The Pentagon reported last year that the military divorce rate has risen steadily since 2001, from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent in 2011. These figures point out that nearly 30,000 military marriages ended last year alone. The civilian rate of divorce has actually fell, from 4 percent in 2001, to 3.5 percent in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To help military couples overcome the strains of not only distance, but the lasting effects of war on a marriage, many couples are turning to retreats. Organizations around our country are offering military couples and families places to bond, to have fun and also to prepare for life on the home front through classes and counseling. Retreats are provided by nonprofits, which include Project Sanctuary, Project New Hope, Coming Home Project, Operation Purple, Operation Oasis and the Army’s Strong Bonds.
One counselor for Project Sanctuary, Tammy Hagins, says the retreats empower service members. According to Tammy, members are receiving tools for marriage, for their financial situation and for communicating with their spouses. She states that “they are connecting and reengaging, “ and also that the family is going to struggle more, “but it’s a space to connect, to function as a family for a week.”
Michael Schindler, author of the book, “Operation Military Family: How Military Couples are Fighting to Preserve Their Marriages,” explained that when military families reunite, they often face changing roles, intimacy issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can take anywhere from six to twelve months before a military couple can get into a normal groove again. Not only do they face the same stresses of a normal couple, but the added stresses of war, as well.
Although a retreat will not fix all military marriage problems, retreats do give many military families a chance to bond, to relax, and a time to get away from all the stresses of life at home.