Sooner or later, it’s going to happen: you will see some random couple in public, walking along, holding hands, just being happy together…and then bam! out of nowhere, you will feel more anger and hatred and jealousy than you ever thought was possible against total strangers. It’s a common struggle during a long distance relationship.
The rational part of your brain is thinking, “I should be happy for those people. They haven’t done anything to me.” But the emotional side of your brain, is screaming, “how dare they be so happy when I am all alone? It’s not fair!” And of course you know this is ridiculous, but you have already started crying, and now it is really hard to stop…
If you are new to a long distance relationship, maybe that wave of jealousy and anger hasn’t hit you yet. Give it a few more months. The pain of separation is inevitable in a long distance relationship–especially when the military has forced you apart against your will. Missing your significant other can be so overwhelming at times that it physically hurts, and you can’t stop crying.
It’s ok, we have all been there. As with most emotions, it’s not the emotion itself that is the problem–it’s what you do about it that matters. It’s ok to feel sadness, loneliness, jealousy, even anger. BUT… (here’s the important part)… you have to remember that the emotions do not control YOU. You have a choice of how you handle strong emotions. You can prepare for them by strengthening your heart and mind. You can handle them with mantras and breathing techniques. When ugly emotions come (and they will come, we all have bad days), it is good to be prepared and know what to expect. Being prepared is always better than being caught off guard.
So in a peaceful moment, when you are not overwhelmed with rage, store up these ideas to use at a time when jealousy and anger rear their ugly heads.
Steps for handling negative emotions in a long distance relationship:
Give yourself ONE MOMENT of the ugly emotion. One moment, but that is all. This is because the emotion itself is natural and expected in certain situations. It shouldn’t be ignored or suppressed. Denying that you are angry when you really are quite upset will only make the emotions worse. Is it hard to attend a wedding without your own spouse? Certainly! Give yourself a moment to admit exactly how you are feeling–jealous, angry, lonely, unloved, ugly, whatever. BUT THEN…
Then take a breath and acknowledge why you feel that way. There are many reasons why this particular random couple has caused you to have such a negative reaction. Do they remind you of you and your significant other in some specific way? Do they bring up a memory? Or are you just sad because it’s been a really really long time since you got to hold their hand? Try to be honest with yourself, even in the middle of an ugly emotion. Putting it into some context will also help you to get it under control. It’s ok to admit that you feel lonely at a wedding because you wish your spouse could be there with you, and because you had such fun at your own wedding. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to be angry at this bride, or resent her for enjoying her day. So try to define the reasons for your emotion, and then move forward.
Remember what you DO HAVE: Random couples might appear happy in public, and they have every right to be! But their happiness doesn’t in any way diminish what you and your significant other have. Strangers don’t have a monopoly on love and affection! So even though the distance and lack of communication are REALLY HARD sometimes, always remember what you do have:
- you and your significant other share a strong love that has been tested over time and distance, and only grown stronger because of that
- you have a love that doesn’t always get to express itself with flowers and kisses…but you have also experienced the amazing joy of hearing their voice for the first time in weeks, and you know the excitement of old-fashioned hand-written letters.
- you have a stockpile of wonderful memories. Even if they are too few and your time together has always been too rushed, you have plenty of good times to savor,and many more to look forward to.
- you have a military member who fights to protect this country, and you are damn proud of that!
- your significant other has a really sexy uniform 🙂
- you are looking forward to your second (or third or fourth!) First Kiss
Have a phrase or mantra you can repeat in challenging moments. Once you focus on your positive memories, you should be feeling a little calmer and more in control. This is a good time to call up some phrases or verses that you have memorized–something that means a lot to you and will help you move forward in a positive way. This could be anything that works for you, but try to pick your own phrase ahead of time, so it will be in the front of your mind when these struggles happen. Here are some suggestions:
“I’m happy for them.”
Even if you don’t quite mean it sincerely the first time you think it, keep repeating it until you believe it is true! You SHOULD be happy for all couples, regardless of the details of their love. Wait for your heart to agree with your mind, and then you can move on happily through your day.
