Spouse Calls: Join forces, for better or worse
September 7, 2008
Dear Spouse Calls:
Our son is currently deployed to Iraq for his second tour.
He was deployed on the day of my father’s funeral the first time — a grandfather he adored — and it was hard not having him there. Helping my mother get used to being alone after 56 years of marriage kept me busy, so although I was constantly worried about my son, I had other things that had to be dealt with.
This second time is so much harder, and one of the main reasons is that he has since married a girl he met in Germany. I told him before he left that his first contact should be with his wife, thinking that she would relay those contacts with us. Well, that hasn’t been the case. For some reason, his wife doesn’t let us know when she has talked to him. I don’t need to know the details, just that he is OK. We have unsuccessfully tried to bring her into our family, so we could support each other during this stressful time, but she doesn’t want any part of it.
To make a long story short, I am having a terrible time dealing with this deployment. His company has lost two soldiers since they were deployed (they didn’t lose any the first time) so I know they are in a more dangerous area this time.
We are from Indiana, so we don’t have an Army post close by. Even if we did, I don’t know what they would do. We are not his "next of kin," since he is married now. Where can parents turn for support?
— Indiana Parent
Dear Indiana Parent: I’m sorry for the loss of your father. Separation from family at milestone events is a difficult part of deployment for military members and their families.
Your son’s marriage is a much happier milestone, but one that can be a difficult transition for parents.
In your case, the distance that separates you, your son and his wife from each other multiplies the difficulty.
You took the right step by acknowledging that your son’s first priority in communication — whether at home or away — should be his wife.
Here is my question: Why can’t your son communicate directly to you as well? In some deployment locations, access to phones and e-mail is limited, but if your son has a means of communication, it is his responsibility to keep you informed — not his wife’s and not his unit’s.
If neither your son nor daughter-in-law stays in touch with you, then take the initiative to communicate with both of them. Occasional letters and packages sent to each one will let them know that you care. This could open the door for better communication.
You have a new daughter-in-law who lives in another country. Possibly you don’t know each other very well yet, but you do have at least one thing in common: your son.
It’s very likely that your daughter-in-law shares your apprehension about her husband’s safety and is coping in her own way. Consider yourself a source of support for her. Call or write just to say you are thinking of her, not only to get information about your son.
Offer your love and support to both of them unconditionally, without high expectations of their responses.
As parents, your part is not to bring your daughter-in-law into your family. Your son did that when he said, "I do." Your part is to cultivate a positive relationship with your son and his wife, from this day forward.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and works in Germany. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog here.