Resiliency—a term we hear a lot about in the military community. My chaplain husband mentions it often. However, the term wasn’t really something I thought much about until one evening when my husband used it to describe me. Suddenly, I wanted to know more.
Kevin and I were on a date night, working our way through a conversation starter book for couples. I read the instructions aloud to my husband: “Share with your spouse the one thing that most attracted you to him/her.”
Truth be told, my romantic heart hoped he would say that it was my exquisite beauty (hey, a girl can dream). My practical side wanted him to explain that it was my high intelligence (again, dreaming).
Kevin thought for a moment, then gushed that I was the most resilient woman he’s ever known. At first I was taken aback by his statement. I mean, we were on a date after all, and that certainly wasn’t very romantic! Truly, I thought he was teasing me, but he said it with such conviction, and love, he surely meant it.
So, surprise gave way to confusion—what exactly does it mean to be resilient?
The word resilient, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is an adjective which has two meanings:
- (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
- (of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed
My husband went on to explain that resiliency means to be flexible, able to snap back from being stretched. He likened it to a rubber band. A rubber band can withstand quite a bit of stretching, far beyond its normal size, and yet snaps quickly back into its original shape without missing a beat.
Ways We’re Stretched as Milspouses
Life, especially the life of a military spouse, pulls and stretches us farther than we ever dreamed when we fell in love with our valiant service member.
Deployments which turn us into both mom and dad, homemaker and handy man, keeping a marriage and family together while our beloved is thousands of miles away fighting for our country.
Frequent moves to locales which make us feel like we’re being sent to Timbuktu or might as well be. Even if we’re totally thrilled with where the military is sending us, there’s still so much that goes into a PCS, both in leaving our current duty station and in arriving at the next. It’s unsettling at times, to say the least.
And the long hours … and days … and weeks! I remember the first time I recognized the difference in how I felt about deployments and TDY/ training. My husband came home to tell me he was going TDY to Kuwait. I questioned him, “You mean, you’re deploying?” He explained that he was being sent for 3.5 weeks TDY to Kuwait. Relief washed over me, and I blurted out, “Oh, okay, it’s only three and a half weeks, I can handle that!” This made me laugh! How many spouses complain about their partner’s week-long business trips, and here I was relieved that mine would only be gone a few weeks!
Steps for Building Resiliency
While some people do seem to come by resiliency more naturally, it’s more of a learned behavior. The following are some techniques you may use to build resiliency and handle stress more effectively:
1. Accept that change is a part of life. There’s a lot of wisdom in The Serenity Prayer, regardless of where your faith lies. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and there’s absolutely nothing you can do but accept it. Other times, change lies within our own power. Many times, though, we simply need wisdom to determine what we can change and what we should just let go. The Serenity Prayer goes like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
2. Keep a positive outlook. This doesn’t mean we have to bounce around in our happy bubble all the time; rather, a positive attitude means we face life’s challenges knowing that, one way or the other, we’ll get through it and be all the better for it … because we are resilient!
3. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. An obstacle comes our way and we often view it as insurmountable. We should, however, formulate a plan, because with every roadblock in our path, we can either breech it, bypass it, or overwhelm it.
4. Make and maintain connections with others. Nurture healthy relationships and accept help from others. We all need each other from time to time. And, make time to volunteer for a worthy cause. I have a saying, “It’s hard to feel down, when you’re helping someone up!”
5. Take care of yourself. Difficult circumstances always seem to have a brighter outlook when you’re well-rested, eating healthy, exercising, and taking time out for activities you enjoy.
I say all that to say this: My husband saw in me the ability to be stretched out of my comfort zone, and yet bounce back, none the worse for the wear. In my military spouse heart, I now hold his words dear. Kinda romantic, really, in an odd sort of way, that he sees this quality in me.
And, I would guess your service member sees this in you, too; that is, resiliency, romantically speaking.