How can I stop freaking out about my deployed boyfriend?
February 2, 2009 3:41 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is deployed, which is stressful. What are good ways to deal with this stress? And what, if anything, can I do to be a better, more supportive girlfriend?

Charmcityboyfriend is a Marine, deployed somewhere sandy. He is a bit of the strong silent type, and not particularly good at expressing things like feelings. So for a while there was a comedy of errors type of situation where he thought I didn't care for him, and vice versa. Lately we've worked that out, through exceedingly clear conversations, and everything is peachy. He loves me, I love him- it's almost unbelievable now that we're really talking that we went so long without expressing these feelings. I absolutely can't wait until he gets home. However- there's always a however- since we've finally broken down the communication barrier, my anxiety level over where he is and what he's doing has gone through the roof. I guess I was distancing myself before.

Without being too specific, he does dangerous things for moderate periods of time, and then goes somewhere safe-ish, where there are phones and computers. Although he can't tell me much about what he's doing or when he's doing it, I've noticed certain patterns and know vaguely when to expect to hear from him. Well, these patterns don't always hold true, so every week or so I have a major freakout. Reloading CNN eight gazillion times a day, worrying, reloading CNN again, rinse, repeat.

I need to figure out a way to not do this. I can't really talk to him about it, because he has no control over the situation, and I don't want to add excess stress to something that is already mega-stressful.

I'm looking for concrete things to do to stop the freakouts. Things to do that will support him. And things to do to help me get through the next couple of months. Please keep in mind that since I am not his wife, I do not have any kind of support network from the military; also, I am in college and do not know anyone in a similar situation.
posted by charmcityblues to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: volunteer someplace...and really, not just any place - call the marine recruiting office and ask them if there are any marine or marine family specific charities you can give your time to. some families have both parents "some place sandy" and the kids are given over to grandma or aunt claire. when i lived by a base there was a sort of mom's day out where volunteers would watch the kids and give the stand in mommies and daddies some time to themselves.

you can also ask for care package addresses. organize it with the ROTC in your school. hold a drive and then send a bunch of shit overseas (and not to him, but to any soldier).

basically, give back to the community through the armed forces so you feel more connected to what he's going through. nothing is going to keep you from worrying, but helping others will give your brain more things to do.
posted by nadawi at 3:46 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am sure there are good online forums for this, which some smart mefite will be here to describe shortly.

Send him an iPod with a lot of your music that you listen to as a couple, your favourite movie, plus some you in something he finds sexy video of some sort, just talking to him. iPod nanos tend to get along well, be sure to get him a case and send more than one pair of headphones.

Read the care package requests on this and it should tell you a bit about what the life is like out there and what kind of care packages to send him. Send cds in there with more movies of you if you like.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: Does his unit have a wives club? You're his girlfriend, but if he makes it clear that you're someone he'd like to have included in the general communication/support loop, you might be brought in to the fold. You'll have support and information about when they may or may not be moving out of blackout zones, when they might be heading home, and what treats the unit as a whole might like to receive.

Some wives clubs do spirit building events - take pictures from home to send to the guys, get together and bake umpteen zillion cookies to send to the unit, that kind of thing. It can be a bit sororityish, but that isn't always a bad thing. My best friend's military, her husband is military and is deployed right now... she's home alone with their kid for the first time ever. His squadron's wives group to be a great source of distraction and support right now.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: My husband was active duty for 7 years. It's really hard, there's no way around it. You can't really understand what he's going through and he won't really understand what you're going through. Like you mentioned, as a girlfriend you don't really have access to any of the formal support services, that being said, there is no substitute for talking to others who are going through the same thing as you. A quick google search turned up quite a few websites that offer support networks that probably won't care if you're his wife or not. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to talk to others who understand the unique stresses that come with being in a relationship with a military member.

Also, nadawi has some great suggestions of way's to get involved, stay busy, and support your boyfriend.
posted by cbp at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: the reason i suggest doing something that doesn't involve his unit or him directly is because she can't do anything to control his circumstances. if she sends him care packages, she's waiting on him to respond to her. if she volunteers elsewhere or sends care packages to others, she's getting involved with what he's doing without dragging herself into the cycle of where is he now, when is he going to call, why haven't i heard from him.

marine wives is a good site and i know they accept girlfriends too. i had some customers who relied on the support they got through the sister site, armywives, to get them through the extended deployments.
posted by nadawi at 4:12 PM on February 2, 2009

Agreed, nadawi, but I know that some groups associated with units can get some pretty clear info to alleviate just that sort of anxiety. Before my friend was married, she actually put me on as a contact for the wives club for her squadron. Obviously, we weren't married. The captain's wife led the squadron wives' club, so she'd let us know if they were going in or out of blackout zones, if they'd been moved, etc... long before the people who'd been deployed could let us know themselves.

