Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

Before email, Submarine wives could send a one-way message that consisted of 40 words (if memory serves me correctly) to their Submariner. This message was known as a Family Gram. On average, we were allowed to send six Family Grams during the average time at sea. As you might imagine, like most things on a submarine, they were not private. It was however, a chance to be creative, write a poem or a joke, or attempt to use a code word or phrase to announce an event or occurrence that might otherwise get flagged and never delivered to the recipient (more on this later).


At some point during a long distance relationship things on the homefront are going to get stressful. The distance away from our partner can start to take its toll. What happens when you want and feel the need to share the stresses that occur on the homefront?!


Here are 3 ways to share the not so happy news during a deployment while still staying connected to your spouse:


  1. Decide what topics are off limits - On a submarine when email traffic would come through, it was long rumored anything with the words: death, dying, died or divorce, would be immediately flagged and not delivered to the Sailor. For example writing, "Nemo, the goldfish, died today" would most likely not get delivered. However, "Nemo didn't make it", might have a better chance of getting delivered. The point in sharing this info could be so dad's next letter to your daughter would include a mention that he heard about Nemo and that he is very sorry to hear what happened. Although this is just one small example, determining what topics to share or not share with your spouse is important. Make a point to ask them what they prefer. We have all "been briefed", lives are at risk when our spouses are distracted with the stresses on the homefront, so keep that in mind before you go into every detail of your rough day.
  2. Create a code word or phrase - Let your deployed spouse determine if it's a good time to hear about the stresses of the day by using a code word or phrase. For example: if the code phrase is: "all is green here", that could mean you are free to talk about anything including stepping in dog poop when walking through the kitchen, the $800 car repair bill and the stove malfunction. If the code phrase is: "its been a red day", then you'll know they have had an extremely tough day and it's best to talk about the positive things of your the day for example or use humor in your call to make them laugh and perhaps instead talk about 1 or 2 things you can't wait to do when they get home.
  3. Talk to the right best friend - Sometimes when we want to vent to our best friend / spouse about our rough day, what we really need to do is call "the right" best friend and talk to them instead. Trust me, you'll be much happier when you save those precious telephone minutes on meaningful conversation. By "the right best girlfriend" I mean for example, don't call your girlfriend whose husband has been gone for 8 months venting about how tough your separation has been if your spouse has been gone for 6 weeks. She might not be as understanding as you'd hope. I know this from experience (sorry Amy).


This topic is surely a hot one. It's important to remember each relationship is different, each deployment is different and we all communicate differently.


How do you stay connected to your loved one when it comes to sharing the stressful things that might happen on the homefront? What has worked for you?