I just realized that I never wrote a post like this after the Marine's deployment was over. So if you're new to the whole deployment business or maybe even a long-distance relationship, here is what I learned from deployment as a girlfriend. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes or feel better with my advice.
1.) You will get almost zero sleep before you say "see ya later." The song "Daylight" by Maroon 5 comes to mind. And really, it doesn't even matter. Unless you're so tired you can't even drive back home after dropping them off, then it's a problem. You won't regret those last few cuddles or whatever you both plan on doing before he leaves. The tiredness will help get you through that first day without him. Don't spend this time being a pain in the ass, and don't regret any of it later. It's a waste of time. More than likely you will see him again, even if it is on Skype.
2.) The first few months will be filled with self-pity. This is especially true if you had lived with your service member/significant other before they went away. You will be sad, you will miss them, you will see their pictures and cry... etc. You just have to remember that they are in a much suckier situation, and unlike them you can do something about yourself.
You won't want to, but you need to go out and do things. Drag your butt out of that house! I know some of you aren't able to travel back home like I did to live with your families, so you need to find some other kind of motivation. Maybe something you always wanted to do but your SO was never interested in? Finding friends in a military town without having your SO around can be difficult to nearly impossible unless you're socially gifted. Which leads me to my next realization.
3.) Sometimes the FRO's (Family Readiness Officers) aren't that great, but they will send you some valuable information. Make sure that your service member put you on this person's contact list so you will get all the updates personally without having to beg his family or anyone else for that information. They might even invite you to some social gatherings. After I moved back to Oregon, I got a call asking if I wanted to join in a kickball game back at Camp Lejeune. If you go to the outings they plan, you will meet new people and experience new things. Even if you're shy, at least you're there and not at home crying. Staying at home crying won't change the fact that's he's somewhere else. You didn't break up, he just deployed.
4.) OPSEC is very important! That stands for Operation Security. "Loose lips sink ships" and it doesn't matter if your guy is on a ship or on a plane on his way to Afghanland. Talking about specific dates on Facebook or any other social network is a GINORMOUS no-no. Don't do it! Live by it and tell anyone who asks about it. If they're not directly related to this person, they don't need to know. It sounds superstitious, but you never know these days. People can be shady. It's better to be safe than sorry. You live by OPSEC now. Be as vague as possible.
5.) There are tons of support groups out there. On Facebook, the ones I most often frequented were Our Deployment: 101, Semper FiLadies, and MissYourVoice which sells care packages as well as offers support. If you look harder, you should be able to find one that fits you perfectly. This is for days when you're feeling especially down or feel like sharing advice with others. Do NOT spend the whole time on your computer talking to these people. You will go insane.
If you've got a blog, participate in link-ups. You will find lots of other military SO's who are blogging about the same thing and you might make some new bloggy friends! Plus it gives you something to write about. You could also participate in a blogging challenge (like a blog every day challenge) or do a photography challenge to pass the time.
I loved the support groups, the only problem with them was that I was so freaking excited about a giveaway one page was having (we're talking massive giveaway with a ton of donors) that I ended up liking a ton of pages I wouldn't have liked normally. (And I still haven't been able to un-like all of them.) Business that sell bags made of uniforms or name tape bracelets. When I saw those I honestly thought that everyone was using them, and that all this pride was a normal thing. And I wanted one because that was the mindset.
But guess what? It's definitely not necessary to buy those bags or bracelets or whatever. Well, unless you want to, but you don't need them to "fit in" or show your pride. People will make fun of anything, but some people actually get offended by the bags! (Ridiculous right? I understand it, but... ugh I'm torn.) And then of course there's Daddy Dolls, in case you have little ones. There's nothing wrong with that, I suggest you get one!
6.) Get a Hobby. Crafting helped me out a lot, and I thank all the people who requested projects from me during the deployment. Find something that you like to do, it could even be exercising (which you should be doing anyway) or geocaching or whatever! Just do something. Maybe take some classes or get a job. The job I highly recommend because not only are you getting money, but you're wasting time till your guy gets back. Oh and you might make some friends! Win/win. The more you are out in the world, or out of your own head (and not in
the crazy way) the more time will pass by without you feeling completely
down in the dumps.
7.) Conversation with your guy is never guaranteed. You have to accept this as soon as possible and don't get mad at them for any lack. Just do your own best to send them love and they will reply when they get the chance. (But don't flood them. Max 2 messages a day because they might not be able to read them all.) Be happy whenever you do get to hear from him, and cherish every moment. Don't spend your precious time complaining to him. Find someone else to complain to. He's probably going to do most of the complaining anyway, lol. Just let him get it out, because did I mention it sucks where he is? It sucks more than where you are, don't even argue with me about that. It sucks.
8.) This is most important to remember. Unless he really is a shady character (there will be signs), he more than likely loves you, misses you, and thinks of you all the time. He is missing that nice, soft bed with you in it and your cuddles just as much as you miss him. Actually, it might even be more on his side, because at least you're in civilization. I can't even begin to explain, because I don't truly understand myself, how marines and other service members are as a large group. They have something completely different that unless you've been enlisted you will never understand.
Send him care packages! But be aware that he will probably be inspected or will share them with his friends. Try not to embarrass him with what you put in the boxes, or at least give him a warning to open it in private. I filled mine with foods he wasn't able to get, but wouldn't expire and wouldn't melt. Chocolate is a definite no. It gets messy fast. I also ended up sending him body wash, protein bars, shavers, and lots of other random things he needed but couldn't buy. Just be aware of his surroundings, ask him what he wants/needs/could use, and buy accordingly. Pack things in bags that might be broken so they don't spill all over. Feel free to decorate it like the MissYourVoice business does, but it's not necessary. They will love the fact that you sent them things!
9.) You are strong. You are brave. You can get through this! You do not need the affections of another man to help you get through a deployment with your service member or your boyfriend's absence. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? Read my "How not to cheat" post. Don't be stupid, okay? If you really need sex that bad, they have toys for that. If you need cuddles, make yourself a boyfriend pillow.
This is the part where I get angry and mean because I heard all the time "I can't handle this" "I need to feel his touch again" and it drove me BANANAS! I want to slap that shit out of you right now! You need to get your act together and get in the mindset of a long-distance girlfriend or you need to get out. Being in a long-distance relationship is hard, but it's not that hard. I've been doing it for years! But then again, some of us are just more cut-out for it than others.
It's okay to cry and feel like you can't take it any more as long as you go back to dealing with it normally. Don't give up yet.
10.) Learn to be alone.
This video helped me out a lot, but I had already known how to be alone with myself and my own thoughts for quite some time. If that's not your thing, then get out there and make some new friends. #2 and #5 should help you with that.
This is important though, remember that even though you are technically alone, you aren't single and you aren't really alone. Because you carry him with you wherever you go. You are thinking of him, and he is thinking of you. Don't let those thoughts make you sad. You have so many happy memories to remember and to look forward to. You might as well make a few while he's away.
It's your choice to be happy or be miserable.
When Alex was deployed, I joined in a link-up here in the blogosphere called "What's your song?" It gave me a bunch of songs that helped me get through the deployment. Some are happy, some are just for feelings. Either way, maybe it will help you out.
It's not that many anymore because some have been deleted, but I add to it once in a while.
If you have some, I'd love to see them, so please share them in the comments!
Do you have any advice to add about deployments or long-distance relationships? Or, what did you learn from your SO's deployment?