My wife has been away on deployment for 3 years. My children and I have seen her 6 times during her deployment. I understand that she wants to serve our country and that she must obey her military orders. I don’t feel like she’s part of our family any more. I make all the decisions for our household, the children’s activities, vacations, medical issues, etc. How can I cope with this? I want a full life.
— Alone & Dissatisfied
Dear Alone & Dissatisfied,
It is an unfortunate truth that those serving our county spend a great many months and sometimes years away from their family. And it is equally, unfortunately true that the toll the deployments take on the marriage and family can be high.
There are some tips that you may already be familiar with in terms of keeping your wife in touch with your family and day-to-day activities. Myfamily.com allows you to create a site dedicated to your family outings and photos and helps keep families together across the distance. Couples and families also find Skype a useful resource for staying in touch. In addition, frequent messages of love and playfulness are helpful for maintaining closeness across the distance.
A regular family meeting via Skype or telephone conferencing is a valuable tool for families apart or together. During these meeting, you and your wife and children would be informing each other and making decisions about the week’s activities. For more information about this process, visit http://www.wholefamily.com/family_room/aboutyourfamily/family_meeting/index.html.
It sounds like you are unsure when or if the situation is going to change and wondering when you will have a spouse at home with whom you can have a ‘full life.’ This requires a heart-to-heart conversation about what a full life means to you, what you’re worried about, and brainstorming together to find solutions. Consider a business style format when having your conversations: keep emotions in check, resist temptation to blame or yell, have time-limited conversations, each person voices thoughts and opinions, keep conversations on-task, and measure progress in mini-steps.
If you find you are not making progress with the conversation, consider long-distance couples counseling to address the issue. You may find that on-line or through Military One Source.