6 Things We Learned in 6 Years in the Army: A Military Couple’s Advice

The Waiting Warriors Podcast

Advice From A Military Couple: 6 Things We Learned In 6 Years In The Army

By Michelle Bowler

Army wife leaning on soldier's shoulder

Military couple Michelle and her husband Austin share the 6 things they learned in their first 6 years in the military.  They share what it has been like for them in the Army Reserves and active duty, the good, the bad, and what they plan on changing as they continue on as a military couple. 

Tips for a Military Couple

Michelle: [00:00:00] Welcome to the waiting warriors podcast. As loved ones of first responders and military personnel, we often face life situations and challenges that many others don’t experience. And while each of us and our experiences are unique together, we can learn from one another and become stronger in this journey of life.

Now let’s step out of mediocrity. It’s time to thrive.

Hi guys, welcome to the waiting warriors this week. We have something really fun planned because this week I have my husband. Austin here! 

Austin: That’s why she says we, because I am part of 

Michelle: we.

 Yes. So I wanted to interview Austin this week because this week on the 13th, it is actually our army anniversary.Army-Versary, [00:01:00] six years ago on July 13th, he signed his life away, 

Austin: signed it to the army reserve for a time. 

Michelle: I thought I was number one and he made me number two on that day.

Just kidding. So we thought we’d do something fun. And so today’s episode is going to be six things that we have learned in our six years with the,Army 

Austin: and obviously there’s more than six things we’ve learned, but and talking, we kind of tried to boil it down to six kind of bigger topics, maybe things that can catch other people’s interests that will hopefully bless your lives and, and just be.

Something to reflect about. I don’t know. Yeah. So the six things that we’ve learned in the last six years, I’m just going to say enough first and then we’ll discuss them one by one, but I just kinda want to give people a little preview. So the first is to be intentional about time together. The second be aware [00:02:00] of change.

The third is to work hard, take time to celebrate and then keep on working. The fourth, make memories and especially make memories before a long separation. The fifth lesson is to maintain seemingly small connections. And the sixth is that separation shouldn’t mean stagnation. 

#1 Be Intentional With The Time You Have Together As A Military Couple

Michelle: So first one that we came up with is to be intentional about our time together

Austin: sure. Yeah. So being intentional about time together now, obviously. Well, I should back up in the last six years. I have been in the reserve. I have not deployed, but I’ve been to multiple trainings, basic AIT L DAC or the cadet summer course, AT trainings to CHBLOC the officer. Course for chaplains.

And so, I mean there’s, 

Michelle: and while he was in ROTC, there was like way too many weekends or in the middle of the weeks [00:03:00] where they were gone. for nights on end 

Austin: Numerous, numerous field trainings, both for my unit or the ROTC program. So while I haven’t done an extended six months, nine month, year, year, and a half. We experienced a, quite a bit of time apart in the last six years.

And so just being intention about time to intentional about time together is, is one of the lessons that we’ve learned. And what I mean by that is the time that we have together as a couple, as a family, me as a father with each of my children. If, if you’re not intentional about time and time just slips away.

All of a sudden an evening just turns into the mundane. The next thing, you know, a weekend comes up and the week has gone by and the chores start piling up for a Saturday because the other Saturdays are booked with work. And the next thing you know, you, you you’ve missed out on date night. You haven’t been able to go on a daddy daughter date, you haven’t done a family activity to the carnival or to.

Some sort of, yeah. Even just to walk around the block. And so to be intentional with time [00:04:00] and really block it out really has been a benefit and blessing, especially in the last few years, as we figured that out, because time doesn’t stop. And so just really planning that one-on-one and then also planning time for oneself and really having that self-care piece is something that’s been important for me as well.

Michelle: Also what we’ve learned. And we’ve gotten a lot better at it, especially this last year is communicating with each other about what needs to get done and kind of what our expectations are for family time for individual time. Because otherwise, I don’t think everything would have even gotten close to not like completed, but like as successful as it’s been.

