Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have you had "THAT" talk?

For a couple reasons I've debated in my head whether to post this discussion question. I really don't want to offend anyone and I don't want to be insensitive either. But the topic is such a major part of modern military relationships and having this talk with G.I. Joe really helped both of us. So, I'm going to try and water down the details a little and still spark something in you.

Last Wednesday night we had that talk.

It all started when we were looking at this Bob on the FOB comic picture. A discussion on the difference between a Combat Patch and a CAB quickly followed.

For those of you who are reading this and don't know exactly what it takes to receive a CAB, I'm not going to tell you. If you don't know its probably either because you don't want to know (understandable) or because your loved one in uniform doesn't want you to know (also understandable). For the sake of this conversation I'll be speaking in terms of how my G.I. Joe earned his CAB.

That night he let me know that I could ask questions about his combat experience. I've heard some stories here and there but never knew his numbers. When he brought up "fire fights" I asked him how many he had been in. He told me. Then G.I. Joe went on to tell me the minim number of hours they each lasted. I was shocked. His total number of hours spent in fire fights is a triple digit number. My heart and my stomach did really funny things at that point. Even though this conversation happened 3 whole years after he came home I was suddenly consumed with awe and gratitude that this brave man was sitting on the couch next to me watching How I Met Your Mother. Never ever will I take his safety for granted and never ever again will I doubt the power of God.

We also talked about his other numbers. G.I. Joe was able to talk about the outcome of all those hours in fire fights and basically asked me if I thought he was a monster or if I looked at him any differently.

"I love you more now than I did yesterday." was all I said to him.

At the end of the conversation he placed his CAB in my hands and said "Do you feel how heavy this is?"

He wasn't speaking literally but I could feel it. I know exactly what that CAB cost and that's a burden that he should not have to carry alone. That's why after 3 years, we finally had that talk.

So...have you ever had that talk? Or is it avoided at all costs?

There are definitely pros and cons to having it or not:

The service member may not be ready to open up about this. Pushing it will only drive them further away and hurt your relationship. For the spouse, these are very difficult things to hear. Especially if you are gearing up for a deployment, then I really recommend waiting on this talk.

Pro-Talk: This is a chance for your love to get things off his chest and clear the air. That means you have an opportunity to reassure them that the things their job requires them to do doesn't ever change your view of them. Its also a valuable reminder to cherish every second with them and never take their safety for granted.

I do think though that for all parties its best to wait a while on this talk. Because of how high G.I. Joe's numbers are and all the terrible things he saw over there, it took 3 years until both of us were ready. For other couples it may not take that long but it is best to not jump into this right before or after a deployment.


Erin said...

Yup, we have had that talk. We have had it multiple times. And each time I learn more and more about what my husband has gone through. It definitely isn't pretty or easy, but I think it really helps me to understand.

Mel said...

We have had "the talk." I imagine, however that it will be different once he gets back from this deployment.

I am a person who wants to be fully informed. Especially when it comes to the man I love and his job. The Army already limits how informed I can be.

He has always been willing to discuss those details with me, regardless of the fact that it's one of those topics that fits neatly on the "you just don't ask" list.

I think that's how it works for us, open communication is key. It won't work that way for everybody.

Thanks for bringing up this topic!

Mary Teresa said...

Not yet. But then again this is our first deployment so there isn't necessarily much to talk about just yet. We've talked about what might happen and what it will mean. I stand with the opinion that he never has to tell me anything, but if we ever wants to, I'll always listen. He deserves at least that much respect from me. I'm so thankful to have found experienced and capable wives through blogland that help me stick to the right path as a military spouse.

Jessica said...

Since we are just now going through our first deployment, obviously we haven't had the talk. With that being said, I will let my DH come to me on his own terms and on his own time. Yes, I am curious, but I wasn't the one who had to live it. If he never wants to talk about it, I will understand that as well.

Julie Danielle said...

When my husband is deployed I don't really want to know any details. But once he is home and it is over I do. I am pretty sure he has told me a lot although it has been after the fact. I am not sure if there is more but if there is I am ok with waiting for it. It's such a hard thing.

Kara said...

We have talked about it, but not with numbers. I don't want to know that. He has shown me a few pictures and told me stories from his deployments. He was cleaning the garage out over the weekend and came across a lot of his equipment. He had stuff with bloodstains on it, even after many washings. I know that he kills people when deployed, I don't think he has any qualms about killing the enemy (kill or be killed), but somethings he doesn't tell me since it will upset me. I completely respect what he does, I love him that much more that he goes through all that to protect us.

Anonymous said...

