The last year brought challenges that no one expected. A lot of time together in a stressful situation that was beyond anything that was previously experienced. Relationships were stressed. Building a strong marriage relationship can provide a steady base on which to build. In the new year, resolve to have a healthy military marriage with these tips.
Go on a marriage retreat!
Did you know that each branch of the armed services offers marriage retreats? These retreats serve as a way to connect and discuss any concerns. Retreats use enrichment programs to help couples open communication. These are free to military families. Some have childcare offered, but overnight retreats do not cover childcare. Consider swapping childcare with a trusted friend so you can take some time to cultivate your marriage. Make sure to make reservations in advance (or as much as a military family can). Look for these programs on your base. Navy and Coast Guard offer CREDO Marriage Enrichment Retreats in each region. The Air Force retreats are offered through Marriage Care. The Marines offer Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program and the Army offers retreats through Strong Bonds. Look up these programs on your local base page to learn more.
Keep Communication Open
Long work hours and unpredictable schedules can prohibit communication. Sometimes once children are added to the family, communication can be purely logistical. Making time to talk about something other than school schedules or who does the drop off for soccer isn’t easy. Schedule it – on the digital or paper calendar. This will ensure that you are sitting on talking. When apart and daily communication can’t happen, try writing a daily email of thoughts or questions. It keeps a discussion open even when apart. When you are able to, date each other. Dates at home can be accomplished to save money and provide a fun way to connect.
Talk About Money
We have all heard the phrase – don’t talk about politics and money with family, but talking about money is valuable in marriage. According to Business Insider, money is the number one cause of argument in a marriage. Discuss bills and payment plans. Have monthly meetings to review and develop a budget and discuss money goals. Pinterest provides a bevy of budget sheets to track daily, weekly and monthly expenses. Being open about pending costs can prevent a fight.
This one is a hard one with the unknown of the military lifestyle. Planning doesn’t mean have everything plotted out, but it does mean discuss things ahead of time. If you are planning to PCS in the next year, have a plan for downsizing if needed and gather important paperwork in one location. If a deployment is upcoming, discuss the plan for pre-deployment and post-deployment, and how best to communicate when on deployment. Separations can be times of stress both in-country as a service member and at home as the family. Plan for the contingencies. Make sure there is appropriate Power of Attorney paperwork ready and up to date, and consider Last Will and Testaments.
Seek Help If Needed
If it is difficult to talk to each other, or you don’t know how to talk about a subject, there are professionals who can help. Each unit or base has a chaplain where family members can confidentially share concerns and they are trained and able to discuss or refer as needed. All military families can utilize non-medical counseling through Military One Source or Military Family Life Counselors (MFLC). Military One Source can be reached both CONUS and OCONUS with their phone numbers or chat functions. MFLCs are located at child development centers, youth and teen-based centers, schools on and off installation, and sometimes part of military units. TRICARE coverage allows for medical counseling if needed. Conflict and miscommunication will happen in any relationship, getting the tools to help with these discussions can help build a marriage.
Relationships are not a one-size fit all. Add the unique challenges of military life, it can be difficult to keep communication open with clear plans. Being on the same page for your goals in marriage will help build a strong partnership, one that will be ready for all the flexibility needed in military life.