Are you having a difficult time dealing with your spouse’s military lifestyle? Do you feel like ending the marriage because the military lifestyle is causing you stress? If so you’re not alone. Many people who have a spouse who is in the military feel the same. However things don’t have to be so bad. To help understand what type of impact being married to someone who is in the military has on most marriages and what you can do to happily cope with your spouse’s military lifestyle, I have interviewed therapist Keith Ellis.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Alabama with a Masters degree in counseling and bachelors degree in social work. I’m also a minister with the church of Christ. I own my own private practice called, Family Counseling Center in Enterprise, Alabama. In addition I am an approved supervisor of marriage and family therapist in the state of Alabama. I also served as the Red Cross Disaster Mental Health chair for Coffee County Alabama, and I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Coffee County Chapter of the American Red Cross. On a volunteer basis I served as both police and fire chaplain for the city of enterprise.”
“Enterprise Alabama is located at the gate of Fort Rucker, which is the home of Army aviation. The primary mission of Fort Rucker is training helicopter pilots. We have a large number of Army personnel who both deploy and returning from deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the present time.”
What makes living a military lifestyle as a spouse most difficult?
“According to the population with which I work in a military setting, one of the most difficult parts of the military lifestyle currently has to do with deploying soldiers in harms way. While both the soldier and his spouse understand that it’s part of the job it is still difficult when the time comes for the deployment to begin.”
“Another problem with a military lifestyle military spouses and their dependents have to move their family every three or four years. Depending on the soldier’s specific job the number of years can more or less. Because of constantly moving many spouses are not able to establish themselves in the careers that they once had prepared for their life’s work. There are also issues of having to re-start their children in new schools. Military children often will go through four or more school systems during their educational career.”
“While a soldier often automatically fits into his unit, the uniform and the job description is often the same regardless of the location, the military spouse must start over finding friends, doctors, dealing with new school personnel and the plethora of those things associated with establishing a new home. Often it is a spouse who has to take care of the physical move. Dealing with the movers, unpacking the house and setting up the new house while the soldier immediately goes to work. Sometimes that involves a soldier being deployed within a very short time of arriving at their new facility.”
“An emerging problem for military families especially during times of deployment include a spouse at home who has to carry on with the business of everyday life such as family finances. This often includes being more or less of a single-parent as far sedated days concerned.”
What type of impact can a military lifestyle have on the marriage?
“With the constant moving and deployments military families today have obvious stressors placed on them as a family. The problems of raising children as a single parent often are present when a service member is deployed for an extended period of time. There are also problems of loneliness and isolation. This can be reduced if the military family chooses to take advantage of modern technology and communication that’s available now more than ever for military families. Families can minimize negative effects by using technology such as: e-mail, texting, blogging, and Skype.”
“It is reported that by the Defense Manpower Data Center at the Pentagon tat, “during the past decade, the divorce rate among active-duty service members has grown to 3.6 percent.””
“Further data says that “in 2009 alone, approximately 27,312 divorces took place between married members of Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps where at least one member of the couple was on active duty.” (Source cited: http://www.jacksonvillefamilylawattorneys.com/2010/07/military-divorce-rate-skyrockets-due-to-iraq-and-afghanistan-wars.shtml)”
“Despite the divorce numbers, military families can develop in a positive manner and develope appropriate coping skills. They must become resilient to deal with the changing demands of the world security.”
“On the positive side there is job security during an economically depressed time. The military offers a number of positive benefits in the way of retirement, health insurance, life insurance and an overall sense of security.” The ability to find service on military instillations includes everything from shopping at the PX to the number of recreational activities that are provided by MWR.”
How can a spouse who is living a military lifestyle be happy?
“There needs to be an emotional by and by the spouse. A spouse should remember the service that is given to this country. As in any profession, family support is vital. Often what is needed is simply to adjust one’s point of view. For instance many military families have an opportunity to travel and see the world. In so doing they get to experience various cultures.”
“It is wise for a military spouse to meet his or her own needs during this time. To involve themselves in educational or professional activities. That is to maintain their own sense of worth whether that is at home or working outside the home. Often it is possible to become involved in civilian life. For example, becoming a part of the local church or school family. Developing friendships with both military and civilian families.”
“Perhaps, some of the best advice is simply to take care of yourself, your marriage and your family. Make sure that there are good lines of communication and conflict resolution skills in place to deal with family problems. As much as possible try to maintain the family structure by having a strong coalition with your spouse when it comes to matters of the children and your personal life. It’s important to take time together and enjoy each other.”
What type of professional help is available for someone who has a spouse that is in the military?
“The first place a military spouse will find supporters is through the chaplain’s office. The Army particularly has included a family life chaplain who often times will be trained in marriage and family therapy, often licensed or credentialed through AAMFT. While more and more bases are downsizing their clinics, most military installations still have Behavioral Health Departments, which is staffed with psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, family therapist and others professional counselors who are trained to deal with the problems often unique to the military community.”
“Another service available is through Military One Source, which services members and dependents. Military one source can be contacted by calling 1 (800) 342-9647 or by going online to www.militaryonesource.com. Military One Source is an EAP that provides numerous services including counseling. When it comes to mental health counseling, military dependent or service members will be screened by professional counselors who can make local recommendations to affiliate therapist.”
“An often-overlooked resource available to military dependents is the behavioral health coverage of their Tri-Care insurance. Providers can be located by going to the www.mytricare.com website. For dependents normally there’s no need to get a referral from their doctor or facility for behavioral health services. However, when it comes to active duty service personnel they must be referred to an outside provider. A simple phone call will let you know what steps to take.”
Thank you Keith for doing the interview on how someone can happily cope with his or her spouse’s military lifestyle. For more information on Keith Ellis or his work you can check out his website on www.4familyhelp.com.
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