When you’re in the military, you sacrifice a lot – time away from family, being in dangerous and uncomfortable situations, and sometimes even your life. But for those who are lucky enough to find love with another Veteran, that shared experience can make for a very strong relationship. If you’re a Veteran couple looking to have a successful relationship, here are some tips that might help. Relationships are never perfect, a strong long-lasting relationship requires great communication. Here are some tips we have found useful for Veteran couples.
As with any goal, we need to define what we want in our relationship or marriage. Only then can we focus on the things that are going well. Most Veterans are strong – mentally and physically, determined, and sometimes hard-headed. That is how they made it into and survived being in the military. These traits are incredible for some areas of life but can sometimes cause issues in others – like relationships.
Chances are if you’re dating someone or are married to in the military you’ve had to deal with distance at one point or another. Military relationships can be exciting, but they’re also challenging. Training schedules can be excruciating, access to phone or email can be limited, and relocation or deployment always seems to be just around the corner. But distance can and may just lay the groundwork for a solid, lasting relationship. Distance makes you better communicators. This can actually help your relationship down the road. Once you’re reunited, those long conversations won’t feel so overwhelming. You’ll also be more comfortable expressing yourself emotionally. Distance can also improve intimacy. When you can’t see or touch your loved one, you appreciate them even more. You might find yourselves Skyping or Facetiming for hours on end, just to feel close to each other. And when you finally are able to be together again, you’ll savor every hug and kiss. Once you’re together again sometimes we tend to fall into a routine so it is important to get back to the basics of a healthy relationship.
When it comes to basic communication in relationships it is always essential to:
- Talk to each other to communicate your needs – don’t wait for your partner to try and figure out what is going on with you. No one is a mind reader.
- If you have an issue to talk about, do it gently – going on the attack rarely achieves a positive outcome.
- Listen carefully to each other – we are so often busy defending ourselves or making our own point that we don’t listen to what our partner is saying. Let your partner know that you have heard their concerns before you give them your response.
- Remember what you like about your partner – this helps protect your relationship. One critical or negative comment needs five positive ones to counteract its effect. Think carefully before criticizing.
- Make repair attempts – if you attempt to talk about an issue and it doesn’t go how you intended, try not to let the situation become worse (such as the silent treatment or ignoring the other person’s attempts at repair).
- Spend quality time together – make sure your relationship is a priority and make time for each other, even if you have to schedule it in. Regular ‘deposits in your relationship piggy bank will help protect your relationship and make it even stronger.
- Accept and value differences in each other. We often choose people who have qualities we would want to embody. This is one of the reasons why our relationships offer us great opportunities to grow and learn as individuals. Remind each other of this.
- Set goals – make plans for your relationship and for your future together. This ensures that you are both in the relationship for the long haul.
- Be supportive – try not to be too judgmental, critical or blame each other; we are all human and we all make mistakes. Remind yourself that together you are a team, and in order for the team to be successful, you each have to support one another.
- Learn from disagreements – accept that arguments will happen, and try to resolve them with respect and compromise. One of the strongest predictors of divorce is ‘contempt’, which is any action whereby your partner is ‘put down’ by you, whether it is the way you talk to them or what you say. In disagreements, we sometimes become overwhelmed and can harm our relationship.
- Stay calm during arguments – if this is not possible, take time out. Taking an ‘us’ perspective that prioritizes the relationship as a whole rather than a ‘you vs. me’ perspective can be very beneficial.
- Be sexually considerate – be affectionate outside of bedroom intimacy (sometimes a kiss goodbye in the morning or a warm hug when you get home are just as important). Accept that individuals have varying sex drives and sustaining a healthy and happy sex life requires conversation. A reduction in a couple’s physical connection can be a warning sign of problems within a relationship.
- Enjoy each other – have fun and celebrate your life as a couple. Rituals can enhance your dynamic. It’s also important to try new hobbies and activities as a couple. It often deepens your relationship and sparks meaningful conversations.
- Be flexible – allow your relationship to grow and change as you both change.
What we focus on in our relationships grow, so if we can stop focusing on being competitive, stop focusing on always being right, and instead try to create more intimacy, laughter, and compromise, we’ll be setting ourselves up for success. A ‘good relationship’ can mean different things to different individuals. However, strong adult relationships generally involve two people who respect and can communicate with each other, and have a level of equality among each other. Many people expect their relationship with their partner to include love, intimacy, sexual expression, commitment, compatibility, and companionship.
There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, but with open communication and respect for each other, overcoming challenges can happen.
At Operation Red Wings Foundation we understand the challenges that couples face when dealing with invisible wounds. Learn more about the programs we have created for couples by visiting http://gleaming-swing.flywheelsites.com/in-person-programs/