Health & Safety

June 7, 2012

Heal effectively following separation-related emotional loss

By Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Reck
2-13th Aviation Regiment

A Soldier comes up on orders. He or she is going to deploy. This leads to emotional changes.

When we first leave our loved ones, we have a heart-wrenching experience. As we focus on our mission and life at home during deployment, those pains begin to fade. We haven’t forgotten, nor has our love been lost, but it is tucked away to be accessed at a later time. This is a built-in coping mechanism for us while our loved ones are away. Unfortunately, the loss of feeling doesn’t come back much faster than it faded. Fortunately, however, it can and will return.

Problems result when we try to force those feelings to return “overnight.” Sometimes we are fooled because of the excitement and physical pleasure we experience upon return, and we think those emotions have all come back. We all are aware there is a “honeymoon period.”

It is normal for a Soldier to come home and be somewhat cold-hearted. Soldiers attempt to replace the internal void through high adrenaline events, camaraderie with squad members and hard work. Although many of these things are good, they do not replace the sweet emotions that come from intimacy or the tender love expressed by a child.

Not only is the male’s emotional state altered, but also a woman’s emotional state is affected. My experience has shown separation normally results in a substantial loss of esteem. The loss of emotional stimulation from their spouse seems to create an internal emptiness.

Following a deployment, I remember telling my wife in one of those late night “discussions,” after a few months of struggles, “Honey, I can tell you I love you a thousand times, but until you believe it, it will be as if I never said it at all.” She paused for a moment and then humbly said, “I think you are right.”

We had few problems after that. That one statement and acceptance seemed to heal everything we had been dealing with. There was a simple awareness and an acknowledgement of what the problem was. Another common problem I hear from young spouses is, “I don’t feel the same way I used to.” Or they may say, “I don’t think I ever loved them.” Once the feelings have faded for an extended period of time, it seems like they will never return or they simply never existed.

There is good news though. Those wonderful feelings can and will return. It does take some patience however, something with which most of us struggle.

Be aware there is a loss that alters the way you see yourself and the world around you. You can be loved, you can revive the old feelings you once had and become happy and healthy again. Be patient and don’t expect yourself or your spouse to heal or change overnight. Just because they don’t act like they are madly in love with you after you have been together for a week, it doesn’t mean they don’t care.

Go on dates; have quality time together. Be affectionate, even if you don’t feel like it. Talk about everything like you did when you were courting. Additionally, there should be lots of touching to revive the comfort of togetherness. Moreover, intimacy must be more than physical. It needs to be focused on meeting the needs of your spouse.

Finally, dedicate your life to pleasing your spouse. Forget yourself. I once heard it said, “I love my wife because I serve her.” Serving your spouse actually does more to help you heal than it does for the other. If you still have issues, get help — there is still hope.




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