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Apr
10

Love & Marriage: He Left & My Whole Entire World Changed

This week is all about something we struggled with as a couple. While I am sure I have MANY MANY MANY stories I could come up with for this post, by far the biggest obstacle was what took place AFTER we returned from Vegas.

In case you missed that post, the one where I talked about how we eloped, just click here.

I’m here to tell you…

The Key To A Successful Marriage

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Less than 45 days after we tied the knot…my husband headed out on a plane to Ft. Dix, New Jersey to begin training for his upcoming deployment. There was no ETA on when he would be home. None. 

Me? I stayed back and lived in the bachelor pad with his 3 best friends.

Awkward. 

He was in Ft. Dix for 3 months before he officially left country. His new home for the next 14 months would be Baghdad, Iraq.

I had no idea how hard those next 14 months would prove to be.

Iraq 1

The key to any good marriage is communication. Except when your husband is fighting a war…the communication part doesn’t quite come so easy.

In the first 2 months of him being away I went through some of the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced. Depression.

Our dog died the day he landed in Iraq. His dad had a heart attack that same day. We bought a new house. In a new town. Purchased a new car. I had surgery. We got a NEW dog….the list could go on and on.

And this was all before he had even been overseas for 60 days.

He left and my whole entire world changed. His whole entire world changed.

I spent every single day worrying. Wondering. Hoping. And praying that the days would pass quickly.

iraq 4

His FOB {Forward Operating Base – aka place he slept} was the same FOB where they were holding Saddam Hussein’s trial. His main mission: around the clock security for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Was all of this really happening? Did my husband just leave his 9 to 5 day job as a financial advisor to carry a M16, patrol the dangerous streets of Baghdad, and live in an old bombed out building formerly owned by Saddam?

iraq 2_1

It was my reality for 17 straight months. And even harder…it was HIS reality.

We got to talk on the phone about every other day. There was a place close to his living quarters that he could call from. But the lines were long and the time on the phone…short.

Not to mention that he was not allowed to tell me anything about his mission or what he was doing there. The phone calls consisted of me doing a lot of the talking. His days were much of the same.

The hardest part would be when a soldier living at the same FOB would die…there would be a blackout period. Meaning no back home communication allowed until the family had been notified. Sometimes there would be an entire week with no phone call.

I never knew if it was him that was hurt or someone else. All I knew is that when I didn’t hear from him day after day as I patiently waited by the phone…it never meant anything good was happening.

As if the first year of marriage isn’t hard enough to survive…our first year of marriage was a living nightmare. One that we didn’t even get to spend together.

After about 4 months in to his deployment my life started to resume. But without him.  It was oddly strange.

I spent those four months building a wall. Every conversation we had got shorter. We had less to talk about. I felt as if I was talking to a stranger at times.

All of the soldiers got to take a 2 week leave. My husband was the very last to take his leave. I did not see his face or touch him for 11 months. Almost an entire year.

His 2 week leave was almost harder than if he wouldn’t have come at all. It was like a tease of having him home and safe and then I had to send him back off again.

Thankfully and by God’s amazing grace he returned home from Iraq 17 months after he left.

To say that I welcomed him home with open arms and we immediately started living a fairy tale would be a lie. A big FAT lie.

Although I will say…there are no words to describe how amazing it is to hug your soldier back on U.S. territory when you KNOW they will not have to go back. No words.

deployment_1

The reality was he was a different person. I was a different person. To say that it was like living with a stranger…would be exactly what it felt like.

And remember that wall I was building? Well, it became extremely tall and hard to break down.

I had prepared myself for the last 17 months to live on my own. To not rely on anyone, but ME. To no longer get depressed when I would see news after news cast about another soldier losing their life.

And he spent the last 17 months as a Staff Sergant ordering soldiers around and living in fear.

To be reunited…felt so good. But so bad. And so different from when he left.

I can remember the arguments about him treating me like a “soldier”. About me treating him like I didn’t need him.

