Separation and Healthy Marriage

If you follow my vlogs on YouTube, you are aware that my husband and I have been separated a while. Since late August, actually, when I left Missouri and went to Arizona to stay with my parents. Soon, this separation is ending, and I’m going back to Ft. Leonard Wood with Tumbles to reunite our little family.

Before I left, I thought and prayed a lot about even the idea of separation. I read about it a lot online, and I came across very mixed messages. I don’t know if anyone will end up coming across my website sometime when they’re looking for answers, but, just in case, I want to throw my opinion into the mix. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m a young, married, Christian woman with some life experience under her belt, but I’m no psychologist, clergy member, or anything like that.

Is Separation a Good Option?michy rose

After going through marriage and separation, I have to say that I do not believe separation is a good option for any marriage. I can understand why it seems appealing, I can understand feeling you need space, and I can even understand feeling that the space and time apart could do you and your marriage good. In spite of understanding these things, however, I have to say that my advice is to do your very best to avoid separation if reuniting is your end goal. (If you are aiming toward divorce for whatever reason and do not wish to reunite, that’s sort of a separate issue.)

Before I left, I read on both sides of the issue. Even within the Christian community there were conflicting messages about whether it had any possibility to be helpful to a marriage or not. I believe the ultimate answer is that it is not helpful, but rather it is harmful to a marriage to go through a separation when the goal is ultimately to keep the marriage going and reunite.

What Happens When You Separate

There may already be emotional distance between a husband and wife, but, upon separating, that emotional distance is increased as well as the physical distance. Without the ability to touch and see your partner, you lose a sense of intimacy. Without that physical intimacy (even if it’s just a hand on the arm now and then or a hug) and without the exchange of words you get when living together, the emotional distance becomes even greater. You go from feeling a little disconnected to being extremely disconnected.

Is that bad? Isn’t that sometimes what we hope to gain from separation? Maybe you feel like you need that space because you’ve been fighting so much that resentment is building up and building up and you’re worried you’re going to hate each other or head straight toward divorce if you don’t create that distance!

To that, I would say that’s exactly what the world and the devil want you to think. That’s just my honest opinion because that’s exactly where I was! There was fighting, resentment, and serious issues that needed to be worked through, and I believed whole-heartedly that things were not going to change – could not even be worked on – until we’d had some time apart. I believed that staying together with our relationship in that state would only cause the hurt feelings and bitterness and resentment to grow to a point beyond repair. This is, I would guess, the main reason Christians who don’t want to divorce would end up separating.

Why the Distance is Bad

You think you want that distance, and you think that distance could help, and you think that if it doesn’t help, well, you were doomed anyway — something like that, right? But the truth is that the distance itself rips things even further apart. You can’t work on your issues when you’re apart. Maybe you can wait until the hurt feelings subside, but once you see your partner again, everything is going to resurface. And in the meantime, while you’re physically and emotionally distant, it’s easy – it’s so easy to allow yourself to behave towards your spouse without the love and/or respect that they need to be treated with, and it’s so easy to be tempted into indulging in various vices (cheating, drinking, flirting, squandering money, etc) because there’s no one there to call you on it and (so it seems) no one there to get hurt by it.

Basically, distance brings more distance. You can’t get close by being distant. When two marry, they become one flesh, and they need to be together and foster that togetherness, growing closer. Distance, for whatever reason, tends to be unhealthy. Being apart lets you each be pulled in different directions, and the longer you are apart, the further you get from each other. For my husband and me, the distance hurt us tremendously: emotionally, financially, relationally. It was harder to communicate, and we couldn’t get counseling. We got used to being independent again and making decisions solo. And as we got used to being apart, we seemed to pull away from each other even more until there was almost no closeness or intimacy left.

Divorce, at a point like that, becomes almost inevitable. You left angry, you didn’t resolve anything, you grew apart, and now there’s nothing left of that closeness you once felt. Even worse, if trust has been broken at some point there may be literally nothing pushing you to reunite.

roseStick it Out

I have to just encourage everyone to please stick it out. It sounds crazy some times that staying together could be the right thing to do even when it hurts, even when you’re unhappy, even when you can’t seem to get along with each other. Obviously, things aren’t going to get better without change taking place, but don’t choose the route of separation. I believe it is almost always going to do more damage than good and will more often than not lead to divorce!

Get back to being friends. Maybe split up your finances, if you’ve been pooling resources. Maybe sleep in different rooms. Maybe redefine things in your marriage (chores, responsibilities, duties, expectations). Definitely get some good counsel, preferably from a good Christian therapist or a pastor. Keep telling your spouse that you love them, and keep trying to act out that love. Keep praying. Pray HARD. Pray seriously and whole-heartedly. Pray face-down on the ground, pray in your car, pray in bed, pray over your meals, pray for your marriage constantly.

If things are going to get better – if your marriage is going to flourish and begin to be repaired – it’s going to be while you are together and working jointly toward the same goal.

