If the service member in your life is about to go on a major deployment, there are quite a few things to consider and get done before they leave. Oftentimes the military provides a contact sheet of who to call if you get into a pinch, financially or with your health, offering a Red Cross number for you to reach out to who could then reach out to your spouse. But what other things would be useful to complete and prepare before you’re doing life solo for a while?
Let’s take a look at a pre-deployment checklist for military spouses to help organize the things that you need to, and potentially inform you of some tasks that could be helpful that you might not have considered.
Pre-Deployment Checklist: Information Gathering
Information gathering is an important part of the deployment process. How long will they be gone, where are they going, do they have a mailing address that they can provide. Some other things to consider are how often will they get paid, how much, and does everyone have access to bank accounts, cell phone accounts, and so on. No one wants to run into problems with bills or private information that only the deployed spouse can resolve, but are unable to because of their work.
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Here is a list of documents, passwords, and other information that you can discuss or gather with your spouse to ensure that you aren’t caught in an avoidable bind down the road.
- Contact information for your spouse. If you aren’t able to communicate with your spouse while they are gone for whatever reason, possibly a top-secret mission, who are you supposed to reach out to in case of an emergency? Contact information could include friends in your area who could assist quickly if you needed, contact for someone who could reach your spouse in an emergency, contact information for local military members who can answer questions you might have or assist if you are struggling financially, and so on.
- Make sure you have access to bank accounts and other accounts that might require authorization for you to use. You don’t want your spouse to ask you to do them a favor at one of these businesses and come to find out that you aren’t authorized to do it.
- Gather important paperwork, or copies of it, like social security cards, marriage certificates, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and anything else that might be requested of you, and keep that paperwork in a safe place like a filing cabinet or folder.
- Defer student loans if you have them. If your spouse has student loans and is about to go on an active-duty deployment, they can get their student loans deferred so that you don’t have to worry about it while they’re away.
- Do they have a vehicle that won’t be in use while they’re gone? If so, you can cancel or put their car insurance on hold and save that extra, unnecessary expense.
- If you have children, decide what kind of things they would prefer some communication about ahead of time, like going on an out-of-state trip, so that there aren’t any wires crossed when your possibly oceans apart.
- Talk about expectations. How often would you like to communicate with each other, if you are able to communicate with each other? What ways will you work to stay connected? Does your deployed spouse expect you to mail letters or care packages, or is a connection over the phone sufficient? Discussing these things ahead of time can avoid some of the struggles that come from a long-distance relationship.
What To Expect During a Deployment
When you know what to expect during a military deployment, as a spouse, and as the deployed soldier, it can ease some of the emotional and mental difficulties that often accompany such a big separation.
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It’s normal to feel some of the feelings of grief before a spouse leaves. This could be anger, resentment, sadness, or detachment. Our minds are powerful and will do what they can to cope with the separation, which can sometimes feel like a loss. It’s scary stepping into the unknown, especially if the work your partner is doing is dangerous.
Communication during the month before deployment is so important. Talk about your fears, your sadness, and how you are handling it. Apologize to each other if things go off course. Find ways that you can support each other right up to and during the deployment. Now is not the time to stuff emotions. Share how you feel with your partner, and allow space for them to voice their own worries. It’s likely that both of you are experiencing some of the same fears, and when you bring them out in the open, it allows you both to feel like you’re on the same team as opposed to working against each other. Your spouse isn’t leaving you to hurt you, their leave is a sacrifice full of a wide range of emotions.
Staying Connected With Your Military Spouse During Deployment
Staying connected with your partner is an important piece of the support network that your deployed spouse needs to help them cope with the deployment. If you aren’t able to stay in contact with them while they are gone because of the type of work that they are doing, plan ahead! Write a letter to be opened every week that they’re gone. Print out a couple of laminated small photos that they can keep on their person while out in the field. Work together ahead of time to find ways to think about each other. Sometimes a soldier copes with the separation by not thinking about the people they left back at home, so working to bridge that gap can be powerful for your connection.
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If you can stay in touch with your partner, you have more room to get creative with how you stay connected. Of course, there are always video chat calls and phone calls that allow you to talk about your day. But get creative by writing out passionate stories or fantasies when you think of them. Send them through text or through snail mail. Send care packages with their favorite things. Remind them that you miss them and appreciate them, even from afar. It’s easy to start feeling disconnected as you get into your own routine at home, so finding ways to think about your partner each day is a great way to stay connected. Maybe you both set an alarm that goes off at the same time each day and that alarm is your reminder that the other is thinking of you.
Deployments Aren’t Easy, But You Can Make the Best of Them
Deployments can put a lot of strain on families and spouses. If you have children, one parent is taking on a single-parenting full-time role that is exhausting. It’s easy to feel resentful towards your spouse for leaving you. In this case, it’s important to find ways to remember that you are both in this together, that one of you is just far away. If that means spending extra money for more babysitters, do it. If you don’t have children, a long separation can still be difficult for the relationship. Both parties have to put in a lot of effort to stay connected, and regardless of kids or not, there will be a rekindling and re-acclimation period when the deployed spouse comes home. Reunions are sweet, and that in-person connection might take time, especially since your spouse is also having to acclimate to real-life, as opposed to a life where everyone lives by a very rigid structure.