ERP 374: Maintaining A Healthy Relationship When The Demands & Stress Levels Are High… Like For Military Couples — An Interview With Bree Carroll

By Posted in - Podcast May 30th, 2023 0 Comments

Military couples face a unique set of challenges that can put their relationships to the test. From long deployments and frequent relocations to the emotional toll of separation and the weight of responsibility, they often find themselves in situations where maintaining connection and emotional well-being become paramount. But despite the extraordinary circumstances they face, military couples exemplify unwavering strength, commitment, and love.

In this episode, Bree Carroll and Dr. Jessica Higgins explored how to maintain a healthy relationship amidst the demands and stress levels experienced by these couples, highlighting the remarkable resilience, intentional efforts, and unwavering commitment demonstrated in their quest to nurture love and sustain a thriving partnership.

Bree Carroll, military spouse, event strategist, and speaker, transforms spaces and hearts through experience design and purposeful planning. As a voice in the military community, she holds the title as 2020-2021 AFI Air Force Spouse of the Year and advocates to strengthen military marriages. Bree is the founder of Military Marriage Day, a national holiday celebrated annually on August 14th.  More than a holiday, this movement supports military families with resources through its app, insight with the Hearts & Stripes Podcast, and connection through its annual events and virtual programming. Bree’s mission is to encourage and equip couples, especially our service couples, so that they may intentionally thrive in their marriage relationship.

In this Episode

8:31 Understanding the unique challenges of military couples.

16:47 The importance of strengthening military marriages and supporting service families.

25:07 Proactive approach to strengthening military marriages and providing resources.

30:11 The power of storytelling and proactive support in military marriages.

35:59 Insights from a military marriage study: Challenges and hope.

42:35 The power of celebration: Elevating Military Marriage Day.

49:52 Taking action and spreading hope.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Prioritize quality time together by scheduling regular date nights or activities that allow you to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company amidst the demands of military life.
  • Practice effective communication by actively listening to your partner, expressing your needs and concerns clearly, and finding healthy ways to resolve conflicts or misunderstandings.
  • Develop coping strategies for stress management, such as engaging in physical exercise, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and seeking professional help when needed.
  • Build a strong support system by connecting with other military couples who understand the unique challenges you face, and actively participate in support groups or community events.
  • Cultivate a sense of shared purpose and teamwork by setting goals together and finding ways to support each other’s personal and professional aspirations.
  • Take time for self-care to recharge and maintain your own well-being, as taking care of yourself allows you to show up as a better partner in your relationship.
  • Celebrate and acknowledge each other’s achievements and milestones, no matter how small, to reinforce positivity and gratitude within the relationship.
  • Practice flexibility and adaptability in dealing with unexpected changes and challenges that come with military life, and find creative solutions together.
  • Remember to express love and appreciation regularly, through gestures, words, or small acts of kindness, to keep the connection strong and nurture the love between you and your partner.

Mentioned

Military Marriage Day (*Apple Appstore) (app)

Type Of Relationship Support (survey)

Connect with Bree Carroll

Websites: militarymarriageday.com

Facebook: facebook.com/militarymarriageday

YouTube: youtube.com/@militarymarriageday

Instagram: instagram.com/militarymarriageday

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Bree, thank you for joining us today.

Jessica, thank you so much for the opportunity to share. I’m excited to dive into the conversation.

Yeah. Even just as we were chatting just a moment ago, and just really feeling where your interest lies, and really helping support military families, couples, and just helping gain a wider network of resources. I just so appreciate that service orientation. It’s so needed. So thank you.

Yes, thank you. I’m excited to do it. I think it’s something that came out of personal experience, and we’ll definitely dive into that. But when you see a need like this in our military community, or even stronger than just the need of bridging the gap, but wanting to see service couples thrive in their marriages. That’s different than just coasting by. That’s better than waiting till retirement to like your spouse. There’s something deeper there, and that’s really what we want to touch on when it comes to the advocacy that I do for strengthening military marriages and what we do through Military Marriage Day.

