As promised, this is part two of my blog on military relationships. Last month I shared ten lessons I learned from my military relationship. If you have not read that blog post and would like to do so, the link is below:
As I said in my previous blog post, this is all based on my personal experiences with my boyfriend and it is a Caribbean and more specifically Trinidadian perspective of military relationships.
MY LITTLE TIPS
As a military couple, my boyfriend and I crossed the one year mark. However, we spent more time as a military couple than a civilian couple and I do miss the little things that regular couples take for granted. I am not here to paint a pretty picture of my relationship and say everything was seamless and beyond wonderful for us. Our relationship was far from being perfect and we had disagreements which mostly centred on one thing: his job.
Even though I knew that things would not be exactly the same as before, I found myself struggling to cope with the new adjustments in my relationship. While we were both trying our best to meet each other at that halfway point, the difficulties still presented itself. Thankfully with time and lots of long discussions we eventually overcame our hurdles and our relationship is now stronger than before. That brings me to my first tip.
Tip 1 – With communication comes action.
Yes, you have heard it a million times over: “Communication is key in a relationship”. But I am here to tell you that you can talk till you turn blue: nothing will change until both parties actively work on making those changes. My boyfriend and I communicated a lot about the issues we were having but things did not improve for us till we started to take action on what discussed. When we began actively working on the issues in our relationship we saw the results after sufficient time passed.
Tip 2 – Both parties will be required to compromise.
My mother has an adage that she keeps repeating to me whenever we talk about my relationship: “One hand does not clap”. This is her fancy way of saying do your part in the relationship. The main reason why our relationship was able to overcome the challenges we faced was due to our ability to compromise.
According to the nature of your relationship, compromise will look differently. For me personally, my compromise meant understanding while he was at work, communication between us would be at a bare minimum or non-existent. However, my boyfriend still tries to ensure I get a few minutes of his time and it is something I greatly appreciate. However if his time at work is extremely busy and he doesn’t get that time to reach out to me, I try to be as understanding as possible about the situation.
Tip 3 – Support your significant other as much as possible. You are both in this together.
The very nature of their job is challenging. Chances are your significant other is probably like my boyfriend – they display a remarkable emotional and mental strength. Since my boyfriend rarely relies on anyone (myself included) for support, there were times when I lost sight of the simple fact that he still needs me to be there for him. But time and time again I am always reminded that he needs me to be supportive of him as well.
Whether your significant other tells you or not – they do require your support and they do appreciate it. Showing your support and being there for them does not have to be anything fancy or showy. It could simply be holding their hand after a hard day of work or even giving them the space they need. Sometimes it might even be giving a listening ear. However your significant other requires their support, try as much as possible to be there for them once it does not endanger you in any way.
Tip 4 – Allow your significant other time to recharge. They will need their personal space to practice self-care.
As a civilian I work roughly 40 hours a week, 5 days a week. I have time to do the things I want and I spend sufficient time away from my boyfriend. In my mind, my boyfriend and I were spending the same amount of time away from each other, so whatever little time he has away from work is time for us and needs to be cherished.
But I kept forgetting one key thing: the time away from each other meant he is living and working in his work environment with his coworkers. Only till my boyfriend actually said that he needs his personal time and space to recharge did I realize my oversight. In a bid to ensure that we made the most of the time we spent together as a couple, I forgot that he had very limited opportunities to take care of his emotional and mental well being.
Everyone practices self-care in their unique way. However your significant other takes care of themselves, ensure that they are getting that time to recharge. Striking a healthy balance between time alone and time as a couple will help in the long run. And yes, it is difficult because I itch to call my boyfriend just to hear his voice, but I keep reminding myself of one simple thing:
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Tip 5 – Take care of yourself. Practice self-care.
While your significant other is practicing self-care, you need to practice self-care as well. I don’t need to explain in depth why you need to practice self-care, especially in a military relationship. You know and understand the fears, the worries, the uncertainties you face on a day to day basis.
My country is not actively engaged in conflict with another State, so deployment to a war zone is not a primary concern for me at the moment. But that does not mean it is not a concern for other couples who face this reality on a continuous basis.
Each significant other of a military personnel has their own demons to struggle with. Practicing self-care even in the littlest form can really go a long way in helping you take care of your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Not only does your family and significant other need you to be healthy, but you also need to be healthy and happy for yourself.
Yes, it is tough and I can assure you there are some things about military relationships that I won’t understand till I’ve experienced it myself, but I do know that taking care of yourself properly is the best thing you can do for you.
Tip 6 – Do not compare your relationship with another relationship.