We had that talk shortly after we started dating because it was right after he came home from his tour. Every once and again we'll start talking about something related to it, and he'll open up a little more, but in all reality, Nate had it a lot easier than other guys, didn't see near as much action, so I think its easier for him to talk about it.

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

Oh the blood stains. Those never come out. Sometimes you just end up burning that stuff.

I completely agree with what people have said about hearing a little at a time. When G.I. Joe first came home he told me all about the "cool" stuff he did, like the people he guarded and events he patroled. Then a little later he told me a sugar coated version about trying to save a little boy after a suicide bombing. Later I found scars on his head that he never told me about so he opened up about that story...finally 3 years later he was ready to talk about the "stats."

It definitely isn't something you can (or a person would want) to recount all in one sitting. I'm sure that in the future he'll still fill me in on other details. 12 months in combat takes forever to process.

Mel said...

BTW - I love meeting new military SO's, especially courtesy of the blogosphere.

My blog is private, so you have to be invited. If you're interested email me at: and I will happily send you a link.

Anonymous said...

We haven't had "the talk," but I've heard a lot of stories.

When he has gone on missions, he'll come home and tell me about them, if I want to know. He's never had a problem telling me what I've asked, but I've never asked things I thought A. I didn't want to know the answer to, or B. I thought that he didn't REALLY want to tell me. We have an understanding that we will answer any question the other asks, without any hesitation, regardless of subject matter. We also have the understanding that somethings are better left unsaid, and therefore not to ask.

I'm sure when he gets home we'll talk a lot about it, but until then, I try to ask minimal questions, and let him come to me at his own pace.

Lisa said...

We've never had the talk, and I've never heard any stories. He's very particular about not telling me anything about what's going on over there. He said something yesterday in our conversation about not being in the office today, but wouldn't say more.

It is also still our first deployment and so when he gets home, I may learn that he wasn't as "safe" as I thought.

But thank you for bringing up this topic. It wasn't something I'd considered before, and I'll let P bring to me as little or as much as he chooses when he gets home.

Caitlin said...

Steve hasn't been deployed yet. Even though I know it would be incredibly hard to hear, I'll do it. I am the type who wants to know everything. If he doesn't want to tell me something though, I drop it right there. Even now, sometimes there are things he doesn't want to talk about, but eventually he does. And he knows I can always listen.

Unknown said...

I am absolutely in love with your blog and with you and your hubby. I'm so glad I stumbled upon it. Reading about another military wife is so much fun but also helps with things we go through. Your strength as a wife is inspiring and I'm in awe and your husband's strength as well. Happy to be a new follower! ♥ Mrs. S.

Carrie said...

Thankfully, my fiance and I aren't at a point where we have to have THAT talk yet. :/ It's not one I look forward to having to face... Deployment isn't even in my every-day dictionary yet. Oh, how I dread the day it is. :(

heather said...

well he hasnt been deployed yet, so we havent had the talk.. but i know i will want to know.. i always ask questions about EVERYTHING.. although i dont know if he will want to talk about it.. i never ask about his drill weekends and what they hold and all, but i heard him and his amry friend talk about their combat medical training, and well i was shocked to hear what they were saying. all the drills,shooting and medical stuff.. it is scary to hear if he was in a convy where he would sit and about where ied's would hit(and what to look for) and how he would move with the other medics.. but it just shows me how brave he is to know that he would face all that for us and everyone else..

so to answer the post question.. i know i will want to have the "talk" when it happens and i hope he will want to talk... i believe talking about it is important and helpful... thanks for bringing up this topic... :)

Jeannette said...

My husband is a very quiet and private man. Before he met me he barely spoke. I don't think we'll be having this conversation. I would like to if he wants to though. I know how it can help if they feel the need, but I have a feeling he'll feel like he needs to keep it as far away from me as possible.

Alia said...

We have had the talk but I know that it is sugar coated and I'm okay with that. He doesn't want to share and I really probably couldn't stand to hear about it... I know one day we will really talk about everything.

❈ Annie - Blonde Glambition ❈ said...

My hubby and I have had THE talk several times. Before his first deployment we made the decision to share as much as possible through the process...the good and the bad. We have continued to do so through each of his following deployments. I know it's not the most ideal topic of discussion, but it was important to me to know what my hubby was going through and the events that led to him coming home a different person each time, and to also let him know he could talk to me without fear of judgement. The details and facts are not always easy on my heart, but I'm thankful my hubby allows me a chance to be "inside his head" and know what he's been through. I also think the frequency of his deployments and our limited time together has helped fast track THE talk for us. It's different for every couple though. Our guys go through a lot over there, and all we can do is let them know the door is always open.

Roller Coaster said...

