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Onward, Christian Couple
Courtesy of Kate Shellnutt

We military wives are proud people, with our camo-print purses, yellow ribbon bumper stickers, and a deep love for our husbands and country. We bristle when warned how military life can deplete a marriage. We'll tell you that our marriages are only strengthened by the moves, distance, and unpredictability of military life.

During the first decade of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though, the military divorce rate climbed gradually every year, from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent. Not until 2012, as troops began to withdraw, did the divorce rate slip for the first time, down to 3.5 percent. Army officials attribute the decrease to better marriage counseling and support programs.

In Army terms, "Healthy relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. With increasing demands placed on soldiers and families, to include both frequent deployments and duty relocations, intimate relationships are fully tested." Sir, yes, sir!

Soldiers train and travel away from home beyond the typical 9 to 5 schedule, gone for up to a year at a time when deployed to the Middle East or on cruise overseas. While apart, their spouses carry the load of household responsibilities and, oftentimes, full childcare duties, along with an additional load of worry, loneliness, and stress.

But a less-discussed challenge—one that churches need to know about—is how deployment can test a couple's faith. While a husband and wife may start off on the same spiritual page, they can't support one another in the same ways during deployment. Many spouses are forced to journey with God alone. And like any challenge, a deployment can either draw military spouses into a closer relationship ...

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Onward, Christian Couple
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May 2013

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