Excellent. And where would you like to start as it relates to what we’re talking about in today’s topic around military couples, specifically?

Yeah, I think we can start around just I guess I’ll share a little bit of my backstory of even how this even came to be. I’d love to enlighten people on what makes military couples unique. So a few years back, I can say maybe 2019, we had a really interesting year. Again, this is pre-pandemic dating. 2020 is always the indicator of where we are in life. But 2019 was a tough year for a lot of what I like to call, not just friends, but our family. The people that we had around us, my husband and I noticed that there were six couples that decided to separate and divorce. So that was just a really mindset shift for me to say, wait, there was something going on in these relationships that we are in close proximity to. But also, I tend to say that I’m the friend that with one hand out I’m kind of saying “Wait, keep that over there” because I don’t want that to impact my relationship. But at the same time, I’m running towards it saying, “Can we pay for counseling? What can we do? Like, what can we do to resolve this?” 

“Because what people don’t often think about, as it relates to separation and divorce and the impacts for families, is that, yes, the couple makes the decision to split. But it’s a ripple effect that impacts other people, and in the service life, it impacts the units; it impacts the family that you make along the way.”

The dynamics are just very different, and it’s something that we personally experienced. So I had this bright idea that I would figure out a way to make it easier to get resources to my friends, my family, and the military community. I said, I love podcasts, like this one. So I would go ahead and start a podcast. I don’t know everything there is to know about relationships. But I’m sure I could bring on experts and people who have lived experience and can share tips from their marriage, to help have the conversations that we often aren’t having in our service community. It started with the podcast Hearts & Stripes. From there, I had the opportunity, through my advocacy and through the podcasts, of being recognized as the 2020-2021 Air Force Spouse of the Year. 

Oh, congratulations! 

Thank you so much. With that platform, though, I like to say I’m not a t-shirt wearer. If you’re going to give me an accolade, a platform, that’s just fuel to my fire for additional means of taking it further. I had this crazy idea that if we could celebrate a national taco day, which I love tacos, we could definitely celebrate Military Marriage Day. With that, I found it a holiday that is celebrated every August the 14th. It’s grown beyond a podcast, beyond one day of the year of celebration, and it’s really turned into a movement that is encouraging our service couples to look inward and be intentional about caring for their marriage and bridging the gap between the service couples and the resources That are available to them.

Well, I can feel your passion, I can feel your drive, and you’re wanting to make a difference in such a profound way. It occurs to me as you’re talking, you’re giving us a sense. Because I didn’t grow up in a military family. Like I mentioned, I have a sister-in-law who was married to someone, her partner/husband at the time was in the military. So I have some slight exposure. But as you’re talking, I’m like, right! As we know more about the research of relationship, and then we look at the support that’s needed for well-functioning. So not only the couple, the family, you’re talking about the network of the closer friend group, you’re talking about a bigger sense of the unit or the community. You’re saying this has such impact when a couple is left alone, navigating struggles and silence or isolation with it. when we can help, or perhaps there’s more that we can support to bring health, not only to the couple, but to our greater system, when you’re speaking about how this has such a great impact. Is that right? 

Absolutely, 1,00%. I think one of the things that I’d love everyone to just sit with for a second. When we think about our military couples, oftentimes I like to give people the perspective of if you look up. Maybe if you do a Google search, or you can look in different studies. 

“If you just do a casual search of the top stressful life events that happened, if you look at a top 10 or even look at a top five, those five tend to be: death of a loved one, divorce, and I’ll say separation, moving, major illness or injury, and job loss. Those are the top five that you’ll typically see come up. I just described military life. That is a norm for us.”

