The other day as I was unpacking our things from another move, I found a huge stack of letters. I realized they were the letters I had sent my husband (then boyfriend) while he was deployed for a year, many years ago. He had kept every letter.
Naturally I started to read them all again and the sweet young love in the letters brought tears to my eyes. I started to think about that first deployment and how much stronger our relationship became because of it.
My husband has many times told me it was during that deployment that he fell deeper in love with me and that he knew then he would marry me and spend the rest of our lives together. It was hard to be away from each other for a whole year but somehow it made our love that much sweeter and stronger.
It is possible to enjoy each other and strengthen your relationship from across the globe. Here are some of the things that I think greatly contributed to that.
How to make your relationship stronger during a deployment:
1.) Send him off with a gift to remember you by.
I got Mike a pocket watch engraved with the saying “where ever you are is where I want to be” and put a picture of us on the inside. He loved it. He carried it with him so he could look at our picture and think of the girl waiting for him back home.
2.) Facebook is your friend
If they are able to connect to Wifi (not always going to be possible depending on the location), Facebook is a life saver. The connection was never strong enough for us to FaceTime using our iPhones so we used Facebook messenger to communicate most of the time.
Facebook messenger has the ability to send voice and video recordings that the other person can then save and replay later when they are missing you. We did that quite a bit and I just remember replaying his 3 second videos of him saying “I love you” over and over again when I laid in bed alone at night.
Although Facebook also has the audio calling feature, the signal was not strong enough for us to be able to see each other and talk without the other persons face freezing every other word. So instead, we would record messages and just send messages via the messenger.
We had a “window” where we could talk to each other every morning my time and night for him. It was never very long but he always made sure to at least send me a message letting me know he loved me. Again he was in a place where he was able to do this but that will not always be the case.
3.) Get out and experience new things and take pictures of you doing it.
*Note- Forgive the poor quality of these photos. These were actual pictures I sent to my husband several years ago when he was deployed that I had taken on my phone.*
When your soldier is deployed, the last thing you want them to worry about is you falling to pieces at home without you. To reassure him that I was still making time for myself, I would go do something new and take pictures doing it.
One of his favorites I would send was of me doing an aerial aerobics class. I had never done it before but it was so fun and Mike loved to see the pictures of me out enjoying myself.
I would also cook my Dad dinners at least once a week and always made something I knew Mike would like: seafood. Seafood is my dads favorite as well so it was a win-win. If I made something particularly pretty, I would take a picture to send to Mike the next day.
3.) Send pictures of yourself.
I am not talking raunchy pictures. Keep it relatively appropriate. You never know who else might be seeing them on the internet. I sent a picture of me almost everyday. Smiling in my office, holding a coke can that I found that had “soulmate” or our names on them. Anything I could think of. He loved seeing me happy and waiting for him back home.
He would always tell me that even on the worst of days, after a 13+ hour workday, my smile brought him peace and happiness.
3.) Send care packages.
These can definitely get expensive so if you are only able to send one every few months or for special occasions, that is understandable. If you can’t send packages, send cards or even just notes in an envelope.
I sent him a package almost every month. It gets hard to be creative and get ideas of what to put in them but he loved opening them and knowing I was thinking about him. I would theme them or just send random things I think he would enjoy. Snacks (that are non perishable and that cannot melt), a coffee mug with a cute saying, the sky is the limit.
A great thing to put in the care packages is personalized items with your picture on them. You can get a coffee mug or a mouse pad printed with your picture on them pretty cheap at Sam’s. Other things I would put in were little random things with post-it notes tacked on them like a pair of super man boxers with a post-it reading “because you are my super hero”.
For his Christmas box, I made sure to put in a couple things to make his room feel a little more cheerful. I put a a string of Christmas lights he was able to hang up and an ornament I had personalized with our names for him to tack to the wall. He tacked it up on his “Jess wall”. He took a picture of his Jess wall for me once- it was his favorite pictures of me and cards I had sent him.
One thing I wish I hadn’t put in his Christmas box that he still jokes about with me from time to time is glitter ornaments. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time but they are not gentle with your packages.
Sometimes they are tossed around like soccer balls in transit and the Christmas box must have been one of those times because all the glitter had come off the ornaments. He said he tore the tape open and “poof” glitter explosion everywhere. He said he found glitter months later cleaning up his room.
I also always included a card or note from me. When I couldn’t send a package, I sent just the card with a hand written message so he knew how much I missed and loved him.
4.) Keep him updated about life back home but try not to add more negativity.
This is a delicate balance. I would tell him about how much I missed him and about difficulties back home but tried not to burden him too much to add even more stress than he was already experiencing. I wanted the time he talked to me to be his reprieve, his safe space.
Now that we have a child, the next deployment I will definitely keep him up to date on everything that’s going on and all the milestones but I will try not to complain too much about solo parenting our son while he is gone. I know he will already feel awful that he can’t be there to experience our son’s first moments that he may miss or help out. I don’t want to cause more stress by rubbing it in.
5.) If possible, try to make a special trip in the middle for you both to look forward to.
I was able to meet Mike in London for a week. My aunt lived there so we had a place to stay for free and it was wonderful to have a little vacation together. Meeting him overseas was great because then he didn’t have to add travel time to his leave days. It made the first 5 1/2 months go by quickly knowing we would be together halfway, if even just briefly.
This isn’t always possible for everyone (we would not be able to go somewhere that extravagant now). Even going away for a weekend without the kids when he is home for a couple weeks mid deployment will be a great way to add a little romance and something to look forward to during those long days apart.
Well that is my top things that I feel helped to strengthen our relationship and make the time apart easier on both of us. What would you add to the list? Is there something that you did on your husband’s deployment that helped in keeping your relationship strong? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about it!
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