I have never heard a military spouse say, “I can’t wait for the next deployment!” Nor have I ever heard the spouse of a deployed service member say, “I’m so glad he’s gone!” Maybe somewhere in the world of spouses someone actually does have these feelings, but generally those of us on the home front are counting the days until our beloveds’ return. Nothing about a deployment is easy. The burden of extra responsibilities, loneliness, and worry take a toll on our emotions. We grieve, we become angry, we wallow in sadness, and we feel hopelessly stuck in a situation we can’t control. But somehow we weather the storm.
One thing the deployment experience has taught me is that for every pain and heartache there is an equal, if not greater benefit that results. One of those benefits is resiliency. Whether we realize it or not, our ability to push through obstacles and rebound from setbacks continually grows stronger throughout each deployment. Though difficult, these challenging times give us the opportunity to grow and change in ways we would not experience otherwise.
Each spouse has his or her own unique deployment experiences, but the tactics we use to tough it out are similar among all spouses. Here are five common ways deployments make us more resilient:
- We learn to accept. We can’t stop a deployment from happening, so we must accept it and move on. Once we get past the initial blow, we figure out what it is we need to do to get through the next days, weeks, and months. We set goals, create a countdown, plan trips, and schedule weekly girls’ nights. We create a new life for ourselves until our service members are home again.
- We learn to appreciate. By experiencing such challenging circumstances, we are able to more fully appreciate the good times. We embrace the things that bring us joy and happiness. We realize how truly valuable our friends and family are.
- We learn the virtue of perspective. Over time, we realize the benefits that deployments can bring us. We might notice that our relationship with our spouse improves with distance. We could finally get the chance to travel to see distant friends or family. We may find some extra time to quiet our minds and focus on faith or self-improvement. And when the negative thoughts come creeping back into our minds, we remember that all bad times eventually lead to a good outcome.
- We learn to do. With all responsibilities falling on us during a deployment, we must become doers rather than askers. We develop the skills necessary to manage almost anything. We figure out how to get things done.
- We learn to rely on each other. Despite our best efforts, there are many times when we simply cannot do it all. Other times we are having a bad day and just need some moral support. Military spouses rely on and support each other during these times. We have “deployment buddies” who we know we can call any time. The bond that is built is one of the strongest we will ever experience.
Prior to experiencing deployments, resilient is not a term I would have used to describe myself. But now after three deployments, it is one of my most defining characteristics. Because of those deployments, I uncovered my ability bounce back from difficulties. I realize now that no matter how tough things get, I have the strength to pull through. All military spouses do. And although I will never welcome a deployment, at least I know that in the end I will be a better person because of it.