I stayed here.
Sure, you can save a decent bit of money if you move back home with your family, but it’s hard to move back in with your parents after living on your own. I strongly agree that it is so much better for your mental health if you stay and build up your independence and confidence. But again, it’s all about your mindset too. You can choose to sit and mope at your base or you can sit and mope at your parent’s home. On the other hand, you can thrive at either place as well! You know what’s best for you and your mental health.
Remember though, if you do go home…you have to be extra sneaky and quiet about trying to get those intimate moments and pictures! At your own house, all bets are off and you can go nuts for his nuts 😉 Again dad, I apologize. Please stop reading this post!
To Trent and I, going home seemed like taking the easy way out and that I’d be cheating myself out of an amazing opportunity if I went home. Staying here was the best thing I could’ve ever done for myself because those positive changes in my life still live strong in me today.
Do something small for yourself once each week
This can be as little as getting yourself your favorite fast food or going for a walk. Just make sure you do something small for yourself that will put a smile on your face.
You have to be there for him at all times, no matter how much it sucks
I touched on this earlier in the communication and therapy sections. It’s just so stinking important that I had to mention it two or three times. You need to communicate! You are his rock, okay? Sure, it’s going to suck for you. It’s going to suck even worse for him. He needs to know that you are there and that he can depend on you. You are the glue holding him together and you are what’s going to get him through the toughest times of his deployment.
During the last few months of Trent’s trip, he was 48 hours from being FOUR separate times. Four separate times, they pushed his date back anywhere from 7-14 days at a time. He ended up getting home a month after everyone else from his deployment got back. Trent was part of the crew that stayed back to make sure everything got home safely. He was supposed to get home 3 days after the other guys did. Do you know how disappointing it is to be that close to seeing your husband again and having it ripped away from you four separate times?
It would have been one thing if they just told him he had to stay an extra month. Okay, it sucks, but I can deal. But to have it pushed back like that so many different times. Getting your hopes up and then your heart broken…it was soul crushing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset. You know what though? I had to put my big girl panties on and be there for Trent.
He was so discouraged and frustrated. I’ve never really seen him so down in his entire life. It was so hard to not cry when he would tell me it got pushed back again and again and again and again. He needed me and that’s what mattered. I pushed my feelings aside and cried to my mom later on. After the bad news would settle in, that’s when I would tell him how disappointed I was, but I never dwelled.
Have fun planning your care packages
Woohoo! I sent one care package a month. He left in May and got home in November. I had so many fun care packages! Some had themes and some didn’t. For the 4th of July, I made it American themed. I got personalized red white and blue M&Ms made, sent water balloons over, and made it a lot of fun. In August, we had his birthday and our anniversary. I sent two care packages that month, one for each. One box was full of presents and the other was full of lovey-dovey stuff, like this adorable book that I filled out for him!
Pinterest is full of so many ideas! If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m a planner. Planning these different surprises was the funnest part of the entire deployment!
Overall though, if I could leave you with any one piece of advice for your first deployment it would be to make the most of it. I can’t stress enough that moping around and feeling sorry for yourself is going to do nothing but cause problems for you and for your marriage. Use this time to grow together and alone. If you do, this deployment will be one of the best things to ever happen to you.
Have you ever gone through a deployment before? What is your number one tip for anyone about to go through this? Let me know below in the comments!