Stellar Spouse: As seen on Military.com

I already knew I had a stellar soldier for a husband- but right then I kinda hated it.  Perhaps you have one too.  The kind of spouse that strives to be his best at everything and sets his sights on maxing out that PT test every time. 

Before kids and the military, my husband and I used to go for long runs and chat about our life.  It was quality time that usually ended with ice cream and a favorite show (oh how we miss our twenties). Once the military entered the story, early morning PT became his primary time to workout and I fit in exercise around everyone else’s schedule.


On this particular day we decided to go for a long overdue run together.  As I laced up my shoes, I was about to remark on how nice it was going to be to run together when he put in his earphones and said, “but I won’t be talking, I’m working on increasing my pace”. 

“That’s okay,”  I said- more to prepare myself for the pain that was likely to follow, “I’ll do the same.”

We started off together, listening to our independent playlists. When we faced hills, he attacked them with purpose as I managed to keep up.  When I was forced to stop and fix my hair, he jogged in place and focused on his watch.  Finally, as we approached the last mile,  my stellar soldier surged ahead- or maybe I started to lag behind.  My legs begged for me to quit despite what my heart wanted.  I started to accept my fate as officially “smoked”- when I had a thought.

Without realizing it, we were both shaped in two entirely different ways by the military lifestyle. 

The military has a way of creating fantastic leaders that translate into fantastic role models at home.  Mine appreciates organization, routine, and logical ways of finding solutions to everyday problems.  He teaches our kids the values he loves about the military including work ethic, respect for authority, loyalty, integrity, and others.  

The military had done something entirely different for me.

As difficult as it has been to constantly maneuver around his schedule, I have learned to embrace the role that creativity plays in chaos. I have to fit in my own self care- not because someone tells me to, but because it keeps me from losing my mind.  Relationships in the home are more likely to come before order, and definitely more important than perfection.  Leadership as a military spouse has become more about adaptability and a strong “whatever” mindset.

I watched from a distance as he finished his run and then checked his watch.  Shame washed over me as I thought about how frustrating it is to be married to someone who folds laundry better than me, often thinks to start the crock pot before I do, and was in better physical shape than I was. To sum it up in view of the finish line, the military had made a stellar leader out of him and leisurely pace keeper out of me.

Unless you are in a marriage where you or your spouse quit along time ago, almost no one likes to be left behind.  In fact, if you’ve been married for any length of time, you have likely experienced surging ahead or lagging behind your spouse in one area or another.  What you do when you find yourself there, though, reveals the state of your true character.

“Do I finish strong or just slow down in defeat?”

 As much as we try to experience life at the same pace, marriage will often ebb and flow throughout the marathon. The military lifestyle almost guarantees we will have different ways of approaching it.  Each spouse brings strengths, each spouse brings weaknesses to manage.  Both have something to offer when the moment is right.  From a strengths perspective, my stellar husband has expressed the same feelings I was having on days where no amount of logic or order fits into the chaos of life.  Sometimes, being a leisurely pace setter pays off.

One thing was clear, his pace challenged me to dig deep and find something new within myself or I would fall behind. The military, despite our different experiences, has taught us separately that the kind of battle buddy we are for each other is a matter of life or death for marriage.  As a military spouse, I’ve learned that I don’t quit.  I can’t quit a deployment. I can’t quit on a bad day.  I’ve learned to finish strong even if it’s looks or feels different than I originally pictured.  So I did as he waited for me. 

It’s not easy to be married to someone who has thrived in the military.  He has been a perfect fit for this job from the beginning.  But it’s only difficult because he expects so much of himself and in turn I must do the same.

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Behind the Scenes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Picture1.pngPost 9/11 Military Spouses Chronicle Experiences through New Legacy Project

Multiple Locations, U.S. (August 8, 2017) – A new collaboration has brought together 30 military spouses of U.S. Armed Forces to share their experiences of military life in the post 9/11 era. It chronicles America’s all-volunteer force and how they and their families have made a powerful impact in their communities while being a military spouse and all that entails.

“Behind the Scenes: The Tales of Military Spouses Making a Difference” is a project coordinated by Cara Loken, the 2016 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Spouse of the Year. The book highlights the men and women who have been contributing to their communities while they and their families meet the challenges facing the very unique circumstances of today’s military community.

“I kept hearing story after story of the life-changing things that spouses everywhere were doing in addition to meeting and conquering their own day-to-day challenges. When these women and men see a need, they fill it. It was important to me to put these stories together so all Americans know just how very remarkable the people behind our service members are,” said Loken, a military wife and mom. “I’m sure the tales will inspire others to find their own way to have a lasting impact.”

Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different military spouse author with a focus on their own personal journey. While the writers are scattered in locations throughout the U.S. and overseas, they all share the common thread of seeing the firsthand evolution of the homefront during continuous wartime operations.  The book is also a charitable endeavor. 100% of the proceeds of the sale of the book will go toward charities picked by each author.

“This collection of memoirs provides a window into the hearts and minds of our military spouses and is filled with stories of strength, courage and determination,” said Lori Simmons, Chief Marketing Officer for Armed Forces Insurance, and sponsor of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ™ Award in addition to numerous military spouse businesses and programs. Cara and the authors of the book are very important to us and assisting them is AFI’s mission.”

“Behind the Scenes” is now available for purchase online on Amazon.

About Behind the Scenes: There are roughly 1.1 million military spouses of the US Armed Forces spread across communities around the globe. They are entrepreneurs and volunteers, educators and lawyers, authors and elected representatives, stay-at-home parents and advocates. These men and women embody the American dream by sacrificing on behalf of the pursuit of freedom, while chasing bold dreams of their own. Often told are the stories of the selfless service of the heroes in military uniform, but lesser known is the everyday imprint being left on the nation by those who support those service members. This book seeks to capture the inspirational tales of those military spouses who continue to make a difference daily.

To learn more about the project along with biographies on the authors, visit our Facebook page.    

To schedule an interview with one of the authors, contact Cara Loken at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or  BP Media Relations, LLC: 

Barbara Pflughaupt, 212-707-8181 or Gabrielle Torello, 917-312-2832

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Sin in a Christian Marriage


"How do I confront my spouse's negative behavior?"
"What does it look like to be a godly wife when my husband has stopped caring?"
"Is God is okay with me ending my marriage?"
"How do I continue to love and serve my husband if he is not being a spiritual leader in the home?"

The question is actually about how to deal with sin in marriage.  Every marriage will struggle with sin- individual sin, sin against each other, even sin against God.  

How do I love like Jesus when I feel so hurt and hopeless?

Depending on your upbringing and whether or not it involved church, this question makes everyone stumble.  Betrayal, neglect, anger, pornography, and other negative behaviors are difficult to address when you are hurt enough to leave but scripture and the church seem to tell you to forgive and fight for your marriage.  And then there's that submission thing....

So Matt and I are tackling this question together- because being in a military (and first responder) marriage has extra variables like PTSD, compassion fatigue, and constant changes in roles at home.  

 In response to my message in Sacred Spaces that we should be pursuing our spouse, I commonly get emails that sound like this...

"How long should I pursue my spouse when they aren't reciprocating?"
"What if my service member came home different and neglects me and our family?"
"How long must I lead before my husband picks up his role as the spiritual leader of our home?"

These are tough questions and the root issue here is...

"How do we address sin in a Christian marriage?"

Here is some of what you can expect in our 2 Part Series:
  • Matt and I continue our discussion on gender roles in a godly marriage 
  • We share some of our own story of how we addressed unmet expectations in our marriage  
  • Matt talks to service members who have come home different and need hope

I've also attached ALL of my favorite resources as well.  SAVE IT.  You will want to reference it later and pass it to a friend- I promise.  You wouldn't believe how many struggle with this in silence.

 Also, don't forget you can watch or listen from the Lifegiver App!  It's FREE and so much fun.

 

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Who Is Really the Problem Here? The Reintegration Battle (Military.com)

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When I came home from my extended business trip, it was clear: My husband and our boys had together adopted a new world and language.

My trip was longer than most I've done recently, and my husband had held down the home front. Before my trip, we had both simply put up with our kids' new Minecraft obsession, and worked to control our eye rolling when they talked about "battling the Ender Dragon."

But when I returned, I could see that the three of them had formed a special bond through a Minecraft world during my absence.

I felt stuck on the outside of my family's relationship over this game -- a feeling I assume many troops experience when they return home after deployment. I struggled for the next few weeks, watching them play together and sometimes go over what we had before decided was our max on electronic time.

From my outside view, this whole thing looked like a video game problem that needed balance.

But for my husband, their newly shared hobby was a fun platform that not only gave his mind a break from work, but provided father-son quality time.

In my head, I wanted to sit in my feelings of resentment and jealousy over their time together and force them to see what I considered a problem.

When it comes to marriage, it is far too easy to assume that our spouses are the problem, especially when it involves hobbies that aren't shared. In my counseling practice, I often see intense conflicts between couples when one is invested in a hobby more than other would like.

