Are Shorter Deployments the Key to Stronger Marriages?

just divorced

We are all about the love here at SpouseBuzz.  We will try anything to increase the understanding of long-term military relationships and to help couples navigate their way to a happier and healthier romance.

But sometimes we miss the most obvious suggestions.  In a recent blog post about the effectiveness of military marriage programs, a reader pointed out something we had not considered:

Maybe these programs would be worth the money if my husband were ever home to attend. Telling me how to make my marriage better when he is gone 3/4 of every year, sometimes more, seem like a joke. Call me crazy, but maybe making deployments more realistic/less frequent would be the real key to making marriages stronger!

Makes sense to us.  In fact, there is actually some data to back up that idea.  In study after study, family separation has consistently been among the top concerns of military members.  Just like us, our servicemembers worry that if they are gone too much they won’t have a marriage when they get back.

The length of the deployment is especially worrisome to us—with good reason.  According to the Office of the Surgeon General United States Army Medical Command, the length of deployment (but not the number of deployments) does affect how many military members indicate that they intend to divorce when they return to the states.

The longer the deployment, the more likely the soldiers were to seriously consider divorce. This tended to be particularly true among younger enlisted members who were deployed for more than nine months.

Please note:  This didn’t mean that these guys necessarily filed for divorce the minute they stepped on American soil.  The military divorce rate (which is about the same as the civilian divorce rate) has had a very slight increase—but not as much as expected considering a decade of war.

So what’s the deal in the era of the Fiscal Cliff? Do we roll back our international commitments so that we can have more realistic/less frequent/shorter deployments?  Do we roll out more and more marriage programs and insist on attendance?  If you were all about the love like we are, what would you do?







About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at

23 Comments on "Are Shorter Deployments the Key to Stronger Marriages?"

  1. I fail to see why marriage workshops are the responsibility of the military at all. No one told you to get married, and if your marriage can't handle the military then get out of the military… Being dual military, my wife and I handled plenty of deployments experiencing being the one gone, and the one staying and we got through it because we understood what being married in the military meant.. Not, because of some feel good workshop for people who want the military to tell them how to be marrid.

    • Kevin,
      I realize that this post is 9 months old by now, and you may never see it at this point, but I feel the need to make a couple points in response.
      Your undeniably acerbic attitude toward the mere existence of marriage and relationship workshops given through the military seems to be primarily based on a reprehension for young military couples struggling to maintain their marriages due to the pressure of deployments (and general military lifestyle).
      First, I would like to point out that dual military households like yours make up a very small percentage of military marriages. I understand that both spouses being AD must have whole different set of stresses and difficulties. But I hope you understand that when it comes to a deployment, you may experience the exact same physical distance, but since you EACH have been on BOTH sides of a deployment you have an empathy for what the other is/has gone through that most of us can't ever have!
      Of course most cilivian spouses try their best to be sympathetic to a deploying/ed spouse, we will just never be able to understand the complexities of the experience. At the same time, I know a lot of spouses who have little to no appreciation of the fact that it's difficult for the one who gets left as well. And a newlywed civilian at any age will obviously expect the geographical space — but the pain of standing still waiting for the return of your spouse is not as scary (especially in your first year of marriage – even at 26) as moving forward without them as praying you can find a way to end up walking next to each other on the same path once again.
      From a practical standpoint, Kevin, do you believe that the military should have a JAG corps which military members can utilize? What about chapels on base? Tricare? Even if you don't believe dependants should receive medical treatment from the military, you, I can only hope and assume that you agree that health care for military members be covered. Why? Because it's a Gov. benefit, because we need our troops to be healthy to perform their duties, and because we take of those who make physical and personal sacrifices in service to this nation.
      So, Kevin, don't you think that giving service members a chance to learn how to understand his or her spouse's experiences and how to give them what they need to stay connnected emotionally is something that benefits the warrior who is less preoccupied with the effects of separation on his marriage. That in turn benefits the unit. Thus, to the benefit of the mission. And, coming full circle now, TO THE MILITARY!
      Plus, don't you think we owe military families of all ages, but especially junior enlisted who never had an example of how to keep a marriage strong in this pressure cooker culture, a chance to get the right training and the right tools for the mission????

  2. I agree with Kevin. Your marriage, the decisions regarding it, the ability to make it work and keep it going, etc., are YOUR responsibilities- not the military's.I think many of the family programs in place now (post-9/11) are going to fade quickly into the sunset when budgets are cut and the drawdown continues. While support is a great thing- dependence is not, and many military families who came along after 9/11 are used to a lot of hand-holding that is going to cease, and cease sooner than later. Be adults- solve your own problems, find your own solutions and stop relying on the military to solve them for you- it's your employer, not your parent.

