Military Spouse Magazine

FEB 2019

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G O O D A D V I C E AFTER 23 YEARS OF MARRIAGE TO A MARINE, VERY LITTLE SURPRISES ME. But when I crossed through the sword arch on that beautiful July day all those years ago, I could never have imagined where we would end up. As a military family, we've endure our fair share of hardships. Years of regular separations begin to pile up. As military couples know, it's not just the time spent apart that is hard, it's also the time leading up to the impending departure where the stress ensues. Then, once the deployment begins, we settle into our new routine. Only to find ourselves preparing for the return. And another transition. Once our service member returns, we experi- ence an entirely new set of emotions. Acclimating to being back under one roof can be a dance on tip toes while twirling in and out of control. The sum of it all is so much harder than that 25-year-old bride could have ever imagined. Add children into the equation, particularly ones who have special needs, and you are faced with an entirely different set of obstacles. Trying to parent while dealing with so many reloca- tions and separations is not for the faint at heart. Everyone at times feels wrecked. And while trying to find our way through it all, resentment can build. Score cards are kept. It is not unusual for one or both of the couple members to begin to feel unappreciated. Navigating through it all can be in- credibly painful and finding someone you can count on who understands this unique lifestyle is tricky. This life is not typical. This is our story. Couples Counseling After two decades of military life, it was time for a marriage tune-up. By Valli Vida Gideons, Marine Corps Spouse MEETING WITH THE COUNSELOR So as we entered the therapy room, sitting across from the person I had vowed to love yet could barely stand, I cringed at everything he said and did. I criticized; I lacked empathy and humility; I inter- rupted; I didn't consider his strengths; I withheld affection just because; I held back compliments and spewed out would've, could've, should've. We were broken. He often said little, and I said a lot. Usually both having deaf ears and closed hearts. We found ourselves in a marital chess match. But there was not going to be a winner in this game. No matter what. Something (or someone) had to give. A simple yet profound exercise as- signed by a therapist, after our first session of playing the blame game and look-what-you've- done-to-me dance, facilitated a subtle shift. Our task was to make a list of things we loved about each other and then bring it to the next session. I thought, "Sure. Whatever. That's gonna be a stretch." But then, an hour before our follow-up, my heart began to pour out love language I hadn't felt in ages. Once I started, I couldn't stop. And it wasn't the big things that resonated, but rather the nu- ances, tidbits down memory lane, and all the other idiosyncrasies I had no longer acknowledged. I kept the list. It's tucked safely inside an old journal, and I bust it out from time to time; that scrap of paper was a relationship-saver of sorts and one of my most treasured possession. Check with Military One Source to find out if you can get free marriage counseling at militaryonesource.mil/confidential-help/non-medical-counseling . Photos provided by Valli Vida Gideons 16 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / FEBRUARY 2019

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