Last night was a rough one for my 2 year old. Something was bothering him physically but he had no fever and no other obvious signs of illness. It was just a tough night that required a short car ride for our little man, followed by a little ice cream for his parents! It was also the first night in many months that my husband and I have had to handle a “situation” with one of our children together. We’ve been getting back into our family rhythm since he returned from deployment about a week ago and so far, so good. There have been very minor bumps here and there, but absolutely nothing that hasn’t been addressed quickly and kindly with some clear, calm communication and a few extra hugs and kisses.
My husband, Brad, and I have been married for just over 3 years now, half of which has been spent living apart courtesy of the Navy. We somehow managed to have 2 children together in that time (which we always find amusing) and we’ve developed this incredible love and respect for one another in the process. Last night, we talked about how the separation, especially this first deployment for our family, has made us tougher and closer than ever, and that so much of that has to do with communication.
There’s something important to be learned from spending weeks at a time “out of comms”. The world of submariners, by the nature of their mission, is quite literally silent. There is no FaceTime or Skype, email is a challenge much of the time, and mail drops are few and far between. When you DO have a chance to “talk”, time is short and words, by necessity, should be careful and concise. Gossip and idle chatter are absent from our exchanges, but not all conversations are “deep” – you just learn to talk about what’s most important for the other person to know and stick to that. It’s also a lot of work to not let your negative emotions (or exhaustion in most cases) drive the force and tone of your words, but it’s something you learn how to master over time. These are skills and lessons I wish I’d have learned long ago and applied to ALL the relationships in my life, but I’m grateful that my most important relationship now benefits from them.
This past Saturday, Brad and I ran our 3rd Warrior Dash together, and it struck us, too, how running and being active has brought us closer as husband and wife, even through our separations. Where I was 3 years ago with my health physically, emotionally, and mentally is so different from where I am today. My pursuit of a life of wellness has made me a stronger individual, but it’s also made for a stronger marriage. When I started running in 2011, it was my husband who slowed his pace for me when I struggled to run that first full mile. After 7 months of deployment, it’s my husband who is working hard to get back out on the pavement and it’s me slowing my pace so I can encourage him and be by his side while he rebuilds his endurance. Running is not so much about physical ability as it is about the will of the mind and your mastery of self-control and controlled exertion. You and you alone set the pace and to run with a partner sometimes means having to speed up or slow down accordingly. Marriage, too, is a pacing game, and sometimes the goal is to reach a point in x amount of time, sometimes it’s just to get SOMEWHERE, no matter what it takes.
Married life is a strange kind of dance, I like to think, where two people are listening to the same piece of music but moving to their own individual choreography and the goal is to make their two dances look and feel like one. When we run together, we have to be conscious of eachother and our own selves to remain in sync, and when a run is finished, whether it was more difficult for one partner than the other, we feel a joint sense of accomplishment and pride for one another. It is a remarkable experience unlike anything I’ve experienced in a partnership.
Not every husband and wife will live a life like we do as a military family. Not everyone knows what it is like to endure a deployment or learn what it takes to make a family – a TEAM – work and grow in the process. But pursuing wellness together, being active – running, walking, hiking, or whatever you love – can help you develop those skills that are so necessary for happiness in the dance that is a marriage or partnership. I am grateful for our Navy life and what it has taught me, and I am grateful for my running and how much it continues to strengthen my body, my mind, my family and my marriage – one mile at a time. The blessings in my life always seem to flow when, as an individual, I feel balanced and in sync, and I have running, and an amazing running partner, to thank for that.