I got a question from a high school senior who has been dating her Marine for the last year and a half and he’s just about to leave for his first assignment (while she is staying home to finish school). Here’s the answer I gave to some of her questions on how to handle the transition.
“How do you learn to cope with it (separations) and deal with the hard news in such a short amount of time? I tend to get so much anxiety right before he leaves for somewhere new. I’m sure this is completely normal, and every military girlfriend or wife goes through this but do you have any advice to help me get through the hard days? … I am going down this weekend to say goodbye, one last time before he leaves. This is going to be the hardest goodbye yet … What do I say?”
First thing I have to say is you deserve a HUGE amount of credit for being willing to stand behind your Marine and support him all you can … I have to tell you that starting the military life as a senior in high school will be very tough. You have a lot to handle on your own – let alone trying to stay strong and support him. Don’t get too discouraged though because it is possible.
I know you have had a lot thrown at you with getting orders for him so far away, but you’re living through the hardest part of that right now – so know it gets better. You’ll find as a military significant-other that the lead up to a deployment or move or major life change is often the worst part. This next month, you’re going to go through a lot of emotional stress but it will even itself out and you’ll find your “new normal” once he gets settled into his new base and you find your new routine.
You asked how girlfriends and wives do this routinely as military families, and the answer is “we just do.” You’re going to find that you have so much more strength than you thought you did and you will learn SO much about yourself and should be able to look back on this after college and be proud of yourself for your perseverance and resilience.
I would suggest that you do what you can to get involved with other military girlfriends. Also, if you find other Marine wives/girlfriends that will help even more because each branch of the military is unique and they’ll be able to best support and educate you on what it’s going to be like. There are all kinds of facebook groups for military families. Also, once he gets to his base, see if he can list you as a key contact so you can get in touch with wives in his platoon so you can learn more about what he’s living through on a day to day basis.
For communication while you’re so far apart, FaceTime, Skype, and email will become your new best friend. Set aside time to talk with him but don’t let it completely stop your life and mess up your schedule or you could become isolated. Be honest about your struggles. Don’t expect him to understand everything you’re going through emotionally because he just can’t. You guys are going to be living pretty different lives so you’ll have to find ways to stay connected outside the day to day grind that couples who live closer can rely on. Set up Skype dates where you can dedicate a couple hours to each other as though you were on a real date. Find books to read at the same time so you have something in common to talk about.
If this is really what you want, you can do it!! You just have to approach it carefully and be very intentional about some things so you can prevent problems before they even occur.