My husband’s love language is physical touch. While I enjoy and am encouraged by words of affirmation, my spouse is reassured by a touch on the arm or holding hands while sitting on the sofa. I know that when he is experiencing stress he takes comfort in a long embrace and nothing says “I love you” to him like a romantic kiss. So after eleven years of marriage I can only find one problem with my husband’s hard-wired love language. Deployments!
Whether you show love verbally, physically, with acts of service, quality time or gifts, deployments throw a wrench in the communication department. Thankfully, however, with todays technology many aspects of staying connected to our deployed spouses have gotten easier. With email, Skype and instant messaging we can stay connected longer and more often. Even in the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan, our men and women in uniform have an easier time reaching out to family than our grandparent’s generation. But it still begs the question: How do we create intimacy when we are physically separated for long periods of time?
The challenge is realizing that there can still be intimacy without physical touch. It may take time, effort and thought but the results can be especially rewarding when you are reunited and still feel a strong bond that was not hindered by the passage of time or distance. Now is the chance to work on the emotional aspect of your relationship and build intimacy that will support, encourage and nurture each other through the deployment.
Suggestions for building and promoting intimacy:
1. Ask your spouse to pray for you. Share with them specific challenges you are facing and allow them to be a part of the process through dedicated prayer. If you can and are both comfortable, pray together by phone weekly or monthly.
2. Dust off the nearest note pad and write a letter. Emails are wonderful and a blessing but there is something to be said for receiving a piece of mail in your handwriting. Maybe you wrote notes or cards during your courtship and want to fan those old romantic flames. Write a love letter or note of encouragement that they can tuck away in their uniform pocket. And if it has a bit of your perfume on it? Even better!
3. Talk about the future. Make plans for when they come home. Are you looking forward to buying a home or taking a much needed vacation? Is retirement right around the corner or is it finally time to give in and buy the kids a dog? Use this time to talk about the many things that you’re looking forward to doing together once the deployment is over. Don’t leave out the details and share your excitement for what God has in store for you once you are together again!
4. Ask questions. Now is the best time to ask your spouse questions that you may not think about on a daily basis. For example, “If you could have any super power what would it be and why?” or “What do you think was the best vacation we ever had?” You may be surprised by the answers and find lots of opportunities for further conversation! My husband and I used to email each other the trivial facts we remembered from Snapple bottles (i.e. Did you know animals that lay eggs don’t have belly buttons? or Did you know a duck’s quack doesn’t echo?). We always looked forward to those emails because we knew it came with a smile.
5. Don’t forget to share. Deployment phone calls can be tough. OpSec can hamper conversations when he can’t share the big parts of his day like where he is or what he’s doing so remember to talk about the little things. Maybe you heard an interesting news story that you thought he’d enjoy. Or maybe you both love politics or share a favorite hobby. Sometimes what is familiar is a comfort and reinforces your common interests.
6. Read together. Couples, marriage or topical devotionals/studies can be a great tool during deployments. Maybe it’s once a week or every other week but coming together in the Word will build intimacy and grow you together spiritually.
7. Challenge one another. This next six to twelve months can be a fantastic opportunity to support and encourage the other while you live separately. It can also push you to do things you have been hesitant to try before. Have you started going back to school or is your spouse taking classes online while deployed? Is now the time to take a step out in faith and lead that bible study group or commit yourself to daily scripture memory? Challenge each other to live victoriously during your separation. Encourage one another to work towards goals that may have held you back at another point in time.
About the Author:
April Lakata Cao is a native of Northern Virginia and currently resides in Virginia Beach, Va., where she has just completed her eighth move in eleven years of marriage. April and her husband, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, have two beautiful children ages four and seven. As a military spouse who has experienced five deployments and countless months of separation, April shares her personal challenges and life lessons as a freelance writer. She is a stay at home mom, a reading and writing enthusiast and for the past three years has published the blog, Amazing Grace (www.intoourheart.blogspot.com) to encourage, educate and inspire adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. Not only does she have a heart for orphans, she is fiercely passionate about religious freedom and women’s rights across the globe. But above all else teaching her children to love, trust and obey God is her most precious job.