This is a guest post by HisHelper. I am beyond ecstatic to share what this precious wife has written. I know it will be a blessing to countless military wives – but she has such incredibly helpful suggestions that could benefit almost any marriage, that I know a lot of civilian wives will be blessed by this post, as well! Thank you SO MUCH, HisHelper!
You had asked me to elaborate on Respect and Deployment for military wives. for a blog post. I’ve been tossing ideas around in my head—I think it would be more fitting to write a book! But, I’m sure there are already good books out there written by wives who have succeeded in this area, and are therefore better “authorities” on the subject. On the other hand, much of what I write is what I’ve learned from failure. Knowing what I know now, and am still learning about TRUE respect, I look back and see so many things I did wrong, and that hopefully I would do differently should my husband have to deploy again.
Writing advice and encouragement to women whose husbands are deployed is challenging for me because there are so many varying circumstances wives are faced with, and specific preferences of husbands for how they would prefer their wives to respond in their absence, that I feel hesitant to offer more than general advice. I know a post like this is beneficial to write, so rather than offering too much advice I’ll just offer some of my thoughts on respect and deployment and share some experiences my husband and I have had, and maybe there will be something worthwhile to post.
The biggest areas I suppose a wife has to deal with in regards to showing respect for her deployed husband are in regards to finances, communication, and in controlling our thoughts, expectations and imaginations so that they remain honoring to our husbands.
Finances can be simple, or they can become complicated, depending on how organized and/or how predictable the spending is. For me, my husband asked that we use the time of his first deployment to save as much money as we could—not making unnecessary purchases so that we’d build up a good savings from the extra pay while he was away. It became kind of a family project, so that we were all involved in sacrificing where we could. (A move out to the country while my husband was away made it convenient to not sign up for cable tv service and some other luxuries that we are normally used to having.)
Our second deployment was totally the opposite! I got a phone call from my husband one day about midway through the deployment asking me to get on eBay and purchase a Corvette he had found- sight unseen- and then arrange for it to be delivered to us from across the country! Fortunately, in spite of everything inside of me telling me to fight against this, I maintained my composure and pushed the “Buy It Now” button without letting him know how crazy I thought this was! I’m so glad I trusted his judgement and did as he wanted. He tells me now how important it was for him to have something constructive to dream about and plan for while he was away. It gave him something to take his mind off of the highly stressful job he had to do while overseas. I became his partner in having some upgrades done to the body of the car. He’d research different hood styles, for example, and then have me order the parts and have the work done to the car. When he came home, it was so great to see how happy he was with his new Vette!
If a wife is in doubt as to how to handle the finances (due to her husband not giving clear direction), I would think that she could not really go wrong with spending LESS money, versus more. I have personally heard of one wife who completely blew all the extra pay her husband received from the deployment on an extravagant cruise for herself while her husband was away. That is an extreme example, but it’s easy, in feeling lonely, to spend a little here and a little there on things we don’t really need in order to temporarily make ourselves feel better. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself sometimes to something special (and it’s really important to take care of yourself while your husband is away), but for some women this can get out of hand. The absence of our husbands is such a cold, hard reality in a deployment…if our hearts aren’t fixed on the Lord to fill the lonely void, there are so many damaging substitutes out there that never ultimately satisfy.
You can count me as one of those wives whose cell phone was glued to her side, living for a call from her deployed husband, and checking her email a zillion times a day in hopes that he had written. The amount and quality of communication with a deployed husband varies greatly depending on where a soldier is deployed. Access to internet and phones, and even the speed of internet and clarity of the phone connection can mean a frustrating attempt to carry on a phone conversation or Skype call. My husband and I were very blessed to have decent internet access for the most part, but phone calls through the internet were often fuzzy, and having a conversation was sometimes very frustrating for my husband especially, as he would have to wake up in the middle of his night, exhausted, to call us when we were awake in the middle of our day.
One big mistake I made with my husband was in having expectations for our communication that were impossible for him to fulfill at home, much less during a deployment! Often I would pour out my heart and emotions to him in phone conversations and emails. Doing so made me feel close to him. But it was really too much for him to deal with, especially while trying to juggle all he was facing at work. What I realize now is that I was asking him be like a best girl friend to me. My husband avoided replying to my emotionally topsy-turvy emails. Men are not wired to deal well with a constant bombardment of intense female emotions- It is a huge stress on them whether in a deployment or not! The emotional things I wanted to discuss with him, instead, should have been first and foremost brought to the Lord. Our strength, our greatest source of support MUST come from Him, and He promises to give that to us! There is no one on earth who knows your heart, your needs and is able to provide for them better than Jesus! Sometimes, sharing with a close, trustworthy, female friend who will point you to the Lord can be helpful and strengthening too.
Not depending on your husband for your emotional stability frees you to become for your husband a source of comfort! So, when he talks with you or reads a letter or email from you he can find peace and rest that he will LOOK FORWARD to, as opposed to cringing when he sees an email from you because it’s full of the weight of emotions that are so exhausting for him to deal with.
Of course, for most women, it’s ok to let your husband know you miss him, that you want him home, or even sometimes that you are having difficulty with him being gone. Be aware that your husband is wired to want to find solutions to the problems you bring to him, and the frustrating thing about deployments is that often he CAN’T fix the problems you are dealing with! He CAN’T come home, he CAN’T be there to deal with the son who is rebelling, or whatever the struggle may be. A wife must use discretion in what she discusses with her husband, and much of this depends on her husband’s situation and ability to hear what is going on. There will be times when we need our husband’s guidance and advice, but my husband tells me that when I’m handling it ok already, it’s important to communicate up front that I have things under control and that I just want him to know what is going on, rather than seeking his advice. That way, from the start, he is not put into “fix-it” mode, and I’m not burdening him with a problem he has to solve, but rather giving him information that he does need to know, and letting him know what I am doing to work on the issue. It’s important to be willing to implement your husband’s additional ideas, should he have input. Some women have incredibly difficult situations to deal with while their husbands are away. Much prayer on how to handle this with your husband is wise, as many husbands are at the same time dealing with extremely trying circumstances themselves.
