Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How to Deal when Your Sailor hits Port

Your Sailor is in port and you are so freaking excited to finally get to talk to him or her on the phone or maybe even see them via Skype but instead of happy, joyful moments you are jealous, pissed, and biting your nails. 

How do we deal with this Port Madness? I've got your answers!
So lets dive right in!

It's Normal To Experience an Array of Negative Emotions.

photo credit: Justin van Zyl via photopin cc
One of the feelings that comes with deployments and which can drive any Navy Wife or Navy Girlfriend insane is jealousy. He gets to travel the world while you sit at home and save money.

Sure the rest of the time he's working his butt off and facing potential danger but in port he gets to pal around and enjoy another country like Hawaii, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Guam, China, Dubai, and sometimes these guys even get to see parts of Western Europe like France, England, and Italy. All that stuff of about work and danger flies out of your head and you are like, Hello – JEALOUS!!!

The Sailor's Shoes: So to deal with the negative emotions we experience during port visits, we need to start by understanding what the Sailors are going through.

To start, these Sailors have been couped up in tight quarters with each other for weeks or sometimes even months with little personal time or leisure. 

They want to talk to you, yes, but they are also dying to get out into an open space and do something, anything other than what they've been doing nonstop for thirty, sixty, or sometimes even ninety or more days in a row. They deserve a break and a little fun after all that hard work. They don't just deserve it, they need it to stay sane.

The best way to cope with jealousy is to deal with the feelings of being left out and alone. A great way to do that is by preparing to have your own treat or adventure while he or she is in port. Don't plan to be home the entire time, so you can make sure you are able to get unplanned phone calls or Skype messages in privacy. 

Schedule those things so you can get out there too, do something fun, be with people, enjoy yourself, treat yourself! He's not the only one doing hard work. So are you! Giving yourself a little reward every once in a while can be really encouraging and make your deployment easier.

Go big if you can: go out wine tasting or go to a spa. Go to a theme park or even on a mini-vacation to the beach or into the city for shopping. Visit a friend or host a family trip. I even know some Navy Girlfriends who traveled out of country on a work program. If you can't go big, then go small but still do social, active, fun, and special things. That might mean something like going to a movie or getting your nails done, giving yourself a break from that cruise diet and having a brownie, or even just spending the day at the park. 

Oh boy, do I worry. What kind of trouble could he get into in those places? Some of those port places have black market liver theft, corrupt police rumors, human trafficking, go to jail for chewing gum, American haters, or just the average tourists are great targets for muggings.  

The Sailor's Shoes: Sailors are given training and briefings whenever they go to another country. They are informed of where they should and should not go. They are informed of cultural differences and other important information. 

They are also trained soldiers with the ability to defend themselves, especially because they always go out in groups. They are not allowed to go out alone. They are even assigned buddies to watch over.

Plus, they are kept on curfews and people are assigned to make sure people stay safe, get rides, and get back to the boat. In other words, they are covered.

Cope with Worry: Planning to stay busy, planning for money spent, and knowing the precautions made to keep Sailors safe should help quell most of your fears, but if you still find yourself concerned, talk to someone.

Talk to your Sailor, talk to other Navy Wives, your FRG (Family Readiness Group) reps or your Ombudsmen, or on our Facebook group page. Ask about the things that freak you out. Having all the information is really key to feeling reassured. Learn How to Stay Informed & Get Support During Deployment.

Also, if you are like me, a professional worry-wort, learn how to cope with worry in general. Learn about Destructive Thinking Patterns and How to Overcome Them, and finally learn How to Stop Dwelling on Your Fears.

So back to things driving us nuts. To make things worse, he and everyone else on cruise have these outrageous spending habits in ports. Usually, families try to save money in general during deployments. Wives bunker down, avoid going out and spending money, which forces us to sit around and feel like we are just waiting for him to get back. Then port comes and he runs out and spends like crazy!

The Sailor's Shoes: For the Sailor it is really hard not to spend in port. They have been stuck on the ship and working seven days a week and like fourteen to sixteen hours a day and haven't been able to buy a meal, a present for you, or just something to treat themselves for months.

They see all that money that built up and are bombarded by people trying to sell them stuff, and they figure, hey I've got extra cash from not spending and from making extra with all this hard work, so I can afford this and I deserve this. That's reasonable considering the circumstances, but this can still cause major problems if you have prepared for it.

Cope with Money:
Remember it’s seems like a lot of money all at once, but technically he doesn’t spend much of anything for the rest of the time he’s out there. Plus, he always making extra while he’s on deployment.