There are endless examples of activities that start off as "cute" in the relationship, only to drive a wedge later -- hunting, crafts, sports, clubs, video games and more. At some point, the hobby isn't cute anymore because one spouse is enjoying it "too much" -- a level that the frustrated spouse has determined on his or her own.

Military life doesn't exactly help with that. When so much time is spent apart, both the service member and the spouse have to find their groove separately. We each invest in activities that interest us, fulfill us and maybe even bring us a sense of purpose. When we come back together, our worlds conflict because, frankly, we each needed different things during the separation.

If you're a service member, you may have found activities that helped you compartmentalize or deal with boredom. If you're a spouse at home, you may have immersed yourself in activities that involved community or provided a sense of purpose.

It makes sense that the two separate worlds conflict at homecoming. But that collision can create a gap in our relationships that makes us feel even further apart. We begin to see our spouses as wrong and their interests as destructive, often because they are not interests we share. And if it gets really bad, we start making ultimatums.

The number one complaint I hear from military spouses is that they feel their service member chooses video games or friends over them. And the number one complaint I hear from service members is that their spouses choose the children over them.

The conflict is real.

Regardless of which spouse you relate to, there is something in all of us that gets disappointed, even hurt, when our spouses don't appreciate what interests us. Whether our spouses care about what we do matters, especially if they don't share the same passion for it we do.

Balance and moderation are necessary, but so is room for different interests and hobbies. My conflict at my homecoming was not about Minecraft or parenting differences, it was about believing the best about one another and truly listening.

By paying attention only to my perspective, I missed that Minecraft was more than a strange digital world of building blocks -- it was an opportunity for my husband build something with his sons. Through Minecraft, he was rebuilding relationships that had endured separations and plenty of previous missed opportunities.

My own mini-reintegration gave me an opportunity to think about how many times my husband faced the same dilemma of being the outsider at homecoming. It's entirely possible that in the past he had experienced the same choice I had in that moment: Stay on the outside of the hobby or choose the harder option to reintegrate through acceptance and growth. I don't have to love Minecraft, but we all can benefit from me valuing what is important to them.

You can make this choice too. Choose to believe the best about your spouse. Choose to become interested in what he or she finds exciting. Choose to communicate instead of assume.

Celebrating battling the Ender Dragon together was far better than watching it from a distance. And even better is understanding the sweet exchange between father and sons because I have chosen to listen.

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Tips for a Happy Military Marriage (Military.com)

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What if we make marriage a lot harder than it needs to be? What if I told you there are a few tips for a happy marriage you can follow to easily bring intimacy and closeness back to your relationship?

The good news is that most couples do not need an overhaul of their relationship, they just need to be reminded that it's going to be OK. The military lifestyle throws a lot of curveballs, and it can make anyone feel like the relationship is on shaky ground, even if it isn't.

It is completely normal for intimacy with your spouse to ebb and flow. It can be days before you get an evening together when your service member is training. Some schedules have you feeling like you are ships passing in the night, literally. Even reintegration after a military separation or deploymentcan leave your military marriage feeling disconnected.

For many couples, anxiety runs high wondering if they will ever feel close again. I know this sounds strange coming from a counselor, but sometimes reconnecting doesn't have to include massive processing or rehashing the relationship.

Even if your relationship is struggling with bigger issues, here are a few tips for a happy marriage that are not only amazingly simple but effective to "get there" quickly.

Tips for a Happy Marriage: Daily Check-ins

When one or both spouses feel insecure, it is easy to go overboard on communication, especially when you haven't seen each other for a while. A "check-in" is a simple five- to 10-minute conversation that gives your spouse a highlight reel of how you are doing. It's perfect for early in the morning to communicate how you slept (which impacts your mood and day) or at the end of the work day. You simply take turns briefly answering these questions:

1.How am I feeling (physically and emotionally)?

2.What is on my mind? (i.e. I slept horribly, I have a million things to do, etc.)

3.How can I best serve you today?

Notice that this is not a time to solve problems, talk about bills, or even process emotional wounds. You would be surprised how often your spouse's mood has nothing to do with you. Speak briefly in one to two sentences per question and catch up. Give each other the permission to not worry about the relationship by checking in.

Tips for a Happy Marriage: Hold hands

When was the last time you held hands? As ridiculous as it sounds, we can too easily fall out of this habit. Have you ever tried to argue when you are holding hands? It's pretty difficult to be mad at someone when you are holding hands. Physical touch is a strong communicator that says, "I'm cool with you." Often, it is better than words.

Usually one spouse values physical intimacy more than the other and gets a bad rap as if all they want is sex. Instead, it actually means they experience deep connection, love and express love through touching first.