For those who maybe can’t see the correlation, if it’s death of a loved one, we’re talking about grieving a relationship. Well, we grieve those relationships maybe because a member really was lost in a war or in some type of service capacity. But also, we’re grieving relationships because we are no longer near the people that we just bonded with. It’s still that same thing when we move, and moving is on the list, which for anyone who is in the military, they know, typically you can move as regularly as every two to three years. I had the pleasure of moving every year at some point. So it depends on what that op tempo looks like in your career field and your branch. But moving is one of those top stressors. We talked about divorce, that’s a known life stressor. That’s why I also say, or separation. There are times in deployments, we’re often separated, and you’re dealing with being out of that cadence, out of that rhythm of your life, of being with your spouse. Major illnesses or injury, again, something that can happen and really is normal to anyone, but added on top of these other elements, now you’re amplifying the situations of grief and loss. Then job loss, which is on the top five. Every time we move, or as we continue to, the service member, if you will, move up in rank, their jobs shift. I know right now my husband is serving and he’s a pilot, he serves in a very different capacity than he did two or three years ago. That hurts. He misses a component of being in the squadron and flying on a regular basis. He’s moving up in leadership, so now he’s doing more office and interpersonal and some of the political sides. It’s very different, and he’s grieving the loss of what was. 

Those five stressors are in our everyday lives. It’s in every year, every couple of years. I think that’s what separates or makes our military marriages special and unique. When we can all just sit with that difference, you show up with a different level of compassion towards those couples. But you also understand why the military career field has some of the highest divorce rates.

It makes so much sense. Thank you for just spelling that out and helping us bring our focus and our awareness to these stressors. Because even as you’re talking about death, even if one has the fortunate experience that the person, I don’t know, maybe both people are service members, but the risk is always there.

Yes, the risk is always there, absolutely. Let me also give a nod to others who have similar dynamics as our military couples. If you are in a relationship where your spouse is often gone due to work responsibilities and just corporate life, they travel a lot, you are feeling some of these same things. Also, just a huge thank you to our First Responders; our firefighters, police officers. They are undergoing very similar stresses, and that’s another community that is very close to my heart. Because we have a common understanding of we have signed up and chosen this life of service to something bigger, that benefits a majority at the expense and the sacrifice of some of these interpersonal and relationship things that our families undergo, whether it is in the marriage relationship, and even trickles down to the children and those who are connected to that service family.

Well, Bree, thank you for educating. Because I feel like I’m even really recognizing just how much demand is on these families, these couples, and what they’re enduring and the sacrifices. I’m well aware of that. But when you put it into the perspective of just the stressors, the functioning of the bond, just being separated, all these things and you add them up, and the accumulation of this. This is where there’s potentially a call for us to support these families or these couples in a greater way. Because it’s that idea of like, we’re all connected. So if there is such a gift in the service and this duty of being in the military, and the benefit of the greater cultures, why can’t we all be a part of this more strengthening and resilient path and being able to support in a greater way? So thank you for just bringing attention to this and being such a person to bring voice and clarity here.

Yeah, it’s really my pleasure. This is my family. We are still currently active duty. So a lot of the things that I share and advocate for, these are things we personally experience. I know that, or I should say it this way, I always remind people that marriage is the center and the heartbeat of any family. That’s what makes the family a family. It’s those two individuals coming together. When our families are strong, the marriage is strong, our families are strong. And when our families are strong in our unique community, that means our Armed Forces is stronger because of that, because they don’t have to have these added stressors. 

“There’s already an assumed risk when you serve. But to think that home can be a safe place, and think that marriage can be a place of restoration and healing, a place where they can retreat back to have some normalcy, that is what is really needed for our servicemen and women.”

It’s something that I’ll continue to advocate for, because it really impacts the whole community. 

I hear that. Thank you, so important. Just to circle back to you and your story, how long have you and your husband been together? How long have you been straddling just all of these demands and everything you’re speaking to?

Yeah. So we actually just celebrated nine years of marriage. So super excited about that, we’re really excited to come up on our 10-year next year, and we’re planning some things. If the Air Force approves, we’ll be able to celebrate in a grand way with friends and family. But really, our service journey looks like, I was recruited to serve as an engineer. So I have a civil engineering background, and I was a PALACE Acquire. I worked as a civilian in the engineering squadron. We started off at Laughlin Air Force Base in little Del Rio, Texas, and I was there for four years prior to even meeting my husband. So I had already said, from a civil servants’ perspective, I believe in this greater mission of working with the Air Force. Because I was at a pilot training base, I had the opportunity to run into one of the most handsome pilots in the Air Force, if I must say. We actually met at the church that I was attending. It was really one of those things where I said, I could not have picked a better person. He was really brought into my life. My father loves to say, like, I couldn’t have picked a better person for you. I’m like, no, you couldn’t.

