When Daniel first mentioned the possibility of him deploying after joining the Marine Corps, we were just a few months into dating. And I dreaded that hypothetical every day since.
Now that he’s finally back from Okinawa after half a year, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. While he was gone, time seemed to stand still, but now that we’re together again, it feels like no time has gone by at all – but I’ll get into all that later.
I want to quickly disclaim that I of course understand that everyone’s deployment experience is different. Some deployments are shorter, some are much longer, and each couple has a different story – this is just ours as husband and wife.
THE DAYS CAN FEEL VERY LONG
Everyone told us that the six months would fly by, but Daniel and I both agreed that it felt like way longer. I truly experienced the meaning of “time standing still” during this period.
What helped: I know you’re told not to count down, but it’s hard not to! If you’re going to have a countdown, keeping track of the weeks (rather than the days) definitely helps. I started off tracking weeks, but once the 100-day mark hit, it was difficult not to manually check off each day. Filling your schedule with a healthy amount of activities is a huge help as well. Surrounding myself with family and friends was also a great distraction!
YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO HIT A RUT… OR TWO
I’m not usually one to hit a rut, and if I do I can snap out of it quickly, but I found myself in a good long few over the six-month span. I didn’t expect this, but I lacked motivation pretty often, and getting back on my feet wasn’t the easiest task.
What helped: Creating to-do lists really organized my thoughts and priorities. I took on the massive task of solo-renovating the entire front half of the house, so there was an endless list for me to do. But on days I wanted a break, I found cleaning to be very therapeutic. I remember some of my best days consisting of a morning/afternoon deep clean, followed by a relaxing night watching a movie with Blue at my feet. It left me feeling productive, refreshed, and ready to tackle the next day.
YOUR ROUTINE IS GOING TO CHANGE
It’s a real shock to the system going from seeing each other every day to spending nights alone… and then it’s another shock when you’re reunited. And that’s normal. We found it easy to pick back up where we left off pre-deployment, but it did feel pretty surreal for the first couple weeks back together, and we had to form some new habits.
What helped: Developing a routine in general is key in my opinion to help push through each day. Staying busy will speed the days up and hopefully give your mind a break from worrying and feeling lonely. Incorporating your significant other in your newly-formed habits when they return can also be fun! I’ve been showing Daniel the ropes on what’s changed and what Blue and I have been up to each day, and he’s happily hopped on board.
TIPS TO CONNECT WHILE APART
Again, every couple will find what works best for them when it comes to connecting, but this is what we found to be fun and helped us make the most of our limited communication time:
Weekly breakdowns: Whenever possible, we would send a little summary of what we’ve been up to over the past week, and if we were lucky, we’d be able to send a couple photos via text. This was only if Daniel was off ship, otherwise it was just email. And even then, that wasn’t every single day. There were several days at a time where he wasn’t able to get online, but he said he loved reading the weekly roundups once he was back on.
Setting aside time to talk: Obviously, the “unknown” factor is the ring leader when it comes to the military. Nothing is ever 100% set in stone – schedules change, unexpected things happen, and in Daniel’s case, some tropical storms can hit, causing a whole slew of issues. But, whenever possible, I’d stay up late and Daniel would get up extra early so we could have a real-time conversation. We really cherished those moments.
Spontaneous thoughtful messages: I absolutely loved waking up in the morning to a sweet or silly email from Daniel; even a simple one-liner letting me know he missed me and was thinking of me would make my day. And I loved doing the same for him. It may not sound like much, but it really made the bitter moments of missing each other that much sweeter.
I’m confident when I say that this deployment has made us stronger as a couple. The heart does grow fonder when you’re apart, and I know I had heightened moments of appreciation for Daniel and our time together when it was no longer a daily luxury.
I hope this all helps give some insight on the experience and proves that although it’s very challenging, there are ways to cope and come out stronger not only as a couple, but also as individuals.
To anyone out there ready to tackle deployment – you’ve got this!