Holding hands goes a long way. Reach out to your spouse, take them by the hand, and try your check-in. It is pretty powerful.

Tips for a Happy Marriage: Eye contact

Yep, it is really that simple, folks. Couples who come to me for marriage counseling or who are on retreats tend to sit shoulder to shoulder rather than facing each other. They start to squirm when I ask them to sit knee to knee because it is a more intimate posture.

Technology is also robbing us of intimate moments when our eyes are diverted to something else. Lately, our family is attempting a "Life After 5 p.m." rule in which all devices are put away at 5 p.m. It is a time to acknowledge each other, look each other in the eyes and be fully present.

Eye contact also opens your hearing in a way that will reduce miscommunication and express that your spouse is the most important person in your world. Want to go even deeper? Stare into each other's eyes for five minutes without talking. At first, you will giggle, but if you can make it past that, tears will naturally follow. Soul connection doesn't always involve words; we just want to be truly seen.

The next time you feel like it is all falling apart, try one or all of these things. You will be surprised at how much difference they make. Physical expressions of love, undivided attention and briefly communicating your internal world go a long way.

While some marriages have major issues that trigger conflict (or what I call "minefields"), most if not all can reduce those mountains back to anthills by working on these simple solutions.

Stress a little less by being just a little bit more intentional. It may be just that easy.

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How to Be Your Own Marriage Superhero (Military.com)

When I pretended o be Wonder Woman as a kid, I focused on her superpowers, trying to mimic flying through the air and dodging bullets. But as an adult, I realized I could not truly be a fan without looking into her whole story.

Fans of any superhero become deeply attached as they follow their favorite's journey through comic book pages or on film, identifying more with their flaws than their superhuman abilities.

Within the journey are answers to our own weaknesses and insecurities.

When it comes to relationships, superheroes often struggle to balance calling with the equal desire to love and be loved. Like all of us, they deeply desire relationships and have vices that keep them from it. Some of them are even tempted to give up part of who they are to get that love, but in the end learn to balance both.

We can learn a lot from the hero's journey -- maybe even how to become a hero for ourselves. Here's how

Every Superhero Has a Backstory

 

As much as you would like to forget about the past, your backstory affects your past, present and future. Comic books re-visit a superhero's backstory over and over because it impacts how they see the moment and how they see themselves. Would Bruce Wayne have become Batman had his parents not been taken from him? Your story, good and bad, makes you who you are.

Just like any superhero, you must bring purpose out of it in order to find healing in your life. In marriage, your backstory will come up in conflict, values, and your experience of love. Bring purpose out of pain if you must -- and then use it to serve others.

 

The Call to Adventure

 

Just like Moana is called to the water and Princess Diana of Paradise Island is called to Man's World, there is always a call to adventure. Many heroes deny the calling, or at least try. For others, something tragic happens to sabotage the call to adventure. Fear, insecurity, even others can convince you that the adventure is too dangerous.

There are many calls to adventure in marriage -- the wedding day, reconnecting after a fight, having children, even courageously tearing down the emotional walls that separate you. There will always be a temptation not to answer the call and wait. But you will never truly know the power of marriage, or your own ability, if you deny the call.

 

Answering the Call

 

Moana crosses the reef; Diana leaves the island to go to Man's World. Ironically, this is the favorite part of the journey for the audience and possibly the worst for the hero. The hero must battle the enemy, rescue the victim, and is bloodied and bruised. The audience doesn't want it to end, but it is not because of the external battle. It is the hero's inner conflict to which the audience relates.

Marriage is difficult because we must face our own insecurities, backstory, temptations and weaknesses if we will ever have the marriage we desire. This is where we will experience the ugliness of our spouse, life and the world. It also where we see what we are made of and then made into who we are capable of becoming.

Blessing

 

When the battles seem never-ending, it is hard to believe that blessing is on the other side, but it is. Once the hero has resolved the internal conflict, blessing in the form of completion always happens next.

Not be confused with perfection, there will always be another battle to fight or inner conflict to resolve. Instead, blessing often comes in the form of love from whomever they saved, validation of their identity, or renewed confidence. In marriage, we see it in the release of tension when we have worked through a difficult conflict and find each other again.

True Identity

Every hero is transformed through this process, and so are you. It is a cycle we go through again and again as we grow into who we have been created to be.

Deployments change us, as do life's surprises. Many of us return to our loved ones different than we left.

For Diana, she is no longer just their princess, she is now Wonder Woman. Superheroes realize through this journey that they no longer fit in one place and must accept who they are.

Marriage can become truly home. Your spouse can be your safe place to return where you can rejoice in victories or have your wounds bandaged -- either way, you are home and you.

