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Married to the Military

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Kimberly Seals Allers: Let's face it, the stories of infidelity in military marriages run rampant. And shows like "Army Wives" and movies like "Jarhead" help perpetuate the idea that military marriages are constantly plagued by infidelity. Meanwhile, the divorce rate among military couples is twice as high as in the general population. Don't let this happen to you.

soldier hugging wife with rose

Here are five great tips for keeping your military marriage strong despite deployment, separation, and frequent relocation:

1. Keep it fresh.
When hubby is away, don't be afraid to send racy photos, write steamy love letters, or send sex coupons to be redeemed upon the military member's return. And don't be shy about the webcam and telephone, ladies. One caveat: naughty e-mails should be avoided, since most e-mails are checked, but some couples have developed their own "code language" to let each other know how they are feeling. When Mama needs some love, there is nothing wrong with thinking about everything you want to do when he returns. Think back to your most intimate times and relive the emotional and physical satisfaction he brings you. Whatever you do, many spouses discourage watching sexual movies or going to clubs, and opt instead for viewing comedies, sharing a night with the girls, or completing a home or hobby project. When things get rough, don't be afraid to take matters into your own hands.

2. Deal with loneliness.
Let's be honest. No matter how strong you think you are, there may be times when you are lonely as hell. Diane, a sixteen-year army wife, suggests, "If you don't have a busy life, make one! Take on a cause or challenge, or learn about something that interests you. I have been thinking about adoption, so I have been trying to learn all I can about it," she says. Now is the time to stop making excuses for not doing some of the things you would like to do. Stop blaming your husband, the last duty station, and the possibility of relocation. Just do it. Learn a language. Get on the treadmill an hour a day. Enroll in school. Volunteer. Pick a hobby. Do something to fill your time constructively, and with activities you enjoy.

3. Take advantage of marital support services.
Many base chaplains' offices offer non-denominational marriage retreats for military couples. These retreats have nothing to do with religion and are usually held in wonderful vacation destinations. Plus, they are free, child care is available, and you actually get the evenings off to go out on dates with each other.

4. Beware of "just friends."
Cheating happens on both sides, and in different ways. It's easy to get caught up with a male friend. First of all, the military community is very close-knit and people will talk! Secondly, make sure your hubby is the only one you are confiding in. Keep clear boundaries. Be especially careful at work, where most emotional affairs jump off. And set up a mental review committee. Ask yourself, "Would my husband, mother, or father approve of what I'm doing right now?" If the answer is No, you probably shouldn't do it.

5. Stay connected.
Don't let the physical distance come in between you. Show him you care by sending care packages with homemade snacks, photos, and letters. Send him a cotton ball (or a pair of lacy panties) sprayed with your favorite perfume in a Ziploc bag, or send him a box full of reasons why you love him. And remember this: "Lack of communication does not mean lack of love." Sometimes phone lines are down, someone messed up and lost their e-mail privileges, or he's just not in an area where he can contact you. Don't let your mind wander and the paranoia kick in.

Based on content from the new book, "The Mocha Manual to Military Life -- A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends, and Female Service Members," by Kimberly Seals Allers with Pamela McBride.

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