This is such an amazing post, and I can't imagine what it felt like for you being on the receiving end. My husband's deployment was 6 years ago, and we have yet to have THE TALK. At first, I think he was too shell shocked to talk about what he went through, and I was too relieved to have him home to hear the details. As time went on, I dropped questions every now and then, but he never really answered them. It got to the point that I figured he would tell me what he wanted to share. But it never happened. I don't know if it's because he wanted to move on or if it was for OPSEC purposes if it's because he didn't want to scare me, knowing that more deployments were in our future. Now, as I gear up for another deployment, I'm almost thankful that we never had THE TALK, although little comments he's dropped along the way have given me a glimmer of insight into what I really don't want to know.

I don't know if we'll ever have THE TALK. I feel it's up to him. He knows I'm always ready to listen, and I know that I need to be prepared for what he has to say. I think it's wonderful that your husband shared his experiences with you when he was ready to share them and that you made it clear that you love him no matter what.

This is the life we lead as mil spouses. Good or bad, I feel it's our jobs to support our men. And although right now I'm praying for my husband's speedy return, I know that what he's doing has a purpose.

Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog and have enjoyed reading through your posts.

My husband served two tours - one 10 days after the war in Iraq began and his second in 2008.

I can honestly say that "the talk" should not happen until the soldier is ready to divulge. As women, all we want is to hear every detail of every thing that happened while our men were deployed - most of us are programmed to be detail oriented!

I asked my husband about his first tour and he simply stated "I don't want you to judge me". Broke-my-heart! For him to think that I would judge him pained me so deeply. I have a feeling that he knew others would judge him - holy hell people - it's a war!

Anyway, I just finished my Master's and a woman in my class said that military personnel that have seen combat are murderers. One - she was in the National Guard Two - has she seen combat? Three - has anybody she ever cared about seen combat? Four - this list could go on. I digress...I proceeded to give this woman a verbal beat down as she basically accused my brave husband (and yours) of being a murderer. From this one comment I realized that that was why my husband didn't want to talk about it for fear of being judged. It wasn't me - it was society.

Wow - stay on topic....I don't know if we'll ever have the talk. Now that his contract is up (March 13) and he's dealing with a lot of military related stuff I doubt I'll ever know. I've decided that I'm okay with that. I'll be here for him no matter what {without judging}.

HellcatBetty said...

The only time hubby has really talked on that subject has been after a few beers. And even then he won't say much. We tell each other everything, but that's one topic he seems to want to keep private and I'm okay with that. I learn more over time in bits and pieces, and I don't care about the details. All I care about is that when he's got things rolling around in his head that he turns to me for comfort, and he does. And I can give that without knowing why it's needed.

Unknown said...

That is so intense. My hubby is about to go on his first deployment. I know how sensitive he is about a lot of things and I worry about him.

Kathryn said...

Great post. I am glad you are able to share this, and glad that your husband was able to tell you.

I was just stopping by to say hi, I am an Air Force wife, and love your blog! :0

trooppetrie said...

After 6 deployments we have definitly had the talk. My husband also has PTSD and I have gone to counseling with him and learned probably more than I wanted to know.

Amanda said...

We've had "that" talk. My husband's CAB was awarded in a room full of about 100 or more people about 6 months after he returned home from Iraq. It was at the end of the annual cadet's awards ceremony where the cadre gets recognized for things they accomplished that year. I about fell over. I had been told he'd be receiving the CAB, but not for the actual reason that was in the write up. I had been sheltered until that moment. You could've knocked me over with a feather, but I stood with the rest of the audience, remained the proud Army wife outwardly, and then later in the car, punched him in the arm for not telling me beforehand. My husband wrote in 2 large journals while deployed. He said I can read them, but after hearing about his CAB, I'm not ready to read the rest. Not even 5 years later.

Forget The Dog Not The Baby said...

Unfortunately we never had THAT talk, and my husband was seriously injured in Iraq. I guess I thought that because I was in too, (even though I had never been deployed) we didn't have to have THAT talk. I don't know what the reason was, but I feel like this is a very important discussion to have because you never know what could happen!


Bombtastic Belle said...

My husbands told me a few stories, but like he just said to me now - he doesn't think he'll ever tell them all to me, he said he doesn't think he's strong enough. That's ok for me... if he tells me, which I hope one day he does, I'll be there to listen and never judge. He got his CAB from when they were clearing a room of informants that got killed and recieved live fire, they shot back and got the heck our of there. He's EOD, so he's able to talk about some of the stuff he saw, picking up body parts and such, but I know there are some things that are just that much more emotional that he can't let go of... We've been married six years, two deployments, and he got out of the Army for PTSD.