Friday, December 27, 2013

NGR: Surviving the Top 3 Struggles of the First Deployment

Mindi is our newest contributor here at Unhinged & Empowered. She is writing a series about her first deployment experience and we are calling it the Navy Girlfriend Report or NGR for short. She started us off a month ago with How I Decided NOT to Get Married for Deployment  and her boyfriend has been deployed for about a month. Let's see what she has to report. 

By Mindi
A Bonafide Navy Girlfriend

One month in and still goin’ strong! And what a month it has been, at that. Going into the deployment, I was fully confident that I was mentally and emotionally prepared for everything coming my way. Boy did I give myself a lot of credit. I want to share a few things that I thought I had prepped myself for, how I was wrong, and how I adapted/am adapting.

1. UNRELENTING SADNESS
I truly thought I knew exactly how I would emotionally respond to his leaving. I assumed that I would be sad, cry the first day or so, pick myself up, and carry on. I did not expect to be crying at least once a day, every day. The slightest things would set me off: Finally hearing from him; not hearing from him; cooking dinner. There really was no consistency to the tear triggers.

How I'm Surviving
Silvia Sala via photopin 
One friend gave me the perspective that I am mourning a type of loss. He hasn’t died but he has left and I don’t know when I will get to see him or hear from him next. The relationship we had is over, and we are in a completely new relationship. It is out of my or his control. She told me that the best thing I can do is let myself be sad, let myself mourn, and not be disappointed in myself for being so dramatically sad for however long I need. Eventually, the sadness will stop and I will feel normal again but I cannot force it. 

She was right. Almost exactly one month in, I no longer cried every day. I actually felt comfortable. As controlling as I can be, it is frustrating that I didn’t “fix” myself but had to simply rely on time passing and being patient with myself.

2. COMMUNICATION
I knew our communication would be stilted, that I wouldn’t get to talk to him every day and we would be relying on emails and periodic Skype sessions. There’s a 14 hour time difference, for crying out loud, I certainly didn’t think I was expecting much. I assumed he would email me every day, tell me he missed me, be sappy/silly, tell me about his day, etc.

Nope.

Most especially in the first couple weeks. I would write him an email every day, send him cutesy text messages, and say hello when I saw him on Facebook. He rarely responded. If he did respond he was short or cold. I would ask him to send me an email when he had some time and he would agree. A few days would pass (no sign of an email) and we would finally talk, I’d ask if he remembered saying he would send an email. He did not.  I found myself getting incredibly frustrated that I wasn’t getting any feedback from him. I felt like a silly girl; that I was wasting my time pining after a man who didn’t care if we had any contact.

How I'm Surviving 
What I continuously remind myself is how drastically different our current situations are.  For me, all that has changed is that my Navy Boyfriend deployed 14 time zones away. For him, his entire life has been turned inside out and upside down.  He is learning the ropes of a new job, setting himself up in a new social scene, and trying to find a house. He is doing all of this while living out of a hotel with limited wifi, in a country where he barely knows the language. Life’s a bit more stressful for him right now than it is for me.

While I have all the time in the world to think about us and how we are doing, he has negative amounts of time.  I need to cut him some slack and back off a bit.  Things will balance out eventually but not right now. I have ended up sending him a bit less messages through the week and adjusted my expectations for his responsiveness.

(TAKE NOTE: there is a great blog post on this Unhinged & Empowered that helped me understand his angle because it was written by an actual Sailor. Why Sailors Take so Long to Respond to Email and What to Do About It. 

3. LONG DISTANCE FIGHTS
x-ray delta one via photopin cc
I straight up did not think about how disagreements and small tiffs would go over while he is gone.  We certainly have had a few spats in this past month. The strain of our individual expectations versus the realities of our situation has created some fairly tense moments.  My biggest challenge with these spats has been finding the balance. It’s as if there is a battle inside myself. 

There is the affectionate and understanding woman inside me saying “we are going through a rough place, he doesn’t need to worry about the fact that I am upset on top of every thing else he is going through right now.”  But then the independent, sassy lady in me starts yelling “screw that! You have feelings and he needs to acknowledge that his actions, or lack of actions, have consequences!”

The internal struggle is rough. Especially when you decide that you really want to tell him something that isn’t working for you or that he said/did that upset you. It feels like your options are to stew on the problem for a week or more until he finally has time to chat, in which time it will just get blown out of proportion. Or, you can let it go and accept that he will never know that you were upset, and thus never change his actions and you just have to deal on your own. 

