Multiple deployments take its toll on military families.
Long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have meant that thousands of our military men and women complete multiple deployments before finally returning home for good. The extended time abroad leads to marital strain, making it difficult for couples to get back together again. Indeed, a FamilyLife initiative to help military couples save their marriages points to an Oklahoma State University study showing that “plans to pursue divorce or separation increase with each subsequent month.”
With the Iraq War over, thousands of men and women have returned home and have begun a critical 90-day post-deployment adjustment. It is during this make or break time that some marriages will unravel while others will begin a lengthy and critical healing process.
Said FamilyLife Founder and President Dennis Rainey, “That window is the proven time frame during which people develop habits and set the tone for the future of their marriage. It’s critical for military couples to establish healthy habits quickly as they struggle to reconnect and restructure their families.”
There are a number of post-deployment stress points that must be factored in for military couples including: unrealistic expectations, rushing the transition, renegotiating roles, realizing that both spouses have changed during deployment and post-traumatic stress disorder. One couple, Air Force Master Sergeant Todd Gaff and his wife, Valerie, began the first of what turned out to be 13 tours of duty when Todd was intially sent to Afghanistan in 2001.
Said Valerie, “We had to renegotiate our roles, routines and relationship,” with each of Todd’s returns home. “While he was away, I was totally in charge and fully responsible for our children and household. When he returned, it was hard to let go of some of those roles. It was also scary getting reacquainted. By necessity, we both changed each time we were apart.”
FamilyLife has been rallying around military couples by providing much needed assistance to help save marriages. Practical advice, including free resources, is available to couples via a dedicated website. Moreover, FamilyLife is seeking to offer scholarships for military couples to attend a FamilyLife marriage enrichment event.
“We would like to help spark a nationwide movement to ‘give back’ to those who have given so much to our country,” Rainey said. Anyone can give $10 to this scholarship fund by texting the word HOME to 28950. Gifts can also be made at FinallyHomeToFamily.org or by calling 1-800-358-6329.
FamilyLife is working with the contemporary Christian band MercyMe to reach out to military families. The band’s 2012 concert tour has been dedicated to helping FamilyLife reach these couples. Said lead singer Bart Millard, “FamilyLife has stepped up and said this needs to happen for our troops. Trying to keep military families together is something I take very seriously. [This] gives us all an opportunity to offer these couples a fighting chance.”
The Gaffs 18-year military marriage has survived much hardship. Today, Valerie works with FamilyLife to help other military couples overcome the challenges she and Todd have faced noting, “Civilians often don’t understand that, though the battle overseas may be over, our troops must now come home and fight for their marriage.”
Photo via BigStock: Miroslav Ferkuniak
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