MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Military marriages are unique. Often times, Marines and their spouses face obstacles that conventional couples may never have to worry about.
One of the biggest challenges is distance and long deployments. Having your loved one and partner in raising your children, on the other side of the world in harm’s way, can take a toll on emotions and disrupts the everyday routine.
After so long apart, the time together at home can also negatively impact those relationships if families aren’t prepared to handle a combat-hardened version of their loved ones.
“With the right resources, knowledge and support, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming,” said Andrea Tatayon, Family Readiness Officer, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “As a FRO, it’s our job to provide Marines and their families with tools to succeed as a family, especially after deployment.”
Every unit has a FRO whose responsibility is to ensure families have the tools needed to remain strong and function cohesively. They also direct families to other resources like the chaplains for counseling and family support, and mental health services.
Those groups share key advice with spouses who are going through deployments as the ones left behind.
One of the most important tools a couple can have is communication. The key is to communicate clearly and realistically, Tatayon said.
“Understand that sometimes when you’re talking to (your service member) on the phone, they may not express themselves the way they normally would,” Tatayon said.
“You also have to make sure you are communicating the things that you find important and not hold it in until they get back,” she added.
Managing expectations of when a Marine or sailor returns from deployment is important as well, said Tatayon.
“Sometimes when a Marine comes home, almost everyone has this picture in their head of how their reunion will go,” said Perry Ford, Marine Corps Family Team Building director, Readiness Deployment Support Training. “It’s ok if it doesn’t go as planned.”
“Not everyone is going to want to go to Disneyland the day after they come back,” Tatayon said.
“That’s why we try to talk about what should realistically be expected when he returns,” she added.
Time and unique circumstances of war make people grow in different ways. Adjusting to changes takes time and patience. The responsibilities in the household also change when spouses return home.
“The family dynamic changed for an extended period of time and will need to adjust when husbands come home,” Tatayon said. “Maybe he wants to take back the responsibilities when he returns, or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he won’t be ready to step into that parental role right away. It’s important to understand that this is completely normal.”
“Deployment can change people, both overseas and at home,” Ford said.
Being in a combat zone for an extended period of time is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing.
Taking lives, protecting the people you’re with, and the constant threat of enemy contact and death are all things that, in one way or another, will impact a man.
It’s the family members who know the individual Marine better than anyone else. They are the first line of defense when detecting if a Marine is mentally and emotionally in need.
Marines often have to put away their emotions in order to think clearly in the fog of war and survive. Often, they will not seek help on their own.
“With the right mindset and understanding, people can come out of deployment very successfully,” said Tatayon. “It can even make you stronger as a family.”
Every unit’s main concern for Marines and sailors returning home is their mental well being and how they will adjust to their return to society.