H.A.L.T.S to Communication

The news is full of stories about couples who say they don’t/can’t communicate. The reality is you cannot not communicate. You may or may not like the message you are getting but communication is constant. Now that things are winding down in Iraq there are many couples looking forward to increasing their face to face communication. However, there are times when it is better to take a break from active communication and those times are when there are H.A.L.T.S involved.

H.A.L.T.S stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, and Sick. If either one of you are one of these things it is better to stop serious communication and remedy the situation. If you are hungary, eat together and let food ease you into a good conversation. If you are angry it is time to really look at what you are angry about and then devise an appropriate response that will help the situation instead of make it worse. If you are lonely say so politely and ask for the attention you need. If you are tired, rest. If you are sick, address the illness and then have your conversation.

“Taking care of these things takes too much time,” I hear people say. Do they really take any more time then the time you will spend arguing if you don’t take care of them? Take care of these situations and make an investment in good communication and an even bigger investment in your REAL marriage.

REAL Love Note Tip #148

REAL Love Notes come in many forms. Remember, it is often the thought that counts and loved ones appreciate receiving notes. Each time you leave a loved one a REAL Love Note, whether paper, handmade, store bought, e-mail, instant message, or even voice mail you say you care and are thinking about your loved one.

For those of you in the military, use e-mail and instant message as much as you can. You deployed service members can take advantage of free regular postal mail home. Your spouse and especially your children, will appreciate finding a letter in the mail box.

REAL Love Notes are deposits in the love bank.

Plan Ahead for Holidays

It is the end of April and Mother’s Day is fast approaching on May 8, 2011. Men, please remember to get your wife a Mother’s day card if she is a mother or is already expecting. Also, send a card to your mother and mother-in-law if they are still with you. Believe it or not, sending a nice card to your mother-in-law is a deposit in your wife’s love bank.

Other holidays are coming this year so start planning now so you can do them up right. Ladies, June 19, 2011 is Father’s day. The encouragement above pertains to you for Father’s day. Please remember birthdays and anniversaries as well.

For you military families, planning ahead is very important as you may need to purchase a year’s worth of cards in advance and you may be dealing with longer postal times from foreign countries. Give yourself time to get your cards and REAL Love notes to your loved ones a day or two early.

Every marriage can be a REAL Marriage. Maintain a REAL mindset and keep working together to have your REAL Marriage.

Trust in Military Marriages

Occasionally, I read forums about marriage topics and today saw a question about dealing with trust in a military marriage after infidelity. The couple is going to do some counseling and the wife, who was faithful, is ordering some material that will address the infidelity and the marriage. I have read that material and even use some of the concepts. However, it does not address specifically military marriage which have their own context and challenges.

First, to regain trust the person must make deposits in the trust bank. This has to do with doing what you say you will do and not doing what you say you will not do. It is also helpful here if the faithful person looks at other areas in which the spouse has been faithful. The spouse was unfaithful to the marriage yet maybe they are very trustworthy with the children. Build on this strength.

Second, it is important to have a faithfulness plan. Those who read this blog know about the faithfulness plan, for those new to the blog and needing a primer on the faithfulness plan go here. The point is to have a proactive plan for remaining faithful. For military marriages it is especially important to address how you will do these things while separated, how you will communicate while separated, and who the friends of your marriage are that will actively help both of you carry out your faithfulness plan. Both spouses need friends of the same sex that will help them remain faithful.

Finally, it is necessary to work on your marriage all of the time and especially between deployments. Go to a marriage retreat, seminar, workshop, or class at least once per year. Review your faithfulness plan at least once per year and before each deployment. Read at least one marriage related book per year. It is good at deployment time to pick a new marriage book, buy two copies, and then work through the book together during the deployment.

Having a plan puts you on the path to a REAL Marriage.

Set Goals Together

The end of one year and the beginning of a new year is the time when many of us set goals. Take some time as a couple to set goals for the coming year. Set goals for the two of you as a couple and for each of you as individuals. It is nice when someone else knows our goals and is supportive of our efforts in reaching those goals.

Set some goals for your marriage. Pick an area or two that you would like to make better or do more of (it does not have to be a problem, it can be making a good thing better) and set a measurable goal to achieve. It may be something such as increase our daily talking time from 15 minutes to 20 minutes. It might also be learning more about investing and ways to make your money work for you. You know your marriage so pick what will enrich your marriage.