That’s a huge compliment. 

It’s a huge compliment, right. I think oftentimes, when you think of military relationships, they are fast. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that too, but from meeting to marriage tends to be very quick. For us, it was as well. We had about a six-month period of time where we were like, “Okay, well, we kind of know that this is what we want to pursue.” And what I like to share with anyone who isn’t married and those who aren’t married, that’s because we were really intentional from the beginning. First date, which I still don’t call it a real date, but he was asking about my credit score, and we were talking about children, we were talking about religion, we were talking about just what are our future plans, what are things that we enjoy. We got straight to the deep stuff really quickly. But it was easy, because we already had a natural connection there. 

I think communication is huge. Oftentimes, I’ll talk to some of even my friends who are not in service life, and those who are, some feel like “Ooh, whoa, we never had those conversations.” For anyone listening, it’s never too late, go back and have those conversations, because that is where you can unwrap some of the mystery or the unspoken tension that’s happening in your relationship. Because you can go back and have these deeper conversations on what you want and your dreams and desires. I remember some of the best times that we had was dreaming about what it looked like 10 years from now, 20 years from now. I mean, he’s a pilot guy, so clearly I envision a plane in my future. So these are the little things that we get to think and dream on, and that really it the spark, and it was a powerful flame that continues throughout our relationship. Are we a perfect couple? Absolutely not. We still have our disagreements; we still have to find our footing. I am originally a Jersey girl. So I get told about my tone all the time, I’m getting better. But that’s the reality of finding a partner, having a teammate, and I’m really grateful for mine, and how he encourages me even to do this level of advocacy. Because for anyone who does this work, knows you may get attacked in the area that you are passionate about and walking out. So it is challenging to wave the flag for strengthening military marriage and also being a good steward of my relationship, and knowing when I need to reel it in and be more intentional about looking at our relationship. Pausing, taking the time to make sure we’re good, and then pressing forward.

I really resonate with that sentiment, and just being in this work myself and really doing my very best to practice the principles, and knowing there’s times where we’re really tested, and especially as you speak to stressors and different demands that are crises sometimes, or are just very, very intense. We’re typically, as human beings, not our most resourced when we’re stressed or in crisis. It’s so critical. I love what you’re describing, and I have found this to be true whether or not people are straddling cross-cultural or bi-cultural relationships, or whatever the circumstances might be, that there’s a consciousness too. We don’t just glide into this and do what everyone typically does. It’s a little bit more like, I think the context of what you’re describing is, I would imagine being in the service or being in active duty, there’s a certain perspective on life that maybe the average civilian might not have, because you’re confronting the risks of life and living and you’re taking these huge risks. So it makes sense that one would want to be that much more intentional and mindful about how they’re wanting to spend their time. 

Absolutely. Especially because we’ve seen it firsthand, they’ll go into. Or let me see this way. Oftentimes, people like to throw this comment our way, which is, you knew what you signed up for. Let me tell you, we did not know, and we can never know what you signed up for. We’ve seen couples go through not a separation in their marriage relationship, but they decide to be geographically separated, because one spouse just doesn’t want to move. Or what about that family that’s raising, and they have a senior, and now it’s time to PCS, and they’re like, I really want our child to finish out their high school experience before I have to pick up and ask them to restart their life in a new spot. Those are tough decisions that military families are making all the time. It is our norm. I think I love how you said, when you are in crisis, you tend not to be as resourced. Well, that’s one of the reasons why Military Marriage Day exists. We have an app, where we have our resource hub. 

