It was the kind of exhaustion that makes your brain hurt.
There I was, in my new home, in a new town and a new bed and literally sleeping next to my Macbook. I can’t remember exactly when we started our 3 am skype calls- but I can remember just how desperate I felt to connect with my husband while he was deployed, and how willing I was to skip out on much-needed sleep so that I could do it. The reality of being on completely opposite schedules was a challenge, and our solution to stay connected was having some serious effects on my regular daytime routine. I woke up tired, stayed tired all day, took a nap, and continued to be tired until he called again at 3 am.
The truly hilarious result of our commitment to connection was that these 3 am calls did absolutely nothing for our relationship and communication. What I realized in this season was that SOMETHING is NOT always better than NOTHING. I would half-wake-up when he called, listen to him for a few minutes, say something incoherent, and fall back to sleep for a few hours before waking up tired again. I felt like super-wife for being so committed to seeing him every day… but I also felt like a zombie.
On the home-side of deployment, we are often tricked into believing that more communication is always better communication. The reality is that less communication with real intention is actually the way to go. 100% of the time! If you’ve ever felt tied to your phone, addicted to Skype, or terrified of missing a text message during deployment, here are a few ways that you can disconnect (and still maintain your sanity!)
Step One: Set a time to talk
On the front side of deployment, while you and your partner are still figuring out new routines, pay attention to when you are both most available. Likely, your schedule will be more flexible- so work together to find a time each day (or every two days) to connect. Maybe he is available at 1 pm- can you take a late lunch break to chat with him then? If he’s mostly available at 8 am think about having coffee “together” each morning. The key here is to find a time where you can BOTH be present and are usually not rushed, tired, or distracted.
Step Two: Set a “disconnect” time
Decide on moments in your day where you will be completely unavailable. This might seem counterintuitive at first, but by the end of the deployment, your phone and computer are going to feel like extra limbs. If you’re like me, your mind is constantly waiting for the next call, or text or skype request- and subconsciously getting disappointed that they aren’t happening (yes, even when we just talked!). Give your brain a break, and remove the possibility of that next communication just for a few moments each day or week. Whether it’s during an exercise class, or your nighttime routine, or morning coffee, communicate with your deployed spouse to let them know when you’ll be “offline”.
Step Three: Create a “backup” plan
This is really the secret sauce to ACTUALLY disconnecting during a deployment. The number one reason we are so addicted to our devices in this season of separation is the fear of missing something truly critical. “What if there’s a problem?” This means that even when we don’t have our devices, we are still THINKING about them and wondering whether we’ve missed something.
My solution was to create a backup plan for emergencies. During your “disconnect” times, make sure your spouse knows how to find you if they really need to. If you’re in a yoga class- give him the studio phone number. If you’re out for drinks with the girls, ask him to reach out to a friend in the case of an emergency. Make sure that there is some way to get in touch if needed, and your brain can actually forget about the phone and rest easy knowing that you won’t miss a thing.
Here’s Why it Works
While it’s tempting to stay “plugged in” at all times during deployment, these periods of disconnection will give your heart and your mind the rest that they need to come back to your spouse rejuvenated and energized. The moments you’ll actually be present for will give you real substance to connect with your spouse about when you reconnect. Also… you won’t be exhausted from 3 am phone calls – and that in itself is a win!
So- how do you “disconnect” during deployments? What’s the biggest challenge you face when it comes to unplugging?
Becky Hoy is the founder of Brave Crate the deployment countdown box delivered to Military Spouses every single month! Subscribe at www.bravecrates.com