And we haven’t been perfect the last year, but I think the last year, I think the last year has been our best year, as far as. Keeping all our top priorities, keeping them in check. And like making sure that we’ve both been taking care of [00:05:00] ourselves, whereas we’ve had other time periods where one person has been taken care of versus the other person, like we’ve both taken turns on that.

Or we there’ve been time periods where we put so much focus on keeping the family together and keeping the girls feeling loved that we kind of neglect not like neglected our marriage, but we didn’t go on as many date nights. Like 

Austin: we didn’t focus on 

Michelle: the us time. And, but this last year we’ve been really good at.

Making sure we get date nights in making sure there’s daddy daughter dates, especially because they get tons of times. 

Austin: Me. Yeah. So if some of that helps that I’m actually finally out of school, we have somewhat of an income, you know, finished grad school. And it really, I mean, and that it’s not that money is everything, but being able to go out and do an activity to go and see a movie to go and get dinner, to take the girls, to get ice cream cones, you know, We’re a little more far in a few between in that respect.

Whereas before, I mean, like during grad school and stuff, we go to the [00:06:00] sports events with the student pass or whatever, there’s a free thing on campus, you know, it’s, we were still intentional, but it was a little more difficult to balance the time. Right. 

Michelle: But I think another, a big part of it is we have gotten so much better at just communicating, like sitting down at, we’re not super good at like doing it every week, but every few weeks we’re like, okay, what do we want to get done?

This is what needs to get done. This a priority for me, this is a priority for you. Mapping that all out. 

#2 Your Service member or military spouse will change

Michelle:. So number two is to be aware of change.

So. I don’t know. I think we kind of have different reasons of why we both why we both brought this up. But for me, in my perspective, the last six years we, [00:07:00] and again, we haven’t deployed or anything, but I’ve seen a lot of couples go through deployments and we have seen this in our, even just our separation.

Like we. I think a lot of people have the expectation that when their soldier leaves, when they’re even just firefighters or police officer leaves, like they don’t come back at home, even just at the end of the day, they don’t come back home. The same person, like we’ve, we’ve both experienced things throughout the days that are changing us.

Whether we like it. Y w whether we like it or not. And I think, especially during an extended period of time, like, Things happen. A lot of the times for the people who leave, like it’s a lot of crap that happens, whether you’re a soldier or whether you’re a firefighter, who’s just saw like 40,000 acres get burned down.

Like, and that is not an uncommon thing. Like that is slightly [00:08:00] traumatic. That’s or even, even if it’s not traumatic, that’s a big thing to deal with. And I think it’s hard as spouses because we want the person to come home to be the same person who left. And that’s not what happens, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost.

I think it just means that we need to talk more and we need to. Not get too far away from each other. When we were just about to get married, we had like a little marriage counseling session with our religious leader in the area. And one thing, one piece of advice that he said that has stuck with us for all these years is that marriage is like a ladder.

And sometimes she’ll be a rung or two up, and sometimes he’ll be a rung or two up, but. The trick to a successful marriage is to not get too far away from each other and to reach down and help the other person get back to your level. And he was talking about that on a spiritual level, but I think the same [00:09:00] totally is applicable for 

Austin: just life.

Yeah, I mean, on an emotional level. Also, I mean, even on life goals, like we said, we’ve, we’ve gone through different phases of fitness goals and I mean, just being. um, aware that life is going to change over the years. And obviously, I mean, in my limited, but at the same time, six years of experience going to basic training and coming back, you’re a different person.

I mean, that’s, that’s part of the training process going to a chaplain course and learning how to nurture the living care for the wounded honor, the fallen. I mean, those things change people because you start to see life in a different way and you get exposed to different. And really it’s sometimes they’re positive things, but just being aware of the change, is that something we need to do?

For example, when I was at Fort Jackson last summer, that’s when Michelle decided to start working on the mascara makeup, maybe working with the mascara makeup company. And when you did that it was [00:10:00] kinda, it was weird to me. I mean, I was away. And the idea of you working was so foreign because for the last three years you had been at home with the girls.

