A few short months ago, my online dating efforts took a turn for the better when I met this really awesome man. We’ve been dating consistently since. After about two months of dating, he learned he was soon being deployed for eight months (possibly longer). Suddenly, our budding relationship, which was going so well, was put in an awkward position that we needed to navigate. The most common question I’ve gotten from friends and family is, “How are you handling all this?”
Relationships might slow down for many reasons – often related to “life” happenings. There really is no handbook for how to tackle this (I looked), but here are some things to consider.
What Are Your Feelings?
Being the level-headed chick that I am, my response to deployment was simple: We have no idea what will happen next week, next month, six months from now, or next year. But if you like me even a fraction as much as you seem like you do, then let’s just take it day by day and see how it goes. If those day-by-day add up to the end of a deployment, then we can figure out what is next.
Most people who hear my response tell me that they couldn’t do it. Relationships are often put on hold because of work. Maybe you are in school and don’t have time to invest fully in a relationship. Maybe you are advancing your career, and it is taking up your extra time. Regardless of the reason, you have to figure out how you feel first and foremost. I am often reminded of my aunt and uncle who dated consistently for ten years, most of those years they didn’t even exist on the same side of the country. This was long before cell phones and laptops with built-in webcams. I still remember how big of a deal it was when they got their first set of webcams.
At the end of the day, they really cared deeply for each other and realized that early on. From there, it was just about making it through what they had to do to get to that next phase of their relationship. Either you believe in your relationship enough to wait it out, or you don’t.
Are You Okay with the Situation?
A former colleague of mine waited seven years for her husband to propose. For many women, that is too long to stay committed to a relationship without a stronger commitment. They didn’t even live together until they got married, so essentially, she was holding on to her relationship in the hope that he was going to propose – soon.
Around the five-year mark, she was ready to throw in the towel. I remember asking her – can you really imagine your life without this man? Isn’t it worth waiting until he finishes school and is ready to take the next step with you? She quickly realized that it was okay to keep waiting. That her timeline of how things should go wasn’t the end-all. She learned to accept and be okay with her specific situation.
For my own, I knew that deployment was a possibility when I decided to start dating someone in the military. But I also understand his feelings. Many women leave their husbands/boyfriends because they get bored when he is on a long deployment. But the reality is that those women simply aren’t okay with being by themselves and having a relationship over Skype for a few months.
Can You Hack It?
You can care about someone and accept the circumstance that is slowing down your relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can hack it. If this relationship happened eight years ago, there is no way I could have endured it. These days, I am my own person and have learned to be realistic by simply keeping my expectations in check. Will we survive this deployment? I hope so, but I cannot predict the future.
What I do know is that every week when we get to Skype, it’ll be most important that he knows I’m doing okay and I’m still here for him. We all know what we can handle. You have to ask yourself if you can handle what is coming your way. If you know that you need a partner who is active in your life on a daily basis, then you know that you are not really going to be okay with anything that cuts into the time that you need.
A good perspective to have is that the deployment, schooling, career advancement, etc., that slow down your relationship are a small fraction of the time you will have together over a lifetime. That lifetime together is what makes the waiting worth it.