For those in the military this is especially important. Goal setting and scheduling are necessary to make sure you get your time together as you also deal with separations for training and deployment.

It is also helpful to do some long term goal setting and planning. Where do you want to be in five years or at retirement? Make sure the goals you set for this coming year contribute to the overall goals you have for the future. Again, military couples and families need to look at this bigger picture since the short term might be a deployment where you are separated. If you know a deployment is forth coming make sure to shore up your communication and strengthen your bond to one another now. Having your goals set before the deployment means that each of you can still work toward goals even if you are half a world apart.

The two of you are a team. The team wins together or loses together. Set goals together and work toward them and you will win with your REAL Marriage.

Good relationships help prevent suicide

USA Today published an article today detailing a rise in the suicide rate in the Army. Click here to see the article. In this article is the following statement: “Research released by the Army in August shows that almost 70% of suicides in 2006 were spurred by failed relationships.”

As a chaplain in the Army Reserve I can say that most of my counseling of Soldiers has to do with relationship troubles and I hear the same from my colleagues. I can also tell you that I have never had a Soldier in a happy relationship talk to me about feeling suicidal.

The Army is actively working to reduce the suicide rate and to help Soldiers learn the skills necessary for good relationships. This month I have conducted a briefing on suicide awareness and prevention and a Strong Bonds weekend, where couples learn good relationship skills. Chaplains throughout the Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard are doing the same things.

Whether you are in the military or not, I encourage you to work on your relationship. Research has shown that even 8 hours of instruction, a typical weekend retreat, can make a positive difference. Some key areas that will help your relationship are learning to listen well, speak assertively (which means saying what you want in a respectful way whether you get it or not), learn to speak for yourself, learn a good problem solving/conflict resolution model, continue to have fun together, maintain an active sex life with your spouse, and frequently relive the good times in your relationship.

For those who are not married, learning the above skills and making a plan for the other elements once you are married will go a long way in helping you have a happy and successful marriage. Also, make sure before you marry to go through a period of premarital education with the person you want to marry. Find someone who will give you a premarital inventory such as PREPARE, FOCCUS, or RELATE. An inventory will highlight your strengths and help you focus other attention on areas you can build to have that happy, healthy, successful relationship. Good premarital education will also teach you the skills mentioned above.

Children who come from such happy homes also do better physically, emotinally, and in school. These children are less likely to get into trouble, use drugs and alcohol, engage in premarital sex, or commit suicide. So, the more work you do on your marriage, the more people who receive the benefit.

You can prevent suicide, at least your own, by maintaining your REAL Marriage.

Update Briefs

The military is famous for using acronymns. One often heard acronymn now is, BUB, or Battle Update Brief. These need to be avoided in your marriage, meaning we need to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, battles in your marriage. To accomplish this task I recommend a few different update briefs. No PowerPoint allowed.

For those of you with children, have a daily FUB, or Family Update Brief. It does not have to be long and it is best done during a family dinner together. Find out what is going on with everyone in the family. Celebrate the good things and provide support for difficulties.

As a couple, it is good to have a daily MUB, or Marriage Update Brief. Keep each other informed and share your day. Take fifteen minutes each day to have a MUB and you are likely to have a smoother, more enjoyable marriage. The MUB is a good place to practice the “E” of REAL, Encouragement.

Couples also need a weekly RUB or Romance Update Brief. Spend some time each week talking about the romance in your lives and what you want to do to keep it going. This is a great time to plan that weekly date that is part of keeping the two of you connected. Dates do not have to be expensive they simply need to happen.

Keep up the communication channel with these update briefs. Good news needs to be shared quickly so all can experience the happiness. Bad news does not get better with age and is not a pleasant surprise so communicate bad news as it happens so all can make plans to deal with it.

Good communication is an important part of accomplishing your mission of having a REAL Marriage.

Hoping or Working for a great marriage?

Are you hoping you will have a great marriage or working to have a great marriage? How fast can you fill a bucket by hoping? How fast can you fill a bucket by working? You get the idea.

How do you work at having a great marriage? First, be committed to you marriage and your spouse (or future spouse). Second, use your manners (mom will be proud). Third, learn good skills in communication, conflict resolution, and money managment (be sure to practice these skills regularly). These skills, and others, can be learned from books, seminars, DVD’s, mentors, coaches, counselors, and clergy. You can even take some continuing education or community classes at the local community college. Fourth, be patient and persistent.

