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Filed under: Communication

Tips for couples during deployment

Two studies provide tips for surviving separation by communicating with your loved one during deployment.

Family separations in the military have the added stress of uncertainty. For that reason, couples may need to make additional effort in order to communicate well while separated. Two studies offer tips for how to handle communication during deployment.

One recent study examined communication between military husbands and their wives during deployment. Interviews with wives of deployed Warfighters revealed that couples can deal better with the stress of being separated by balancing talk of everyday things with more meaningful conversations. Couples generally seemed to benefit from keeping deployment communication similar to non-deployment communication in both planned and spontaneous discussions.

Another study examined communication during deployment, as well as PTSD after deployment, and found that the positive impact of emails, care packages, and letters depended on how happy participants were with their relationships. More emails, packages, or letters during deployment sent between happier couples was associated with lower PTSD symptoms post-deployment.

Both of these findings suggest that strong, happy relationships play an important role before, during, and after deployment. For more ideas and tips for optimizing your communication and/or relationships, visit HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Assess your relationship

Self-assessment questions can help you keep your relationship on the right track.

It’s normal for relationships to go through ups and downs, and at times it can be difficult to know whether to work through things alone or seek help from a professional. The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center's website has a list of questions to help you assess your relationship. Given your responses, they suggest whether you should see a counselor or doctor or try self-help strategies. Common issues that couples face include communication difficulties, power struggles, money conflicts, and differences in parenting styles. You'll find self-help tips in the following areas:

  • Communication. Learn how to communicate more effectively with “I”-statements, perspective taking, timing, omitting distractions, and sharing issues.
  • Jealousy. Learn how to handle jealousy, with tips such as focusing on the importance of the relationship, expressing your emotions, communicating, being supportive, and helping to solve problems together.
  • Sex. Talk to one another about your needs so you can work together on areas where your desires are compatible.
  • Money. More tips help you handle money matters such as budgeting, credit history, and credit card advice.

For additional information, you can also visit the Relationship Skills section of HPRC’s website.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #4: Friendship

A marital friendship is an important part of long-term marital satisfaction.

In this final entry in our holiday season series, we remind you to foster a good friendship with your loved ones. Try these ideas:

  • Discuss each other's goals and dreams for the future.
  • Listen to the your partner talk about the daily things that interest him or her, and share what interests you.
  • Do things together that you both enjoy.

Friendship with your partner is an important part of long-term marital satisfaction.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #3: Repair

When tensions arise between you and a loved one or friend, here are some tips to help you defuse and repair the situation.

When having a disagreement with your spouse or partner, defusing the situation helps calm things down and helps you and the other person reconnect and repair your relationship. You can defuse most situations by:

  • agreeing to disagree;
  • bringing humor into the conversation;
  • using gentle statements; or
  • being intimate.

Sometimes what works in one conflict doesn’t work in another. Be flexible and see what works—make the effort to use one or more of these techniques in every disagreement.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #2: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are characteristics that when present in communicating can destroy relationship satisfaction over time.

Last week we started a series on survival tips for couples during the holiday season and discussed how many positive interactions couples need to do to make up for one negative interaction. This week, we're focusing on the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”—a term coined by researchers for four features of communication that can destroy a relationship over time. Try to avoid these when communicating with your loved one:

  • Criticism: Don’t made global negative statements about each other.
  • Contempt: Don’t be sarcastic (in a mean way) or mocking towards your loved one.
  • Defensiveness: Don’t respond to defend your behavior without first listening.
  • Stonewalling: Don’t withdraw or ignore your loved one.

Too much of these characteristics has been linked to unhappy relationships over the long term. As stress and tensions rise throughout this holiday season, remember to be vigilant about avoiding these four kinds of behavior.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #1: Positive versus negative

Learn how many positive behaviors you need to make up for one negative behavior in your relationship with your partner.

The holidays can sometimes be a difficult time for relationships. Through this holiday season, remember to compliment your loved ones and show them on a daily basis that you care for them. are thinking of them, and love them. Couples who do five positive actions for every negative one are more likely to have long, happy, successful marriages. Contrastingly, unhappy couples are more likely to have one positive interaction—or even less—for every negative interaction.

Reconnecting with your teenager

Teenagers can sometimes have difficulty with a deployed parent's return.

Once the initial excitement of returning home wears off, getting back into the family routine after deployment can often be difficult. Teenagers, who already have a lot of changes to worry about, can sometimes have a difficult time accepting the return of a family member from deployment. As the returning parent, you can do several things to help ease the transition back home:

  • Let your teen know that you are sad to have missed important events in his or her life.
  • Ask questions about what is going on in his or her life. Make an effort to get to know his or her friends.
  • Finally, be sure to listen when he or she tells you about his or her feelings.

Taking these steps will allow your teen to open up to you and eventually will strengthen your relationship. For more tips, visit Real Warriors.

Communication is key

Proper communication between parents and children during deployment can reduce the risk of potential behavioral concerns.

Throughout the duration of a deployment, communication with children is extremely important. Parents sometimes are unsure how much information they should communicate to their children, with good reason: research shows that too much information can be overwhelming and stressful for children. Operation R.E.A.D.Y. provides an interactive booklet that helps you explain the deployment process to your children. It’s important for a non-deployed parent to provide updates with regards to the deployment process, but it’s also okay to leave out some details.

Capitalizing on good news

Responding positively to news of good things helps strengthen relationships.

“Capitalization” refers to the process by which people share good news with one another. Studies have shown that responding to good news with support and enthusiasm helps build a stronger relationship between two individuals. Using capitalization with your loved ones can not only strengthen your relationship, but also can ease the transition for returning Warfighters and their loved ones.

Lean on me: Providing support for children

Minimize relocation for youth through relying on support systems.

During times of deployment, children and teenagers often look for support from the people in their lives—family, teachers, and friends—to help them deal with the stress of having a parent deployed. A good support system helps by listening, understanding, and providing comfort. Children often will respond to those who show concern for them and to those who understand life in the military. Provide support by listening to what your child has to say and by helping them understand their situation.

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