And what I noticed in my personal experience, when I was Googling all the things to try to help our friends who were in situations and deciding if they would stay together or divorced was, no one wants to start looking for solutions when they’re already at the end of their rope, when they’re already in crisis. It’s like if you can spoon-feed this solution or if it’s not something that they’re already onboard for, it tends to be too late. I never like to say the term too late. But it’s hard to access emotionally, it’s hard to access practically. Like, I have to fill out this form and remind myself of all the reasons why I’m actually one step out of the door. It is challenging. So the resource hub, as we build it out, it is our gift to the military community to say, “Hey, we’ve done the heavy lift. Here are the resources that are available to you.” We like to keep them diverse. Because the Armed Forces, they do provide some free resources for our service couples. So yay, so grateful for that. And every couple is different, every couple needs something that may be unique to them. Maybe it’s just the spouse who wants to do therapy because they’re going to start with themselves first, as opposed to trying couples’ therapy first. Maybe, like you said, it’s an interracial couple, or maybe they have different religious beliefs and the chaplain isn’t the answer for them. Or maybe I just want to start with reading a book or listening to a podcast. Whatever that looks like for the couple, we want to bridge that gap so that they have access to those resources, and we’re being proactive and not just reactive to the conflicts and the crisis that can come up in their relationship.

It sounds as though, and I think this is true for everyone, but even more maybe important for these military couples, is that if we can start making room and space for how to grow our relationship and have some footing around that, then we’re setting ourselves up more for success, we’re being more proactive as you’re describing, we’re not worked. Because again, like you’re saying, when we’re needing it most, it’s the hardest time to reach. We tend to want to isolate and collapse a little when we’re really struggling. So if we can set this up ahead of time, so fabulous. For this international Military Marriage Day, so what is your hope? It sounds like you’re really collecting and curating a lot of resources, and then obviously, building awareness around this unique experience. Can you say a little bit more about what your hope is for this day?

So Military Marriage Day, we will be in year four of celebrating this year, August the 14th. It has grown over time. For anyone who knows me, I am a big dreamer. When I get passionate about something, sky’s the limit. It started out in 2020, and we know everything was virtual, so we started with just a seven-day countdown. And what we do is we’d invite our experts in, whether that be a financial expert, we had someone speak on sex education, we had someone talk about just different topics. Each day we had someone come in and share, as we count down to Military Marriage Day, and the heartbeat, if you will, of Military Marriage Day is storytelling. So not only do we have the experts who come in and can give you the tools and equip you with the resources that you may need, we also have military couples sharing their stories, sharing their experiences. Because there’s one thing to say, “Everybody just do better or be intentional about your relationship.” It’s something completely different to say, “Actually, we struggled with infidelity. I was leaving, because he was getting ready to PCS. But this is how we resolved our relationship, and we hope that you can do the same.” That is different, because you can identify, you can find yourself in these stories. And we always like to make a platform for other people so that they can share, because there is something in those stories that it’s encouraging, it’s educating. But it also really helps people who maybe don’t want to say that their marriage is in chaos, find a way to say “You know what, I’m not alone. Because they shared their story, I’m not alone.” I think that is always going to be the desire and the big vision for Military Marriage Day here. 

Last year, and this year, we will have live celebrations, we are highlighting different branches of the such year. So last year, it was very Air Force and Space Force focused, this year it will be focused more so on serving our army members. So the celebration that is in-person moves year to year. So it’s not just focused on one location. But in the future years, we hope to be able to serve those couples who are in Germany and in Japan, and they are not just stateside. And let me also say, not just the flashy places. Because there are some bases that are ideal to go to, and there are others, like my friends in Alaska, that they are struggling, and they have issues of food insecurity, and there are families who are maybe families of five and their wages because of the rank are less than what they have to accommodate their family size. These are issues that are not exciting to share about, because nobody wants to think about that the people who are defending the country may be struggling to put a meal on the table. These are not exciting things to talk about. But the reality is it impacts the marriage, it impacts the families. 

