When He's Deployed

Q: I have a boyfriend of a year whom I love very much. He is in the military and recently moved away for two years. We have dealt with the long-distance relationship before for a period of 5 months when he was deployed, and everything went well and was great when he came home for a few months. However, this time it seems as if we have this communication barrier and only speak for about five minutes a day. I am worried that if this continues, we will slowly fall apart. What can I do about it? -- Mandy, 20

Dr. Susan: Couples who have been together for many years find lengthy deployments hard enough. When young couples like you and your boyfriend have to be separated for a long time, it's especially challenging. You don't have that long of a history to bind you. What might also be going on now is that your boyfriend's life and your life are so very far apart, in terms of what you're doing and feeling. Military men have often found it difficult to talk about their experiences. He probably doesn't realize how much you'd like to share in the little daily details of his life. He might find all that boring to live through, much less to rehash with you. (And it's also possible that he isn't as interested in the trivial gossip you may be sharing with him. Just a possibility, and the situation could also be the reverse.)

You can find things and experiences to share, even when you're in different parts of the world. Send him little packages with jokes and cartoons you've enjoyed (make a point of looking for them in magazines and on the internet). Send him a fun book that you've read and then the two of you can share impressions of it. Be creative. For instance, if he has a collection, add to it for him and send him photos of the items to talk about. If he has access to DVDs, ask him what he's seen and make a point of seeing the same ones yourself at home. Tell him about any changes to your neighborhood hangouts, new stores that opened, and so on. Finally, try to be optimistic and flexible. Good luck!

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