Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Strengthen Your Navy Relationship Despite Deployment Stress

This is the second installment of my cruise boxing series, all about the fun fighting stuff that happens before a deployment. We started last week with Round 1: Why Navy Couples Fight Before Deployments & What to Do About It!

Also check out Round 3: How to Forgive & Forget so You Can Get Over the Fight Before He Deploys

And Round 4: What Every Navy Wife & Navy Girlfriend Ought to Know About Surviving Pre-Deployment Fighting.

ROUND 2: (4-6 Weeks From Deployment)

Well, I was hoping round two would be a little cheerier, but I have to say, I’m sorry, it kind of sucks.

Your fighting starts to die down, but you are still feeling irritable, any day can go from fine to bad pretty easily, and yet you are still feeling a little surreal about all of this, thinking: Wow . . . cruise is coming. It’s happening. Hmmm, funny, thought I’d feel more upset. Maybe, I’m going to get through this pretty unscathed.
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Then WHAMMMM!!! Like a right hook to the FACE!

All of sudden, one day, out of nowhere, the full emotional weight of the fact that he is leaving hits you! Unfortunately, it happened to me at the most random time while I was at work! I was just walking around doing my thing when I thought to myself, surreal again, wow cruise is coming, then I counted down the weeks and realized no really, it’s coming.

I didn’t cry at work, but I wanted to and this wave of depression hit me. My husband had started feeling depressed the night before, but it was one of those things where he said he didn’t know why he felt so sad.

When I realized we were both sad that was when I thought that round two must just be the depression phase, but I was wrong. Despite our sadness, our irritability was still at a high and then came the fight!

There is no better way to feel like you are losing it than to be simultaneously depressed about your separation and infuriated with him to the point of yelling and having to leave the room. I don’t want to be sitting in the bathroom crying when soon he’s going to be gone!

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
We all know it’s a part of the normal psychological process of preparing for a cruise and somehow it’s for our own good. It’s normal and everyone goes through it, but you know what . . . I think it’s stupid! Subconscious, you are making me look and feel crazy!

Well, there is an upside. Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t coming out of this feeling like sunshine and daises, but there is an upside. Usually when your subconscious is making you feel irrational and emotional, it’s just you who looks neurotic, but in this case, your husband is being and feeling just as insane.

It means fights end kind of easily. BOTH of you get mad and emotional, go into separate rooms, cool off in like five minutes, realize you shouldn’t have gotten that upset, then apologize and feel free to blame it on cruise.

Yeah, the fight means you will have this tension separating you when all you want is to not be separated, but if you think about it you are kind of together because you are both going through the same emotions as a team, partners. Yay . . .

photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc
All right give me some credit for trying to get something positive out of that, but in case that’s still really not that helpful, I’m compiling a top five list of tips to help make your fighting experience as comfortable as possible, plus additional resources.


1. Agree to Fight Fair. 

Talk to your spouse and agree that even when you are angry you should still respect one another. You are not enemies. That means no name calling or unnecessary insults just to hurt someone. No threats of divorce or of going to a hotel.

photo credit: just.Luc via photopin cc
Some people feel these tactics are how one “wins” a fight, but when you fight with your spouse, winning means resolving your problem so that both of you feel it is resolved without hurting your relationship. It's not about one of you triumphing and the other falling. That's how to damage a marriage. Here are some more tips for fighting fair on For Your Marriage.

Before your next fight, sit down with your spouse and talk about coming up with a set of fighting rules – like in boxing. There are rules to keep the fight fair. In order to truly fight fair, you both have to be willing to do it. If your spouse refuses to fight fair, visit To Love, Honor, and Dismay.

2. Create a Pause Button.

While you are not angry, make an agreement with your spouse that during an argument either one of you can “Press Pause” or say “I Need a Break.” HINT: Whatever you do, DO NOT say “YOU Need a Break.”

The agreement is that no matter what if someone calls a pause or asks for a break, you are done fighting. Both of you have to commit to never, ever breaking this rule. You are allowed to return to the conversation at hand when you have both calmed down and when the “pauser” is ready, but this has to be within the next 24 hours. No one can pause indefinitely or re-pause every time the conversation comes up. That’s taking advantage of the rule.

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The point of doing this is that when you realize the fight is going nowhere or you are too angry to be rational, you can pause and both calm down so you can come back to the issue with your emotions in check.

BTW: the old adage that you should never go to bed angry is a myth. It’s better to take a break than force battle while sleep-deprived.

3. Understand Stonewalling. 

Stonewalling is a term for when a person shuts down during a fight and refuses to speak and usually attempts to leave, i.e. getting in the car and driving away or walking out of the house or into another room. 

This tactic is kind of like a pause button but the problem is that it is not agreed upon by both parties, so usually the other spouse will not be able to calm down after the stonewalling spouse leaves. If the stonewalling spouse is around, the other spouse tends to pester that person until he or she explodes. 

This is not productive. If you or your spouse stonewalls, replace this with the pause button. Learn more at The Stronger Marriage blog.

4. Rephrase to Eliminate the Defense Response.

photo credit: Chris Owens via photopin cc
When you accuse somebody of something, especially when things are heated, the unavoidable psychological response is for that person to become defensive. That is why you always hear the suggestion to use “I feel” statements. 

Compare: “I feel like I am being judged,” with “You are always judging me!” 

You don’t have to start with “I feel,” because sometimes people feel stupid when they do that. Just try to eliminate accusations or “You…” phrases. It gives you a better chance of getting the message across.

Hint: “I feel like YOU are judging me,” doesn’t count as an “I feel” statement.

Learn more at The Compassion Coach.

5. Create a Repeat Button.

Similar to the pause button, talk with your spouse about creating a fight rule called “The Repeat Button,” which then requires both of you to allow the other person to speak without interruption. After one spouse speaks, the other spouse repeats what they said in his or her own words.

If what you repeat is not accurate, then your partner re-explains, and then you repeat in your own words again. When your partner agrees that you get what he or she is saying, it becomes your turn to speak and your partner then repeats. 


You: “I feel like I’m being judged.”
Partner: “You feel insecure.”
You: “No I feel like I am being judged, negatively, when I don’t think my actions warrant being judged.”
Partner: “You feel judged and you don’t think you should be judged.”
You: “Yes.”
Partner: “Ok, I feel like I am not judging but just asking a question.”
You: “All right. You don’t feel your question is judgmental.”
Partner: “Yes.”
photo credit: jaqian via photopin cc
You: “But, I feel judged when you ask that because…”


Learn more on Your Relationship Matters and scroll down to 10 Tips to Stop Couples Arguing. Read the whole thing for a lot of great tips.

Bonus: Remember nobody can MAKE you feel anything.

When you and your spouse fight, keep in mind that people do not have the ability to actually make somebody feel a certain way. A certain action will not always make somebody feel a certain way. Your partner does not actually have the ability to control your feelings. You have control over your feelings. Your reactions are not forced upon you.

DISCUSSION:  Well . . . do you feel better? (Digital winky face with tongue sticking out.)

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

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