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Military Wives: Resilient LOVERS

Alli and Josh

Cpt. Josh Hughes & Alli

Good friends of ours, Alli & Josh Hughes, a beautiful young military couple, eagerly celebrated their fifth (5) wedding anniversary this weekend. While excited and making plans for a weekend away in Tucson, they happened to mention that even though this was their 5th wedding anniversary, they’d only been together two of the five years to celebrate their marriage.

Why?  Multiple deployments, TDYs, and training….

So many of our young military families experience the JOY of falling in love, and then all too soon, must geographically separate in order for one spouse to serve our great Nation abroad. Alli and Josh are a great example of this. Josh has served two deployments in the five years since they married, as well as multiple TDYs and training. You may think, “Well, it’s not just military families who must do this,” and that’s true, but our military lifestyle requires this sacrifice more often than most any other career path.

One definition of resilience is: “the power or ability to return to the original form., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.”

Today, our military offers families techniques for finding meaning in adversity. They are taught that resilient families view crises as shared challenges that – together – they can understand, manage and make meaningful in some way. They see their emotions as human and understandable under the circumstances and to survive, they must believe in their ability to learn from their experiences and move forward. Below are some values that are consistently found in resilient families:

  • Positive outlook – Resilient families have an optimistic rather than pessimistic view of life. Partners see each other’s strengths and offer encouragement to overcome difficulties or accept what can’t be changed.
  • Transcendence and spirituality – Resilient families have beliefs and core values that offer meaning, purpose and connection beyond their personal lives and troubles. They find strength and comfort in their cultural and religious traditions and experience spiritual inspiration in a variety of ways, including nature, the arts, service to others, and faith in a higher power.
  • Flexibility – Resilient families understand that change is a constant in life, and learn to adapt to change in positive ways. For example, they adjust their family roles and rules to fit new life challenges while maintaining the rituals and traditions that provide stability in their relationships. Their flexibility depends on strong, yet nurturing leadership, guidance, protection of children, and mutual respect in the marital relationship.
  • Connectedness – Resilient families pull together during times of crisis. They’re able to function as a team and support each other – while respecting individual needs, differences and boundaries.
  • Social and economic resources – When they can’t solve problems on their own, resilient families reach out for help by turning to extended family, friends, neighbors, community services and/or counseling (understanding the importance of good counselling, in spite of fear of identification or retribution.)
  • Open emotional sharing – Resilient families accept and encourage a wide range of emotional expression (joy, sadness, fear, silliness, etc.) in adults and children. Family members take responsibility for their own feelings and accept others who have different feelings. They value positive interactions and integrate humor into their daily life, even as they cope with difficult circumstances.
  • Clarity – Resilient families practice clear, consistent and honest communication. Family members say what they mean and mean what they say; thus, they avoid sending vague, confusing or mixed messages to each other.
  • Gratitude: Resilient families intentionally insert gratefulness into their daily lives. Here’s a helpful suggestion: One of the most helpful practices we’ve implemented is to purchase a Gratitude Journal & write in it daily. Sit down together as a family (include children) and list 5 things you are grateful for each day. Discuss these things together. I promise you, that within even a two-week time frame, your JOY meter – individually & collectively – will increase at least 25%.
  • Collaborative problem solving – Resilient families manage their difficulties by working together to understand a problem and identify ways to solve it. They make decisions together in ways that allow family members to disagree openly and then resolve those disagreements through negotiation, compromise and give-and-take. These families seek to repair the hurts and misunderstandings that go along with conflicts and act proactively to solve current problems and prevent future ones. They also learn from their mistakes through the discipline of reflection, evaluation for lessons learned, and realigning with their sense of mission.

My conclusion is this: a key component of resilience IS flexibility- which means we are capable of bending easily without breaking; however, this is where I differ from the canned military jargon and even the definition of resilience as a whole.

Do we ever return to our original form?  I believe not…as Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “Instead of bouncing back to where we were, we gain new strength, new confidence, new limits – and increased resiliency – for the next time we”re required to be flexible again.”  Once we’ve overcome a challenge, the REAL value comes through reflection and in asking yourself these 4 questions:

— What did I do well?
— What didn’t I do well?
— What lessons did I learn?
— How would I do it differently next time?

This process ensures that we don’t return to our original size; rather, we move forward & grow from experience.
If you’re not sure how to do this, please let me help you. You can find me at dorothybonvillain.com/military-wives. I’m here to support you in learning more about how to be more flexible, resilient, and ultimately a confident and thriving military wife.

Alli & Josh – a salute to you both! Here’s to wishing you many, many more anniversary celebrations – shared!!  <3

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