That’s when we decided that to make this work…it was going to take more than anything him or I could offer alone.

We began going to counseling.

I’m not sure even my closest friends knew that we were in counseling. It was a big “secret” at the time. We didn’t want anyone to think we weren’t the perfect couple.

Can I just say, that I would recommend counseling to ANY couple. ANY. Good relationship. Bad relationship. And everything in between.

We finally began understanding each other again. We began communicating again. I stopped living life like I didn’t need him and he stopped treating me like one of his soldiers.

Before counseling it seemed like every single little thing was an argument or disagreement. And it wasn’t that after counseling we didn’t argue. Nope.

We still did.

But we learned how to argue respectfully. 

What a difference that can make in your world. I started to realize that I didn’t need to YELL to be heard. That criticism, doubt, defensiveness, resentment and contempt can destroy my marriage.

I’m not a quitter and I wasn’t about to give up on the hot neighbor boy from next door.

Slowly and surely, one baby step at a time…our marriage started to turn around.

In my opinion, that’s the key to making any marriage work. If there is something that isn’t working, don’t give up. Realize that you can’t wake up tomorrow and become a changed person. Or have your spouse become a changed person.

It takes time, energy and baby steps. 

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We wanted to share with y’all the realness behind the terrible times we went through. Thank you to my husband for agreeing to talk candidly about his time overseas.

My prayer is that someone reading or watching this may find themselves in the same exact place that we were in and it will give them hope. It doesn’t have to be a deployment. There are many other things that can easily destroy a marriage. But even when you hit rock bottom…this is proof that there is still hope.

You can make it work if you are both willing to put forth the effort.

[ois skin="Home Tour 2"]

Come back next week to hear about how Jesus has changed our relationship EVEN more. For the better. And hear about some of the things we do to keep our marriage from crashing and burning!

Thank you for joining us for the Love & Marriage series. I’m excited to be sharing my marriage journey along with Jenna, Shay, Jenn, Lindsay, and Megan.

If you have a marriage story you would like to share please feel free to link it up here.



34 Comments

  1. I met BF when he was on a 2 week leave from his tour in Afghanistan, so I recognize that feeling of never knowing what would happen. If that phone call didn`t come, or no e-mail (our way of communication) in the inbox, oh, the horror! And when a soldier tragically died, and you had to read about it online, see it on the news, but still not really know WHO it was.. exhausting!
    The Norwegian Girl´s last blog post ..Being an Introvert

  2. Susan says:

    Matt and I were BOTH on active duty for 4 years in the Air Force and I’m still in the Air National Guard. The military has separated us on numerous occasions (and so many friends of ours), so I.totally.get.this.post. We, too, went to counseling, although I have to say our deep faith and commitment to God is ultimately what truly turned things around for us. I also love the resources we found at http://www.marriagebuilders.com/. Thanks for sharing your heart, girl. Much appreciated.

  3. Jen says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I would have never guessed that you two had gone through this. I think it’s awesome that you both can talk about it so candidly. It seems as though your relationship is ever stronger bc of what you went through.
    Jen´s last blog post ..Love & Marriage

  4. Mandy says:

    Another beautiful story! Deployments are SO hard for a couple, even the strongest ones…and those blackout times were the worst. So glad your man came home safe and you were able to work through everything
    Mandy´s last blog post ..Expectation vs Reality.

  5. Dani says:

    I just started following your blog on Monday but I’m already such a fan. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. My husband and I have had some rough times too and it’s definitely our ability to talk to each other that’s gotten us through it all.
    Dani´s last blog post ..Thanks Kim K!

  6. Jennifer says:

    As a once-upon-a-time Navy wife, I remember all too well that the homecoming part of a deployment was in many ways a lot harder than the leaving part. It was a very real struggle to reconcile out independent selves with our married selves.

