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Marriage Thrives on Sharing

By Carole W. Butler for LIFELines

Sharing keeps marriage on an even keel, and sharing ideas, friends, and responsibilities is a valuable goal for Navy and Marine Corps newlyweds. However, men and women are often worlds apart when it comes to sharing, especially sharing ideas. Because couples often suffer from the "he said, she said" syndrome common to relationships, reaching these goals requires planning and effort.

Sharing Ideas
Navy and Marine Corps couples can learn communication skills with programs recommended by the Navy Chaplain Corps, such as the Prevention and Relationship Program (PREP).

"If things need to be discussed — and, in fact, if things need to be argued — there are fair ways of doing it," says Chaplain Joe Molina, Headquarters Battalion Chaplain at USMC Headquarters. "The primary focus of PREP is to help couples (newlyweds or couples who have been on the journey for awhile) learn proper communication methods within the marriage."

Sharing Friendships
The "he said, she said" syndrome can also extend beyond conversation into lifestyle. For example, explains Molina, a service member hangs out with a circle of friends that excludes the spouse, or the spouse's friends exclude the service member. "He said, she said" becomes "his friends, her friends," and these separate spheres can create pressures that may draw spouses away from each other.

"Competing friendships within relationships — I've seen that create a lot of tension with young service members. My friends are my wife's friends, and her friends are my friends," says Molina. "Bottom line: my spouse needs to be my best friend." Instead of having competing friendships, the majority of a couple's friends should be shared by both.

Sharing Responsibilities
Navy and Marine Corps couples must add the rigors of military life, such as lengthy separations, to the usual problems newlyweds undergo. "We get deployed six to seven months at a shot, and we may even be asked to do an unaccompanied one-year tour somewhere," says Molina. By extension, service members and their spouses must also share their authority and responsibility.

"When you deploy, there are things that you need to give up to your spouse," says Molina. While at home, the service member may be responsible for some aspects of home life that the spouse must take care of during a deployment. The service member has to trust the spouse to make decisions — and as trust that those decisions are sound. (No second-guessing allowed.)

Reaching Goals
In addition to taking a course or workshop in communication, Molina recommends, couples should participate in a marriage enrichment workshop such as the Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO). Devote a weekend every year or two to taking care of marital issues and to reinforce proper communication within your relationship, he advises.

In addition to a retreat, workshop, or class, you have to follow through with what you learn. "You have to work at the marriage," says Molina. Resources for everything from finances to counseling are readily available through your chaplain, ombudsman, Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC), Key Volunteer Network, and L.I.N.K.S.

Forging Stronger Links
L.I.N.K.S. mentor Janelle Kennedy has been a Marine Corps spouse for 19 years. "I had older, more experienced spouses take me under their wing and teach me what it is to live this bizarre lifestyle called being a Marine Corps spouse," says Kennedy. Experienced Navy and Marine Corps spouses with COMPASS or L.I.N.K.S. provide less experienced spouses with that type of support system, which runs the gamut from lighthearted to deadly serious.

On the serious side, spouses help spouses learn to be connected in their new environment. They also help spouses learn how to survive on their own, says Kennedy. "Because, let's face it, when your spouse is deployed for a year and you've been in a house for maybe two months, you don't know a lot of people and you're scared to death."

On the lighthearted side, Kennedy likes to prepare people for the first time they will see their squared-away Marines in sock suspenders. "It's the goofiest looking thing," she laughs.

Navy and Marine Corps newlyweds can take advantage of numerous helpful programs available at their command. When you and your new spouse are communicating from worlds apart, get closer by sharing ideas, friends, and responsibilities. Working at being a couple keeps your marriage on an even keel.


 Related Articles: Resources: So you are getting married?

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