In honor of Veterans Day, this weeks Love Essentially is dedicated to offering relationship advice for military couples. Debbie Maraia, a military spouse offers tips on how to cope with deployment.
How To Love A Soldier by Jackie Pilossoph
Recently, my kids and I were at O’Hare, headed to our gate to board a flight. I was walking briskly when I saw something that caused me to stop suddenly and become fixated. A young couple stood at a gate, embraced in a goodbye that was so loving and romantic, it almost resembled a movie scene.
The soldier was dressed in full military attire and was holding the hand of his toddler son as he passionately kissed his wife, who had tears in her eyes and a bouquet of flowers in her hand.
The picture-perfect couple, along with the fact that Nov. 11 was Veterans Day, provided inspiration for this column, because I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for military couples to cope with deployment.
To gain some insight into life as a military spouse, I reached out to Debbie Maraia, the administrative and community branch chief for non-medical counseling for Military Community and Family Policy, an agency of the Department of Defense that offers support to service members and their families.
Maraia is also the spouse of an active duty service member who has been deployed numerous times over the past 25 years. She said that although difficult at times, deployments create opportunity for personal growth.
“It’s an opportunity to become more well rounded and to engage in activities in which you might not typically engage, such as managing finances or doing repairs around the house,” said Maraia, who has been actively working with military programs for over 20 years, and who has been with the Department of Defense for five. “If you’re faced with a problem and there’s no one else to help you at home, it’s an opportunity to step up and prove to yourself you can do it on your own, which builds self-confidence, self-esteem and the feelings of independence and empowerment.”
So, how can a military spouse stay strong during a deployment? Here are Maraia’s eight tips:
Plan ahead. Before the deployment even occurs, establish a communication plan together, determining in advance things like how often and when (what days) you are going to text, email or Skype. Knowing you have regular contact helps manage expectations and reduce anxiety.
Keep a journal. This is a great way to keep your spouse up to date with your life at home, while at the same time providing a therapeutic outlet for you.
Share music, books or newspaper articles with each other. Sharing an old song that brings back a great memory, an article of mutual interest or a book you think he or she would enjoy is an intimate way to show your spouse you are thinking of him or her.
Send care packages. Sending your spouse a box filled with a letter and their favorite items —candies, snacks, magazines – sends the message that you are thinking of him or her. Even better, decorate the box. It will give your spouse the feeling of a joyous, personal holiday. Also, involving children in putting together care packages is healthy for them, and makes them feel thoughtful and involved.
Stay engaged with friends, coworkers and family. This is no time to isolate yourself. Keep yourself busy by making plans with others.
Use the time to grow. You can accomplish something wonderful during this time by possibly finishing school, getting a certification or growing in your career.
Routine is important. Staying organized and having a structured routine will keep you productive and will help manage stress. Cardiovascular exercise, weight training and yoga can be very beneficial.
Recognize signs you aren’t adjusting well. Lack of energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, becoming emotional easily and feeling isolated are signs that you might need help to manage the stress of your spouse’s deployment. Reach out to family and friends, a spiritual leader, or a professional for support. You may also contact Military OneSource (MilitaryOneSource.mil)
In researching this topic, I also found a column called, “Ask Ms. Vicki,” which is published on Military.com. Vicki Johnson, (Ms. Vicki) is known as the “Dear Abby” for the military community…(Click here to read the rest of the column, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press)