- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband is deployed to Iraq. We have a 4-month-old son, and I’m getting out of the Army because of the lack of a family care plan.

I honestly don’t know how to be an “Army wife.” Being a soldier is so easy and routine; I always knew what to do and wasn’t worried about me deploying. Now, when he’s the one who’s gone, everything seems like a hot mess.

I always thought we had a very strong marriage and a lot in common. Now when he calls, I tell him about the baby, let him know his dog is still annoying and then I’m at a loss for words. The Army was what we always had in common, and it feels like we’re losing the things that connect us.

What if he realizes this too and starts thinking he doesn’t need me? Cheating will never be an issue for us. I’m just worried our bond is breaking. How do we stay close so far away? - Loose Connection

Dear Loose Connection,

I remember how the last time my husband was deployed, I actually had thoughts that he would be injured and wouldn’t remember who I was. Other husbands and wives share their deployment stories with me, and they all feel like a connection is missing, so I think your feelings are normal.

Let’s be honest. A year or 15 months is a long time to be separated from a spouse or loved one. Believe it or not, I also hear from parents and siblings of service members who are struggling to stay connected to their loved ones.

I’m sure you understand and know your husband is not on a vacation, and that he is enduring a different type of stress. Other service members have reported that being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan requires a different type of focus, which can influence the way they interact or respond to their loved ones. I remember talking to my husband during deployments, and it seemed like some things went right over his head or he wasn’t paying attention. I had to remember not to take it personally. That is my advice to you, too.

My other advice is for you both to find little ways to show your love for each other. Keep sending care packages to him; both of you should send cards and write letters. I know e-mailing is good, but writing a letter and sending it by postal mail is more intimate. Personally, I enjoyed the opportunity to send instant messages to my husband; it was like we were there together.

Others report they enjoy using a webcam, but I felt I would cry every time I looked at him.

Try to “zoom in” on what drew you to your husband initially and made you fall in love. If you enjoy gifts, maybe your husband can visit Web sites that will allow him to send you gifts periodically. Some spouses have even ordered a maid to help their nondeployed spouses clean the house. My husband and I have been best friends from the word go, so we always spend a lot of time just laughing and talking. When he is away, he makes a commitment to stay in touch with me as much as he can.

Listen, don’t lose heart; just do what you can at this time to keep in touch even though the connection may feel loose. When he returns, spend time together rekindling your connection and even attend some marriage retreats or marital counseling if things don’t improve.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]


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