Friendships can truly make you or break you while your spouse is deployed.
There’s nothing as comforting as having a bestie who totally “gets it”. The one who’s there to listen, to encourage you, cry with you and finish off a pepperoni pizza with you when necessary.
On the other hand, not all friends are created equal when it comes to deployment countdowns. Here are the 5 personalities to watch out for while your spouse is deployed (and how we’ve handled them!)
1. Nosey Nelly
It’s not that they’re trying to ask you inappropriate questions about deployment- it’s simply that this friend doesn’t realize their questions are out of line.
Whether they’re pushing you to share homecoming dates or asking WAY too personal questions about how you keep a spark in your love life while separated, Nosey Nelly is just a little too interested in the details of your deployment countdown. You’re probably the only military spouse that this friend has ever met, and she’s super excited to get a front row seat to the deployment show.
Nelly tends to be a little oblivious when it comes to discussing your spouse’s deployment, and has been known to ask some pretty insensitive questions. Some of her favorite conversation starters include “But aren’t you afraid?” or “How do you even do it?”
How to deal:
It may not seem like it, but take a few steps back and you’ll find that Nosey Nelly is really in awe of the sacrifice your family is making during deployment. While she might not be doing the best job of expressing herself, look deeper and you’ll see that much of her interest is simply a result of her admiration. She’s impressed and she wants to learn more. It’s a great opportunity to educate Nelly about military life and deployments. Don’t just decline to answer a question about timelines- explain OPSEC to her and clarify why you can’t answer that question. Have open conversations with her about why certain statements or questions can be hurtful so that Nelly can become a trusted conversation partner.
2. The Minimizer
Missing your spouse is tough. Managing life without your person is tough. Solo parenting is tough. But for some reason, The Minimizer wants to enlighten you to the fact that deployment really isn’t that big of a deal. This friend could also be known as “Mrs. Suck-it-up-buttercup”, and she sees it as her personal mission to help you realize that this whole deployment thing is really not that difficult.
Given any opportunity, The Minimizer will remind you that “5 months really isn’t that long”, or that “you’re more than halfway done, you’ll be fine”. It’s hard for you tell whether The Minimizer is tired of hearing about deployment or whether they’re just taking a drill-sergeant approach to your friendship. Either way it makes you feel totally hesitant to talk about what you’re experiencing with your spouse so far from home.
How to deal:
The Minimizer goes by another name: “The Deflector”. Their poor attitude is all about their own discomfort with the topic of deployment. The Minimizer recognizes that there is nothing they can say to make deployment any easier for you, so they shut down and deflect the conversation by trying to convince you (and themselves) that deployment is no big deal. The best way to manage your relationship with this friend is by offering a little bit of distance when it comes to the deployment topic. Not every friend is going to be your perfect support system, and it will be almost impossible for The Minimizer to effectively listen and offer encouragement when they’re struggling to acknowledge their own feelings about the subject. Instead, stick to non-deployment topics and rely on other friendships for deployment support.
3. Captain Comparison
In total contrast to the minimizer, Captain Comparison thrives on hearing about the challenges of your deployment countdown- but it’s mainly because she wants to relate them to her own life drama (which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with deployment). This friend has never been anywhere near a military base but saw three episodes of “Army Wives” and walked away feeling like an expert in military family life.
She has likely compared your spouse’s deployment to her husband’s business trips, and is ready to share her latest advice on getting the kids to bed solo because “her husband was home late twice last week”
While you appreciate her willingness to empathize with you, it can be difficult to have an open conversation with your friend when every deployment story or statement is twisted into a diatribe about her own situation.
How to deal:
While Captain Comparison can be an absolutely exhausting conversation partner, it’s important to recognize that their need for comparison is probably driven by a deep desire to relate to you during deployment- a season of life that The Captain feels very disconnected from. Remember that your friend is trying hard to relate to you and empathize with you, even if they’re approach is not so great. If their constant comparison is truly driving you crazy, you might try following up by sharing ways that your situations are actually quite different. Acknowledge the challenges your friend has faced, but also be honest about how your experience during deployment is unique in very real ways.
4. The High Speed Train
How do you stop a train? You don’t, you step out of the way. And that’s exactly how we need to approach this particular deployment friendship personality.
When your spouse is not deployed, this is probably the friend that you spend the most time with. Her calendar is jam-packed, and she’s always got an invitation for you to join her. Whether she’s planning a day trip, a night out or a volunteer opportunity, this girl is constantly moving, and wants to bring you along for the ride.
Usually you’re down for whatever she throws your way, but during deployment (while you’re juggling twice the work with half of the energy) you really could use some extra down time. You appreciate her invites and willingness to plan, but it seems like she doesn’t realize just how tired you are during deployment countdowns. Your constant “no thanks” makes The Train feel a little rejected, and she has a tough time understanding that this season, while temporary, means you are a little less available.
How to deal:
Deployment changes our routines and rhythms, which can have a pretty significant impact on the people around us. For High Speed Trains, seeing you slow down or change routines can take some adjustment. One of my favorite things to say to this friend is:
“Even if I keep saying ‘no’, please don’t stop inviting me to things”.
It shows my appreciation for their invitations, and allows me to confidently decline when I need to. Another excellent strategy is inviting this friend to join you in your own space. Have them come over for a relaxed night in, or to run errands with you. You’ll stay connected without adding something else to your plate.
5. The one-upper
One thing that has shocked me during deployments is the culture of one-upmanship that tends to permeate military spouse circles. Maybe she’s trying to solidify herself as a seasoned spouse capable of providing advice, maybe she’s insecure of her own experiences, or maybe she’s just simply bragging.
Whatever the reason, your One-Upper friend has decided that the best way to help you through your spouse’s deployment is by proving to you that she had it much worse while her spouse was gone. Mention how many months your countdown will be - she’ll remind you that her countdown was twice as long. Tell her about how your stove stopped working- she’ll make sure you remember that her entire kitchen flooded… twice. There’s no limit to how bad she had it while her spouse was deployed, and she’s going to make sure you don’t forget it.
How to deal:
Want to maintain your friendship with your One-upper friend until she goes back to being her normal, sweet self after homecoming? Try redirecting your conversation when it starts to sound like a deployment competition. Instead of engaging, acknowledge your friend’s struggle and move on to a new topic. Feeling particularly generous? You could even ask her to share her deployment insights and experiences with you. Inviting her to offer advice shows that you value her experiences and trust her opinion already- no “one-upping” needed.
You know yourself and you know your friends.
Let me repeat that:
YOU know yourself and YOU know your friends.
There is literally nobody else on this planet who can discern the type of support and encouragement you’ll need while your spouse is deployed. On the flip side of that statement- you are the only person on this planet who gets to choose where your boundaries are placed while you count down.
It’s true that friendships can make (or break) your outlook and approach to deployments. That’s why it’s so important to recognize friendships that are toxic and to create boundaries for those who are actively draining your energy or depressing your spirit. Deployment is complicated from every angle, and not every friend is equipped to offer the support and encouragement necessary.
Every one of your friendships does not need to be equally present in your life throughout every single season. During deployment, you are allowed to surround yourself with those friends who are able to uplift and understand you during this complicated period of your life and your marriage.
You will continue to grow.
Your story will continue to develop.
And your friendships will be written into the chapters they belong in.