So to me that was a big change and it was a positive change, but it was still big. It was difficult. Even though I wasn’t home, it was just a change in the mindset, a change in time management, a lot of changes that could take place even just in a few months while we’re together or while we’re away.

And obviously some of them are for the better. Some of them are not necessarily for the better, but not for the worse. I don’t know how to word that. But to just recognize that life isn’t stagnant, we’re going to change. I’m going to change. You’re going to change. But to, to stay together on that journey to talk about it too if needs be, have some sort of third-party like you mentioned our religious leader if there are difficult circumstances going on and change just seems to be a bounding in too much, you know, if you have these life stressors that start to hit. 

I mean, that’s something that, that is never shameful or anything like that to reach out [00:11:00] for help during the times of change too, 

Michelle: you can reach out to your chaplain yes. The, the other thing I thought of with that. Another kind of experience that we had. Cause he brought up going to basic, like I’m not going to lie when he not, when he first came home.

But like after a month or two, I definitely realized that the guy who came home was very, very different than the one that I sent away, which the like, not, not ironic. But the interesting thing about that was we had recently gotten married. We got married in. April, 2012, he left for basic in October and then came home in March, 2013.

So we had barely been married a year and all of a sudden, I honestly felt like I was married to someone different. And I know, I know there were some nights where it was like, I could make a decision right now where I [00:12:00] could kind of throw up the white flag and say, Hey, I like this isn’t who I’ve been married to, but.

And I I’ve seen people do that in relationships where it’s like, well, you’re not the person who I married, so, you know, that’s it I’m done. But I think if, well, not, I think I know from experience that when you kind of stick with it and, you know, Remember that there are things that you love about that person that are still there and kind of remind them.

I think I, I was maybe a little bit too gentle about it. I think you could be not forceful, but like I waited a long time to say something about it and kind of let him come to his own realization that. Like, cause it was kind of like his fun side, his fun,

Austin: fun side kind of went down a little and that, but that’s also, I re I recognize now in [00:13:00] hindsight, after further life experience and education, that some that’s also my personality type and really, I mean, in formative years, having a big shift and change like that Yeah, it shook, shook up some of my personality, but then over the last few years, I feel like I’ve kind of untangled that to where I can more easily balance the soldier life and me as a person and who I really am in a core to my core, not the core core, I’m not in the Marine Corps.

But I just to be true to who I am, but also fulfill all of the responsibilities of a soldier in Or of soldiering, I should say, weirdly worded. But yeah, and it’s something that I think some people do a lot more easily than others. So anyway, no, 

Michelle: that was just the point I was coming up is I think that every soldier needs to have that balance.

And I think as loved ones, we need to be patient and help them find that balance instead of demand it.

#3 Work hard and celebrate the wins together as a military couple

Austin: so number three, the third [00:14:00] lesson that we’ve learned. Is to work hard, take time to celebrate and then keep on working. And what I mean by that is in the last six years, had a pretty fast paced life.

What I mean by that is we both received our undergraduate degrees. We completed our undergraduates. We had two children by the time we finished our undergrad. I went to grad school and finished a 90 credit graduate degree in two years, I commissioned as an officer. Yeah, let’s rewind even further.

We already talked about this, but I enlisted in the army reserve. And then I commissioned as an officer continued as a chaplain candidate training in the army reserve and got hired on at a hospital as a chaplain resident all within six years. Oh. And we had our third daughter. Yeah. We had our third baby during grad school.

That’s just the family life education and work side of things where it’s, you know, we had to put in a lot of work, a lot of work at home, a lot of work in school, a lot of work in our jobs. And Michelle was working [00:15:00] different odd jobs in between. She had sewing projects, she worked at a telemarketing company for a while, right at the beginning of our marriage.

