Mastering Your Engagement: For Military and First Responder Couples
Understanding the Stressors for Military and First Responder Couples
Setting Realistic Expectations
Developing Communication Plans
- “What’s happened in the last 24 hours/since the last time we did daily sharing?” and “How do you feel about that?”
- “What are you expecting/what’s on your agenda in the next 24 hours?”
- “Are there any conflicts between us right now that we need to work on?”
- Review the conflicts that you may have identified during daily sharing. These are not limited to interpersonal conflicts and may include pragmatic issues such as budgeting or planning trips.
- Talk about and work through each conflict individually.
- Develop a plan for how to address that conflict.
- Keep an eye on the clock, and don’t go beyond the allotted time. (After an hour and a half, couples tend to stop using conflict resolution skills.)
- Acknowledge if an issue is not resolved, and commit to addressing it at a later date.
- Adjust the schedule based on the time constraints and limitations of your or your partner’s job. Instead of doing daily sharing, you can switch to weekly sharing.
- Use different channels to communicate such as email, video chats, and letters, but maintain the general structure of sharing.
- Try to maintain consistency. If you miss a day or a week, don’t allow that to become the norm.
- Be flexible. Remember that your partner doesn’t always have control over when they will be called back to work.
- Avoid hiding important issues or problems that you are facing from your partner. In fact, some people may want to hear if their partner was in a life-or-death situation that day.
- Don’t make decisions about what to share on your own. Talk with your partner about what they do and don’t want to hear.
- Come to a mutual understanding of what kind of information should be shared. Communication does not require a couple to share everything.
- Be mindful of the approach you take to communication once you’re done for the day. Are you using “you” statements instead of “I” statements? While this is a commanding way to assume authority in a work setting, it can feel like you’re barking orders for your partner.
- Try using physical cues. For example, when a police officer returns home for the day, they can remove their uniform hat and replace it with a baseball cap. This signals to that person that it’s time to interact like a fiancé or significant other.