Separate, but together.

For the past decade I have traveled for the Army. I’ve been around the world and had the pleasure of serving with some amazing people. Throughout that entire time, my wife has stood by my side while never actually going with me. The thing about the Army Reserves is that all my trips require me to leave, then return home. In the Army they call it TDY (temporary duty) and a steady season of TDY is one of those things that can really make or break a marriage.

The thing about TDY is that it causes both spouses to live separately, but together. This week I am in DC and Karen is holding things down at home. We still chat several times a day, but when something out of the norm happens I’m not there to help. This week that looked like Caleb (our three-year-old) deciding it was okay to defecate by the tree in the backyard.  We’ve always told him that if he needed to pee it was okay to do it in the woods, we just never imagined that he would take things that far. Clearly, that was a learning curve for us and one of those things that I get to be a part of, but can’t do anything to help. In other words, we were together, but definitely separate – plus Karen was stuck cleaning up the mess.

TDY also reminds me that it takes an incredible amount of intentional effort in marriage to keep things together. Here are some of my recommendations on how to keep things strong at home, while life is pulling you far apart.

  • Grace.  When life is outside of the normal routine, grace for your spouse must be paramount.  For me this looks like letting Karen’s schedule win. Unless it involves something work-related, my schedule works around hers.  This includes making sure we pray together at the end of the day. Prayer is crucial to grace!
  • Communication. The thing we need to do while I’m away is to talk more than we would normally, schedule it the best we can, and make it a priority. When I’m on the phone with Karen and the kids it is all about them. I also love to send texts or emails during the day so that she knows I am thinking about her.
  • Sit in the mud puddle. We all have tough days, and it will inevitably happen when we are miles apart. The best thing I can do is to sit in the mud puddle with her and let her complain a bit. She does the same for me, and we both feel better.
  • Positive Affirmation. Everyone likes to be told something nice. When you are separated, make an intentional effort to say something nice to your spouse. Get creative and have some fun with it.

I think we all have those seasons where life feels like one big TDY, and during those seasons the challenge is to keep from putting our heads in the sand.  Instead, we should be lifting them up and getting intentional about keeping our marriages strong.

Relationship Challenge

What tools can you incorporate into your marriage for intentional growth?

Are you in a season that feels like TDY? If you answer “yes,” then have a conversation with your spouse about what this involves.  (or feels like)