Right. A phone I was like phone call place anyway. Yeah. And then taking on the mascara work and then starting podcasts. Yeah. Nanny I’m in a ton of different things, but in the midst of all of that, we had, obviously there are things to celebrate birthdays, births, graduations commissioning ceremonies all sorts of things.

Weddings with family going on. I mean, it’s. Really imperative that we take time to celebrate all of those things in the middle of everything going on, all the milestones. I mean, even this podcast is like a celebration. If I had stayed private first class, you know I’d actually be getting out right now.

If I hadn’t commissioned this would be my six years. Well, I don’t know if I’d actually get out, but the point is like, this would have been like the end of my contract. Then I’d go into the IRR and, you know, wait out the last two years. You know, no, we, we looked at different things and decided to [00:16:00] celebrate the growth and the direction that we feel like we were getting from God and a lot of ways and a lot of aspects of our lives.

And I don’t. How was that for you? I guess from the waiting warrior perspective, I know what it was like for me, who was doing a lot of that outside of the house part and in school, in work in the hospital, in my unit, in the field or whatever. So, I mean, how important was celebrating for you? 

Michelle: That was honestly huge because the first few years we honestly weren’t super good at it.

Like when I graduated there, wasn’t a big celebration and we were poor, family didn’t come up. We didn’t, I think like we went to the graduation and then we pizza with your brother and. Was he married by then? Yeah. Cause Mary had been born. So yeah, we had pizza with Dylan, Alexis, and family. And that was fun. [00:17:00] But, but there, there were other little things that we didn’t just at the very beginning that we didn’t really celebrate.

It was like, like we kind of had the mentality, we got stuck in the mentality of, we gotta get to work. There isn’t enough time. We’re too tired. I think, I think that was like, the biggest thing is we were tired because we had two little kids. 

Austin: We were tired, but 

Michelle: I think these last few years we’ve been just as tired, but we’ve been better at like seizing the moment.

Right now we’re going to celebrate and that’s given us, at least for me, that’s like, given me the, I’m going to like soak up in this moment and get us happy and as high as possible. And then that’s like, I’ve been able to carry on that high. Whereas for those years before it was kind of harder because it was just like, well, it’s just all work.

And it’s, it’s really easy to get exhausted. I think, especially. With these jobs, like [00:18:00] it’s because, like I said before on the podcast, like the fact of the matter is, is these jobs have really, really difficult or just, just big difficulties attached to them, whether you are a first responder or military.

And if you don’t get out of that for a second and just celebrate. Coming home, celebrate a day off, celebrate a promotion, celebrate, 

Austin: becoming a Army chaplain. And that’s something. I mean, we’re, we’re looking at that whole situation. Once I got the final word and we decided to go out for a date night, a big date, and then we got some sushi and we went to top golf, which is.

A golf course, driving range, but with targets and games, we don’t to play golf. But I mean, like it 

Michelle: was, I suck at golf, but it 

Austin: was just super fun. Cause you just go and you whack the ball at the targets. Some of them are close. Some of them are far, but like the point was we just went out and did something fun because [00:19:00] in celebration for something big and it was, it was completely unrelated.

But the whole point was. The fact that we had that energy and that joy and we lived it out and then recognizing obviously that it’s back to work. I mean, there’s, yeah, there’s a lot ahead of us still in this journey, but I mean, really just taking that time to celebrate. was good.

#4 It's Super important for a military couple and military families to make lasting memories

Michelle: Okay. Number four.

I am a huge, huge, huge believer of this is to make memories, especially before long separation. So what we’ve done for this is we’ve taken vacations. Like any time we could, like literally anytime we could, we took a vacation. We this, these last six years we’ve been on the west coast, which all of our family is on the west coast.

Austin: Right. 

