Common Themes in Military Couples Counseling

Challenges Facing the Military Couple

Drifting Apart

All couples have to be intentional about not drifting apart. Military conditions can create an environment that accelerates the drifting. When military members are deployed, they are living in a very different world than their spouse. This can be for three months to over a year. Even when not deployed, military life is full of unique experiences. While there are always attempts to demonstrate to family members, at the end of the day couples really do live in two separate worlds. To compound this the couple is also relocated to a duty station that typically pulls them from their known support system. So while one person is deployed making connections with their friends, the other is building relationships with other people unknown to the deployed spouse. Couples have to be intentional to stay connected and seek to understand their spouse’s world.


“What happens on deployment stays on deployment” is used far too often. In the Navy it is not uncommon for ships to pull into ports in which there are high levels of prostitution. In addition, with a mixed gender crew in confined spaces for months at a time, there is a high potential for people to connect and end up in a relationship. While this is all officially condemned, it still happens. Added into the mix can be a machoism that encourages Sailors to “have a girl in every port” mentality. All of this can be disastrous for a relationship and create difficulties in rebuilding trust because the spouse has no control over the other who is away from home. (This also happens on the home front. There have been plenty of Sailors and Marines who find out their spouse is having an affair while they are in middle of the ocean.)

"The Hero"

Among young Marines there can be a mentality of wanting to rescue the girl and get her into a better life. The issue is that they do not have the emotional depth to handle the “baggage” they both bring into the relationship combined with the stress of military life. The best efforts are spent getting them to delay getting married. There are many who join the military that come from some very difficult home lives. The military offers them a chance to build a new life. However, the emotional scares they care impact their relationships. It takes an extra level of effort for them to get to the place of emotional health.

In all of these situations I have seen the importance of a healthy church. A church creates a community the couple can plug into that will be supportive and encouraging. They can support during deployments and offer a safe place when couples are together.

Chaplain Paul Armstrong
Latest posts by Chaplain Paul Armstrong (see all)