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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. — Psalm 19:14
Have you ever pushed the “Send” button on an email or text. . . .and then wished you could “take it back”? Once it’s gone, it’s gone. . . .and if you’ve experienced this feeling of regret, or maybe even panic, you know that email & texting are great tools but have their limitations. Without tone of voice, without context, without a smile or a frown, without really knowing how the other person is going to “receive” your message—it’s hard to rely on technology to communicate everything you want to your spouse.
And then there’s the problem of accessibility to computers or a signal. You might understand that your spouse is going to say, “I sent you four texts and never heard once from you this week! What am I supposed to think?” But you’re thinking that the reality is it’s just not going to happen—today. Maybe tomorrow.
Another scenario is what we might call the “email war.” You and your spouse are firing off one-line salvos at each other over some issue. . . nothing productive is being accomplished. . . misunderstanding is compounding. . .until finally one spouse totally refuses to respond or reply. It started out as a “simple” mis-communication—but now it’s full-blown warfare. When this happens it’s hard to remember that your spouse is not your enemy!
We’ve all “been there.” And when my husband and I gathered with a group of military couples last weekend in order to discuss preparations for their deployment in a month—we, once again, heard these stories. We discussed some “dos” and “don’ts”. . . but please read all the way to the end. There is something that our group wants to emphasize and share with you:
With email (or text):
—do understand that emailing during deployment has its own set of rules. The standard rules you will find regarding “normal” emailing—like “only one thought per email,” “only one question per email,” “clarify your subject line,” “don’t put in an email what you need to discuss in person”—don’t apply when email is your only source of quick communication because of geographic separation due to war. Deployment has unique challenges, communication being perhaps the biggest;
—do be careful to read and re-read your emails before sending them (if possible), examining all different possibilities of reactions by your spouse, in order to make sure that your point is clear;
—do allow time to consider your response if there is the possibility that your spouse might misunderstand what you write. Maybe even write it out on paper first, wait overnight or longer, and then type it out to send it;
—do always include some form of encouragement and appreciation to your spouse. It might help get them through the day;
—do agree before you deploy what you are going to share, and not share, regarding family information. Does your spouse want to know what is happening while the children are sick? Does your spouse want to know what is happening on the front lines? Decide what you, as a couple, are comfortable with in terms of level of information shared;
—do take some time with your spouse during reintegration to evaluate “lessons learned.” Chances are you will deploy again, and this time of examining your communication effectiveness may prevent repeating old mistakes. Each deployment is different, but there are things that you want to agree “to do again” or “never to do again.”
And, on the other side of the issue, with email (or text):
—don’t withhold writing, if at all possible. If you need some time to “not email”, let your spouse know that you need time to ponder and pray and will write back soon. Cutting off communication entirely can create problems beyond the original issue;
—don’t assume that you know all that is going on with your spouse. Their environment may have demands and frustrations that you cannot understand;
—don’t use capitals to shout at each other or engage in email warfare;
—don’t “forward” your spouse’s emails to someone else. If you are seeking wise counsel from someone trustworthy, try to summarize your email discussions and the current conflict—but don’t forward emails. There are horror stories of emails ending up in the wrong places;
—don’t let the chance to encourage and praise your spouse go by. Letting them know how much you love and appreciate them may be just what they need to make it through the day.
Our group wanted to emphasize the bottom-line, however. Here it is: It’s gonna’ happen! That’s it—It’s gonna’ happen. Misunderstandings are going to occur at some point with communication, and feelings are going to get hurt. Even when a couple, under the best of circumstances, does all they can to communicate correctly and well. . . . because of our human nature we can choose to misunderstand. Did I say “choose?” Yes. The answer—be prepared to extend grace! Be prepared to choose to think the very best of your spouse and understand that there is an enemy (Satan)—and it is not your spouse. Stand ready to forgive knowing that there are times that you are going to need to be forgiven, also. We challenged our couples to learn to pray together using email & phone. . . . or to write or say how you are praying for each other. Sometimes that is all that is needed to cover a wounded heart with the balm of grace.
Technology can be a blessing, or a curse, depending on how it is used. Use it with love, with patience, with kindness. . . and with prayer—what we call kneemail.
Questions to Share:
- Take the time to ponder the benefits of emailing/texting that you have experienced during your deployment separation.
- What are two “lessons learned” that you want to discuss with your spouse—either by email or phone?