    This is wonderfully written Mandy :)

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
    (¸.·´ (¸.·`¤… Jennifer
    Jenn’s Random Scraps
    Jennifer´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday ~ Easter

  7. Cheryl says:

    Ah-mazing Mandy! I love this story and to see how strong your marriage is today is awesome!
    Cheryl´s last blog post ..Bump Update::13 weeks::

  8. Kala says:

    My boyfriend and I met when he was on a 2 week leave in his hometown (which happened to be my college town), but he wasn’t deployed. Luckily for me he had just gotten back from Iraq two months earlier, but he was still stationed at Fort Stewart, GA for the next year and a half. That was a rocky relationship. I thought it would get easier when he moved back to Missouri last June, but that’s not how it worked out. It’s hard to be around someone all the time that you’ve NEVER actually lived in the same state as. Most people didn’t even take our relationship seriously – but now we’ll be moving in together in a few weeks! :)

    I can’t imagine going through the whole deployment thing, and I hope I never have to! (My bf still has 4 years in the National Guard) I love hearing about your marriage. I actually think the struggles are what makes you guys have a perfect marriage. Most people don’t take the time to work on things anymore from what I can tell. Thanks for sharing! :)
    Kala´s last blog post ..Miami

  9. Amanda says:

    Reading your story, made me realize that no marriage is perfect. Although I do not know, how it is to have someone leave on deployment. I have only been married for 9 months now and I will admit we have had our ups and downs. I can not wait to you open up about your faith. I am looking for a little guidance. Thank You again.

  10. Jenn says:

    Mandy, wow. I can’t even imagine going through what you guys did so early in your marriage! I’m sure there were moments of “what have I done?!” I’m so glad you and Jeff were able to beat the odds of military marriages, especially after deployment. I think the 4 of us need a trip together. I think our husbands would get along really well! ;)
    Jenn´s last blog post ..Love and Marriage, Week 2

  11. Carrie A. says:

    Your story made me tear up and I haven’t been through anything like it. I am so happy that both of you decided to find a counselor and it helped open up your communication again! Now you can look back on it and see how strong the two of you are together even through difficult times! 17 months is a reallllly long time!
    Carrie A.´s last blog post ..Lately I have been feeling SO behind on everything!

  12. Gina says:

    This story was amazing…beautiful…honest…inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing. You are so strong!

  13. Shay Shull says:

    I really don’t know how you military spouses do it? I am just so grateful for loving and supportive families that send their loved ones off to protect our country…because you pay a price for my freedom. Thank you so much for sharing today…and thank you for talking about counseling. So many people shy away from it or are ashamed for it but it can not only save a marriage, it can make a marriage thrive. I can’t wait until next week to read about how Jesus saved your marriage too. Jesus can do anything…so cool!

  14. Jenna says:

    Oh Mandy, I cried reading your story. Then I cried some more while watching the video! Thank you for being so brave in sharing your story. I’m with Shay – I don’t know how you did it, but I am so, so thankful for your sacrifice. And I love your openness about counseling. I think people are scared of it but it helps so many couples with all sorts of different things.

  15. Lindsey says:

    Well, now I’m a blubbering mess. I could have written this post word for word… the emotions still seem so real almost 7 years later. Totally agree about RR… in a way it’s like a big tease. I was SO like you building up walls. It’s how I cope with grief. I’m so thankful for you writing this and for doing this series with you guys!
    Lindsey´s last blog post ..The Hardships We’ve Had in Marriage {Love & Marriage Blogging Series}.

  16. kat says:

    It is so amazing how open you are about this story – what an incredible journey and I’m so happy to hear the happy ending :) (well, not ending, but ya know).

  17. Valerie says:

    Thanks for sharing your story

  18. Mary says:

    Holla from Ft Dix! Thank you so much for sharing your story. My husband and I dated long distance for 4 years through his time at the Air Force Academy and pilot training and I too became so independent and self sufficient. We finally got married and 30 days later he left for some super secret thing where we couldn’t talk for a month straight. I couldn’t even handle him sitting next to me when he got home. I just wasn’t used to being so close to anyone anymore. It was a rough adjustment period but we worked through it and learned how to work with one another on our marriage. Whew! Sorry for the novel!

