Steering the relation ship

  • Published
  • By Brian P. Smith
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
When does "absence makes the heart grow fonder" turn into "out of sight, out of mind?"

The first deployment, or the fifth, can put strain and stress on a couple. Relationships can withstand many things, but lengthy separations of time and distance are not always the calmest waters.

When a deployment or an extended separation comes up, servicemembers make plans to cover the basics. Servicemembers take on extra responsibilities, adjust their schedules, their children's schedules, set budgets and make vacation or holiday plans. The skills and tools servicemembers need to keep the household afloat might be different than when they had a full crew. Ongoing adjustments can strain even the most resilient person. A family experiencing the physical and emotional drain of navigating with a deployed spouse can start to feel adrift.

With each new turn along the deployment cycle, it will take time for everyone in the family to regain their sea legs. Be prepared for short bursts of depression, anxiety, stress and anger. These are all common, normal reactions to stressful situations. When day-to-day life and relationships are affected by these sinking feelings, there is support.

Help weathering the storm
Trained chaplains, doctors and counselors are available for many types of help and support. Some services are available at local military facilities. Through TRICARE, people can visit a local, civilian behavioral health provider. Find a provider at It is easy to use active-duty benefits--family members are eligible to self-refer for the first eight individual counseling visits each year (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30).
Active duty service members and eligible family members can even access counselors online. TriWest Online Care offers short-term, non-medical counseling over the phone and through a chat feature at Eligibility requirements for this service are on the Web site. Over the Internet, people can also videoconference using Skype™ with a counselor, too.

Map, compass, GPS - chart a course
Servicemembers might find it helpful to talk to someone who has shared the same experiences in life. Other spouses and family members may be able to help servicemembers ride the ups and downs during a deployment. TriWest can always help servicemembers find more options for help and support, too, over the phone (1-888-TRIWEST) and online  

Families like these also share their experiences in the Help From Home video series, a post-deployment resource available as streaming video at or available to order as a free 2-DVD set throughout TRICARE's 21-state West Region.