So the more that we can do to just highlight these issues, to let them know that they’re not alone, and to give them these resources, that’s what Military Marriage Day is all about. And we wrap it in a big bow as a celebration to bring people together. It softens the blow of maybe you learning a tip or a tool that may be like, “Ouch, I wasn’t quite ready to hear that truth about my relationship or what I’m not doing in my relationship.” But in the form of a celebration. I mentioned I’m an engineer. I like to say, what gets measured gets managed. So celebration is the timeframe where we ask everybody to pause and think about where are you really in your relationship? How can you improve? Do you want to thrive in this relationship? Then we encourage them each year to choose to thrive in their relationships.

Well, it seems as though, Bree, when you’re talking, that there’s this wraparound. You’re talking about the storytelling, you’re talking about bringing all these resources and experts and really bridging this gap, where you’re talking about really helping provide more investment and resources, and the quality of it. It feels very, you have mentioned the heartbeat and the love and the wraparound around how this is in real positive intention. It’s not to pathologize. It’s not to make anybody wrong. Even for the stories, it’s being able to say, “Here’s an example. It’s not maybe the only way.” Also, that it’s a service person or service family, that they’ve walked the walk. It’s different for someone who’s totally civilian to say, here’s all these great practices and principles, and yet to hear somebody having implemented them that’s doing the marriage as a military couple, that that’s something else, I feel like just really offers that you’re not alone, and it’s much more specific, that I think really can help give modeling to.

Yes, absolutely. I love that you bring that up. Because I think oftentimes, as we talk about resources, yes, we do have resources and providers that are specifically trained to work with the military, or what have you. But also, Military Marriage Day, one of the things that we did, when we were first starting out, we did a military marriage survey and a study, if you will, that provided some data to inform the provider, but also our service community, of the challenges in military marriage. One of the things that I often talk about is how our personal fulfillment is directly tied to the fulfillment that we find in our marriage relationships. From that study, 84% said yes, that they do feel like their personal fulfillment is tied to their marriage relationship. Then when we ask them, do you feel personally fulfilled or accomplished, only 46% saying yes. So you can see there’s already some tension in these numbers, from a personal fulfillment to what is realized in their marriage relationship. There’s a lot of other things that we highlight in that report of critical pieces. That why are they arguing, what are those topics? What do they feel about the resources that are available to them? What is their perspective? Do they believe that their leadership cares about their marriage relationships? So there’s a lot of different components in there, where outside looking in, if you wanted to be informed about what really matters to this community, that is a tool that can be utilized so that people can get some more perspective. 

But my favorite part of the entire study is the question, it’s a true or false question that we asked, and it’s: I feel confident in the future of my marriage. 91% said true, that they feel confidence, and only that remaining 8% said false. Well, that tells me despite the number of people who said that their marriage relationship was satisfactory, all the way down to unsatisfactory, and the arguing points and all of that, is that there’s still hope in this community. That’s why Military Marriage Day, and the work that we do, and the people who volunteer to make it happen and advocate and get proclamations from state to state to recognize Military Marriage Day, we are continuing that hope that these service families have for their relationships, and we’re not giving up on them.

It’s beautiful, that there’s a real desire and a real hope and willingness. Because part of any type of growth, whether or not it’s relational growth or individual growth, I believe requires some interest and buy-in and desire and willingness. So the receptivity to engage. I’m curious, what kind of response are you getting from military couples in the work you’re doing?

So everyone loves Military Marriage Day. Right now, we’re on a mission to get greater awareness. Because the military has a very interesting bubble to where when you know about a resource, you know. But then there’s this whole population who’s like, “What, that happened? That was for us? It was free? I didn’t know.” So it’s always a challenge to have that bottom-down and bottom-up approach to informing people that Military Marriage Day exists, that all of the podcasts, the YouTube videos and trainings that we have on there, the hub which we’re continuing to build up, all of these resources that are free to our service couples. Even, in August, as we celebrate Military Marriage Day, we’ll also be opening up a grant so that couples can apply to get, if it’s counseling sessions that maybe their TRICARE does not cover, where they are able to apply for that grant and they can get sessions covered through that grant. Or even, let’s just break it down to even lower than that, they just really need a date night and a sitter, they can apply for the grant to get that need met. Or they’re fighting over food, because they don’t have enough money, so they can apply for that grant. Because we believe that we shouldn’t dictate what help looks like in a marriage; every one’s solution is different. So by giving this grant and bridging this gap and furthering the awareness, we’re able to serve more couples. 

