When my boyfriend left for boot camp, we had only ever known long distance dating. We had only spent five days together in person. Still, even being used to being physically apart, we spoke every single day for months. I didn’t know how I was going to handle the boot camp separation. I just knew it wasn’t optional and I’d get to see him on the other side. No matter how much you think you’re “used” to not having your best friend around, you probably aren’t used to being unable to communicate with them at all. Because we weren’t married, my recruit sent his things back to his family, not me. That meant I had to wait until he was allowed to send his first letter before I could hear from him.
I got his first letter 21 days later. It was longer before he heard from me.
Yeah, if you’re married, you’ll probably hear from your recruit sooner. You might get the phone call mine couldn’t make when he was sick with pneumonia after being in dirty close quarters with hundreds of other sweaty, sick recruits. You might not be at work when your recruit finally makes their “I’m a sailor!” phone call. But those are mere minutes out of two months.
So here’s the truth, pals: you’re in this one alone. You and your sailor individually have to get through these separations, just like during a real deployment. This is your welcome into military life as a couple. Because you have to rely on your own strength, I’ve got advice for you here and my sailor has advice for your recruit.
Here’s how my sailor and I survived boot camp separation.
Dear Recruit’s SO,
Productivity is Your Distraction from Boot Camp Separation
The first week of my best friend being gone was absolutely the hardest. Not only was it our first time going just a day or two without talking, it was also right after the biggest fight of our relationship – to date, even now that we’re married! The best thing I did for myself was pick up a second job. I could use the extra cash, and any time I was required to be at work was time I wasn’t laying in bed missing my recruit.
Sure, I could read (I finished a book in two days), I had to take care of the dogs (check!), and I have a million hobbies. I just had too much free time on my hands to miss him. Maybe you decide to take piano lessons or join a local sports club, but whatever it is, make sure it’s out of your house and with at least one other person! Out of your house is for your sanity and your buddy is for accountability. Remember, we’re building the skills we’ll need when our sailors deploy for real, for months on end.
Make Your Recruit As Proud of You As You Are of Them
What are your big goals? Are you trying to save more money for a move, a wedding, a honeymoon? Do you want to go back to school or launch a business? Well, get to work! Boot camp separation means time you’d normally spend talking with your sailor is free to develop those big goals.
Getting a second job held me accountable to leave my house and keep living my life. It was also extra money that went directly to attending my sailor’s graduation in a beautiful new dress. It also helped pay for my move to join him across the country in A-School. This was particularly important because we weren’t married, so the Navy wasn’t going to be able to help with my move, and I didn’t want to put my recruit in the position of having to financially support my move, either.
Additionally, I was motivated to get past the scary factors of applying to go back to school! It was amazing how much motivation I had during those two months of separation. No matter how “safe” my recruit’s job would be after he completed training, he was still getting his ass kicked with no emotional support. I knew he was developing the mental and physical strength he would need to do his job. He was training to put his life on the line. That’s all I had to remember when I needed a push to go to my second job every day, even if that meant 18 hour days or going an entire month without a full day off of work.
Write Your Recruit Every Day But Don’t Send It All
If you’re used to talking to your recruit every day like I was, don’t stop just because they’re in boot camp. Write it down. Even if you decide not to send it, write down what you’re thinking and feeling. Whatever you decide to share with your recruit will let them know they’re not alone in being lonely. Tell your recruit how much you miss them. Write about how much boot camp separation sucks but you’re making them proud. Put on paper all the mundane details from your day you wish you could share.
Your recruit doesn’t need to know every single thing that goes wrong in your day, but write it down! It keeps the thoughts from circling in your own head. While they’re in boot camp, your recruit is being pushed to their breaking point. Once your recruit graduates they can have their full support system again. That’s the right time to bring up any big struggles you wished they had been there for. Right now, you just need to know you have your recruit’s love and support, and they need yours.