This week we are pleased to bring to you a guest blog post from Defence Health.
It can be hard to make things work in any relationship, let alone one where work separates the two of you for long stretches of time.
Periods when a partner is deployed can be really tough. Keeping in touch through different schedules, time zones, and technology can be tricky. And keeping the flame alive can feel impossible at times.
Relationship therapist and psychologist, Dan Auerbach says that maintaining communication is important during absence. “Just sharing even the smallest meaningless moment from your day can help keep things strong.”
He advises, “try and have a predictable protocol for when you’re going to have contact and what you’re going to do if you need to change something.”
While good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction is hard to replace, Skype or other video calls can help when a partner is away for extended periods.
Jodie Dunne is a psychologist and her partner, Phillip, is a former ADF member.
“Long distance relationships do involve sacrifice, there is no doubt about that,” she says.
“Short notice separations can be incredibly stressful and security protocols while partners are away that result in radio silence adds to the stress,” she says.
Jodie’s partner is now a FIFO worker, so the long-distance relationship continues. “Phillip’s in the Middle East right now, so most mornings I wake up between 4.30am and 5:00am and we chat on WhatsApp or we talk on the phone.”
From Phillip’s perspective, he understands that Jodie is running a household while he’s away. He recognises he needs to respect that and not try to take over when she has things under control.
Phillip also says that if you’re deployed, you need to keep up the romance while you’re away. “Go the extra mile to make your partner feel supported and special. Set up virtual dates and put the effort in to make the calls feel more special than the usual check-in.”
Jodie also tries to coordinate a family chat. “Whether it’s breakfast for you and dinner for them, it’s good to have a conversation as if we’re all together at the same table. Even though he’s in the field on the other side of the world, it’ll feel a bit like home,” she says.
“And don’t let little things grow,” says Jodie. “When your partner is away for work it can feel like the stressful issues going on at home are hard to bring up, because they create stress the absent doesn’t need. Your partner might be away, but he or she is still part of the home unit, so keep each other in the loop.”
As Dan Auerbach says, “humans are a strongly bonded species. We really need to look after that bond and make sure we’re there for each other when we need to connect.”
With thanks to Defence Health for this article.
This is the first point of call for support, information and connection with your Defence community. You can also email the Helpline on DefenceFamilyHelpline@defence.gov.au and receive a response within 24 hours. This helpline is located within the Defence Community Organisation (DCO) which also offers a broad range of programs and services to help Defence families.