  19. Ashley says:

    I have to say I ADORE your blog! Such a great post and its such a great reminder to how hard our troops work and how hard it is for the family. While I cant relate, I admire your strength!

  20. wow- this is really great- I love it- thanks for posting and sharing your life- blessings!
    kelly thompson´s last blog post ..Sundays in my City

  21. Jenna Hansen says:

    I can’t even tell you how much this resonates with me. The 16 month deployment, the sporadic phone calls, the blackout periods (terrible!!!) , having a whole life without him. It all just gave me chills remembering that time. So glad to be on the other side of all of that stress!

  22. xLoveHappyx says:

    I love reading about this tough time in your marriage. We all have tough times and I was not strong enough to let my husband (then fiance) join the military even though he wanted to! Long distance is hard enough without worrying about him never coming home…Thanks for sharing.
    xLoveHappyx´s last blog post ..Pretty Illamasqua Items

  23. Brittany says:

    I didn’t link up with last week, however I saw someone talk about this link up for this week and had to share mine also!!!! Thanks for sharing your story!
    Brittany´s last blog post ..What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger Pt. 2

  24. Jenny Hoesli says:

    Most people will never understand the intense relief you feel as you welcome a spouse home from a deployment.

    I loved your story and at times I felt like I was reading my own story.

  25. Cathy says:

    I can’t imagine starting a marriage like that. I am so happy that the both of you worked hard to keep your marriage together.

    I have been married almost 25 years. It has had it’s ups and downs, however, I wasn’t about to let satin destroy what God, my husband and I worked so hard to build. It isn’t easy but I can’t imagine ever being with someone else. He is a great guy! <3

    Thank you Jeff, for serving our country. Thank you Mandy for the sacrifice. I love reading your blog.

    God Bless,
    Cathy

  26. Jenny V. says:

    What a great story Mandy, thanks for sharing!

  27. Amy says:

    Love this my friend – such a gift. :)

  28. Mary says:

    My husband is now retired from the Air Force but he has been deployed in the past. We experienced the “black pit” in our marriage 30 years ago when my 15 year old sister came to live with us. Back then I did not recognize the signs that my husband was interested in my much younger sister. I was so naive that I did not think he was capable of thinking or saying inappropriate things to her. Thank goodness, it went no further than the talking stage! Needless to say, we had to decide then to get counseling for all of us and work through a very dark time in our marriage. I prayed then that God would help me to love him again because I could not! During this time I felt God was asking me to trust Him and I was saved. God healed our marriage and now I love my husband more than life. I don’t know how anyone gets through the ups and downs of marriage without Jesus!

  29. Sonja says:

    I just love y’all! Thanks for sharing this :)
    Sonja´s last blog post ..All Jacked Up

  30. My hubby will be leaving soon for a deployment. This will be his last since he is retiring in 2015. YAY! But I will be sharing things about the deployment as the 180 days of him being gone go at a snails pace.

    I am glad that things got better for you guys, so many times it doesn’t happen.
    Niki @ My Life Remixing´s last blog post ..Technology is a hassle…

  31. Megan Pangan says:

    wow, thanks for sharing this post, it was really emotional to read and even to watch. Great post.
    Megan Pangan´s last blog post ..RAW DAILY: The biggest mistake you can make as an entrepreneur

  32. Alyssa says:

    This was such a powerful post! Being a fairly new follower, I never would have expected a story like this. But the reality is humbling and it makes me feel confident that any struggles my fiance and I may face are definitely ones to overcome-we’ve learned this over the years already. Thank you for sharing such personal things!
    Alyssa´s last blog post ..Welcome!

  33. […] I talk about the hard stuff every now and then, but mostly I try to focus on what brings me […]

  34. […] we went through the deployment. A time in my life where I wish I would have known Jesus. Gosh, can you imagine how much more peace […]

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