In general, comparing your relationship to another relationship is a huge no because you have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. But comparing your military relationship to a civilian relationship – trust me when I say that is a recipe for disaster.
Recently I was talking to another military girlfriend and this very topic came up. We both agreed that the worst thing was comparing our relationships to civilian relationships and the hardest thing was trying not to make the comparisons.
Everyone shares little tidbits of their relationship on social media. When you have not seen your significant other in a couple of months, and you see your friend and their significant other enjoying their date night, it can sting because the last time you had that was three months ago.
The longest my boyfriend and I went with no contact and without seeing each other thus far is seven weeks. Yes, seven weeks of not knowing what was going on in each other lives at all. During that time, I saw other couples in public, on social media, and it difficult because here I was in a relationship where I couldn’t see or speak to my boyfriend.
When you add those things into the mix, drawing comparisons is a deadly addition. While it may be hard not to compare, just remember that comparisons can actually put further strain on your relationship resulting in a break up if you are not careful.
Tip 7 – Do not keep a tentative date in mind to see your significant other.
For me, the initial phase of my boyfriend’s training involved no contact with the outside world at all. Naturally this meant I would not know when he got his liberty until he contacted me. Not knowing when we would see each other was extremely difficult. What made it worse for me was any time I thought he would be home for a particular weekend and it did not materialize. Up to this day we are still unsure of when he will be home and when he will be working.
Keep an open mind when it comes to seeing your significant other – sometimes you might see each other two weekends back to back but then you don’t see each other the next weekend.
Tip 8 – Write your significant other whether it’s letters, emails, or direct messages – silly and trivial as it may sound.
An effective coping mechanism for me was writing letters to my boyfriend while he was in training. Now I am a hopeless romantic, he is not. This meant I had to be realistic about the situation so I did not write a letter every single day. However, I did write a letter when I was missing him, when something significant happened and I wanted to tell him, when I just wanted to share my day or week. Not only did he read my letters, but he has kept them up to this day.
Tip 9 – Reach out to your close friends.
Your true friends will be there for you. I have an amazing support group of friends who really helped me out. Without them, I’m not entirely sure I would be writing this point or even this post. They gave great advice, allowed me to cry things out, to vent, to reminisce. They provided that space I needed to express how I felt without judgment. A personal plus for me was I had the support of one of my boyfriend’s best friends and his fiance. They reached out to me: sending messages and calling to make sure I was doing okay. Up to this day we still maintain that connection independent on my boyfriend. Their love and support during that time was a tremendous help.
Tip 10 – Having someone who can directly relate to your situation helps.
Naturally having someone who is going through or went through the same thing as you aids in helping you cope with your situation. Sometimes you may not be able to disclose certain things which are directly impacting you and your relationship. You may find yourself going through the motions, unable to tell anyone. Even if you share how you are feeling, they would not understand how you felt completely unless they were in a similar situation or know what is happening.
I know how that feels because I have been there before. It was one of the worst experiences in my life. For the first time in an almost a decade I could not reach out to my immediate and usual support system.
Thankfully there were persons who were privy to the situation and I was able to reach out to them. They provided the support, listening ear, and reassurances I really needed. Having that outlet of being able to speak to someone who understood my fears, concerns, worries, frustrations, and hopes allowed me the opportunity to process my emotions while still being able to keep everything under control.
Tip 11 – Build a life outside of your relationship.
While this goes for any relationship, it is especially true for military relationships. Yes your relationship is important but you don’t want to feel like your life is on hold because of your significant other.
When my boyfriend and I got together we were both working full-time, pursuing our postgraduate studies part-time, and were actively involved in various committees. When he entered the military, for a couple of months I still had a lot of activities going on in my life to keep me busy. But once school was finished and the tenures on the committees ended, I had a lot more free time which meant I had a lot more time to pine after him.
Being busy helps pass some of the time – however you choose to spend your time is up to you. But make sure you aren’t spending the entire time making yourself miserable. I am going to share something I read on a blog written by a military girlfriend which rings true: when your boyfriend comes home to you he is going to have stories to share, so you should have some stories to share as well.
Tip 12 – Always remind yourself of why you love your significant other.
The military can take a toll on your relationship because of the demanding nature of the job. Sometimes you really need to pause and remind yourself of why you love this person, why you want to be with them. As a couple you would have gone through a lot to be where you are now: always remind yourself of the hurdles you’ve overcome and why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Thank you once again for reading my blog post.
For July month I’m going to shift gears and explore something very personal for the first time on a public platform. So make sure to subscribe and look out for July’s blog post!
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