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branch: u.s. air force, branch: u.s. army, branch: u.s. coast guard, branch: u.s. marine corps, branch: u.s. navy, deployment experiences: u.s. air force, deployment experiences: u.s. marine corps

“Me” time and the military: how military girlfriends, fiancés and wives can find balance during deployments

Deployment Divas

Deployment Divas | Image courtesy of Jessica Aycock

Although she is not a military spouse, Jessica Aycock has had plenty of experience with military families.

Aycock’s father served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 27 years and her mother was not only a military wife, but also a former Marine.  With her own experiences as the daughter of service members and the friendships fostered through the military community, Aycock not only realized that there was an intense need for support, but she stepped forward to provide it.

In January 2011, Aycock founded Deployment Divas, a health coaching service for the significant others of military personnel.  Through training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and her work as an independent distributor for Herbalife, Aycock strives to work with military girlfriends, fiancés and wives as they navigate the unique culture of the military.

“As an adult, I’m looking back on it going, ‘There is a huge need for support.  The biggest thing most military spouses need is a listening ear without being judged. …'” Aycock said of the military spouse community.  “A lot of military spouses are, especially when they first start, fairly young, and their biggest challenge is being independent and confident in knowing where to turn when they need help.”

Deployments in particular can be difficult given the sometimes dangerous nature of the separation, along with the extent of the deployment.

“It’s never going to go the way you think it’s going to go – that’s a huge thing in the military. …” Aycock said of the unpredictability of deployments, as well as military life in general.  “If it’s your first deployment, reach out to someone who’s been there, done that. …  Some more experienced women won’t just come out and offer you advice.”

Relationship status can also be a challenge in finding support during a deployment.  Girlfriends, who do not live with their significant others or possess the rights of spouses, do not have the same amount of access to information that wives may; their distance from military bases and communities may also prove challenging in regards to creating supportive relationships with other military girlfriends.

Aycock noted that some young wives simply return home instead of staying on base when their husbands deploy.  While the thought of having family members nearby and the challenges of life as a temporarily single wife or mother distant may be comforting, Aycock says the separation from the military community may lead to a more sheltered outlook, as well as remove military spouses from a community of women experiencing similar feelings and lending support to one another.

Wives with children, on the other hand, may find it particularly challenging to suddenly lose the physical presence of their spouses in the team effort of rearing children.

Regardless of relationship status, Aycock says one of the most common issues couples face when a deployment looms in the near future is fighting.

“There is a time, right before they leave, usually, [when] a lot of fights happen.  [Couples] feel it will be easier to leave if they’re mad at each other, but it doesn’t work,”  Aycock said.

If that happens, Aycock recommends that couples step back and evaluate the situation.  Fighting may seem like it will make a deployment easier, but in reality, makes the situation worse – especially after he’s already left and couples realize that their last moments together for a while were spent arguing.

“You’re going to feel horrible about it,” Aycock noted.

Instead, she encourages couples to “really stick together.”

“Make sure that you can ask for help,” Aycock said.  “One of the fantastic things about the military is that you are never alone – all you have to do is reach out and others will help you. …  It is phenomenal.”

Once the deployment date has passed, Aycock suggests that independence, coupled with an ability to ask for help, is crucial to a successful deployment.  The balance of tackling life alone, but knowing when to reach out to others in the military community, can be difficult to find.  Like-minded women around whom you are comfortable can prove to be knowledgeable resources as well as safe outlets to vent or cry to.

“Learn how to be independent – that’s one thing I learned from my mom.  If the car payment is late, don’t bother [your significant other] with trivial details,” Aycock said, noting that deployed service members frequently have far more pressing issues on their minds.  “Be independent, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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