When we were going through our deployment last year, I was determined to be the best, supportive wife that I could be. I was going to shower my husband with care packages, be sweet and loving every time he called, not mind at all dropping everything I was doing to talk (and of course I would never miss a call because I would have that cell phone with me at all times, even in bed), and he would never feel out of the loop with anything because I would always update him on every single thing that happened every single day.
Um, wish it actually had gone like that.
The truth, though, is that by the end of the deployment, I was sick of carrying my cell phone around and it felt more like a leash than a tool to talk to my husband. The care package idea went ok, except that Cliff really didn’t need or want half the stuff I was sending him since the group he was with provided pretty much everything. He would call in the middle of trying to get Caleb ready for bed, or when I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner (one of my least favorite parts of the day) or just when I was finally getting somewhere on whatever writing project I was working on at the time.
As we got closer to the end of the deployment, it was hard for me not to look back over the previous months and point to all of the things I had done, and all of the things I felt like my husband had not done in supporting me (forgetting the little fact of him serving in a war zone).
I was reminded of this recently by an email I got from one of the ladies who responded to my sets of questions for the book I’m working on, Weekend Warrior No More. She told me that it had been really tough filling out those answers because it forced her to look back and look hard at how the deployment was and some of what she saw she didn’t like.
She struggled with feeling like her husband wasn’t putting as much into their marriage as she was. She wrote, “The whole deployment felt like I was constantly giving and showing my husband I loved him, with nothing coming back in return. My husband would tell me he loved me, but I started to feel like words wasn’t enough towards the end of the deployment.”
“Words weren’t enough…” I bet a lot of women out there feel like this wife. I know I did at times when we were going through our deployment. There’s a classic book out there called “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. He describes five distinct ways that we like to give and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Now if you look at this list through the eyes of a military couple, some of these may be difficult to achieve if you’re going through a deployment, especially the last one!
But as Dr. Chapman says, communication is key and it can mean the foundation or the breakdown of our marraiges. Part of that is thinking about the other person.
You know, we already have a great example to follow. When Jesus was on the earth, I don’t believe there was one time mentioned in the Bible that He refused to help someone or show love to someone because He didn’t feel like He was getting love in return.
This isn’t to say that your spouse is off the hook in terms of loving you back. He has his own responsibilities as a husband he needs to meet. But the only one you have control of is yourself. Start with your own actions, your own behaviors and you may be very surprised at the influence you can have on your husband returning or giving back in response to what you give.
So, a few ideas for taking the “me” out of we:
1. Pray for your spouse. Daily. Let him know you’re praying.
2. Use positive language with your spouse. Make extra efforts to lift him up and encourage him. “I’m proud of you.” “You are doing great.” “I’m so blessed to have you in my life.”
3. Find ways to discuss issues in a positive, focused way instead of unleashing everything you’re feeling at the moment. When I was a “peer mediation” counselor in high school, we always encouraged those in a conflict to start with “I feel.” “I felt like what I did for you this week didn’t matter when you didn’t mention anything about it.” “I felt concerned when…” “Maybe I misread this but I felt like…”
Dr. Chapman writes on his website, “The greatest detriment to such positive partnership is selfishness. Perhaps both of you feel that you have gone through a difficult period of life and you deserve a little pampering. However, when you focus on yourselves and start demanding things of each other, you become enemies. When you freely and genuinely reach out with the attitude of helping your spouse, you both become winners. Successful re-entry occurs when both partners seek the well being of the other.”
Oh, for more information, check out Chapman’s site at The Five Love Languages for Military Personnel.
What do you struggle with when it comes to the me and we? What have you been able to overcome?
UPDATE: I’ve blogged on this topic on Military Spouse’s website as well. Check it out and feel free to join the conversation.