When people ask me what my husband does for a living, I have a hard time answering them. I’m very proud of Zach and his job as a US Army infantryman but explaining his job has led to a lot of ‘interesting’ questions. My current favorites now that he’s deployed are “Has he killed anyone?” and “Aren’t you afraid he’s going to die?”. Which, by the way, are two questions you should never ask anyone no matter what their spouse’s job description is.
To be honest, it’s never easy knowing that the person you love most is in danger and I’d be lying if I said that knowledge doesn’t terrify me sometimes. My hope is that this post will not only serve as a reminder to myself when I’m struggling with our current reality but also help other spouses and family members who are going through the same struggle.
5 Ways to Cope When Your Spouse has a Dangerous Job
1) Talk to your Spouse and Develop a Plan
Speaking from experience, talking to your spouse about what to do and what will take place if the worst happens is not a conversation at the top of anyone’s bucket list. Nevertheless, I believe it’s beneficial for every couple to have this conversation but, especially if your spouse is in the military or a first responder, having this conversation is a must. Talking through the procedure for notification if anything were to happen to your spouse, having a plan for childcare if you have kiddos, and making access to important information available to both spouses are just a few things that you should do. (If you’re a military spouse and your spouse is deploying, be sure you have a power of attorney.)
This isn’t an easy conversation and it might seem like this step is doing the opposite of calming your anxiety but it’s important nevertheless. And, honestly, for me, having a plan in place keeps me from having the extra anxiety of not knowing what to do or how we’d live if something were to happen to my husband.
2) Stay in Touch with your Spouse As Much as Possible
I am incredibly blessed and thankful that Zach and I are able to stay in touch as much as we have this deployment–being able to check up on his status has helped my anxiety so much. However, especially with deployment, staying in touch with your spouse isn’t always easy. If you’re in a situation where contact with your spouse is limited, write a letter. Use a long-distance texting app. Email. Even if your loved one reads what you’ve written awhile after you write it, I guarantee just putting your thoughts into words will help you feel closer to your spouse.
Encourage your spouse to do the same for you and write letters or send emails when you can’t talk to each other on the phone. Good communication is so important in marriage and it’s no more important than when you are separated by distance.
3) Find a support network
The truth? I feel a little bit like a hypocrite adding this one in because I am the poster child for withdrawing from others when I’m dealing with anxiety. However, I am trying to do better about that during this deployment.
One thing I have discovered during the past few months is to have other people to lean on than just your family members. For me, those are my milspouse friends both online and in my family readiness group. I always used to scoff at this but there’s something incredibly therapeutic about talking to someone who’s going through the same situation as you are. Obviously, support from family is important but having someone who understands what you’re going through without having to explain is a gift.
4) Learn about the risks of your spouse’s job
A lot of military spouses disagree with me and say that ignorance is bliss when it comes to knowing exactly what their spouse does. For me personally, knowing as much as I do about what my husband does and what’s happening where he is has helped keep my imagination and anxiety in check during the more stressful times of this deployment. I am that person who has a map of where her husband is deployed as the computer’s screen saver and a news alert that pops up whenever something happens in his part of the world. And yes, most of the people I’ve told that to think I’m crazy.
When it comes down to it, how much you know about your spouse’s job and the details of what they’re doing on deployment is completely up to you. Learn as much (or as little) as you’re comfortable with.
5) Develop your own strategy for relieving stress
For some people, running and other forms of exercise is their stress reliever. If you’re finding yourself extra anxious, concentrate on something that makes you feel empowered. Find a hobby, learn something new, take a class, work extra hours at your job. Someone told me before Zach deployed that my worry will not keep him safe and I like to remind myself of that some days. You know you–so be sure to do things that take your mind off your anxiety and never be afraid to ask for help.
The hard truth is that nothing will ever completely prepare you for having your spouse in harm’s way but I hope that these tips will help you cope with the reality of it all a little bit better.