This guest post from Amanda Huffman of Airman2Mom is part of my #ThisisDeployment series, where I share deployment stories from various perspectives. I thought it was important to include the perspective of someone who has been both active duty and a military spouse.
A lot has changed in the communication world in the past 8 years. When I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 I turned my cell phone off and did not use it again until I returned to the United States 9 months later.
You may be wondering, how did I stay connected to family and friends without a cell phone?
There were still plenty of options to communicate with people back home. And even if your spouse is deployed and doesn’t have a cell phone or even a good way to communicate these tips can help you stay connected when you do finally get together again.
The first thing I did started before I even left for training. A friend had recommended I hide notes around the house. Some notes were simple “I love you” “I miss you” Other notes were strategically placed so my husband would find them while he was cooking dinner or turning on the ceiling fan a few months after I left, since I left in November. I was able to stay connected with my spouse without even being there.
A way you could do this is by trying to hide things in your spouse’s gear or bag. He might find them right away or maybe he will reach down into his pocket one day and pull out a note from you.
Another way to stay in touch is by writing letters. Even if you get the chance to talk through a deployment there is something nice about getting hand written letters. For me, I liked to reread the stories and remember what life was like back home. Having something written that I could carry with me was a special way to be connected while so far from home.
If you are lucky enough to be able to communicate with your spouse who is overseas take advantage of it. But also realize that sometimes they cannot talk. Missions happen, life changes. Since my life was the most unpredictable I always set up the meeting time. If the time didn’t work for him then I would set up a new time. I would say we would talk though Skype for 30 minutes to an hour about once a week, sometimes more if something important was happening. I also talked to my parents once a week.
Email was one of my favorite ways to communicate. While I was deployed I would send letters home sharing about my deployment experience. I often left the bad parts of my deployment hidden away so I could write home sharing more of the positive aspects of military life. It was a way for me to keep people informed at home and relieve my stress.
People often commented that I was positive and upbeat. My personality tends to sway this way and some days were really hard when I was overseas. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what I was going through back home. Often, I would only talk about the good things and not talk about the bad parts.
I am working on exploring things from my past I kept hidden, but it is a slow hard process. The military teaches us to keep pushing forward and not let things hinder us. If your service member doesn’t want to talk about certain experiences, honor their privacy. When they are ready, which may be never, they will come and talk to you.
There were a lot of things that I didn’t want to talk about with my husband while I was overseas. And even when I got home I did not want to talk about my deployment experience. I am still in the process of dealing with some of the hard things that happened overseas. It is a long slow process.
Communication is so important. It also can be one of the areas that can seem like you are walking on eggshells to get back to normal life. My biggest piece of advice is to communicate whenever you can. The most important piece of communication is to listen and provide constructive feedback. If your spouse wants to share things that make you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up. Each person processes a deployment differently. Just like you shouldn’t pry into areas that your service member doesn’t want to share about. You also have the right to not hear about parts of the deployment experience you personally can’t handle.
And lastly, I will say that a journal is a great place to write down thoughts during the times you can’t talk. It is a place to share how you are truly feeling and is something that you can share when you are finally reunited again.
What communication tool do you think is the most important when your spouse is overseas?
For more deployment ideas and support, join my Deployment Masterclass. You’ll get the Ultimate Deployment Guide, exclusive access to video interviews with military spouses who have weathered multiple deployments, plus a Facebook group for deployment support. Learn more about the Deployment Masterclass here.