A-Ten Hut! Military Marriages Can Make It After All
There are enough strains on today’s marriages to test spouses’ perseverance even in the best of circumstances. Imagine how hard things must be when one of the two is enlisted in the armed services — especially during a time of war.
Months of separation at a time. Worries over a loved one being placed in harm’s way. Fears about the effect of long absences on the children. Insecurity about loyalty, even in a sacramentally vowed marriage, when so many months and miles stand between two people who are supposed to be together more often than not.
Played out over time, such factors can put tremendous strain on even a model marital union.
Recognizing that military marriages need all the help they can get at this moment in American history, Janel and Deacon Bob Lange of Kingsport, Tenn., have written a book to guide couples through the maze of military marriage.
The book is called The Treasure of Staying Connected for Military Couples. And its principles are so universal that even non-military couples would do well to give it a careful and prayerful read.
Janel, the book’s lead author, knows firsthand the pitfalls and hardships military marriages can face. She and Bob, who was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Knoxville in 2001, recently celebrated their 35th anniversary. During that time he spent eight years in the Naval Reserves and 25 years on active duty, eventually as a Navy commander.
Despite the challenges of many deployments for sea duty, plus long stretches with Bob away at naval schools, the Langes say they learned how to have their marriage not only survive but also thrive in those trying times.
For starters, Janel recommends that spouses dedicate a short period each day — 10 minutes is fine — to simply think about the other in a focused way.
While you’re at it, “Jot down some things” in letter form, she says. It could be reflections on what the other person means to you, or perhaps an update of any developments, including small ones.
“We would start each letter with a little line addressing God,” explains Janel. “Then we’d write a little one-liner addressing one another. Bob and I would think of an endearing quality, and describe it. It’s a neat little gift you give each other on a daily basis.”
Then the Langes would share something about a Scripture passage they had pre-planned to read that day. For one deployment they went through the Acts of the Apostles section by section.
“We would write a little message to each other about what we got out of that section,” Janel says, adding that these are wonderful times to explore Scripture together despite the distance. Couples can decide to read a certain chapter every day or use a resource that provides a daily Scripture reading.
Then, since the individual letters were both short and frequent, the Langes would save them up to send a week’s worth at a time all at once.
The two agree that e-mail can be more convenient, but there’s still something special about getting something touchable through the regular mail.
The Langes also found that a strong spiritual tone is essential. Advises Bob: “Maintain an active involvement in the Christian Catholic community at both ends.”
Janel proposes the military couple set a particular time to pray for one another. Time zones and duties don’t always cooperate, but it’s a powerful witness to know that someone is thinking of, and praying for, you at the precise time you’re interceding on their behalf, she notes.
The Langes found out, as a presenting couple for Marriage Encounter for many years, that distressingly few Catholic couples go out of their way to pray together. That discovery led Janel to compose a prayer for military husbands and wives. It’s included in the book — and it took on special poignancy when the Langes discovered that their son Rob and his new wife Linda were going to experience the same sort of separation described in her book. (See the accompanying article “Our Lifetime Together” on page 17.)
Bishop John Kaising, auxiliary bishop and vicar for chaplains with the Military Archdiocese USA, appreciates what the Langes are doing for military marriages. “Being a navy wife, she knows what deployments are about,” he says. “This book can’t help but be a valuable tool.”
Sara McCarthy of the Lange’s parish, St. Dominic’s in Kingsport, Tenn., finds much in Janel’s book to apply to her own situation.
Sara and her husband Donald have been married just a little over a year. He’s stationed in Germany with the Army. When Donald was training in California, Sara was finishing grad school.
“As long as we’ve been married, we’ve lived in different time zones,” says Sara.
But that doesn’t stop them from praying together daily across the miles and time zones. “One of our readings for our wedding was the prayer of Sarah and Tobias, where they get out of bed and they pray,” Sara explains. “We’ve come to meditate on that prayer, hoping that we’ll live to an old age — especially since he’s facing deployment, and especially through this war time when the deployments are so much more dangerous.
“We say prayers to help us feel more at peace with the situation we find ourselves in,” adds McCarthy, “with all that’s going on in the world right now.”
Since meeting each other at the Catholic center in college, she says, “Our whole relationship was very faith-based.” That’s why one of the hardest things for her is going to church without Donald being there.
“Since we can’t go to church together,” adds McCarthy, “we like to write to each other and or talk on the phone together about the Sunday readings and the different homilies.”
Because the McCarthys want to start a family, the book also showed them it’s possible to raise children in these situations. Sara particularly noted the Langes’ unique way of spending one Christmas midnight Mass together as a family while Bob was in Rome.
He called stateside and Janel got their three children and in-laws to watch the Mass celebrated by the Pope and re-broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica. Even though they were thousands of miles and six hours apart, Janel says the family celebrated the birth of the Savior with Bob.
“Stories like that helped us see that raising a family while one parent is away can work very well,” says McCarthy. “My husband isn’t daunted by the idea of having children while he is in the service.” With the Lange’s book in hand, the McCarthys are determined to find their own treasures in staying connected.
Joseph Pronechen writes from
(800) 358-2098‘Our Life Together’
Here’s Janel Lange’s prayer for military husbands and wives:
We thank You for the gift of each other, and for Your plan for us to spend a lifetime together in a loving relationship. We know that, for now, we are asked to sacrifice a piece of that lifetime for the quest of freedom of all people, which is Your will.
We ask that You keep us safe and help our love for one another to grow stronger during this time of separation so that, when we are reunited, we may continue our life together in a way that reflects Your love for us.