An Army Wife's Life

Once upon a time I was a college student, then I was a teacher, and now I'm a mother. Technically, I'm currently a freelance writer... but really I am an ARMY WIFE. Expect to find... funny (at least to me) anecdotes, thoughts about la vida military, hopes, anxieties, dreams, commentaries on current events.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ask Molly: Moving "Home" During a Deployment

A reader posted this comment:

Does anyone have any advice? My brother is due to deploy overseas within a year and it is causing problems in his marriage. His family (young wife and 2 year old daughter) and my family moved half way across the country two years ago to forge a better life away from the West coast. Our father also lives here. We are all within minutes of each other. Now that he is due to deploy, his wife wants to move back in with her mother out west. He doesn't want her to. They have a home here, pets, her job, baby's daycare, etc. I'm sure he wants to know that while he is deployed, someone is here maintaining a "Normal" life for him to return to. Her mother has been trying to get her to return the whole two years and is pressuring her, also. (Of course they never got along when they lived together before.) My sister-in-law is afraid to stay alone, but we all feel that she needs to be as strong here as he is being in his deployment. Does anyone have any advice on books, etc., that might help her understand his point? Thanks.

Elizabeth | 11.11.07 - 2:10 pm |

Dear Elizabeth,

Hopefully some of my readers will add their comments as well so you can get more than one perspective.

Deciding whether to stay where you live with your spouse or return "home" with your parents while your spouse is deployed is a very difficult decision.

Before I could offer my own advice and opinion to a spouse, I'd need to know some more details, such as whether the service member is Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserves, how close the spouse lives to a post if the service member is not Active Duty, what sort of support system she has in place, and the length of the deployment.

If the spouse has a good support system in place, the kids have friends, and the deployment is likely to be a year or less, then it is often a good decision to stay put.

Some spouses may find, especially if they have a very young baby, if they have not established a support system, or if they are facing a long deployment, that they would rather move back in with a parent, possibly also saving money.

I stayed in Killeen during my husband's deployment and it was a mixed bag, but overall I made the right decision for us.

Ultimately, though, every person is an individual and this is a decision that will be made by the couple. Yes, his deployment will be a stressful time for him and he does need the support of his family. Deployment can also be very trying for the spouse, as well, and your sister in law also needs to know that her needs are understood and respected.

While there are some good books out there for military spouses (I link to a number in my sidebar), no book will be able to take into account all the individual circumstances a person may face.

I think it is wonderful that your family is so close. I am sure you have the best interests of your whole family in mind (including your brother, your sister in law, and of course your little niece), but I am a little concerned that you are searching for resources to help her understand his perspective, rather than resources that might allow both of them better understand each others' points of view.

In the long run, I think that a healthy marriage will grow in depth during the separation, no matter what decision they make. So, the important part is really how they reach that decision.

My suggestions to you is that you recommend they utilize some of the following resources to help maintain the health of their relationship and then allow them lots of space to sort it out together, possibly with a neutral person trained in relationship counseling.
  • Military OneSource: Military OneSource is your one-stop resource for pretty much everything. They even have Master's level consultants who will answer the phone 24-7 and help military service members and family locate resources, including limited free counseling sessions. You have to register to use the website, but it is all free.
  • The Unit or Post Chaplain: If your brother and his wife are on or near a post, a Chaplain could be an excellent resource. Most will keep religion out of the discussion if asked, and they have training in the specific issues military couples face as well as access to extensive resources.
  • The Family Readiness Group: The leader should be able to at least point the spouse to some resources for making the decision. Also, the quality of the support available might factor into the decision and possibly persuade her to stay.
  • The Military Couples' Workshop or Retreat: There are a lot of workshops and retreats that may help them work through some of these issues. Some are for those who are experiencing trouble reintegrating after a deployment, but others are open to service members and their spouses before hand. Ask the command about Building Strong and Ready Families program, a two-day program that helps couples develop better communication skills, reinforced by a weekend retreat. If they are Reserve or National Guard, there is a "Strong Bonds Marriage Education Program."
  • Army Community Services or similar post service: If they are active duty or activated and near a post, there should be an office that is a clearinghouse for various classes and opportunities.
  • Should I Stay Or Should I Go?: Another person's perspective + 26 comments from readers on the issue. (from SpouseBUZZ)
Hopefully these resources will help them reach the right decision for them as a couple and I am sure your family will support them, regardless of what that decision may be.

My prayers are with your brother and your whole family as you prepare for his deployment.

"Ask Molly" represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor.

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