Relationship Maintenance of Military Couples
Deployment-based separations cause significant challenges for romantically involved individuals, bringing about uncertainty and decreased relational closeness. This study investigated how military couples perceive the challenges they face, their biggest struggles during deployment separation, helpful strategies utilized for maintaining their relationship during deployment separation, and suggestions for improving ways to meet the needs of military couples. Based on the information gathered, recommendations are offered to help civilian psychologists gain pertinent information pertaining to military culture and the process of deployment separation that may increase effectiveness of their therapeutic practice with military couples. Forty-two participants completed four open-ended questions and responses were categorized and coded by two raters using grounded theory. Eleven participants completed a post-hoc questionnaire developed from information derived from grounded theory. Military couples perceive there are differences in communication, intentionality, and maintenance of romantic relationships when comparing their own experiences to non-military couples. Military couples reported struggling most with communication, mental health struggles, and a lack of support during separation, and expressed utilizing family and friends and communication with other military spouses as beneficial. Participants suggested improved outreach and increased sense of community as helpful ways to improve relationship maintenance. Psychologists are encouraged to maintain awareness of military culture, stages of deployment, awareness of military services, and advocacy.