This summer, my husband Gregg and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage. Our marriage has faced a lot of unique challenges that are a direct result of being a military family living in a country that has been at war for over 15 years.
Gregg deployed with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) less than three months after our wedding day. He’s spent many years of our marriage at army schools or in combat zones.
The times the military didn’t have him, he worked as a contractor and most years worked out of town about 48 weeks a year.
When our son Scott was born, unexpectedly, via emergency C-section at 30 weeks, Gregg was 350 miles away at a military school. The emergency was so imminent that the doctors were unable to wait for him to arrive at the hospital before performing the surgery.
During a good portion of our youngest son Johnathan’s first year, he was in a military school 600 miles away, then spent his first birthday calling him from Afghanistan. Johnathan was 3 when Gregg came home for good.
Recently, we celebrated his 5-year anniversary of being home, with a local 9-5 job. After about a month of him being home, it occurred to us that – due to the nature of both his military and civilian jobs- it was the longest we’d ever spent in the same timezone.
He’s currently in a unit that “probably won’t” deploy, and his civilian job – while on Fort Knox and working for the Army – is in a non-combat zone that doesn’t require travel and comes with weekends and holidays off.
In order for any marriage to survive under these kinds of stressors, there has had to be some very intentional actions taken by both of us. We had to purposefully build our marriage from a distance.
Doing that taught us such amazing communication skills that by the time Gregg was home for good, we had many coping skills built in to handle situations that would have ripped a weaker marriage apart. Even though we sleep in the same bed and breathe the same time zone’s air these days, we’ve carried a lot of the lessons we learned during our years of separation into our current daily life:
- Abiding in each other. I recently had a couple of friends over for coffee. Our conversations went like this:
“I was telling Sean the other day…”
“Mark and I discussed it and…”
“When Gregg and I joked about it…”
Because this blog post was on my mind, my radar was kind of up about abiding in spouses. Abide means “to remain.” Mark 10:8 tells us that in marriage, “the two will become one flesh.”We are one – a single unit. Even when we’re operating away from each other, our thoughts and minds and heart remained centered on one another. As my friends and I spoke, I watched them actively, though subconsciously, abide in their spouses and loved observing it.
- Daily prayers. Gregg and I used to have to email prayers to each other. When he was in Afghanistan, he was 8.5 hours ahead of me. As I went to bed at night, he woke up. His evenings began as I was waking up. During this time, I would wake up to a prayer in my email box. As my day went on, I prayed for my husband, and before going to bed at night, I would type it out and email it to him. It became a beautiful way to wake each morning and a time I treasure. Now we’re able to pray together, holding hands, touching, often arms around each other. We pray before every meal, holding hands as a family — in private or in public. We pray over our children, touching them and touching each other. We keep our marriage constantly rooted in prayer and supplication to God, always putting Him first. As each of us grow closer to God, we in turn grow closer together.
- Mission minded service. Gregg and I do not live for each other or for our children. We live to obey, love, and serve Jehovah God. As such, everything in our home points in that direction. My audience with my writing is my mission field. My books celebrate faith and triumph with the Holy Spirit. My royalties support missions all over the world. Gregg donates his time and talents to help other Christian authors. I blog about God’s hand in my life and in my work. I encourage other families and marriages through my time spent on this blog.Gregg and I have gone into our marriage with the intent of growing our ministries. Everything we do begins with prayer and an open heart to listen to the direction from the Holy Spirit. Our marriage is a partnership in servitude to God. As parents, we are teaching our children to be mission-minded, to serve our fellow man as we honor our risen Savior, to give to the poor and feed the hungry, to handle our fellow man with grace and love.Knowing we’re on mission together binds us with a strength that even the most trying circumstances hasn’t broken. At times when our human selves are at their worst and we hurt each other as husbands and wives tend to do, our focus on missions and mission-related work has kept us together while we restructure our foundation, in the end making it stronger.
- Love and respect.That means respecting my husband even when I don’t think he’s “earned” my respect. And it means being loved by my husband even when I’m not being overly lovable. Respecting my husband means I elevate him up as the spiritual head of our family, responsible to God for the decisions he makes for our home. Loving me as his wife means that he would step in between me and death.Knowing the true nature of love and respect makes the little persnickety things like socks on the floor or beds not made properly seem to be so trivial that they don’t get in the way of true feelings for each other.It has never mattered whether Gregg and I were in the same zip code or not – the love and respect we have for each other has never been weakened by distance or circumstance.
- Communication. I’m a writer. My husband is a writer. The two of us together, with long stretches of distance between us, have WRITTEN. And written. And communicated via writing. And written some more. Because of this — because so much of our communication was in writing, it taught us the true value of communication. It taught us how to word what we wanted to say without relying on tone or inflection. It taught us to share our feelings, think on what we wanted to say, express our affection in the written word. It also has taught us to let the other spouse have the complete floor without interjecting.I believe that having to communicate so much in writing has taught us to value each others words in a way that could not have been obtained without intent had we spent all of that time apart actually together. As Gregg has been home, we’ve shifted the communication to speaking, but the quality of our communication has not diminished at all.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of ways to obtain a successful marriage. What these tips are, however, are tools to put into your marriage toolbox to help you survive the toughest of storms. Gregg and I believe that Satan does not like strong, Biblically grounded marriages. We believe that he attacks them at every point he can and with everything he can. It’s with these tools in our arsenal that we’re able to withstand attacks.
When the foundation of your marriage is firm — centered on God, bathed in prayer, mission-minded, and Holy Spirit driven — then you have strength to defeat even the worst onslaught.