How far we’ve come from the handwritten letter…
I grew up as a military “brat” and I’ve now been a military spouse for almost 5 years. Yup, just a drop in the bucket for some couples, but I like to say I went to the school of (at least a few) hard knocks. From frequent moves, to 5 deployments, losing friends, and setbacks in my career, I have experienced the meaning of military family- and this is where my passions for marriage and family therapy for military couples blossomed from.
My grandmother, now 90, often shares with me tales of having written letters to my grandfather during WWII and wondering if he ever got them. Even if they had been delivered, was he still alive? Now, I tell her stories of these seemingly magical inventions like skype and text messaging that allow myself and my family to stay connected from afar. As a part of a drastically different generation, my kids have grown up kissing computer screens and mailing care packages to Daddy. It’s our norm. Family Therapy Solutions, Wichita Falls, TX
And so it goes with shamelessly talking on the phone in the checkout line, answering texts and emails all through the night, planning entire days around when your partner is likely to call… this is it. We make it all work. In counseling military couples, however, I notice that even with the luxury of instant messaging, couples seem to have more problems than they did before. Our expectations of carrying on a truly “normal” relationship throughout time zones and war zones are substantially higher. We’ve become so accessible that I think we start to take for granted the other hardships to being separated.
For example, many families say they sometimes feel as though they don’t miss their spouse after a while. While everyone’s relationship is different, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume the couple has fallen out of love. It’s more like SURVIVAL. Especially with kids around, you just don’t have time to be sniffling about being lonely for months or years at a time. You have to just get through it. Also, families note a period of adjustment (read: intense fighting) after their partner returns home. Again, for better or for worse, we just get in a groove of how the days will go, and as soon as you throw another human being with thoughts and feelings into the mix, it gets complicated. All the sudden there’s more laundry, more food to cook, more video games…and the conversations…you can’t just multitask like you used to and text back when you’ve got the kids ready for school! Now you have to actually be present in the moment with your partner, look into their eyes instead of your cell phones, and take turns listening. Easier said than done!
I want to start this blog because it’s time we tear down the curtains. People need to know that these things are normal! It’s ok to have that voice that feels angry or confused, or lost at some point in your marriage. Heck, you may even screw up big time- but you weren’t the first, and you won’t be the last to have struggled, and hopefully this blog will help some people feel less isolated when life’s challenges arise.
Happy to Help!
-Erin Calahan, M.S., LMFT-A, LCDC