It’s true, we INFJs crave and need alone time. A lot of it. More than any “normal” person. That being said, deployment is… insanely hard, even for social hermits. Despite that need to be alone, we also crave deep connection and, let’s face it, this doesn’t happen very often or with many people. Usually with military spouses, we are in an unfamiliar city/state, miles and miles away from our closest friends and family, and, to top it off, we are alone for half of our marriage. Needless to say, I’ve had more than my share of alone time. So I’ve written an impromptu short story to sort of paraphrase things that happen during deployments for the INFJ. Military marriages often get romanticized and I’m told by so many women that I’m brave and that the reunions must be so beautiful. They don’t see the sacrifices that both of us have to make, they don’t see the pain, the disconnect, the overall stress that it puts on our relationship. So here it is, a peek into deployment for an INFJ military spouse:
You haven’t talked to your husband in days. You knew you probably wouldn’t, but you always cling to the hope that you might get a surprise text or a quick phone call. You pretend he’s just away on a harmless, boring business trip, because you can’t even think about the danger he is in on a daily basis. It would eat you up on the inside and you have to be strong. But who are you kidding? It’s at the back of your mind all the time anyway.
You get a text and your heart jumps in your throat. It’s him. He’s okay. But all that joy quickly dissipates.
Hey babe. Just landed. Service is spotty, I’m exhausted, and have to get up early tomorrow. I’ll wake up ten minutes early to give you a call, it’ll be about noon your time. I love you and I miss you. Goodnight sweetheart.
So no phone call tonight. No big deal, you tell yourself. But you tuck your blanket under your chin and try to hold back your tears. You reach a hand to his side of bed and feel cold.
Then, when the stars finally align, the wifi connection is good, and you both have some free time AT THE SAME TIME: you get to FaceTime! Time for some deep conversation, connection, laughing, flirting… right? Wrong. He’s exhausted. He can’t tell you half of the things that transpired since you last spoke because it’s top secret information. You feel silly for recounting the pointless activities of your day, they seem trivial compared to everything he’s doing. He’s saving the world, you’re binge-watching The Walking Dead and eating your feelings, AKA: a tub of ice cream. Crickets chirp on both ends of the phone line. How is it that you both haven’t talked in days, yet neither of you can think of ONE thing to say or to talk about?
You ask the few probing questions that eventually pop into your brain, and he uses two to three word answers, leaving the trail of conversation cold and dead.
What. Is. HAPPENING?! Your mind begins to panic. Are we drifting apart? Am I boring him? Come on, come on! Think of an interesting thing to say! Think of a good topic!
What comes out of your mouth next is nothing short of anti-climatic and it shows. He answers again with only a few words and you can tell he doesn’t want to take it any further. In your head, you know it must just be because he’s tired and stressed, but it’s difficult not to feel disconnected and disheartened. You’d been looking forward to this phone call for days, and it feels awkward and forced. You worry that it will be this way the whole deployment and you’re not sure if you can even handle that.
Be strong, be strong, be strong, you chant in your head like a prayer, a plea.
The following conversations are a lot like the last. You even argue some, letting some of your frustration slip and causing a fight. You don’t tell any of your friends or family for a multitude of reasons: A) nobody likes a complainer or hearing about other people’s problems, B) you’re afraid of what will be unleashed if you let go of your strength even for a moment and the last thing you want is to be pitied, C) you don’t want anyone to think poorly about your husband or you, and D) nobody can fix this problem or even understand, this is just a part of deployment. So what’s the point in complaining?
The months pass by and you begin to get anxious for his return home. Arguments become less and less and you both find common ground in your excitement. You discuss the first restaurant you two will visit when he gets back, the vacations you will take, and the relaxing days you will have together. Things seem to be going back to normal. You’re the happiest you’ve been in months and you just get happier as the days come closer to THE day.
Well, THE day finally comes and it is sheer bliss. Joyous tears fill your eyes as you hug him and kiss him for the first time in a long time. You hold his hand the whole way home, not daring to let go, like he may suddenly disappear if you break contact. You keep stealing glances at him, trying to memorize his face and to soak up all the lost time. His eyes never looked so beautiful and you cherish the way that he looks at you.
He still looks tired and distant. You can tell, but you push it to the back of your mind.
You get home and soak up all the romance and affection you possibly can and in that moment, yes, it is exactly as everyone romanticizes homecomings to be. You think everything is back to the way it should be, maybe even better.
But then you wake up in the middle of the night and smile, reaching to his side of the bed.. only to feel nothing but cold, unused sheets. Your smile fades and your mind begins to race and worry. Is he okay? Is he sick? Wrapping a blanket around your shoulders, you tip toe across the room and check the bathroom for a light.
So both you and your heart pick up the pace out of your bedroom only to find him stretched out on the couch, fast asleep. Your heart sinks as you contemplate the possible reasons why, each solution more depressing than the next. Whether it is because he prefers sleeping alone or the fact that he’s just used to it, you thought things were back to normal. But the truth is that the military deprives couples like you from normalcy. There is no “routine”, no “home”, no “usual”. You can only take ANYTHING one day at a time. You pause to glance back at the sleeping form of the man you love, hurt and loneliness in your heart, and you can’t help but push those feelings aside and allow yourself to be thankful for a moment that he is safe, home, and healthy, regardless of your emotional distance. That is, after all, all that truly matters. He is still here. The rest, well, you will work them out with time.
With that you pad quietly back to bed with hope in your heart that tomorrow will be a little better and pushing aside your hurt feelings. After all, you knew what you were signing up for, right?