Finally, be REAL, Romantic, Encouraging, Adaptable, and Loving every day.

Infidelity in USA Today

Check out the article in USA Today regarding infidelity while on business trips. I am going to make a few points based on the article.

First, infidelity is always wrong. The “1000 mile rule” which says it is okay if you are over 1000 miles from home is hogwash. This is true for the “TDY” or “Temporarialy Divorced for a Year” idea in the military. It does not matter how long your deployment or how many times you are deployed either. (Yes, I’ve been deployed and yes, I remained faithful.) Once you are married you make a vow of faithfulness no matter where you are and no matter the circumstances.

Second, if your marriage is not working the way you want it to then work on your marriage and not on finding someone else. The skills for having a good, or even great, marriage are learnable and doable. I bet if most people put as much time and effort on building a good marriage as they do building a good career I would not need to be writing this entry. Use the information in this blog and on the website to build your REAL Marriage.

Finally, if you are bored on your trip, that is a good time to call your spouse (and children if you have children), write a letter to your spouse and/or children, or to read that marriage book you keep meaning to read. These things can strengthen your marriage while keeping you away from things that may pull you apart.

Stay faithful and you can have a REAL Marriage.

Long Distance Communication

You didn’t get married so you could spend much of your time apart and yet being apart is common in the military. There are times when those not in the military have to be apart as well and these ideas will probably work for you also.

You already know how important communication is to your marriage so the challenge is to keep up that communication when apart. Fortunately, we have many ways of communicating today and I recommend that you use as many as possible. When communicating while apart it is important to let your spouse or loved one know about all that is going on. Share the little things that happen such as what you had to eat, the cartoon that made you laugh, the good, the bad, and the deep thoughts you had. Talk about what you are reading, the movies you are watching, and the music you are listening to so that you get a feel for how each of your days are going. All of these things help you stay connected.

Make sure you are honest. Honest and accurate information helps prevent worry or at least gives good information so that everyone can think realistically about the good or bad that has happened. It is easier to not make a mountain out of a molehill when you have accurate information.

For military people on deployment make sure you do not divulge sensitive or classified information.? You can be honest and accurate and still be secure.

Ways to Stay Connected

Cell phone – This idea is good for when you are separated within the United States or if you are both in the same area. If you are stationed in Germany and your family is with you then you can get local cell phones to keep in touch. I recommend a plan that lets you call mobile to mobile for free. Susan and I have such a plan and no matter where I have gone for training in the United States we have been able to keep in touch without paying extra.

Local cell phones are available in Iraq and you can get those that are capable of making international calls. I understand that this is cheaper than most calling cards from that area. You can always get a satellite phone here in the states and take it with you. I hear that this is fairly expensive though so don’t blow your budget.

You can also call using a land line when one is available. Calling cards are available just about anywhere and a little research will tell you all you need to know to make those international calls. If you are the military person it is a good idea to make friends with your communication people.

E-mail – I believe all of the military services have their own e-mail domains now. Even if you do not have e-mail access at home you can usually get access at the local library. Service members can sponsor spouses and family members on the military account for free so that everyone can stay in touch. There are also free accounts available through Hotmail (MSN), Yahoo, and G-mail (Google). Webcam’s even allow you to see your sweetie while instant messaging back and forth. Instant messaging is available on the military networks. Consider saving your e-mails to disc so that you can look at them years later or use them in writing your memoirs.

Postal (snail) Mail – Everyone likes to get something (other than bills or ads) in the mail. I try not to use the term “snail mail” because I appreciate the good work the United States Postal Service does. I understand it is not as quick as a phone call or e-mail. However, it is really good to hear your name at mail call or have something for you in the mail box. Make sure to put the date on your letters. You may also want to put the place you are writing from under the date (I know it is often on the letter but sometimes the postmark doesn’t match exactly where you are, especially with APO/FPO’s.) Be careful here though and do not disclose anything you shouldn’t. People save letters and they can be important reminders in later years when the memory is not as strong. Letters can also be a legacy to leave to your children or to history. The very act of writing helps many people to organize their thoughts or even to let go of some stress.

Remember, every letter does not have to be an epic love letter. A paragraph or two can be very meaningful.

Whatever you do, communicate daily. You don’t have to use all forms of communication daily though you do need to use at least one each day. Keeping in touch can keep you close. A deployment can be the opportunity to display good teamwork and good communication will let you be a successful team with a REAL Marriage.

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