Or, you can send him an email and hope he has time to read it.  Then there is the added weight of “is this problem really something worth sitting down and putting pen to paper and hashing out or am I being petty and silly?”  If you’re anything like me, this just turns into a downward spiral of anxieties and over thinking.

So far, I have found myself writing a lot of emails to him that I never send. Venting and being irritated and expressing myself but ultimately not hitting send. I wait until I have calmed down and send a more practical, *brief* email to him or will calmly bring up my concerns when we have a chance to have a spoken conversation. Quite honestly, a lot of the “problems” that we have had so far are the result of me creating drama in my head from simply not fully understanding what he is going through.

How I'm Surviving
Maintaining sanity through this is requires stepping outside of yourself and acknowledging that his motives for how he handles his time and energy have very little to do with you or your relationship at all. Paying attention to and analyzing every little interaction, or lack of interaction, is only going to drive you crazy.  Its very likely that he is just as dedicated to your relationship as he was before he left, but he simply can’t afford the energy that you both know you deserve. (And this fact is just as frustrating for him as it is for you!) Patience, understanding, and trust are all key in maintaining your emotional well-being through this deployment.

Many people ask me how I am handling everything and I respond “well, it isn’t the EASIEST thing that I have ever done but I cannot imagine doing anything else.”  In the grand scheme of things, the worst is over. Getting comfortable in your new relationship (because really, you are in a brand new relationship now!) and relearning how to communicate and conduct yourself is hard stuff. But once you get through this, the rest will be so much easier. Everyone’s adjustment times are different too! Don’t beat yourself up if you think it is taking too long for you to get settled again. You’re doing your thing and coping the best you can at the rate that is best for YOU. In the end, it will all be worth it.


About Mindi

A Bonafide Navy Girlfriend

jaipatoulunivu via flickr cc
I am a 24-year-old Navy Girlfriend who lives in Washington, DC. My background is heavily ingrained in the arts. I have a Bachelor's in Theatre Arts with a focus in technical theatre and management. I perform burlesque as a hobby and have recently started playing with stand-up comedy and figure modeling.
    
I met my Navy Boyfriend last May 2013. In July, he told me that he got orders to Japan starting in late November 2013. In September 2013, we decided to try and "make Japan work." There's a lot of hope in this girl, while also trying to stay grounded in reality. I've got a lot of spunk and have a tendency to be optimistic and honest to a fault.

I will be writing and sharing my entire journey as a Navy Girlfriend experiencing her first deployment here with you on Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends! 


6 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say thanks for writing these, and I appreciate especially the mourning analogy. I'm a Navy girlfriend 11 days into my sailor's 9 month deployment and it's nice to get perspective from someone else going through a similar process. Your post on sending a care package was helpful too, I sent one last week and am being exceedingly impatient wanting it to get there. The two month delivery possibility was helpful, now I just won't worry about it. Thanks again, and I hope all is well.

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  2. I am so glad that you found this helpful, Amanda! Something I ended up discovering about the tracking of my package... once the package went through customs, I was no longer able to track it at all! The last I saw was that it arrived in Chicago. Three weeks later, he was sending me a picture and thanking me for the package. So, don't let the mail process get you down! Good luck with your early stages! I'm still having really rough days/weeks, and I'm three months in. BUT, it really does start to become easier to handle.

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  3. Love it. Very helpful and intimidating at the same time for this new navy gf

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  4. Egurl:
    Thank you for the comment! It truly is an overwhelming experience. I hope you continue following along and can find some peace in knowing you're not alone with all the new "feels" you are encountering!

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  5. Reading that was as if someone had typed up my last few weeks... we are about 3 wks into our first deployment. I keep thinking to myself how in the world am I gonna get through a year or worse...2?! It puts me at ease that I am not the only one who gets upset at herself for the fluctuations in my daily emotions. Or the only one who is struggling to keep herself AND her boyfriend sane! Aside from journaling, I find a lot of comfort from posts and blogs like these. When I am unable to talk to him, reading about woman who have been in my shoes and made it through is very encouraging. Also I great way to gain perspective! Thank you!!!

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  6. Hi Elise,

    Thank you so much for commenting! I'm so happy that you have found this blog helpful and especially that from it you have discovered you are not alone. We all feel bat guano crazy! ;)

    Feel free to comment or post a question anytime and check out our Facebook Forum for more in-depth discussion.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Carroll

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I love, love your comments and questions! Just remember to not mention any security info about your Sailor! Thank you!

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