Michelle: I was thinking parents all over 

Austin: the 

Michelle: west coast, like literally on the same highway. It’s 

Austin: very convenient [00:20:00] to 

Michelle: California. Yeah. So even when we were in Idaho, if there was a school break, it was like 99% likely that we were going down to see some sort of family, which financially may not have made total sense, but we knew that something like right now would happen and we are moving to Kentucky

Austin: oh, well, you’re going to end up across the country. And so we wanted to soak in that time and really make the memories. And part of it’s also for our children, just knowing, you know, giving them grandma and grandpa time. Some of it’s for us, knowing that you’re only around your parents for so long. And you know, you have, everybody has their ups and downs with their parents, but to really create good fond memories, spend time together.

Michelle: Go to the beach. 

Austin: Yes. Having him laws that live in a beach town has not been bad. But really just making those memories. And like Michelle said before a long separation, what we did last summer when I was going to be gone for, for three months again, whether or not this, whether or not this was smart.

I mean, we pretty much had been living off of student loans, but we thought, you know what? We can [00:21:00] either pay back some of this excess student loan that was offered or. We can go on a trip to Disneyland. I mean, there’s a great military discount. I know there’s different first responder fighter fighter things that they do throughout the year as well.

And we just thought, you know what, we’re going to go to California. Why not do something special with our girls? Something we haven’t really done before as a family like that. And so, yeah, to make memories and we did, the girls have talked about it for a year now and they have pictures and It’s just something that they totally remember.

So when I was gone, it was a talking point. Even when I got back we would go out and get little ice cream cones up the grocery store down, down the street. There’s a nice little place to sit and these little fro-yo cones for like 39 cents a piece. And we’d sit there. And the girl’s favorite thing to do the immediate thing that they went to.

Let’s think about our favorite ride at Disneyland. And I mean, this was like four months ago at this point, but it carried them through that three months period that I was gone to where there was these memories that they had, that they loved it when we were on this ride together. And they loved walking around to this place or [00:22:00] eating a churro


Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. And one thing that I’ve done is. We take a lot of pictures, especially of the girls and Austin. And then just before he’s gone, I make daddy books and it’s like all the pictures of the last year. However, it’s been since he’s left. So then like they had really good pictures of all their favorite things with dads.

So it wasn’t just, you know, like, oh, he’s gone. It’s Hey, let’s sit and think about, and remember all the fun things that we can do and like make a plan for how we can do and when he gets home. So when we were. When he was getting his masters, the girls really love to go on campus and get donuts and ice cream.

And so that like

Austin: and Cookies and Cream milk from the Creamery 

Michelle: and it was just like, that was, those were such a little things. Disneyland’s 

Austin: obviously that’s 

Michelle: a big thing, but going on campus, we would get like, sometimes we’d get French fries for. [00:23:00] Or donuts 

Austin: Yeah half off fries on Fridays. Yeah. 

Michelle: Awesome. Two bucks in our whole family pounded French fries down, but like, those were really small things, but so big and just spending time and making funny memories.

Yeah. We could all hang on to when we were apart, which leads us into number five. 

#5 SeemingLy Small actions Have Huge Impacts For a Military Couple

Austin: Right? Number five of our lessons learned, and six years is maintain seemingly small connections. And really kind of what I mean by this is that when you’re gone you’re obviously not with the people that you want to be with.

Sometimes you’re with persons that you like, you’re with persons, you might even love. They’re your friends, they’re your coworkers. They’re people that you’re spending a lot of your life with. And your brothers and sisters. And it’s just like, there’s this comradery that there is. But it’s different from your spouse.

It’s different from your children. It’s different from your friends or whoever that you grew up [00:24:00] with. Whoever’s closest to you really. And so maintaining seemingly small connections can really carry a far way and something that I personally try and do is make sure that I take one-on-one time with my children before I leave for the hospital.

For example ’cause some, some days, especially when I’m on call. I don’t know when I’m going to get home. You never know when there’s going to be a trauma that enters the emergency department. You don’t know if someone’s going to be sick enough that they pass away that day. Really it’s just kind of up in the air.

