Marriage counseling for military couples often focuses on the difficult challenges that couples may face. However, this post will also discuss the strengths and advantages of being in a military relationship.
Joining the military provides young people with a sense of stability, financial security, and access to great resources. People in the military may have better access to housing, child care, health care, and financial education.
Military families often demonstrate an impressive sense of togetherness, loyalty, and commitment, which are qualities not typically seen in non-military families. They possess values of patriotism, discipline, and strength which makes them incredibly resilient.
Couples in military families have unique stressors that can be effectively addressed through counseling services. The culture of the military has an effect on family dynamics, parenting behavior, and behavior expected from young adults.
Military and family life: young military families
The military has its own unique culture. The active military lifestyle influences family dynamics, and parenting behavior. Joining the military as a young adult requires an individual to adapt to a strict and structured lifestyle.
These values may be reflected in military families.
Military families experience difficulties that are different from those of non-military families due to the pressures that come with their lifestyle. These include deployments, frequent relocations, and separation from their families.
Military couples may find assistance in handling the specific problems associated with being a part of an active military family by participating in science-based marriage counseling.
Science-Based Military Marriage Counseling
The stress that military families experience is widely recognized. As part of their lifestyle, they need to move every two or three years. Frequent moves can create added stress on a family.
The challenge is in balancing family life with the deployments and separations of military service.
This separation and reunion of family members is a common issue in couples counseling for military couples. In addition to these issues, military families often face:
- multiple deployments and separations from family
- frequent relocations
- financial difficulties
- lack of nearby support systems
All of the above can lead to:
- greater stress
- parenting difficulties
- marital issues
- mental health conce
Military marriage counseling could help couples cope with the extra stress of belonging to an active military family.
Stress often "spills over" to the children and other family members.
Often military spouses earn less and have fewer career opportunities, adding to this pressure.
Marriages that are strong and durable can withstand the difficulties of a military lifestyle. Unfortunately, PTSD, domestic violence, and alcohol abuse can also put this resilience to the test. Military marriage counseling is essential to help those in the military cope with the mental strain.
Military marriage counseling and the military accordion family
Salvador Minuchin coined the phrase "accordion families" to describe families that frequently adjust to members being absent and then returning. Military families are a common example of this, as a partner is often away for extended periods.
Separation can be stressful and difficult. Counseling can help families address this. It can also help them understand how to adjust roles and responsibilities.
When family members come back from deployment, training, unaccompanied tour or schooling, they may have to adjust to taking on different roles again. These "accordion families" must be able to adjust to the changing circumstances of the time apart.
Some families are able to cope with this transition well, while others may require outside help. Ask yourself questions about how your family handles separations. Create a plan that works for everyone in your family.
Managing re-entry into the family with intensive couples therapy
Military marriage counseling encourages active service members to take their time when rejoining their families. This is due to the fact that many of the families that stayed behind have adapted to a new normal that works for them This sometimes happens without the input of the military person that has been away.
It is important to take advantage of their continuing love and enthusiasm toward each other. This can be particularly hard for those in the military who may feel a need to be in charge and this can lead to tension in the marriage.
During the couples therapy intensive , we will focus on rebuilding and/or healing bonds between spouses rather than trying to regain control of the family. Returning spouses need to make an effort to reconnect with their partner and ease back into their prior roles.
They will learn how to communicate in ways that elicit emotions and empathy, creating more closeness, understanding and a deeper connection. Emotions and empathy are usually discouraged in the military work environment. This makes it hard for the active duty member to make the switch. This in turn can leave the other partner feeling they are alone in the marriage.
During the intensive they will learn new skills. They will also have a chance to practice those in the presence of a trained professional, that will promote a safe environment for those softer emotions to surface. It is quite transformative and moving when this happens, for all involved.
On the other hand, sometimes a relationship is no longer viable. For many reasons, the partners have grown so far apart or there is too much pain and hurt, that building a bridge between them is no longer possible.
If that is the case, the intensive will help them navigate the separation in a way that they can remain respectful and make the right choices for all involved, especially if there are children in the mix.
As a professional counselor I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with service members all over the world and being a spouse of a veteran has exposed me to the challenges that are part of choosing that career path. It warms my heart when I am able to support and witness couples transition and/or transformation.