As I wrote yesterday, the audience at FIGT was inspired by the Ivany’s “straight from the heart” conversation about raising their own kids overseas. (In fact, upon reviewing my notes later, I saw the title of that program, “Encouraging the Courage of Children”. Perfect.) But at the end, a member of the audience asked the Ivany’s their advice for couples separated by assignments and what they would say to other couples that face challenges in their marriage due to separated assignments. Dr. Ivany, a retired U.S. Army general whose career spanned 34 years, stated that their family’s success was a result of their teamwork as a couple. This was an unscripted, spontaneous answer to a question, but I think it is valuable to hear what they had to say about how to manage life and relationships during a deployment.
➢ Maryanne (from a wife’s point of view): Stay put when your spouse is deployed. “Don’t run home to Mamma.” She pointed out that you lose more control over your life that way, and after awhile, being a houseguest again gets old.
➢ Maryanne: Do things for other people. Stay busy. Live outside of yourself and think of other people’s needs.
➢ Maryanne: Try not to whine or complain (too much!) to your spouse during their deployment.
➢ Maryanne: Be positive and try to help other people while your husband is gone.
➢ Robert: Remember, communication can be a two-edged sword. Be careful. Yes, express your feelings and talk about what is going on at home. But too much information can be detrimental.
➢ Robert: Troups today experience a great deal of stress and sometimes it’s because of the immediacy of communication from home. When they hear of problems that they cannot solve, it raises their stress level, too.
Though this was a quick, “off the cuff” answer to a question, and not an entire presentation, it is an honest take on how to manage certain parts of an unaccompanied assignment. And though it is from a military point of view, many other families are also separated. My own foreign service family is separated by assignment now, too. Some of my students have had parents who have had to go on to the next assignment before the rest of the family. Other families are separated by illness or family crises. Still others are separated because of evacuations. We should be mindful that it could happen to any of us at any time. And the wise learn from the experience of others.