How to Be a Navy Girlfriend

Three Methods:Communicating EffectivelyHelping Your SailorHelping Yourself

Dating someone in any branch of the military can be difficult. The travel, the communication, the strain on the relationship, and trying to understand their world, can only complicate matters further. Is your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, or significant other in the Navy? Maybe you are just starting out dating each other, or maybe you are experiencing being without him for the first timed due to a post or a deployment. Learning how to communicate effectively, how to help your significant other with the separation, and how to help yourself with the distance may make all the difference.

Method 1
Communicating Effectively

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    Ask about how to contact him. Your sailor may have many ways in which you can contact him or he may only have a few. Know the different methods to talk with your boyfriend and which one you should use for what situation. He probably has more than one email address, a civilian one and a military one. He may also have a mailing address and a phone number you could use. Talk with him about the best way to keep in contact.[1] Some potential things to keep in mind include:
    • If there is a phone number, it may be something you should only use for true emergencies, or something he can call out from but you cannot call in to.
    • He may only have access to their military email, especially if he is on a ship, and his connection may be unreliable.
    • Getting mail such as handwritten letters and care packages may take significantly longer to get to him then you might think.
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    Learn the language. You may begin to notice your sailor using words, phrases, or abbreviations you don't understand. Being in the military comes with its own culture and a language shift, with different branches of the military having different dialects to some extent. If he says something you don't understand, ask him what it means or do your own research.[2] Learning the military language will help you and your sailor communicate more easily. You may run into the following categories:
    • Military Terminology and Acronyms such as, "base plan," "NATOPS," or "weaponeering." [3]
    • Naval Terminology such as "fathom," "radar," or "yaw."[4]
    • Nautical Terminology such as "capsize," "quarter," or "squall." [5]
    • Different types of vessels, such as boat (a waterborne vehicle smaller than a ship), ship (a larger vessel used for ocean travel), freighter (a ship designed to carry cargo), and submarine (a warship designed to operate completely submerged for long periods of time).[6][7]
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    Write often. Staying in contact is an important part to maintaining your emotional connection and coping with the time apart.[8] Write your sailor often and mix it up between letters, emails, and care packages. Each contact does not have to be lengthy, but the more regularly you are in contact the easier it will be to stay up to date with each other's lives. The more distance you put in between communications, the less you will know about each other’s day to day experiences and feelings of not being connected to each other may increase.
    • The frequent communication that is required to maintain a long distance relationship may result in a stronger bond than a traditional face-to-face relationship.[9]
    • You may have different abilities and opportunities to communicate frequently due to the demands of each of your schedules. Try not to get discouraged. Your boyfriend’s schedule may be busy and he may be exhausted, but he will likely enjoy hearing about what is going on in your life and at home.[10]
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    Follow the rules. There are rules about what your sailor can talk about or even post on social media, and some of those rules apply to you too. Figure out what the rules are for your sailor and his posts by asking him for guidelines.[11] You can also research through the Naval Operations Security Support Team (NOST) for Operations Security brochures and training.[12] When communicating through social media, email, and even on the phone, make sure to keep important information as secure as possible for safety. In general, avoid posting any information about your boyfriend’s:
    • Location and movement.
    • Fellow sailors (such as names and ranks of the individuals).
    • Flight dates or time.
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    Respect that he may not be able to tell you everything. Just like following the rules for what you tell everyone else, there may be some rules your sailor has to follow about what he can or cannot share with family. There is a large security component to what service members do in every branch of the military. If there is something that he cannot tell you, trust that he is not doing it to hide something from you, but that he is just doing his job.
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    Know that your communications may not be private or reliable. It is hard to deal with methods of communication that are unreliable and schedules that may get in the way. Additionally, talk with your sailor about the processing your communications go through before reaching him. Find out if the communications are subject to search or screening, and consider who might see what you are sending. This will help you decide what pictures to send if you want to include pictures, or what should go into a care package. Ask your sailor:
    • Will packages be opened before they make it to you and searched for anything?
    • Will letters be opened before you receive them?
    • Does anyone screen the emails?
    • Is there anything I shouldn't do or shouldn't send you?
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    Address any conflicts that arise. Even though you do not see your significant other every day, you might still have problems now and then that you will need to resolve. The best way to resolve a conflict over a distance is to talk about it openly and try to come to a collaborative resolution.[13]
    • For example, if you are upset with your significant other because he or she did not call you at an agreed upon time, then you would need to tell your significant other how you feel in a direct way. You might say, “I feel hurt because you did not call me when you said you would.”
    • Then, you would need to listen to your significant other’s reason for not calling. Your significant other might have had a valid reason or he might have simply forgotten.
    • To resolve the conflict, you might suggest a solution, such as deciding on a more convenient time for your significant other to call you.
    • Be sure to pay attention to cues on the phone that your significant other might be upset about something, such as staying silent or being less talkative than usual. You might address this by saying something like, "You're being more quiet than usual, are you upset or mad at me?"