To be honest with you, our impact fully will never be realized, because we still have couples who are afraid to say that they’re struggling. It’ll always be that thing. Especially, and I’ll share with you, it’s even challenging all the way up. 

“When we think of couples that are in crisis, it’s easy to think that the lower serving members are the ones who are struggling. That’s not necessarily the case. Those who are in leadership positions, who are making the decisions, who are able to push the information out, they may be struggling in silence too, because it doesn’t look good for them.”

So when I say Military Marriage Day is there to advocate for all service members, it doesn’t matter the rank, it doesn’t matter if they’re still active duty, they could be retired. If they are military-affiliated, we love to say that we are advocating on their behalf. Because the stigmas of seeking help have to change, that there’s nothing wrong with getting help. We often say that the four pillars, if you will, of military marriage day is growth, connection, building, and celebration. I really feel like if we’re not growing, personally and collectively, in our relationships, then that relationship will fail, and the connection, that’s something that’s really needed. Not just with a couple, but do you have a community and friends and mentors that can speak into your life and in your relationship, and affirm what you’re doing in your relationship, despite maybe what happened a year ago or two years ago. Are you building, are you working together to grow something bigger than yourselves? Maybe that looks like a family, maybe that looks like a retirement or an investment, or an inheritance you want to leave to the next generation.

Or starting an International Day.

Or starting an International Day. Or maybe you just need a little celebration. Maybe you need a reason to let your hair down, take the uniform off, and just enjoy your spouse, and have fun. Remember what that used to be like? And just celebrate and have fun. So that’s why those four pillars are really, really big for Military Marriage Day, and that’s really the hope and the desire as we continue to share about what we’re doing and what that big vision is for Military Marriage Day.

When you use the term bridging the gap, part of what I’m also aware of is just, I do think there’s a collective consciousness around people being interested in relationship, cultivating intimacy, and how to set that up more proactively. That it’s not something that just happens to you, and if it’s not just happening to you, something’s wrong. There’s so much research that’s really supporting this around the attachment research, around how we’re stronger. Like, we meet each other in the fMRI studies that show even how we sense pain is greatly, not dictated, but greatly impacted by feeling connected. So holding the hands of a loved one, when that connection is strong, we will not register pain to the same degree. Or similarly, when we anticipate a challenge, let’s say we’re going to hike this mountain. I know that in the military, there’d be different challenges, and I’m not sure.

Oh, they still rock up the mountain, it’s good. I like that.

Okay. That if they’re with their person, and they’re feeling that resource and that bond, they’re going to assess that challenge as more doable, and they’re also going to assess their ability that they have more capacity to do it than if they didn’t have their person. So this is such a strength-based approach. So really helping people, I think just even your voice and your education and your promotion is really helping bring an association that this isn’t about there being a problem, we’re all on this journey. Every single one of us is on this journey. 

We absolutely are. Even as you’re talking about how that connection can really impact how we feel pain, one of the startling that a fellow military spouse who does more work in suicide prevention and awareness even talks about how the majority of the cases that we’re seeing in the military, the cause, if you will, is relationship tied. That is heartbreaking to hear as well. But I can completely see that, as you bring up that fact. 

Also, just seeing the stresses that people are in, how it’s very easy to get isolated, how it’s very easy to just stay in your head about what is happening in the mission, unable to communicate with your spouse about things that are sensitive information that you really cannot share, or things that have happened, and how we can go down a path of where there is death by suicide that occurs in that family unit. I think, not to put a dark cloud over the work that we do, but really, it’s a range of things. I like to say, when we were actually branding for Military Marriage Day, we actually did a poll in the community. We said, “Hey, if you could describe Military Marriage Day, what would you describe it as?” Some people had responses from dumpster fire, all the way to some pretty romantic. Like, it’s like an adventure romance. Because everybody paints the picture of military, and it’s very romantic, and you see the member coming home from deployment and the spouse is running up to them and embracing them, and it’s passionate. Sometimes. That may not be a true reality. 

