Separation – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Separation is a part of military life.

We have TDY’s – Temporary Duty Yonder, as we like to call it. Yonder is an added word since the Y really comes the tiny y in duty and should probably be written, TDy. Although deployment is a type of TDY not all TDY’s are a type of deployment.

We have Deployment – time spent in the war zone. Period. If you hear that someone is deploying to Germany, ask again. I bet it’s really just a TDY.

We have moving – often a family ends up separating at moving time. Maybe the kids need to finish a school year or the military really needs the military member right away and it’s just not possible to pack up and move so quickly. Maybe a spouse has a job that just can’t pick up and go.

We have Geo-Baching – sometimes the military member gets an assignment and it just isn’t practical for a family to move along. Sometimes the military says it has to be that way (a year in Korea, for example) and sometimes the family makes the decision for themselves (a year in Monterey for language school, perhaps). These are very personal decisions and they are never easy ones.

I will guarantee you that no military family escapes all of these and many experience all four. Throw in family emergencies and military life is fraught with separation and though you can probably guess a lot of the negatives, some people never think of the positives.

The good? A little separation can make the heart grow fonder. We human beings are funny creatures. We take for granted those that we love. When we’re forced to spend time apart, however, we remember all over again those things that we forgot we love. Sometimes it’s the silliest stuff, like holding hands, or the practical stuff, like help in the kitchen. If the separation is really long, it might even be the stuff that normally would drive us crazy… like missing seeing those damn car keys that he never puts away.

Separation can also mean letters. Yes, those pieces of paper with handwritten messages. Many a military couple still write letters to one another. Deployment doesn’t always lend itself to phone calls or chat rooms or to emails. And letters can be read over and over again, they can be held in your hands and you know that the paper you hold was in the hands of the one you loved. It sounds awfully sappy, but for some of us, a letter is worth it’s weight in gold.

The bad? Separation is hard, especially the long ones. You have to learn how to be self-sufficient. That isn’t always easy. When you can’t manage on your own, you have to learn to ask for help. That is even harder. It’s one reason military spouses rely so much on other military spouses… they understand how hard it is to ask for help and they know that their friend is likely to need help not too far down the road themselves. Tit for tat, as you might say.

The ugly? Separation often means learning to deal with the unknown. If you’re the type of person that has to know everything that’s going on in your partner’s life, then separation is going to get ugly. It will strain the bonds of trust. It’s the most stressful time for many couples because they worry about everything from illicit relationships to poor management of money. If your marriage is under strain, a separation can be the straw that breaks the camels back. Separation can allow imaginations to run wild, especially if communication is lacking.

So there you have it, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of separation. Do you have your own to add? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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