What We Wish We Knew Before We Began Our Military Marriage

Our love story really isn’t very different from yours. We met. We hit it off. In a very short time, we knew we would end up marrying each other. We had a very intentional courtship, because when one of you is in the military, you seriously don’t have time to waste. Ten months later, we were married and—two days later—driving to Rob’s next Coast Guard duty station in Homer, Alaska.

We had read a lot of books and done the premarital counseling thing, but somehow, The 5 Love Languages was not on the list. (Don’t ask me how this major oversight occurred. And don’t tell Dr. Chapman.)

We wish it had been. The premise of The 5 Love Languages is this:

  1. The things that make you feel loved may not also help your spouse feel loved.
  2. You can learn to love your spouse the way he or she can receive it.

But like I said, we didn’t really think about this. Here’s what happened.

Jocelyn: My primary love language is Quality Time. If you haven’t read the book yet, this means that I feel most loved when Rob and I spend time together, either doing things we enjoy or having quality conversations. So what do you do when your military spouse leaves on a ship for weeks or months at a time?

I thought I had a great idea. I bought a really nice leather-bound blank journal with the intention of trading it back and forth between us. I would write in the journal letters to Rob when I was home alone, which felt like spending quality time with him. When he returned, he could read it and know that I was thinking of him during his absence. That part went fine.

But when I gave the journal to him and asked him to do the same thing while he was a very busy Executive Officer on a Coast Guard cutter? Um… not so much.

Rob: When I was out at sea, I needed to be focused on my ship, the crew, and our mission. Out at sea – especially as XO – you’re basically on duty 24/7. Having already spent two years on a cutter before I met Jocelyn, my idea of relaxing was vegging out to a movie in the wardroom – not writing in a journal.

Jocelyn: Clearly, my expectations for that journal were dramatically altered pretty quickly. If I could find it today, it would still be mostly blank.

But it wasn’t just during separations that my craving for Quality Time affected our relationship. Every time Rob got home from being underway, I needed my love tank to be filled. I wanted to just soak up time with him, just us. So when he wanted to go hang out with friends right away after being at sea, I took it very personally. I felt hurt and unloved.

Rob: We had been assigned to a little town in Alaska where I had already spent two years on a previous Coast Guard tour, and had built up a great network of friends. I was looking forward to reconnecting with them and at first it was a little frustrating that Jocelyn seemed to want to monopolize my home time. I totally didn’t realize her Quality Time needs, and if I had, I definitely could have been more sensitive to them.

Jocelyn: Rob’s primary love language is Acts of Service. Oh, how I wish I had discovered this early on! I was fairly independent already, since I have already lived on my own in Washington, D.C. But then I made the mistake of expecting Rob to do some of the same things my dad had done—even though Rob was gone much of the time. (Not smart, I know.) I let some things go and just made a list of things for Rob to fix or do upon his return. My thought was, “He’s the husband. He should do these things.”

Rob: But my thought when I got back home after a few weeks out at sea was, “Oh great, I’m just a handyman now.” And I’m not very handy! So after weeks and weeks of “XO, do this – XO, do that” from the ship’s captain, I felt like I was in the same situation at home…with nobody to delegate to! I was already tired, so I would spend the first couple of days home in a sour mood. If she had taken care of those chores without me, I would have felt much more loved. She just didn’t understand my love language.

The moral of our story, of course, comes back to this:

  1. The things that make you feel loved may not also help your spouse feel loved.
  2. You can learn to love your spouse the way he or she can receive it.

Once we read The 5 Love Languages, years into our marriage, we understood each other so much better. Marriage is far richer when we know how to love each other effectively!

Understanding the 5 Love Languages is one thing. Putting them into practice is another, especially for the military couple. Have you ever wondered:

  • How do we keep love alive during deployment if one of our languages is Physical Touch?
  • Why is reintegration such a challenging time in our marriage?
  • How can we work on our marriage when one spouse is already dealing with combat trauma?

The answers to all these questions and more is in the brand new book, The 5 Love Languages Military Edition. Dr. Chapman and I didn’t just bring our own passion to this tool. We interviewed dozens of military couples, from newlywed to seasoned veterans, and channeled all of their insights into a tool that will prove invaluable to the military marriage regardless of rank or branch of service.



Jocelyn Green is an award-winning author and freelance writer. A former military wife, she authored, along with contributing writers, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. Jocelyn also co-authored of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, which inspired her first novel, a Civil War historical called Wedded to War. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.heroinesbehindthelines.com and www.jocelyngreen.com.

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