Ever wonder if a long distance relationship can really work? What about when you are also separated by a country?
In this podcast episode, Elizabeth Polinsky interviews Rachel on how she survived 10 years of long-distance, military deployments, and immigration difficulties.
IN THIS PODCAST
1. The Love Story
Rachel and her husband have been married for 22 years, have 3 children, and their oldest with oldest is 24 years old and also a sailor. Their youngest child is now18. The couple met at age 15 in Canada, had first son after she turned 17. Her husband was a flight deck guy for the Navy. They got married her senior year of high school, and a month later he left on his first deployment. This was in the 1980’s and they had to send miniature tape records to each other because it was prior to technology advancements.
Because of the way the mail worked, they had fights that lasted for months. They struggled a lot financially ad with the distance. She became a recluse during his first deployment. It was hard to hear about the fun he was having when she was struggling with loneliness and a toddler. "I also didn’t have a support system at the time and there wasn’t an online community like there is now." When he came home there was a honeymoon high followed by the crash of life is still happening.
Even after he returned from deployment, she was still living in Canada due to immigration costs. He was stationed in Washington state. When he could come home on the weekends, she would want to word vomit and tell him everything--but he would want to hang out with his friends.
They had a deployment baby that was born after the deployment. He deployed right after their second son was born. He was on the Lincoln for 5 years and 1 month, then went into the reserves while going to college. She felt a passion to be involved in FRG because it was scary to know that there was potential danger her husband was going through while on the Lincoln, and not knowing if he was involved.
Her husband joined the navy again after getting his degree. He got his masters degree in public health while serving in the navy.
She was able to immigrate as a family on 2006— which was a very expensive and complicated process. Over the course of their marriage, there were times that they discussed divorce because things were so hard.
Every hardship we had to encounter, whether having our next baby, immigrating, job stuff, it has the ability to tear you apart” — Rachel
To immigrate and be in a country I am not used to…there are differences that I still struggle with” — Rachel
They were separated the first 6 years of their marriage and if you included the years they were dating—they were separated 10 years before she could immigrate. They were long distance for 10 years!
3. Surviving Military Spouse Life
COMPASS was really helpful. gocompass.org is a life saver. It is an amazing class that includes spouse to spouse mentoring and covers topics such as how to read and LES, local attractions, and financial skills etc.
I am a big advocate of military spouses finding careers...it is possible to have a career and love someone in the military…you have to adjust your expectations” — Rachel
During her husbands last deployment, he was able to deploy with his son. Having them both come off the ship together was really special.
Rachel’s advice to military spouses starting out is to know there are going to be some struggles. “The man you sent away may not be the same person you get back, and you have to learn to love this new person” - Rachel.
This is especially true when they have gone through traumatic events and if they have PTSD. There are resources but sometimes they are limited. Plus there is all the stigma about going and getting help—especially while in the military.
PTSD is a natural and normal reaction—it is doing what it should do in response to a life threatening event” - Elizabeth Polinsky
Being diagnosed with PTSD can make you feel like you are broken. But it is like a button that is pushed on to where you are on alert for danger now. The button just stayed on when the person comes back. A lot of PTSD treatment is helping the body let go of that "on" button.
When you partner has PTSD sometimes partner feel like the partner is broken and want to help fix them. So you try to make sure you don’t do anything to harm and hurt them more. Even though he’s a manly man, you have to remember that your words can hurt him.
Three Points that Can Help with the Transition to an Empty Nest:
You are really dating multiple people throughout your marriage because you are both growing individually and as a couple...you have to update the mental maps of what your partner likes and who they are” — Elizabeth Polinsky
5. Words of Wisdom from Rachel:
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Thanks for Listening!
Elizabeth Polinsky is a marriage and couple therapist specializing in working with military members, veterans, and their families. Liz is located in Norfolk, Virginia, and provides online counseling services throughout Virginia, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
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The Communicate & Connect Podcast
In Communicate & Connect For Military Relationships, I provide educational tips for relationships, communication, and navigating military family life.