But the one thing that was most commonly communicated when we did that poll, and the reason why if you look at Military Marriage Day, it’s so vibrant and festive, is because couples said that military marriage is like a roller coaster. 

“We have really high highs, we have really low lows, and then there’s some twists and turns and some loops that you may not be expecting. But oftentimes, what I like to say, as we keep that in mind, the idea is to agree to stay on that ride together and enjoy it, regardless of what service life throws at you.”

Not allowing military life to happen to you, but you can be intentional about what you can do to still enjoy one another, to find joy within yourself and not put that burden on your spouse. But to really enjoy that rollercoaster ride called military life, so that you can like each other when you get off.

Right. I mean, it just feels like such a comprehensive approach to add buoyancy, because what you’re describing seems like such an intensified version of the ups and downs, when we add these level of demands and stressors. It just makes perfect sense that there would be some really extreme highs and lows and just the risks and all the things included, that that’s not just the average experience. So to add that, again, resilience, strength-based, and the buoyancy to help people keep their head above the water. That’s so critical. Otherwise, we feel so alone and lost and not connected. It’s really hard. It feels very untethered, and all the burdens, again, the waves crashing, and we can’t keep our head above water. That’s pretty tragic.

Yeah, it can be. But that’s why I’m excited to talk to you, Jessica, thank you for all that you do. Even listening to past episodes that have come out on this podcast and the work that you’ve done, it makes a difference in our relationships. So thank you for that. Because I know, whether you get the Thank you letters that you should or not, it makes a difference in the lives of these individuals and the lives of couples, but even greater, in the lives of our community. I’ll go back to it, I said it before, and we’ll continue to remind people. 

“Marriage is the beginning point that’s the center of our families. And when our marriages are strong, our families are strong, and our communities are that much more strong. It’s an investment into our future.”

I think it’s a rising tide, really. When our families are healthy, then we get more involved in in other areas that make the world better for the next generation. So even though that is a really big thought, that Military Marriage Day, this little holiday can have an impact on the next generation and what is to come. It’s not far-fetched. So I would just leave everybody with saying being intentional about your relationship has the power to impact those who are connected to you and the communities that are connected to you. That’s what we want to see in our military community as well.

Beautiful. Well, thank you for your words. I receive that it makes a big difference, and I also hear, I imagine there’s people listening that either know someone that’s in the military, or maybe even if they don’t. But that there’s an accessibility to this Marriage Day, that if you want to just come and show up and celebrate and acknowledge the importance of this bond and the health and how important and pivotal that is, great! Or if you maybe have some things you’re challenged with and maybe not ready to talk about it, you can come and check it out and just see how you feel. Or maybe you’re really needing some support. Any person can access some version of this and see what comes of it.

Absolutely. That’s why we’d invite everyone who’s listening, go over to MilitaryMarriageDay.com, you can check out what we’re doing, the advocates that we do there, the celebration that we have there, and you have an opportunity to donate if it feels like a worthy cause that you’d like to support. If you know someone who is an active duty, guard, reserve, or even retired military member, share. Let them know that Military Marriage Day exists, we’re here to support them and their marriage relationship. Really, it is just our heart to continue to spread this message spread this hope and see more couples make marriage strong.

Thank you. Will you say the website again?

Yes, it’s www.MilitaryMarriageDay.com.

Wonderful. Well, Bree, thank you so much. I just so appreciate what you’re doing, and what a gift of your service to be able to help promote.

Yeah, thank you so much, Jessica. It was a pleasure to share what we’re doing, a little bit of this military experience, and I hope that all are served or could hear something that resonates, and are compelled to take action, or even just be a little more intentional and grateful for your relationship.

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