HANDLING OUR THOUGHT LIFE
Respecting our deployed husbands includes controlling our thoughts, expectations, and imaginations. This can be in regard to any number of topics, as we all have different weaknesses, but there are several that come to mind.
It is easy, if we aren’t on guard, to allow our loneliness to lead our minds to wander into thoughts of being comforted by another man, or to even act upon those feelings with an actual person. Adultery begins in the heart and with our thoughts, and the Lord gives no leeway in this area, no matter how lonely or desperate we are for the affection and attention of another man. With our husband away it must be a matter of high priority to actively guard against infidelity, whether in our imaginations or in the flesh. Replacing sinful thoughts with God’s Word is a proactive way to combat those thoughts. Thinking of the man you are waiting for, recalling his positive qualities and all you’ve invested together in your marriage is a powerful reminder that your marriage is not disposable or replaceable. The covenant you made, the vows you took were for better or for worse- and a time of deployment is one of those “for worse” times. You are held accountable to those promises no matter your current emotions or temptations, and the Lord will strengthen you to follow through and keep that sacred commitment you made with God and your husband. Your fidelity is the ultimate respect you can show your husband.
Given that deployed husbands are often in harm’s way, it is easy to allow fear to seize us with worries of something bad happening to our husbands. This is especially true if frequent, consistent communication with your husband is not possible to know that he is ok. This was especially challenging for me at times. What helped me the most during the more challenging days was to ask family and friends for prayer. Hearing a family member pray over the phone, and committing my husband’s life, health and safety to the Lord reminded me that He is sovereign and in control. While He does not promise that nothing bad will ever happen to our husbands- or anyone that we love for that matter- His plans are good and not to harm us. As much as I didn’t want to think about it, reminding myself that even if the worst happened and my husband did not return home, or was permanently injured- as heart-wrenching as it would be to go through- the Lord would ultimately take care of us. This is where the rubber of our faith meets the sometimes treacherous road of life. He may lead me through the valley of the shadow of death. Even so, I want to be found faithful to Christ, with my eyes and trust fixed on Him, and not grip so tightly to those that he has temporarily given me in this life to enjoy.
Finally, avoiding making ANY expectations about the deployment allows you to count your blessings along the way, rather than leading to disappointment when things don’t turn out as you had hoped. These include expectations of how often you should hear from your husband, or how you think he should treat you while he is gone (such as expecting him to send you flowers from across the world, as some of your military wife friend’s deployed husbands may do), to how smoothly the transition will be when your husband returns home. So many of these things depend upon your husband’s response, but the only person you can control is YOU. And, it turns out, as the Peaceful Wife often talks about, when you control YOU in giving your husband space and consistent respect, this can, in turn, very positively affect your husband and his response back to you.
I’d like to get very serious with you for a minute regarding your husband’s response and treatment of you before, during, and after a deployment. It’s REALLY hard to be the one left behind when your husband deploys. But, please keep in mind that the issues your husband is likely facing as he leaves potentially involve violent life and death situations. Your husband may be dealing with the possibility of having to kill another human being, or being killed or injured himself. At the least, he is faced with uncomfortable living conditions far from the comforts of home. So many things are out of his control. Many things are unknown, and the anticipation of these things may actually be worse than the reality once he gets there. These are things that would rightly scare anyone. Because of this, he may not act like himself. He may become distant or even angry. You and your children may bear the brunt of the stress of the situation. The best way you can show respect to him is to show him extreme mercy and give him space and quiet to process all he is going through. Give him the leeway to be human. As much as you need him and want to cling to him, by the grace and strength of God—not in your own strength– you CAN get though even the most difficult times. In our weakness the Lord is able to show His mighty power. Not every day of a deployment is likely to be bad. There will be good days and tough days. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, it helps to focus on how courageous your husband is to go forward and do his duty in spite of his fears. There are a lot of men who would cower to do the hard things in life. And you will be courageous too, taking each moment, each day, one at a time looking to Jesus to lead you.
The time of a deployment can be a highly productive time for a military wife, or it can be time wasted in misery and worry. I know that God can use the time of separation in a deployment to transform your heart toward your husband, even if your heart was far and your respect low for your husband when he left. The Lord is fully equipped to work on your husband’s heart as well! God is not finished with either of you. He wants to transform you! The Peaceful Wife’s blog and Facebook page is full of life and heart-transforming, Biblical truth, that, if applied with humility and in prayer, has improved good marriages, and helped heal even the most troubled ones. There is no reason this can’t be done during a deployment as well! When your husband returns—again be careful of creating any expectations—there will be many challenges. If he’s coming home to a new, respectful wife, he’ll probably want to see that these changes are consistent and not just temporary. This may take time, and he may not even acknowledge there has been a change in you. This IS okay! The Lord sees, and your obedience is pleasing to Him! In forsaking the sin of disrespect and following God’s design as your husband’s wife, you are freeing Him to give you peace in your heart and to bless your marriage in His time. There is no greater joy in life than to step out of the way and see God tangibly work miracles! In a military full of divorcing couples, I pray you would allow Him to make your marriage one that shines in the darkness, pointing the lost to Christ!