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Making Decisions Together

Courtesy Lizann Lightfoot

By Lizann Lightfoot

So many important life decisions come up during deployment, when spouses are on opposite sides of the world. Many of my husband’s deployments were followed by either reenlistment or a PCS move, so we have discussed many career and housing options while communicating long distance. Once we even bought a house on the East Coast while I was living on the West Coast, and he was deployed to Japan!

Making family decisions together during deployment can be especially challenging. There are two ways to handle huge decisions during deployment: go crazy thinking about the possibilities or remain calm while patiently waiting to learn more. We all want to live in that second category of peace and patience. But we all experience moments of extreme frustration. Before you pull your hair out, here are some ways so get your sanity back:

Don’t dwell on what you can’t control. In military life, so many things are beyond our control. The service member is often at the mercy of people completing paperwork. They might get orders to their preferred duty station, or they might be sent somewhere you’ve never heard of. Trying to wrap your mind around every possibility will just make you more stressed. Instead, recognize when an outcome is out of your hands. Then, let it go.

Regain control with smaller tasks.  If you are facing a PCS move directly after a deployment, you may not know where you will live, but you can start cleaning out closets. If you’re expecting a baby soon, you may not know whether your spouse will be home for the delivery, but you can start making a list of baby needs or wants and perhaps create a gift registry. You can regain a sense of calm about the future when you find steps to take in the present.

Communicate honestly. Deployment communication can be infrequent or glitchy, so don’t waste precious time arguing or dropping hints. Be up front. Let your spouse know how you feel about decisions and possibilities. Be prepared to explain conclusions and priorities. Be prepared to listen as well. Thoughtful and respectful exchanges of feelings and information will make the most of deployment conversations.

Take one step at a time. Rather than be overwhelmed by a major decision and all its ramifications, break big steps down into smaller ones. Work backwards to decide where to begin. For example, you don’t need to choose a house until PCS orders are official. Orders won’t come until you and your spouse decide whether to remain in the military. Identify the first step: Weighing the pros and cons of remaining in the military and go from there.

Don’t set your heart on one outcome. In military life is that nothing is ever certain, and no decision is ever permanent. Things can change—quickly. It’s best to take all news in stride, whether it is exciting or disappointing. When a door closes, a window opens. Not getting a desired duty station may turn into a wonderful opportunity. Unexpected orders may be a much-needed change. You will remain calmer about military life’s uncertainty when you try to see the good in each situation, even the unexpected.

Lizann Lightfoot, the Seasoned Spouse, has experienced many deployments and other transitions in her 11 years as a Marine wife. She is the leader and creator of the Deployment Masterclass for military spouses.

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