And so taking 30 seconds to go down to their level, take a knee, look them in the eyes, tell them you love them. Give them a kiss, give them a hug, give them a third then fourth hug because they keep asking for them but really, yeah, a kiss. And then, you know, finally you’re out the door and it seems like an eternity sometimes when you’re trying to go.

But really it was only a minute. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s what I mean by seemingly small connections. Really? That extra minute before you leave. You know, go and give your wife a hug and kiss to say something silly and inside joke or [00:25:00] whatever that might, you know, create a laugh and carry it through the day.

Especially those long days. It’s just something that is really important to me. You know, that something that we’ve learned in the last six years, has really made a difference in how the pace and cadence of our day might go 

Michelle: even. Yeah. And even like the example he gave was when we’re together and he just has to leave or, but even like little things that we’ve done when we’re apart is like, we’ll have a running joke, we’ll have GIF wars or something, like just sending one little GIF and then it’s.

Sometimes it’s throughout the day. Sometimes it was even just one a day or we’re religious which we’ve talked about. And there’ve been times where he’ll read the same scriptures and I’ll read the same scriptures. And then we wouldn’t even be able to like talk about it on the phone, but we would have, what is it?

Is it like pages? We both have iPhones, so it’s like we can share a page together and. Just [00:26:00] like writing down our thoughts and being able to read that. 

Austin: And that was something that was really strengthening for me while we were gone or while we were separated, I should say. And that, I mean, even when I was in the field before I would leave, I know I’d be out for five days or whatever it would be.

And we’d create a plan, you know, like, okay, I’m going to read, we’re going to read these chapters on these days. And as best as I could I would read those chapters and really just make notes in my little write in the reading notebook or whatever I had. And Then I send them to her when I got back, just because there was that connection that we had.

Cause for us, I mean, obviously as a chaplain and our family perspective that our spiritual life is very important to us, but for whatever you have, that’s important, whether it’s a spiritual thing or some sort of a book or a TV show, I mean, whatever it is that you have in common, I mean, something that keeps you connected even while you’re away and it might be seemingly small, but it creates that bond.

It has that commonality to get. 

#6 Separation should not mean stagnation for a military couple

Michelle: And last, but not least is separation shouldn’t mean [00:27:00] stagnation. Did I say that? Right? 

Austin: Separation should not mean stagnation. My husband 

Michelle: My husband likes to use a lot of big words. He did a master’s and I’m just like a Bachelors 

Austin: whatever. That’s not really, I mean, part of it’s the, the, the, how the words come together, separation stagnation, which just sounds nice.

Yeah. I mean the point of this one, one of the lessons that we’ve learned is that whether you’re together or apart, we sh we should always be growing. We should always be progressing. We should always have new goals. We should always be doing something to make our life and the lives of the people around us better.

And, yeah, it’s a combined effort. I mean, when you’re able have a unanimity, you know, have that be on the same page type of a thing with you and your significant other, or you and your children, you and your parents, you and your friends, whatever, you know, whoever it is that you’re closest with, you know, having a separation during any period of time, shouldn’t mean that your life stops.

Yeah. [00:28:00] You should work and live within the morals that you have, the bounds that you set, the respect that you have in that relationship or in that family tie. But it doesn’t mean that you have to just stop life or 

Michelle: that your relationship progression doesn’t have to stop. 

Austin: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 

Michelle: And I think this is important.

It’s been, it’s been really important for us. Like we we kind of had this attitude from the beginning and there have been times where we haven’t been so good at. And then there’ve been times that we’ve just gotten even better at it, but like, we really saw it as: We were joining the army, not Austin was joining the army.

And that was like, we, we often say we are in the army and sometimes it confuses people and they like, look at me like, oh wow. Like you’re in, you know, what’s your rank, what’s your job, man. It’s like, No, 

Austin: what we mean is that it was a joint effort and that we grow together through 

Michelle: it. Yeah. [00:29:00] And I think the unanimity.

Yes, the unanimity.