Discuss it with your Sailor. Talk about and plan how much he or she will spend. Look up exchange rates so you are prepared. Having discussed it beforehand will make it less of a slap in the face later. 

Budget to make sure it works with your long-term money plans. Budgeting is knowing where your money goes, planning where it will go, and being prepared to spend it. When you prepare for him to drop $200-$600 all at once, it won't be a big deal because you knew and planned for it.

Spend some on yourself. Budget some spending money for your own reward. You are working hard too and deserve a little something and this is really healthy and helpful to keep you encouraged during a deployment.

Be flexible and understanding about how much he or she spends. If he or she goes over the budget a little or over what you expected, try to be understanding and forgiving. It is really easy to go over when you are dealing with exchange rates, plus the situation of two days of freedom after three months on a ship, and sometimes it just happens.

For more on money, check out
Top Money Tips for the Financial Savvy Navy Wife/Girlfriend.

photo credit: charliebarker via photopin 
Okay, now your pissed. He said he was going to call. He said he was going to Skype. He finally does only to tell you he spent a bunch of money and then falls asleep on the phone or only wants to talk for five minutes. What the #$!@!

The Sailor's Shoes: For us, port means one thing - communication. For the Sailor, though, port means freedom for the first time in months. The calls seem like the only priority to us but that's not what they experience.

Also it's not always easy for them to get access to communication devices. We often forget how little access they have. Remember, tight quarters - their computer labs are tiny spaces with only a few computers spaces available. They can take laptops on deployment, but they don't have internet access from those laptops. They have to plug in. Plus, whenever the ship docks, everyone is trying to get on the computer, Skype home, use the internet bandwidth, etc.

Same thing with phones. They don't get to have cell phones. They have old school landline phones on the boat, which have super long lines of Sailors waiting to call home. Not only is it time consuming to wait in line but then when they get on the phone, they feel pressured to keep the conversation impersonal and brief because of all the people waiting behind them. They can get disposable phones now adays, but they have to actually find a place to acquire them and then pay for the minutes or amount of access and hope they work right.

Plus, they might want to call someone else like their parents, their friends might be waiting on them because it is their only scheduled time to go out, or they are in between that time and their next shift working (yep they still have to work when in port), or they are tired after a long and exciting day.

Check out the U&E article on Why Sailors Take So Long to Respond to Email & Other Communications.

Cope with Anger: Anger is one of those things that messes with your head so always wait until you calm down before trying to actually deal with the problem. Take a break from whatever it is and get your mind off of it for a while.

When you do talk to your Sailor, avoid accusations. Approach the conversation not with the goal of getting an apology, but with the goal of finding out what his or her perspective of the situation was and communicating your perspective as well. Then if you need to or can, come up with a compromise for next time. It might not even turn out to be a big deal. You might find out what was going on for your Sailor and realize it was just a misunderstanding.

Check out this awesome article on RealSimple on anger styles and how to cope with them.

If a fight does occur, it's okay. We all fight on deployment, via email, our only phone call, or even the first Skype call in three months. It's okay. You trying to have the most stressful and insane long-distance relationship ever so fights happen. Check out The First Long-Distance Fight and Why Military Couples Fight Before Deployments (it's focus is on pre-deployment fighting but the principles apply to general fighting too.)

There were times when I felt like all my staying in and being bored and lonely to save money was a waste after he spent so much. I felt like he squandered my efforts. I felt like he didn't care enough about me to call or to talk to me for more than five minutes. I felt hurt.

The Sailor's Shoes: Do you make decisions with the desire to hurt your Sailor? Generally speaking people don't do things they think will hurt their loves ones. Keep that in mind. Your Sailor's actions were not done with the idea that he or she would hurt you. With everything they have going on, the distance and time spent away, living in an entirely differently environment, it's really hard for them to consider what you have going on, just as hard as it is for you to know what they they have going on. Your Sailor appreciates everything you are doing to be supportive and helpful. Your Sailor doesn't want you to feel bad in any way. They just don't realize that it is hurtful.

Cope with hurt: It's okay to experience hurt feelings, but if you keep it inside, try to ignore it or bury it, it's only going to turn into resentment. If you already struggle with resentment, (and we all do) check out this great Psychology Today article.

Communication is paramount to resolving hurt, but it's also really hard when it is dealing with hurt and this weird communication situation so learn how to communicate better with this article on PsycheCentral!

Talk to your Sailor. Talk to other wives and girlfriends about how you feel. Remember your feelings are normal and other wives and girlfriends go through the same thing so we will understand. We are here for you!

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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.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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