  3. SusieSoldier | January 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

    A) deployments are getting shorter, and longer dwell times are here to stay- so I fail to understand the suggestion put forth in the article. B) Just more of the same from the entitled spouse crowd… Stop complaining about the advantages the the military provides and say thank you (more directed toward the aforementioned comment). If your soldier/service member isn't home well that's part of the commitment they made and you supported. It's been more then 10 years of war, which means every single soldier has chosen to accept their "war time" commitment to our nation. Not one service member is a victim of timing or circumstance. Neither are we as family members. Stop all the complaining, it's unbecoming and tiresome.

  4. makessensetome | January 4, 2013 at 1:37 am |

    No one is trying to negate the seriousness of the commitment they made when choosing to marry. Life changes, our circumstances, feelings, and abilities change with every year that passes. To use the cliche that "You knew what you were getting into" or to say "Accept the military the way it is or get out" is silly and juvenile. So many service members and their spouses are young adults when they marry. 18 or 19 years old having little or no support system. These programs can be helpful when properly applied. No the navy is not your daddy, but it sure is nice to have a mature support to lean on when times inevitably get tough. Deployments are challenging for even the strongest of marriages. Will shorter ones be helpful? I don't personally think so if it means increasing the frequency, but does having open dialogue about possible solutions help? Absolutely. Be less angry and contribute to the solution not the problem.

    • If you're saying I'm being angry by stating my opinion you are wrong. I'm sorry you disagree with me but I just don't think the military is required to compensate for ill-informed kids who get married without putting any thought into it. If their marriage falls apart due to military life it is their fault for staying in when they couldn't handle it, and not going to an easier lifestyle which their weak marriage could handle. What did they think a deployment was when they got married? Either suck it up, or get out of the military. The military owes your marriage exactly nothing.

    • If you're saying I'm being angry by stating my opinion you are wrong. I'm sorry you disagree with me but I just don't think the military is required to compensate for ill-informed kids who get married without putting any thought into it. If their marriage falls apart due to military life it is their fault for staying in when they couldn't handle it, and not going to an easier lifestyle which their weak marriage could handle. What did they think a deployment was when they got married? Either suck it up, or get out of the military. The military owes your marriage exactly nothing. If they need those programs then maybe they shouldn't get married.

  5. (continued)There are hundreds of thousands of single parents out there who seem to make it just fine. It's a tough job on both sides of the deployment, and you knew that going in. It takes an incredibly strong relationship to weather the storms of life. Not everyone can do it successfully. Those that do, build upon the foundation of a true and lasting partnership. Partnership is notbuilt of duress, it is merely tested by it. Our credo was "You and I against the world – Family First". If you want to quit because the test is too hard, ..maybe you should.

  6. Single Parenting Fad, the SURGE of Our Society today….. The end results beig that our society will suffer for decades with all of those children being exposed to greedy and selfish adults who procreate….

  7. Steve…You mean those people who like the vast majority of Americans had sex before, or without marriage and just like all of us playing that game of roulette took the chances on pregnancy and then don't believe in abortion?

  8. GraceMascorro | January 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm |

    HELL YES. Just look at the history of deployments. This is such a terrible time for back to back deployments. It is not just hard on the family, it is hard on the soldier. It is not good for them to constantly be forward. When they get home you can feel the ache in their bodies . They need time before they are sent back. We have a better military and a better force if we understand that a soldier is a human being and should be treated as such.

  9. I am currently a Navy wife and was prior enlisted. I have seen both sides of the spectrum. The key to a stronger marriage is providing military service members with tools that they can use practically. How to keep intimacy going while apart, how to deal with temptation, how to establish boundaries. Sesame street is wonderful and all, but lets start facing EVERYTHING head on. How about, where are the leaders setting the good examples?? In the military and in the civilian community? Don't get me started on the service members that use separation as an opportunity to party it up. I've seen first had what a sailor will do on deployment. And on the flip side – some of these civilian women and men should be ASHAMED of themselves and their actions while their husbands and wives are deployed!! But if it is accepted as the "norm" no one is going to think anything of it. Someone needs to make it "cool" to be respectful and considerate of your spouse. Just like the Navy has the "Right Spirit" campaign, until they start making fidelity acceptable – it won't be.

