My latest post for Blue Star Families:

Communication Breakdown

Communication during deployments has come a long way. I feel spoiled when I think about my fellow military spouses of a generation ago who didn’t have the luxury of the technological advances we have today. Nowadays, we have email, Skype, Facebook, and blogs. Even letters and care packages sent through snail mail arrive at their destinations at an alarmingly rapid rate. As difficult as it is to be apart from our service members, most of us can’t complain about our means of communication.

I often wonder if my conversations with my husband during his deployment would be different if we didn’t have such a vast means of communication. Thanks to email, I can tell him anything at any time. But sometimes I question whether I should tell him everything. I don’t know how much he wants or needs to hear about the life he’s missing at home. He should be concentrating on his job, not worrying about his family on the home front.

Should I tell him about the rough days even though I know that my hardships can’t compare to his? I don’t know if I should tell him about stepping on a rusty nail in the attic and my subsequent tetanus shot. I don’t know if he needs to know about our washing machine that kept stubbornly tripping a breaker and the electrician who offered no answers other than our breaker box requires serious reorganization. Then there are the trips to the clinic and the auto shop, the rumors about the family of foxes roaming our neighborhood, and his plants that I somehow managed to murder (although technically it’s manslaughter because after all, I didn’t plan to kill them). Does he want to hear these things or does hearing them make him feel helpless?

How do I handle phone calls when I’m in a bad mood? Most of the time, the simple hello on the other end is enough to turn my rotten mood around. But there are times when the atmosphere in my house is beyond recovery. When both kids are throwing tantrums and I escape to the backyard so I can actually hear his voice over World War III, I still have to deal with my 2-year-old daughter running outside after me. Naked. I can’t exactly call him back when I’m in a better mood or the kids aren’t stripping off their clothes to wrestle. And I don’t want him hanging up the phone thinking his wife has lost her mind.

Part of my indecision about appropriate deployment conversation is that I’m tongue-tied. My husband and I are both talkers. But because he can’t discuss much of what’s happening on his end, I’m responsible for most of the conversation material. And I tend to buckle under the pressure, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, which unfortunately includes whatever series of small disasters Murphy’s Law threw at me that day.

So I think back to those military spouses of years ago. Did they waste precious phone calls talking about the electrician? Probably not. I imagine they used their limited time to share loving words of encouragement. Then why did I waste the last phone call with my husband talking about jumpstarting his car (yes, I managed to manslaughter his car battery as well) instead of gushing about how thrilled the kids were when they received the treasure maps he sent them?

After much deliberation and the consultation of experts (i.e., other military spouses), I’ve decided to share it all, but to keep in mind the importance of timing and delivery. This isn’t the time to be a drama queen. I’ll focus on the good days because I know he’s happiest when we’re happy. I’ll also continue to tell him about the not-so-good days. But if possible, I’ll wait until those minor catastrophes have resolved themselves and I can retell those stories with either self-deprecating humor or a sense of pride for fixing something myself. And how will I handle those calls that interrupt World War III? Well, even the best of us have our off days. As long as the neighbors don’t complain about my daughter streaking across the yard, then I’ll let her be the drama queen of the family.

15 Comments on Communication Breakdown

  1. Definitely sharing everything is best. I know it helped my husband feel more connected to us. He didn't e-mail, write mail, etc. Just call once a week or every few weeks, and if we were lucky and he wasn't too tired to get to a computer, maybe use a chat program. I always tell him I would rather him to be honest with me and tell me things straight away, good or bad. So I expect the same of myself in regards to him. When I was facing deployment, I had told him to tell me everything that happened no matter what. Its good to hear all the small things that have happened. Turns out he got priority over me for deployment and he went instead of me, but knowing how I felt helped me know what to do when talking to him.

  2. I like the conclusion you came to, definitely telling him everything is great. He still wants to know everything that is going in your life I am sure good and bad! Keeping it from him doesn't help you either.

  3. Great post! Why is it that when your nearest and dearest are far away phone conversations become so difficult? I often find that when my husband is away too – and the toddler who refuses to allow the conversation to last for more than a few seconds without interrupting never helps either 🙂

    Great post – sounds like an interesting few weeks you have been having!

  4. I totally know how you feel. Really after I haven't spoken to him to him awhile I just want to scream "I MISS YOU"… instead my normally bubbly self just repeats myself over and over again.. "i love you, i miss you". I always feel so lame. I am a deployment conversation failure.

  5. I've been wondering the same thing! My hubby and I have always talked about everything, good, bad and ugly but now that he's in the military, I find myself lost at what to tell him and what not to tell him. He's only at OSUT now but deployment is a matter of months away for us and I've wondered how or if our communication will/should be different. I think I've come to the same conclussion. He wants to know about our day-to-day life but he also needs to know that even when it's a crazy-eyes day (our own way of describing those very special days when the kid/dogs/house/cars/etc is winning), I can manage it and we'll be ok.

  6. One thing we talk about in our readiness meetings is to talk about everything with your spouse, but to try to have a solution for the bad things you tell them so that they aren't worried about it when they need to be doing their job. It can be detrimental if they feel like everything is great without them, because we all know it's not perfect with them.

    I also find that actually writing a handwritten letter about the rough stuff makes me feel better and by the time he gets it, it's resolved and no longer a worry so if he asks about it, I can completely reassure him that it has been handled.

  7. I've asked myself the same thing. I think you should share everything with him. He is dealing with the same stuff every day. I'm sure it's a nice change to hear about what's going on in your world, even if it is problematic. Plus, he is your partner and you are a team so that means you share those bad times with him as well as the good times. When you have a bad day you tell him about it. This reminds him that you still need him.

  8. Sometimes, I feel like it would be a lot easier and more beneficial if I didn't have so many means to talk to him. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate it greatly and I love hearing from him, but I wonder how much faster the time would go or what would be different. I too debate on what I ought say to him and there have been times when he's called and I may not feel well and he accuses me of not being happy to hear from him. I don't know, it's interesting. I am more easily spoken through letters, truly say how I feel, so I think that benefits me just as the woman above said. 🙂

  9. Wow, naked, really??? LOL =0) It's so true though…we do tend to take communication for granted instead of actually pausing and reflecting, and really thinking about what we say before we say it!

  10. I think it depends on your spouse. Some are the type that feel like they have to fix everything and others are completely confident that their wife can handle it. I know some wives have nothing but negativity pouring out of their fingers as they type and that can't be easy on the receiving end. I usually pick and choose. One thing I find is that if I tell too much of everything, good or bad, it leaves nothing to tell them about when they get home. Or worse, I start repeating myself! We don't talk much on the phone, it is never enjoyable because Hubby isn't a talker and I get stressed trying to find things to say.
    I like Froggylady's idea about the written letter. 🙂
    By the way, love your new digs!!

  11. Wow, I feel the same way. I often debate whether or not he needs to know that a jungle has taken over the backyard, the security light is out, neighbor behind us was robbed, kids are driving me nuts, and I have a job that bores me to tears on some days. I feel guilty telling him these things knowing that he can't help, will feel guilty about not being able to help, is missing out on the girls growing up, and that his job is far harder than anything that I will ever have to do. But in the end, I spill it all. I tell him everything at the right time.

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