Method 2
Helping Your Sailor

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    Encourage your sailor as much as possible. It's going to be a stressful time for you both. You can help your sailor through it by listening to him and encouraging him.[14] Without your encouragement and support, your sailor may get overwhelmed by the obstacles you are facing together. With your support, he may be able to refocus, continue on, and hopefully return the encouragement along the way when you are struggling.
    • Talk to him about how proud you are of him and what he is doing.
    • Mention how you are proud to say you are a “sailor's girlfriend.”
    • Remind him of everything he has accomplished so far (boot camp, training, other hurdles).
    • If he is worried about the relationship, talk about how it is tough but that you will be so much stronger as a couple for going through it.
    • Help him come up with a detailed plan of action for whatever problem or goal he is having.
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    Keep focused on the future. There may be days where your sailor loves what he is doing, but there also may be some days where he is unhappy.[15] During the days where things are a little harder, remind him what he is doing for both of your futures. If you are facing a deployment or trying to make it through boot camp, make plans for what you want to do when he gets home. If you are waiting until his next leave, have a creative countdown until the next time you can see each other.
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    Be flexible. Depending on his assignments, commands, or duties, your sailor's ability to communicate with you or take leave may change with short notice.[16] The ability of any service member to take a vacation or a trip is wildly different than that of civilians. They are also limited to where they can go, where they will be stationed, or how much free time they have on any certain duty. Try and remain flexible to help with stress levels and expectations in your relationship. Some examples include:
    • If he is deployed, know that his deployment length will depend on where is he deployed, what type of vessel he is deployed on, and his assignment or command.[17]
    • His command may have a radius of several miles which he won't be allowed to go outside of.
    • He may have to stand duty for a certain amount of days at a time, meaning he may not to have a Monday through Friday work week.
    • Your ability to see them, how long you can see them, or where you two can connect may be different depending on the status of your relationship (married, engaged, or dating).
    • His command may be on land or on a ship.
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    Put yourself in his shoes. As you are both working through this difficult time, practice shifting your perspective and imagining what he might be going through.[18] It is hard for you to be without your sailor, but remind yourself that he is without you as well as everyone else he is close to. He likely has to be away from and have limited communication with his family and friends who are not enlisted as well. Getting practice in doing this will help you: [19]
    • Develop empathy.
    • Reduce petty arguments.
    • Help you both communicate better.

Method 3
Helping Yourself

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    Keep in touch with his family. This may be difficult if you have just started dating each other, but if you have been seeing each other for a while, then you may already be comfortable with them. Keeping in touch with his family gives you another source of information, but more importantly, it gives you access to a support system of people who understand how you feel.[20]
    • They might be hurting just like you or could be struggling with similar feelings. You all may benefit from relying on each other a little and supporting each other during this difficult time.
    • You may encounter some difficulty in getting information about your sailor from the Navy, if you are not married. Therefore, sticking close to his family can be a good source of information that you may not have easy access to yet.
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    Find a community to connect to. The group of people who are most likely to really understand what you are going though are other Navy girlfriends. Find an online community or a local community; if it is available where you live. As you make contacts and make friends, utilize these new friends for support. They may have some advice, or are having the same worries and fears you are. You'll find that these friends will be your greatest asset.
    • If you don't know where to start, try social media such as the US Navy's Loved Ones Facebook page.
    • There are also nonprofit groups such as Give an Hour.[21]
    • Connect to other girlfriends or significant others through your sailor's shipmates.
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    Keep busy. As much as your sailor will be on your mind, you want to make sure you continue to live your life as well.[22] Try not to sit around waiting for a call or email. Keeping busy by finding a hobby, sport, or work task will help you to do something active to ease your stress and anxiety instead.[23]
    • Learn something new, like a language or a musical instrument.
    • Pick up a new sport or fitness activity, like running or rock climbing.
    • Spend some time with friends, playing games, going to the movies, or just hanging out.
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    Be patient. It may feel like there is a whole lot of "hurry up and wait" happening with your sailor and his schedule. Try and be patient with the Navy as well as your sailor because he is probably feeling frustrated by the same things you are. Exercising patience will help with your relationship as well as increase your happiness.[24] Be particularly patient with the following:
    • Leave. Taking leave is a process that takes time and takes getting approval. So if you are some of the lucky few that can plan a vacation or a trip, it may take a little longer than you'd like to get everything planned and everyone on board.
    • Mail may take longer to get to your sailor than you would like. Especially if he is on a ship, as you can imagine getting mail to him takes longer than regular mail. If they are overseas it could take up to a few months. Keep this in mind with care packages or mail.
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    Communicate how you are feeling. Remember that there are going to be times when you are frustrated and sad. Avoid the impulse to hide that from your sailor. It is important for your relationship that you are both open and honest with each other. It can be scary to discuss things like doubts and fears, but maybe they are feeling it too, and you'll feel better for talking about it. There are good ways to communicate how you feel and not so great ways, use these suggestions to help you.[25]
    • Try to avoid blaming him. Instead of saying, “I'm mad because you never write me back!” try saying, “I'm really frustrated with our situation and schedules. I just wish I could talk to you or hear from you more.”
    • Use “I” statements when you are talking about how you feel. “I feel like we are drifting apart, or we are not as connected as before.”
    • Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation. “I know this sucks for the both of us, and there's probably nothing we can do about it. I just think it is important you know how I'm feeling.”
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    Stay committed and faithful. It can be hard when you are working on a relationship long distance. Issues of jealousy, trust, and commitment may pop up on both sides. Avoid this potential negative long distance relationship downfall by discussing your feelings with your sailor, and talking about your commitment to each other and the relationship regularly.
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    Find ways to cope with loneliness. You might feel really lonely sometimes while your significant other is away. This is a normal reaction to your situation, but it is important to find ways to ease your loneliness.
    • Make sure that you spend time with friends and family. Do not isolate yourself from people. Try to plan some regular outings with people every week to keep yourself connected.
    • If you are invited to an event where a lot of couples will be present, then you might consider bringing a friend along as a “date” to help you feel less lonely. For example, you could ask another Navy girlfriend to be your plus on at a wedding.

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management | Long Distance Relationships