But yes, that forum also looks terrific. Makes me wonder how people did it back before we all had t'interwebs...
posted by Grrlscout at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2009

All of the above suggestions are great, however the best way to reduce stress is to take care of yourself. Giving back to the community through volunteering is a good start.

Do you exercise? You would be amazed at how little you can think about when your exercising and that in itself helps your stress level. So that would be my suggestion. If you don't have a gym membership, simply start walking to begin with.
posted by Chele66 at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2009

I've heard Commander In Chief of the House is a good resource.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions!

I will definitely look into the online forums. Sadly, his unit is based several hundred miles away from me, so I don't know how much good that would do.

I'm not sure how much more volunteering I can fit in (I'm an EMT and I spend a lot of time on that- which is good, because EMS is in many ways similar to military, or so I've been told, in terms of the closeness of units). I will contact the ROTC director at school and see if he has any ideas.

Already exercise, but will do more!
posted by charmcityblues at 6:41 PM on February 2, 2009

Sadly, his unit is based several hundred miles away from me, so I don't know how much good that would do.

Get in touch with them anyway. They should be able to reach out through their network to find someone closer to you -- even if the family support group for some local unit doesn't know anything about your boyfriend's unit, the feelings and the problems are pretty universal.
posted by Etrigan at 6:57 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: Boyfriend deployed, freaking out - I've been there, recently. I'm a girlfriend (as opposed to a wife) just like you, and we kind of have to find our own support networks because nothing is specifically provided for us. While I was waiting out a deployment last year I found a forum on where people waiting out the same deployment were posting. I never actually joined the forum, but just reading that other people were going through the same thing helped me get through some tough times.

I also had a friend who was an experienced military wife, and she had some good advice for me. This is something that might be hard to wrap your head around, but once you get it, you can get some peace of mind: it's OK to not miss, worry about or even think about your boyfriend sometimes. If you find something to occupy your time and keep your mind busy, and after a while you realize that you haven't been thinking about him as much as you had been, it doesn't mean you don't care, and it's not something you should feel guilty about - it's just a way of coping. You will go crazy with worry or depression if you try to think about and actively support him all the time. You are already supporting him by waiting for him, keeping in touch, communicating, etc. Knowing that you are OK and can handle the situation by yourself will give him peace of mind, too, so he doesn't have to worry about you.

There are a lot of people deployed who don't have anyone at home to worry about them, and something you can do to keep busy as well as helping brighten up someone's day/week/deployment is to send care packages or even just a letter or postcard, via AnyMarine (or AnySoldier, AnySailor, etc.)

Also, feel free to MeFi mail me if you need to talk.
posted by illenion at 7:32 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Worry is most often the result of focusing on things over which one has no control.

Don't focus on your boyfriend's situation. He's the one there and has been trained to deal with the things that crop up in his line of work. Focusing on that will do nothing but wear you down and stress the relationship.

Military wives, the ones that last, are self reliant and extremely adept at channeling their energy into things besides worrying about their husbands. Every time you start to worry about your boyfriend, ask yourself what you can do to make things better at home. Learn new things, forge new friendships, create the life you want him to come back to when he returns from deployment. The best thing you can do for your boyfriend, speaking as the friend of many a military man, is show him that you have things under control on the home front and everything will be in top shape when he returns. He's got enough to worry about on deployment without worrying that you're suffering.

The cure for worry is to invest energy in the things you can control, not waste it on the things you cannot. It isn't easy, but little of worth ever is.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:00 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Support for him? Write him letters. Doesn't matter how often you get to talk to him really. Everyone who is deployed loves letters. Write about anything you can think of. Send him pictures of yourself. It doesn't really matter what you are doing.

For yourself? You said you are a college student. At the University I work at, the Veteran's Affairs office has many activities for vets, girlfriends, and wives. Give them a call and see how you can become involved. You will meet lots of people who are going through or have went through the same thing as you.

If you are trying to support your boyfriend, nobody is going to care if you don't have a ring on your finger. Vet groups are a welcoming place. You will be greeted with open arms.
posted by Silvertree at 5:39 AM on February 3, 2009

Everyone's offered great advice.

I can only offer one piece:

Reloading CNN eight gazillion times a day, worrying, reloading CNN again, rinse, repeat.

Stop doing that. It's okay to withdraw a bit from war coverage - it might help you stress level come down if you consciously work to limit war-related reading for awhile.
posted by canine epigram at 10:09 AM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: Update: We broke up. Turns out I was not the only "girl back home," and the lying got to be a bit much.

Thanks for the advice, all! Tips for getting over the guilt of breaking up with someone in a combat zone would be appreciated, if anyone is still reading this thread.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2009

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