The day your significant other (SO) mentions enlisting, you’re not phased. There is no way they are actually serious right? Then, army talk becomes the conversation at dinner and with friends when you’re out for drinks. You realize your SO may be more serious than you initially thought. Fast forward a few weeks (or days if you’re swift like my man) and now you’re sitting in the recruiters office and your SO is getting down to business and you’re like oh my gosh...this is happening. Next thing you know, they are swearing in and the reality of this whole “army” thing begins to hit...hard.
After the whirlwind of the enlistment process and once you’ve kissed your soon to be soldier adios and said see you later, you’re not sure what to do next. That hard hitting reality takes a swing at you as soon as you get home ...but guess what? It doesn’t have to be so bad. You don’t have to get knocked down. As an (almost) army wife, I want to share the things that helped me through the struggle that was this lengthy separation.
1. Keep busy.
Of course, everyone tells you this so it has to be the number one thing to alleviate the loneliness, but no one tells you how “keep busy”. I was lucky. When my SO left for basic training, I had a 3 week old niece to keep me stepping. Between my niece and the puppy my SO & I recently rescued, I was busy as ever. I also decided to take two extra courses during the upcoming semester because I figured that would be another way to ensure I wasn’t sitting at home being sad. Taking college courses is a great way to ensure you leave the house...if you don’t show up, they still charge you and who can afford that?
2. Accept the invitation.
Stop saying no to plans. Call your monster, I mean mother-in-law to come watch the kids and escape for a little with your girlfriends. I’m not saying you have to go out and get wild, (have at it, if that’s your cup of tea) just do yourself a favor and keep living your life even though your SO is cooped up in the barracks or doing a 12 mile ruck march. You can’t do anything about their situation from your sofa or the bar, so pick the bar.
***I may sound like a big drinker but I promise I’m not. One drink and I’m super toasty...it’s so embarrassing.
3. Realize the letters you write make a huge difference so SEND THEM!
Whether your SO is into it or not, the letters you write really do brighten up a dreary day for your soldier in training. Although the penmanship might be pitiful when they write you back, it’s important to remember that they might be having a bad day just as well as you are...probably even worse. So send the letters and don’t worry about the consequences of sending too many. Your SO will be doing push-ups regardless.
4. Spend time with family.
For me this was the easiest part. My family was sooo supportive and never made me feel bad when I started crying randomly in the car. If someone offers you a hug, accept it. Let’s face it, we all know there’s no hug like a hug from the love of your life but your sister or neighbor is a decent substitute for now.
5. Remember, your mental health is important
Although you might spend most of your days worrying about your SO, you need to worry about you too. Call the therapist, have coffee with friends, get away to the beach for the day. Do what you need to do to ensure things are OKAY at home because you don’t want your hub coming home to a bigger hot mess than the one he left; you also don’t want to lose yourself in the chaos of this whole situation. Your kids need a healthy you, your SO needs a healthy you and you need a healthy you.
6. If you miss a call, forgive yourself
This was me. I missed the first call outside of reception and I beat myself up for it for days. I was working, I had no service and my SO ended up calling my mom after he couldn’t reach me. I was angry at myself, angry at my employer, angry at every customer who came in that night. Relax, you will get another call, likely at another very inopportune time. Oh well.
7. If you can’t make his graduation, don’t fret.
Sure, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity but so it walking at your college graduation but guess what? I was on a (poorly planned) vacation when my graduation day came around. You can bet your Aunt Bippy I took the trip instead of sitting in the beating sun watching 4,000 of my peers graduate before me. When preparing for my SO’s graduation, I was borderline broke. I had just got done paying for 2 extra college courses and was trying to keep up with the bills and working only part-time. Seeing my SO graduate just wasn’t in the cards for me at the time and honestly, he didn’t mind. He got some much needed free time and we got to facetime a lot!
8. Remember, this is only temporary.
You may feel like the weeks are dragging along but rest assured, time hasn’t stopped because your SO is away. Basic training won’t last forever and before you know it you’ll be holding hands with your soldier. Personally, for me the “countdown” thing didn’t and still doesn’t help but for you it might...especially if you have kiddos! Give it a shot for sure!
Regardless, it’s not easy but you can do it. I’ve had many friends tell me I’m really strong. I always say “OMG NO WAY”, but really when I think about it, I am. I am strong because it takes a strong person to be able to deal with lengthy separations and little to no communication. Being an army spouse is one of those things that no one thinks they can handle...until they are in our shoes. Then they realize, we just do it. We learn how to make things work, how to show our SO that we are still madly in love with them from afar and how to roll with “army life”. After all, we're each lucky we have someone so important to miss.
Wishing you all the best if you’re anticipating basic training or a deployment in the near future.