Where are you in the hero's journey? Do you need to accept the call to adventure, embrace your backstory, or maybe remember blessing is coming? Where is your spouse in his or her journey? Don't forget that they are your hero too.

While superheroes struggle to balance their calling with their relationships, they recognize that there is no calling without love. Those who love a hero accept that their hero may be called to serve the world, but they get to serve the hero.

You can watch or listen to more about "The Hero's Journey" on the Lifegiver Podcast.

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Military Marriage: When to Separate (Military.com)

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How do you know when to separate from your spouse or when to call it quits?

In almost every scenario, I tell a couple to fight for their relationship. Too often, I see couples give up. It's one of the reasons I passionately remind couples of their vows. Marriage, I believe, gets better only when you work hard and grow closer through difficult times.

But there are a few, albeit relatively rare, situations where you will hear me deliver a different message: one when I say "leave."

Every relationship has unique dynamics and variables. There is no black-and-white rule book that tells you what to do or when to separate or divorce. Ultimately, it is your decision, and any therapist will tell you that.

But many who need to make a decision like this hesitate because there is "too much at stake," they say. Fear of your service member losing their career, the loss of military health benefits, violence or the loss of your dream can keep you from seeing your situation clearly.

For this reason, I encourage anyone considering divorce to consult with a third-party professional, pastor or therapist to help you navigate a permanent decision.

That's why instead of telling you how to know if your relationship is over, which seems scary and permanent, these are instead examples of when to consider separation. Oftentimes, distance can provide safety, clarity, support and the ability to make a decision that feels right for you and your family.

When to Separate: If There Is Abuse

As easy or obvious as this sounds, it is never easy for the person in that situation. If you believe that you are in a sexually or physically abusive relationship, seek a professional to help you establish a plan for safety. If you are unsure what that abuse might look like, here is more information.

Physical abuse is usually entangled with emotional abuse, making it difficult to leave -- especially if your life has been threatened. Even if the abuser is regretful, eventually the cycle of abuse will continue.

Whatever reasons are keeping you from getting the space you need to find safety and clarity, they are not as important as you and your spirit. Remember, we are not talking about divorce papers, just gaining enough distance to find clarity and resources. Food, shelter and safety are your main priorities.

Important note: If children are in the home, enabling contact with the abuser can show an inability to protect them from harm. Your main responsibility is to protect them before saving your marriage.

Emotional abuse is more complicated to sort through than physical abuse. There are times when extreme manipulation, cruelty and controlling behavior make it imperative to your health to leave.

Other times, spouses believe there is emotional abuse only to discover through professional help that the relationship is salvageable. Talk with a professional to help you decipher.

When to Separate: If There Is Addiction Without Recovery

 

The topic of addiction is very complicated. It is hard enough to watch your spouse struggle with a disease, but living with the consequences of that disease is even harder.

Regardless of what the addiction is (sex, pornography, alcohol, etc.), recovery is a roller coaster for everyone. It is true that recovery is easier when the individual has a strong support system, but only when that person has admitted that they have a problem and are seeking help.

But If you are living with the consequences of your spouse's addiction and they show no signs of wanting help or recovery, it may be a good time to implement the natural consequences of distance. Again, we are not talking divorce papers unless you have received help making that decision.

If you haven't already, communicate clearly and firmly your desire for your spouse to get help, as well as the destructive consequences of their behavior (financial stress, broken trust, the family feeling unsafe, etc.). Then, if your spouse continues to be unwilling to get help, separating is a physical representation of what has already happened emotionally in the marriage. Sometimes, the addict will realize you are serious about moving toward a more permanent separation if they continue to be resistant.

If you have children in the home, take very seriously the behaviors they have witnessed in making your decision.

 

When to Separate: If Irreparable Destruction Has Occurred

I hesitate to reference this one because it is easy to label your current pain as "irreparable," or not able to be repaired, when it may be possible to save your marriage.

Making this decision takes confirmation from professionals around you (sorry, family members are not unbiased professionals). There are some situations that are so destructive, that separation is not only recommended, it is crucial to begin healing.

Spouses living double lives, evil manipulation or violence, extensive un-remorseful infidelity, or cruel mistreatment within the marriage are all very difficult to repair. The overwhelming destruction of these scenarios often includes abuse or addiction, but not always.

If you are asking "when is enough, enough?" the deeper question is usually about whether you will have guilt or regret making this decision.

It is normal to want to know if there is anything else you could have done to save the marriage. Taking a step away can be a less intimidating way to show you are ready to take care of yourself.

You deserve to make this decision carefully with support around you so you are completely assured that it is the right decision.

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