Poll: Does a Break Help or Hurt Your Marriage?


On the bright and shiny surface, civilian friends are all pity and good wishes when we go through a deployment. They can’t believe we military spouses have to live so many months without the constant presence of our partners at our sides.

In the darkest corners of their hearts, it turns out that civilians envy us the opportunity.  Last January, Rachel Zucker wrote about briefly separating from her husband in her story “A Little Bit Divorced.”

When Good Housekeeping polled its readers, 90 percent of them said that a brief separation would help their marriages.

I was floored. My husband is currently on his 8th deployment. We have been separated a lot in the past 25 years due to travel and trainings and work ups and a geobach tour and a particularly evil hurricane. I would never in a million years say that all that absence has helped our marriage. Absence is something we work to overcome because we have to.

But I got to wondering if all of you who have also had separations would agree. Does constant separation help or hurt your marriage?

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About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. 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 JaceyEckhart.net.
  • sabrinacking

    To be honest, I think if you work on communication every year of your marriage, and not just during the rough spots you can grow TOGETHER through a deployment. The key thing I see happen to people is they grow apart during deployments. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I also think it’s important to remember we marry human beings. Those people grow and change over lifespans. We have to give ourselves and our spouses room to grow and we have to encourage one another in that growth. Also, I am a prime example…you have to roll with the punches while still not giving up on who you are personally. Through five year long combat deployments, the Korean hardship tour and countless schools, TDYs and field exercises being apart always hurts the heart, but it tends to grow the soul.

    • Angelica
  • Lori Jeffries

    I don’t think deployments and training count as “breaks”. Breaks imply that you are CHOOSING to be apart. Most of the time, military couples aren’t the ones choosing. Most successful marriages that I know in the military know that this is just a fact of life and they work with it, so to speak. They use the time to focus on other things. Rarely does a spouse look forward to a deployment or a time of separation. I think the one big purpose it serves is it reminds us how much we miss and need the other one when we are reunited.

  • Cassandra
  • Chrissy

    Separation is nothing new for my husband and I (like most of us) and although it hurts soooo badly to be apart, it has always brought us closer together. With time apart, you realize how special the person is and it makes you really appreciate the good times you have together. Also in marriage, it’s important that each person nurture their individuality in addition to growing together.

    Numerous schools and deployments can really suck (and maybe you can ask me in another 10 years if I still feel this same way) but I think as long as you have good communication and a solid foundation to work off of when you’re not together, it doesn’t necessarily have to hurt your relationship. However, depending on what’s going on while they’re gone (various crises), it can sometimes put a temporary strain on things!

  • Cabrams

    Not that you WANT trials, but our trials have been a refiner’s fire for our marriage and we’ve come out stronger because of them. Would I sign up for a voluntary separation just because? Heck no! But I can’t deny that the separations we’ve had to do have brought us closer.

  • Bertha

    A deployment of your spouse just reminds you how much you do love and need them,some times we seem the forget there importance and how much they really do.

  • Olga

    Well, we’re about to be moved for the first time. This is something I have thought about long and hard since my husband left for BCT and then AIT. I have a business degree with first class honors. I want to work on a masters degree in Economics and eventually earn a PhD. I want to teach at a college level. I cannot start all those things when we’re half way through our 40’s. I can go to school while we get moved around the country, sure, but once that is done and I see a job offer that would make me happy, I will take it and stay where they’ll have me. Does this mean I’d ask my husband to give up one of the few jobs that he can expect a retirement from? No. He will most likely try to make army his career and I must look for my life and my work elsewhere. If that means I hop on a plane on the weekends to come see him, then that is what’s going to have to happen. People must find happiness in their own ways, in ways that are right for them and their families. Although being a housewife is not something I want out of life, I do not approve of the condescension with which many career women look at stay-at-home wives and mothers. To each their own. A woman owes it to no one to break social barriers and to become a household name if that is not what makes her happy. We only live once. So, live and let live.

  • Ray

    This a greatly flawed. The separation is imposed versus planned. The fact is deployment will test a marriage. The time will reveal many things about the marriage the spouses never knew before. For example, temperament, jealousy, trust, will be at the forefront. A harsh reality is because the separation is not by choice, problems before deployment will be amplified and usually end in divorce after the return. Most service members are on their 4th or more deployments, and this is causing a lost generation of spouses and kids who are sensitized to extended absences and an expectation of the spouse and parent missing critical stages in their personal and children’s development. I’m proud to have been part of the Army, but it’s time to retire and focus on my family because the Army is 20 years of my life while the family is a lifetime.

    • http://www.farmfreshfeasts.com kirsten

      “sensitized to extended absences” really resonates with me–very well put.

  • Guest

    While I despise being separated from my spouse, I will say that deployments, training, and geo-bach situations have made my marriage stronger. I would never long for them, but I have come to love and respect my partner more because of the time we’ve spent apart.

  • http://www.farmfreshfeasts.com kirsten

    I sure wouldn’t say that deployments have *helped* my marriage, but I know my spouse and I respect and appreciate each other more than we probably would, and take each other granted less, than had we never been apart.
    Deployments seem to be the crucible to burn away the crap and allow you to concentrate on and appreciate more the stuff that really matters. Sucks that you have to go through the process to get that perspective, though.