    • Grace Mascorro | January 16, 2013 at 11:07 am |

      Agree with you Jennifer. Also communication at the start. My husband and I went to the chaplain for counselling before we got married. It was good because we got to hear what we expected from each other and how we wanted our life and family to be. The words people say at their wedding ceremony don't mean anything unless people act on them. LOVE is a gift even 6,000 miles away.

  10. GrizzledOfficerDude | January 4, 2013 at 11:46 am |

    Out of curiosity, did you also serve multiple 12-16 mo deployments in a war zone? My point is that times have changed. Reserve and Guard families have been used differently in this war than in any past war. Add to that Individual Augmentee tours which put sailors and airmen in jobs they never expected to have. Oh and let's not forget that proportionally fewer Americans serve now than at any other time, meaning that community understanding of what servicemembers and their families face is at an all time low.
    In addition men and women expect different things from each other in today's marriages. It's no longer simply enough to say that we have to live with the decisions the service member made for the family. Spouses have careers that are also important and career and life issues are discussed in different terms.
    Mix all the ingredients together and you get a much different military and world than the one you served in. I am sure that in 20 yrs I will look at the military and think we did things different in "my day". That's a good thing. It means that we will have grown and adapted as an organization.
    I see the goal of stronger marriages as being part of mission readiness. The better our military families communicate with each other, the stronger their marriages are, the more likely we are to maintain that first line of defense in spotting issues like depression, TBI, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts in our service members. That's a win in my book.

  11. My wife and I both served in the military before and during this war (she is still a reserve Corpsman and has done IA deployments) doing multiple deployments (I was a Corpsman as well so yes, my deployments were not always somewhere pleasant like Kuwait (by comparison)… Still stand by what I said. If your marriage can't work in the military then you need to leave your marriage or the military, and it is not the military's job (nor the taxpayers) to ensure the strength of your marriage.

  12. According to the latest comments, and complaints, by the military "spouses union", they want all the benefits, and NO deployments as far they are concerned, or its's the divorce trail for them….Other than making the lives of Our fighters miserable as hell! Talk about ill prepared and miserabe females, sorry to say far too mnay GI's found them and are stuck… When a coupke are mismatched and not corrected prior to deeper involvement….we see the end results as well as listen to the chatter… Ladies, married life is far much more than between the sheets, and the club scenes…….

  13. Mary Ann Canada Lacefield | January 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  14. CrAshley, my husband recently came back from a 9 month deployment- with no leave- and is leaving here again soon for another. We have a dual military marriage, so I am possibly more understanding than some civilian wives as far as lack of communication and being used to separation (we usually spend about a week a month apart). That being said, 9 months with no break did stink, but personally I found that the two week (ish) R&R in the middle just made both of us wish he could stay home-saying goodbye twice was harder. The Army (military in general really) will always do what is best for them, and I can't blame them! We both knew what we were getting into, and we don't let the difficulties of our lifestyle be an excuse for marriage difficulties. People need to fight for their marriages!

    I digress, as I was just letting you know how I personally felt about the shorter deployments with no two week leave.

  15. GraceMascorro | January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    I hope you find your true love. She is out there. do not marry anything less. Love is everything and marriage is a bond not just with each other but with God..that oath is to God. It is faith that will get this woman you are looking for. Heat is not love. Love exists and it isn't always perfect. People are human and sometimes they make mistakes. My parents meet in Perth Australia where my Dad was doing some diving training for his Special Forces Unit. They meet in church. My father at the time owned a toyota truck a tv a couple of chairs and a bed. That was it. they started their life together. For 20 years she moved from place to place. Many posts were so bad, she home schooled us. She didn't go out and party when he was deployed. She kept in touch with him all the time, no matter where he went. the rules of the house were the same, when he left for a deployment because they were his rules. My mother has always said if she didn't respect and trust him she couldn't have married him. True Love is a blessing. And our culture could use more of it.

  16. Grace Mascorro | January 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |

    I know I have replied to you once already. Each time I read your comment it makes me happy to know that the values our family holds are not dead and are still alive. You remind me of the Magnanimous man that Aristotle writes about in his Nicomachean Ethics book. He is the hero of the ancient Greek times. Even though you had a hard start, you have a clear and honorable vision for your life and how you want to conduct yourself. You know that wherever you walk , you are loved my brother. for you walk in the light., that light is is the truth and the truth is the word .And there is only one word. Can't get any better than that.. When you find that love of your life. She will be a very lucky lady.

Comments are closed.