What If.

No two people, situations, or marriages are alike. I understand that some people may think, "That doesn’t apply to me because my situation is ____." I understand that. There are so many problems that could be taking place. All I can say is that I encourage you to stick it out if possible and if you want and hope to keep your marriage alive.

The exceptions are when you either want a divorce or when there is ongoing unsafe behavior taking place (any form of abuse). If you must separate but still hope to reuinte, I cannot stress enough how important I believe it to be to have a pre-determined time limit, rules, and goals, and it is also really important to remain close to each other so you can get counseling! I would say a 2 hour drive, max! If you plan to divorce anyway, that’s a totally different issue. Separate and do what you must.

But if you plan to reunite, and if you want your marriage to last, stick it out. Stay together. Get in counseling. Maybe crash on a friend’s couch for a few nights, but don’t leave. I left, and I thought it was necessary, but it ended up creating so much distance between us that we almost went past the point of no return. I can only attribute it to God that he worked things out in a way that brought us to a point of trying to reconcile.

I just wanted to express these things. Feel free to
contact me privately or leave a comment if you want to talk about this further
(either my situation or your own). I’ll do my best to answer.

Passage of Time

I’ve been thinking about how deployment is changing my perception of time. I’m starting to realize that God’s using it to give me a whole new perspective, and I think in some ways I’m understanding God a little tiny bit better. Like I have a little more understanding of the idea of him being outside of time itself.

When I have to go a few weeks without seeing friends, I sometimes chuckle on the inside when they explain on our next meeting how much they’ve missed me, while I feel that hardly any time at all has passed. What’s the big deal? Next to having to wait a year to see my other half again, to feel him and look into his eyes… Well, let’s just say it makes all these little gaps of weeks and months feel like nothing.

I can’t really imagine what it is like for God to be outside of time, but if the (global) church is his passion, his love, his other half, so to speak, and he is separated from her for… well, a long, long time… Well, I can imagine that feeling now. She fell away from him, and he won’t be reunited with her until basically the end of this world. Like a year’s separation for me, and how impossible and horrible it seems to a normal married couple, God’s separated from his bride the church for… thousands, if not millions of years. How insignificant must other, shorter increments of time feel to Him? To me it gives new meaning to the verse that says a thousand years is like a day to the Lord.

I’m trying to apply this understanding to my prayer life. See, I’ve been getting frustrated with God for not answering my prayers. Sometimes I pray specifically for the same things for weeks on end, and sometimes I begin to lose hope that he’ll ever hear me and answer. But I have felt like he’s saying to me, “Just because I haven’t answered in a week, you think I’m not listening at all? Trust me! I hear you, and I will answer you. I will meet all your needs. Have patience.”

Sometimes, I’m afraid time won’t ever slow back down. If weeks feel like no time at all, will it still feel like nothing when Hubby is home for two weeks of R&R? Will I have trouble soaking in his presence and enjoying our time together? Will my life speed by too quickly, with this perception of time? I have hope because I’ve known women who have been through deployments with their husbands before who still ached terribly at their husbands’ absence for a week or two of training. So things must eventually return to normal. But hopefully when that happens, I’ll still be able to remember the lesson I learned. Mostly – the patience.

Five for Friday 10/29

Previous Fridays

I love my husband because…

1. You got me “just because” flowers, and they’re beautiful.

2. You give up sleep for me.

3. You have such a creative imagination.

4. You’re too smart for your own good.

5. Because you love me.

Dealing With the Big D

Deployment sucks. There’s no denying it, and, unfortunately, there’s no way to magically make it easier. It’s not so simple as one more person telling you to keep your chin up, as if, maybe after you hear it enough times something will click in your head and you’ll no longer feel down. Nope. Sorry! Not gonna happen.

I’m new to this, and I’m taking everyone else on their word and hoping that it will get better and easier. I hear the first month is the hardest. We’ll see! But in the meantime, I’ve found some comfort in some resources I found online. I’d like to share them in hopes that someone else might also enjoy them – whether you’re a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend of a deployed soldier! So, here we go, in chronological order…

Before He Leaves

1. If you are feeling a bit frazzled and trying to remember what needs to be covered before he leaves, here are a few tips from eHow.com: Finances, vehicles, holidays, and household maintenance – all important things to add to your pre-deployment to-do list. See the full article by clicking here.

2. I did not have to face the problem addressed in this article on ChristianMilitaryWives.com. However, I still found some really good advice in it, and would recommend it to you, especially if you find that your soldier is seeming more distant the closer deployment gets.

“Don’t let your sour, bitter thoughts get in the way of your relationship with Christ or your husband.  Don’t let pre-deployment jitters get you down! You are armed with something that non-Christians do not have.  You have God on your side, ‘if God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31
-Patti Katter

3. There are several good all-inclusive articles I found. They include advice for Pre-, During, and Post-Deployment. Twoofus.org focuses on Preparing Your Marriage for a Military Deployment with advice about things like patience, blame, and infidelity. Red Cross has an article on Deployment Tips that focuses mostly on homecoming, but it also has a really thorough checklist that will prove useful throughout the entire deployment.

