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Maintaining Relationships with Loved Ones During Deployment

Military spouses and significant others are an invaluable source of support for our service members. They play a vital role in offering encouragement, assistance, and often a sense of stability during a member’s military career. Deployments come with complications for all involved, and often spur a host of challenges to loved ones. Concerns can range from finances to home and childcare. Loved ones also carry the added stressors of worry and fear for the safe return of their military member.

Couples can boost their resilience to manage the strains associated with deployments through open communication and willingness to work together to problem solve. Real Warriors offers tips to help loved ones persevere through the tough times, better manage the stress of separation, and maintain a strong relationship throughout deployment and well into the future.

Relationships and Deployment

Separations can be difficult, especially if deployments are high-risk or for long periods of time. Establishing a strong foundation before deployment can better prepare you to combat the stressors that may develop later:
  • Stay connected. Talk about the importance of regular contact. Make plans for how you will keep in touch, and how often. Stay flexible and patient because schedules and wireless connections may be unstable during deployment. It's important to talk about issues as they arise to prevent pile up. Try to end conversations on a positive note and with a supportive tone.
  • Support back home. Before deployment, work together to establish a support network with your loved ones, both within the military and in your surrounding community. Gather the contact information for resources within your service branch that can help with various issues that may arise (like medical, financial, etc.).
  • Trust. Work together to find ways to maintain trust while apart. Discuss your needs and expectations of one another prior to the deployment, and throughout. Maintain honest communication and listen to your loved ones; respect their opinions, and practice acceptance.
  • Understanding. Arguments happen. When they do, work together to understand the concern, problem solve, and move forward in a unified way and without placing blame.
  • Professional help. Counseling or spouse support programs can teach you the skills you need to nurture a healthy relationship and can be a good source to prepare you for the unforeseen moments ahead. A counselor, peer support system, or chaplain can help you work through life's challenges during deployment.

Because deployments can be stressful for both service members and their loved ones, it is especially important to know how to identify and watch out for thoughts and feelings related to depression or other conditions. Reaching out for support can help you better manage any emotional reactions you may develop before, during, or after deployment.

Knowing When to Seek Relationship Help

All relationships occasionally have problems. If left unresolved for too long, problems can escalate and may begin to impact all involved, especially the warrior's well-being and mission focus. Learning effective communication skills and problem-solving tools can alleviate the tension and strengthen the relationship. Below are some instances when seeking professional help could be beneficial:

  • Your spouse or significant other feels overwhelmed with the extra familial responsibilities
  • You or your deployed service member feels helpless to support your family’s needs
  • Relationship problems distract you from getting your daily tasks done
  • One or both of you feels alone
  • There is awkwardness or nervousness between you and your loved one
  • All may feel okay, but you want to work on improving and strengthening your relationship

Some people may not seek help because they fear counseling may make things worse or because they prefer to keep relationship matters private. However, reaching out for professional support can help you feel more secure while building a resilient partnership to better manage the stressors that occur in every relationship, but especially while deployed.

Additional Resources:


  • Knobloch, L. K., & Whisman, M. A. (2023). A prospective study of marital distress and mental health symptoms across the deployment cycle. Journal of Family Psychology, 37(4), 507–516.
  • Kritikos, T. K., DeVoe, E. R., & Emmert-Aronson, B. (2019). The effect of a parenting intervention on relationship quality of recently deployed military service members and their partners. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 89(2), 170–180.
  • Nolan, J., Lindeman, S., & Varghese, F. P. (2019). Mobile app interventions for military and veteran families: Before, during, and after deployment. Psychological Services, 16(2), 208–212.
  • Pessoa dos Santos, R., Francisco, R., Ribeiro, M. T., & Roberto, M. S. (2021). Psychological and emotional experiences during a military mission: A longitudinal study with soldiers and spouses. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 10(1), 38–53.
  • Ragsdale, J. M., Kochert, J. F., & Beehr, T. A. (2021). News from the front: A monthly study on stress and social support during a military deployment to a war zone. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 26(4), 326–338.
  • Ross, A. M., Steketee, G., Emmert-Aronson, B. O., Brown, T. A., Muroff, J., & DeVoe, E. R. (2020). Stress-buffering versus support erosion: Comparison of causal models of the relationship between social support and psychological distress in military spouses. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90(3), 361–373.

Updated April 2024

Last Updated: April 22, 2024
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