Okay. Having that in our relationship and that how we keep that in the separation helps helps us a lot, because I think it helps us when problems arise. It helps us keep the attitude of : it’s us versus the problem, not you versus me, because I think there, there could have been a lot of times where it, and there have been times where I have slipped into it where it’s like, I’m resentful of you for being gone.

But then I have to check with myself that it’s it’s no. It’s that we have this problem that the army takes you away. And when, like, when we’re able to approach it from that point of view, then we can figure out solutions together, as opposed to [00:30:00] me just getting upset that you’re gone. And you know, I have to put the kids to bed every night for months on end.

Like, yeah, those are problems, but it’s not helpful when it’s approached. Me versus you, but it is helpful when we’re together and it’s us versus a problem. And that starts with staying together and even like in our goals and in our purposes, even when we’re separate. 

Austin: Yeah. And that’s, that’s where the, the not having stagnation, not being just paused in place while you’re.

But being purposeful with it and being on the same page with it. For example, when I was at basic training and AIT, Michelle was pregnant with our first daughter and she hung out with some close friends and she was often staying busy socially, but in ways that were healthy in ways that were helpful. And while I was gone over the summer, I was doing the same thing on my [00:31:00] end, just this last year, for example, at the chaplain training, I had 

buddies that I got with, and every Friday we would go to Buffalo, wild wings with half off appetizers. Like we kind of created a little tradition with it. But that created some sort of bond in a healthy way that, you know, it wasn’t that I just had to be a recluse in my hotel and oh, no, I’m not with my family.

I can’t go and play with my family at the park. So why should I go to a park? No, I mean, still go out and have a good time. And obviously I think the majority of whoever’s listening to this is probably doing these. But it’s one of the lessons that we’ve really learned over the last six years is that life doesn’t stop, but you need to continue together through it, even when you’re separated.


Michelle: Yeah. And yeah, you just have to keep it healthy. Like there’s, there’s not going to be a healthy relationship between two people. If one person isn’t in a healthy place, like that’s kind of impossible. So again, like he said, like, Keep your [00:32:00] social and like personal things within correct boundaries.


Austin: you know, but whatever those are for you and your people. 

Michelle: Right. But it’s just really important. I, I just hear way too many people of loved ones. Feeling like, oh, my loved one is gone. So what’s the best show on Netflix. And I have told you guys before there is a time and a place for Netflix. I love Netflix.

I love TV. It’s awesome. But if that is, if that’s your attitude for when they’re gone, then that makes that time period so negative. But if it can still be positive, you can still go out and find friends, which you probably will have to do. It’s not like friends will just fall into your lap. They didn’t, for me, like I had to be open with the fact with these two girls, Emma and Emily, like, I have nothing to do for the first few weeks.

I did stay at home. I was pregnant and not feeling super 

Austin: hot. And it was just her on a [00:33:00] date with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I tell you, it’s getting, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what you did

Michelle: do. I don’t remember, but I just remember like sitting at home for at least a week, getting homework done. And then just being like.

I’ve got nothing to do. And there was a night I was like, this sucks. And then a few days later, my friend we just ran into each other and she was like, how are things going? Normally I’m the type of person to just say, oh, they’re fine. But it was honest about it. Like I’m just staying at home and doing nothing.

She’s like, Hey, come to the gym. Like, that’s all we would do. We would go to the col college gym and watch basketball being played because we had played basketball together. And it was such a simple thing, but it got me out of the house that led to movie nights that led to. Late taco bell runs and just hanging out together and talking about basketball or hanging out together with Emily.

And she was pregnant at the same time too. So we moaned and groaned and, you [00:34:00] know, bickered about being pregnant just, it, it wasn’t anything big, but I had to go out of myself to find that. And I, yeah, it was, that was key though, to the survival for basic 

Austin: training. I’m thinking back again to last summer and how, from another perspective of this, you know, not being just kind of stuck in one place during a separation, is that in your relationships, you can continue to grow as well.

