I am not an expert on coping with separation and distance, but I am learning. Being a military spouse (or significant other in any type of relationship) is hardest when they’re gone. Here are a few coping strategies that have worked for me:
1. Make foods that you enjoy and your significant other does not. Michael hates coconut, mushrooms, olives, and sweet potatoes. I’m making lots of food with those ingredients while he’s gone!
2. Plan (and execute) very structured days where you are focused on finishing tasks and busy until well into the evening. Be a task master.
3. Find an activity that you enjoy and only do it when your significant other isn’t home. Some of my friends scrapbook when their spouse is gone. They look forward to shopping for scrapbook stuff the first day that their spouse is gone, and they buy enough supplies to keep themselves busy while he’s gone. This way, they have something to look forward to doing while their significant other is gone.
4. Tackle odd jobs around the house that you prefer to do solo. For example, I need to start packing for Japan, and I think that I pack better for moving then he does, so I prefer to pack most of our stuff myself. If he’s home while I’m packing, he may want to help (and do it wrong!/not my way!). Haha.
5. Exercise. Run the extra mile, do an extra 20min on the elliptical, or try a new class at the gym. Do a double workout. Exercise takes up lots of time (driving to the gym, working out, driving home, showering, etc) and it will tire you out enough to not be an insomniac. Oh yeah, and there’s that whole thing about canceling-out “comfort eating” calories 🙂
6. DO NOT DIET (more then you have recently, if you’re already on a diet) and do not do anything that will make you uncomfortable, sad, or add to your loneliness. Proven fact: if you starve your brain, disordered thinking follows. If you’re sad, lonely, and mad that he’s gone, and then you starve your brain, you will be more sad, mad, and lonely. This is a fact. Eat a normal amount of food. Don’t watch the super sad or unsettling movie. Do order a pizza and watch a comedy.
7. Try going to bed earlier. I think most of us lonely significant others have a tendency to stay up later when our important person is gone. I’m making an effort to be in bed no later then 11pm while Michael is gone.
8. Watch or read a “warm fuzzy” before going to sleep. I watch old episodes of Downton Abbey before trying to sleep because I get so engrossed and excited about the show that I forget that he’s not there right next to me. Since it puts me in a good mood, it’s easier to deal with an empty bed when I finally turn out the lights.
9. Try to spend some quality time with other lonely significant others.
10. Pre-plan events to take place while you’re separated from your significant other: girls’ nights, lunches or pedis with friends, dog play dates, kid play dates, seeing a movie, hair cuts, trying a new gym, skype sessions with friends, food shopping, doctors appointments, seriously, do whatever it takes! If I have to wake up alone in the morning, I like having something to look forward to that day.
11. Make mental notes (or, actual notes in the form of pictures or notes on your phone) about your day so that you have a lot to email/talk about with your significant other. I do this often, and my husband really, really appreciates the silly pictures I send him, like pictures of our dog while on a walk or pictures of funny things that I see while shopping. I think the distance is worse when you feel like you don’t have anything to share or laugh about.
12. Journals and diaries are awesome in times of separation … it’s like another person to talk to, except that it will never interrupt or disagree with you. Perfect.
13. It’s easy to feel alone in the struggle with separation. I tend to talk less to civilian friends when I’m separated from Michael for a long period of time, and I focus more on my relationships with other military spouses. If you don’t know any, or perhaps you haven’t yet made a personal connection with one of them, messages boards online, websites, twitter, FB groups, etc, are great resources.
14. Focus a lot on yourself while your significant other is gone. I spend more time doing things that I like to do, such as doing and re-doing my nails, playing with my hair, practicing make-up, cooking/baking, and crafting while Michael is gone. Plus, I don’t have anyone here to “derail” (his word!) my good eating habits and workout schedule, so I work hard on those two things when he is gone.
15. Make or do something goofy and send it to your significant other or give it to him when he returns home. One of my personal favorite ideas is to make “I Miss You” and “I Love You” signs, take pictures of myself with the signs, and send them to him. I have a friend who would make “a card a day” while her boyfriend was deployed. Some of them were elaborate, and others were, literally, folded post-it notes because that’s all she had time for that day. She would send them in batches every Monday afternoon. He thought it was wonderful and it was something that she did to stay busy (if even only for 1 minute!) everyday, and she felt good making him happy.
Overall, I think that the most important things to do are to: keep busy and … keep busy. I find that structure is really good for me. Even if I have insomnia while he’s gone, I force myself to get up early and go to the gym. I force myself to be twice as active as when he’s home. I try to make really good eating choices at meal time (but I allow myself to also eat goodies that I like and Michael does not, such as this one that I made tonight!!!!).
Today I: woke up at 7:20am. I was at the gym by 8:30. I worked-out until 10ish, then I ran to the grocery store, ran home, showered, and met up with two pilot spouse friends for lunch. After lunch, one of them and I got a pedicure, then we spent 3hrs at various local craft stores looking for something for my wedding reception. I came home around 4:30pm, and she and I took our dogs out to play together for a few minutes. After a walk with Norma, I had dinner going by 5:45pm. I started the cake at 6:30. It’s now just after 8pm, and I still have to make the frosting and frost the cake. After all that is finished, it will probably be around 9:30, so I’ll start working on some wedding crafts. Tired yet? Unless I exhaust myself, I can’t sleep when Michael is gone.
And yes … this blog post was a way to kill some time in my day today 🙂 Mission: Accomplished!