What Not to Say When Someone’s Spouse is Deployed

Posted in: Family, Stories

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6, NIV

Good intentions gone wrong

God encourages us to speak life and encourage others, but we know from the book of Job that we do not always speak in a considerate way to our friends or speak in a way that communicates compassion. 

Here is a list of things the military community has heard when their spouse is deployed.  Perhaps you could add to this list, but these are the statements mentioned as being “painful”:

  • “My husband was away on business last month.”
  • “I don’t know how you do it!” 
  • “Stay busy—it’ll go quickly.”
  • “You knew what you were in for when you married into the military.”
  • “At least he’s not in [insert current war zone].”
  • “I watched [TV show or movie about the military], so I can imagine what you are going through.”
  • “At least it’s only 6 months and not 15 months like I went through.”
  • “At least you don’t have any kids (or have a job, or fill in the blank with some other thing you don’t have as an added stressor) and have all that extra work.”
  • “At least their job isn’t dangerous.”
  • “This is why we shouldn’t send people to war.”

Many people have good intentions and want to connect with you. But instead of sitting with you in silence, they feel the need to say something—anything–and it comes out blunt or insensitive. We’ve all been there, putting our foot in our mouths.

So, what should you say?

What should a person say when they are wanting to encourage someone whose spouse is deployed? It helps to think of what could be said that is gracious and avoids assuming or comparing what that person is going through.

You may want to come up with some of your own phrases that you would like to hear from your caring friends. But for now, here are a few to get you thinking:

  • “I admire you and appreciate the sacrifices you are making.”
  • “What can I do to help you in a practical way?”
  • “How can I pray for you?”
  • “The world is a better place because of what your family is doing.”
  • “God is with you and knows what you need.”

If your spouse is deployed, you may think these responses are “too wordy,” and a sincere “thank you” would suffice. But thinking through what you would like to hear may help you when you have an opportunity to coach your friends.

Next, let’s consider this from the flip side. How do we handle the pain of poorly worded input or comfort from a friend who is trying to help? What can we graciously say to someone after they have said something which could have caused hurt? Coming up with a list of your own will help you be ready if a friend is open to learning more about what you are experiencing.

We want to be mature in our attitudes, understanding that some friends cannot truly understand what we are going through.

The truth is there is only one who can understand what we are going through – the One who has experienced all pain and loneliness, and that is Jesus Christ.  It is Him we must run to with our feelings.  As Psalm 55:22 reminds us: “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.….”

Questions to Go Deeper:

  1. What has someone said to you while your spouse deployed that encouraged you?  Why was it particularly helpful?
  2. How can you best encourage your spouse while they are deployed? How can you best encourage your spouse while you are deployed?