“That will be us in x months.”
If public displays of affection start to bother you, remember that your time will come! Deployment is only temporary. You have the rest of your life to enjoy hand-in-hand walks with your significant other, and even public kisses.
“Love is not jealous.”
This one is from the Bible, part of that famous verse in 1 Corinthians 13:4, which says, “Love is patient, Love is kind, Love is not jealous…” Remind yourself of this as often as you need to. True love is not jealous. True love “rejoices with the truth” and “endures all things.” So if you truly love your significant other, then there is also room for you to rejoice with other couples and wish them the best in their relationships.
Finally, try and share this experience with your spouse. Remember, deployment is not forever! It may seem like forever, but eventually your love will be home and in your arms again. Why not make a plan to share a similar moment with the one you love? You can plan to walk down the beach hand-in-hand, or sit by that fountain and share a laugh and a kiss.
I recently went to a restaurant with friends and noticed a couple becoming very affectionate at another table. Once I got past the lonely pang in my heart, I assured myself that I could always bring my husband back to this restaurant for a future date night. That attitude gave me something to look forward to, and made me wish the kissing couple well. Instead of being angered by their joy, I started to hope that they would go home and have amazing sex, because that’s what I would like! So making plans for yourself can really help you to improve your attitude and move forward with strength and grace.
What if you are jealous of your own friends?
Before I go, I need to add a few short comments about becoming jealous of other military spouses. Because it’s one thing to feel momentary anger over random strangers, but it can be much more harmful when it is directed towards someone you come in contact with repeatedly. We certainly don’t need any more drama during deployments, and you are going to be with the same spouses in your unit for many months.
I often see jealousy creeping in after someone posts a picture of some flowers their spouse sent, or when a husband leaves a very loving and affirming message on his wife’s Facebook page. Why can’t women just be happy for each other? Why do we have to compare, and fight, and say grumpily, “I wish my spouse would do that.” Let’s remember a few different things here.
- Everyone’s spouses has a different job and different resources available. Some may have more phone or internet access than others. Some may have more money saved for gifts. Some may have more time available or better hours for communication. There are different ranks, too. If some people are hearing from their spouses daily, rejoice for them! But don’t expect the same behavior from your own, because it just may not be possible. So please don’t compare yourself with another spouse or judge your own spouse based on what someone else’s service member is doing.
- There are different Love Languages. Some people respond really well to gifts like flowers and chocolate. Other people light up when they receive written affirmation in a letter or email. If you are getting jealous of someone else’s gifts or praise, then perhaps that is your love language. Recognize that those things are what you are craving in order to feel loved and fulfilled. And then tell your spouse, so that they can respond! I’m sure every service member WANTS to make their spouse feel loved during a deployment, but they don’t have a lot of time to make that happen. Letting them know what means the most to you can save some time and effort.
- Discuss your expectations with your spouse, preferably BEFORE deployment. Are you expecting to get letters every week? Or will you stick to email? Or Facebook messages? If you agree on a plan together, then you can feel more peaceful and confident, knowing that your own phone calls or letters or flowers or whatever are coming in due time. But if you never discuss this, you might start getting annoyed at Spouse A, who receives letters every week, while your poor spouse never got the memo that they were supposed to be sending any!
- People don’t usually mean to brag online, even when it comes across that way. When you are going through a deployment, things you read online can start to develop a bitter tone. So when you see someone post a picture of flowers, with the caption “OMG he surprises me all the time, these are even bigger than the ones last week! My man is the BEST!” you may read that as a somewhat bragging and annoying statement. But you know what? They didn’t put the picture up with the specific intention of hurting you. They were just surprised and excited by a beautiful gift! And deep down, you know that if you got flowers, you would post the EXACT SAME THING. So cut them some slack, “like” the photo, and move on without that resentment in your heart. And if it keeps on bothering you, don’t take it out on the other military significant other. Ask your service member for some damn flowers!
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