I saved the best for last, though. As far as an overview of the whole process of deployment, I liked this article by Stacey the best. She touched on some things that I really was beginning to think I was alone in feeling. The truth is that, as she says, “just about any emotion you have during this time period is normal.” Reading this article really helped me remember I’m not alone, and, believe me, it’s good to have constant reminders of that fact.

“Depending on your husband’s unit, you could have months of notice before they deploy or as little as a few hours. Your first reaction could very well be shock, disbelief and a feeling of helplessness. You may have thoughts run through your head about flying off to another country and disappearing. Although this is common, it’s NOT recommended! They will find you and then not only will he be deployed, he will probably serve jail time as well and have pay and rank stripped from him.”
-Stacey – MarriedtotheArmy.com (Dealing With the Emotional Roller Coaster of Deployment)

While He’s Gone

1. I’ve already mentioned this article in my post SMW Syndrome. Check it out, if you missed it, or go straight over to Anita’s article about Super Military Wife Syndrome.

2. Your soldier deserves to come home to the real you, so take care of yourself while he’s gone. Exercise, journal, work on projects, set goals, et cetera! Read eHow’s article (this is a different article than that mentioned in the first section) for more thoughts on the subject. And, I would also recommend this Military Mama’s post called Lessons Deployment Has Taught Me. It’s okay to be sad! Finally, read quotes from other wives at ivillage.com that are, supposedly, the best 21 tips you can find!

“People are just going to say things in hopes it makes you feel better. Let them.”
Lessons Deployment Has Taught Me

3. Meanwhile, aside from keeping your body and mind cared for, your soldier is off in a distant, probably harsh, land. He (or she) is separated, not only from his spouse, but also from all of his loved ones. He is probably sleeping on a cot most nights, in a room with little in it to speak of home. He needs care, too, and don’t forget it. So, tell him frequently how you feel about him and that he is in your thoughts and prayers. Thank him for his service; express your pride. Send letters!

4. Care packages are another great thing to do for deployed soldiers. Ask your soldier (or his wife) for a list of items he would like to receive. There are lots of websites, some of which are listed below, which will give suggestions on items you might choose to send. Here’s a compiled list:

  • Foods they can’t get from the DFAC or PX
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Photos
  • Stationary
  • Stamps
  • Pictures or posters for walls, if they have any
  • Travel-sized medicines and toiletries
  • Moist towlettes/cleansing cloths
  • Reading material
  • Batteries
  • Puzzles/other games he might enjoy
  • Visit these websites for more info: How to Support…, How to Make…, How to Ship…, US Army Care…

DO NOT send any of the following:

  • Melt-able Items (Chocolate, et cetera)
  • Alcohol/Drugs
  • Pork
  • Pornography

Make sure you have your soldiers full, correct address before you mail anything! And, before you go off packing things into just any old box, check your local post office for FREE boxes. They are called flat-rate boxes, and you do not have to pay for them. Take as many as you want! They come in several sizes. No matter how much they weigh, they have a flat rate for shipping, and it’s a very good deal. You can also visit USPS.com and order 10 or 20 boxes, which they will deliver to your door for free! You will also need a customs form (2976-A) for each package, and you can get those for free at the post office or free from USPS.com. Additionally, everyone should check out THIS website which tells you how to get an entire Military Care Kit for free. It has everything you need all included.

Closing Thoughts

Once more, I want to link you to the following articles which include a few homecoming tips.

Finally, there are a few bright-sides to deployment, as outlined at Milspouse.com. Head on over there to see what they are. And I would love it if you had suggestions on additions to that list. The more bright sides we can come up with, the better! My favorite from their list is how much easier cleaning is when he’s gone. Especially with no kids, yet, to dirty things up. 🙂

 

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Five for Friday XVI

Previous Fridays

1. I love when you hold doors open for my Gramma.

2. I love that you found Dragon Age: Origins just for me!

3. I love your brilliance, even though it means you usually win.

4. I love you making me breakfast, especially when it involves French toast, eggs, and/or bacon.

5. I love watching you with kids.

😀

Five for Friday XV

Previous Fridays

1. I love you for saving me from a billion crickets every day! You’re my hero!

2. I love you for taking turns cleaning the litter box.

3. I love when you help me cook by chopping the chicken/veggies/whatever.

4. I love playing Ragnarok with you.

5. I love your non-scrawny-ness.

😀

Five for Friday XIII

Previous Fridays

As I try to do every Friday, today I am posting 5 more reasons I love my hubby!

1. I love you because you are only mean to me in my dreams, not in real life. 😛

2. I love how you enjoy swimming with me even though you dislike water.

3. I love you for my new netbook Eeeny-Weeeny.

4. I love when you cook for me.

5. I love how creative your D&D campaigns are.

😀