Yesterday I was chatting with a friend about an upcoming Marriage Retreat that her family is attending. Having just passed the 3 month mark of my husbands return from Afghanistan and less than 2 months from our tentative “leaving Germany” flight time, I am both thrilled for my friend, and envious of the opportunity to go.
Four years ago, the Army made a promise called “The Army Family Covenant” to provide funding to improve programs and create new ones in order to strengthen our Army families during a time of war. In a re-affirming commitment event last year, Gen. George W Casey Jr., chief of staff of the Army said, ”Never before in the history of our Army have we asked so much of our Families. They are serving side-by-side with our Soldiers, enduring their hardships, providing the unconditional love and support that truly make our Army strong.”
One of the things the Army Family Covenant has made possible are “Strong Bonds” Retreats for both single and married soldiers and their families. We have had the wonderful opportunity to attend 2 of these retreats during our 4 years here in Europe. (One in late 2009 after our daughter was born and again in 2010 before my husband’s most recent deployment.)
Both were beyond perfect timing for us.
In 2009, Seth returned in May from a 14 month Iraq deployment. I was 5 months pregnant (Yay surprise R&R pregnancy!) and had moved us to a new apartment. So attending a marriage retreat with 3 children (4 years and under) where the focus was maintaining the lines of communication and learning how to ‘fight fair’ was just what we needed.
In 2010, we had again moved to another apartment (due to construction on post) and were preparing for yet another deployment. So while I was thrilled our new apartment had its own washer and dryer, I was not looking forward to yet another year of being a solo parent in a foreign country. This marriage retreat again focused on effective communication and how men’s and women’s brains work (task oriented vs emotion oriented). Once again, the refresher course and encouragement to keep our relationship a priority in the midst of all the stress in our lives was wonderful reinforcement and a perfect precursor to an extended separation.
So fast forward to yesterday, I shared this status via my personal facebook…
I think every married couple should have the opportunity to attend a marriage retreat within 3 or 4 months post-deployment. There are so. many. challenges that families face during reintegration and moving (which often follows long deployments). And even if everything is “Leave it to Beaver” perfect in your relationship, it’s always good to change the oil and rotate your tires as a preventative maintenance measure!
The immediate response was an honest, open, and heartfelt conversation.
Quite a few friends commented that they too hadn’t had a chance to ‘make the list’ before they moved – and while they are happy to let others attend (not angry/ jealous), there is a quiet agreement that yes, this would be a very good thing for families to have access to. That even after 3, 4, or 5 deployments there are different challenges and hurdles to work through.
Another friend from North Dakota who is an amazing National Guard Military Spouse commented “I am dealing with dozens of spouses right now— have been through the 30-60-90 day yellow ribbon—- and hubbies have deployed 3-5 times in the ten years…. and they are on the brink of collapse… and there is nothing out there for them…” My heart aches for these families.
And so my dear readers, I am sharing all of this with you to open the door for YOUR stories.
Have you every attended a Marriage Retreat?
(This question is for both military families and those not married to the military!)
How did the Marriage Retreat or Workshop impact your family?
What resources have you found or used to strengthen your marriage during times of stress?
Also, I encourage everyone to please share any programs or information that might be specifically helpful for those geographically dispersed military families like the Coast Guard, the National Guard and Reserve who may not have access to these “Strong Bonds” retreats offered to Active Duty families who are stationed at a military installation. Let’s encourage one another!
This week I have been honored with a nomination for a MilBloggie award.
(It is the equivalent of winning an Oscar or the Pulitzer Prize within the Military Blogging Community.)
If you would like to cast your vote, you will find Household 6 Diva in the Military Spouse Category.
I encourage you to have a look around – there are some inspiring blogs among the finalists!