We did digital date nights where we would be FaceTiming and playing one of those games on the iPhone or whatever, you know, and sending it back and forth to each other or with the girls, I would read them bedtimes stories. I bought a kid books from. Walmart and I would FaceTime and put the book in front of the screen and read them a bedtime story 

Michelle: or a video, show then i could show it to them.


Austin: recorded a few. And especially for when you’re out in the field doing those trainings and you can’t make a phone call, you can’t do a FaceTime. Having those for your children is [00:35:00] something that helps keep that relationship going during a separation as well. Yeah. So, I mean, there’s a social aspect.

There’s a relational aspect. There’s a lot that shouldn’t just stop because you’re separated, but it should continue on, in a healthy way. That’s beneficial for 

Michelle: everybody. Yeah. And as the person on either side of it, you need to not be resentful of what the other person is doing. Like I like when he was going to Buffalo, wild wings, I could have been like, well, I’m at home eating.

I don’t even know what I was eating, not Buffalo, wild wings,

you know, like that was what he needed to have a healthy time while he was gone. But that’s not what I needed because I had people, I had neighbors surrounding me all the time. We lived in an awesome neighborhood at that point. Like had I gone out for, and I’m not. This is how it [00:36:00] should be for anybody else.

But like, for me, in my situation, I recognize that if I really did go out to eat every Friday, that would have been a little bit of an overkill or like indulgence, but for him it was necessary. So you just need to not judge. And Be resentful of what the other person needs and let them have it, you know? 

Austin: Yeah. I mean, that’s the same thing for like a lot of family get togethers over the last six years being in the reserves for some reason.

No, for some reason it’s like every drill week, not every drill weekend, but you know, any training. It just so happened that when a lot of family get togethers in our area, there’s a handful of our siblings or our grandparents and yeah, that’s. So, yeah. Anyway, with the family in the area and the church, I mean, there was just often some sort of social activity going on during the drill weekend, especially the ones where I was in the field.

And like, I couldn’t just, you know, show a plate after the day of training ended on Saturday or Sunday, but like, you know, we’re, we’re out [00:37:00] there and it’s, you know, you’re not leaving. And so the football games on the family’s all together and I’m missing out. But obviously, I mean, just because you’re separated for the training, just cause you’re separated and you’ve got that swing shift.

You got. Graveyard shift or whatever’s going on in your job doesn’t mean that life stops for everyone else. Yeah. But again, to stay on that same page and do it in a way that blesses the life of the other. Cause there were times where I really, I was upset to be honest. I mean, it sucked, like it was just like shoot,

I would much rather be watching the game playing with family, you know, games and food and barbecue and all that kind of. But Hey, you know, that’s part of what I signed up for. It’s, you know, I, I know I missed some of that stuff. That’s just part of the deal. But it took me a while to actually kind of shift that mindset within my heart and in my mind where it’s just like, no, Michelle was going to go and have a great time with the girls and I’ll make the best of my experience and have a great time with the people I’m with.

And to be transparent. Yeah. That took me a little while, but it’s so much more healthy. When separation [00:38:00] doesn’t mean stagnation and that both persons can continue to grow in the environment that they’re in, whether that’s at home or if it’s at work, whether it’s in the same city or if it’s you know, across the country or across the world.

That’s one of the lessons that we’ve learned

a Military Couple Should Never Stop Growing

Michelle: definitely. Well, that’s it. My friends, six things we’ve learned in six years first be intentional about time together. Second, be aware of change. Third work hard and take time to celebrate and then keep working for make memories, especially before long separation, five maintain seemingly small connections and six separations shouldn’t mean stagnation.

3 Ways To Set Up Your Relationship For A Successful Deployment/TDY/Training

3 Ways To Set Your Military Marriage Up For A Successful Deployment, TDY, or Training
Michelle Bowler- military spouse - creator of the Bulletproof Your Reintegration Course

Author - Michelle Bowler

 Army wife of 11+ years, mom for 4 girls and a boy in heaven, and hardcore believer that it’s possible to have a thriving marriage, family, and military life.