By Brenna Berger
It's one thing to open up about your marriage troubles over a glass of wine with your closest girlfriends. It's another to admit you are struggling in front of other couples in your unit in the safe environment of a Strong Bonds retreat. But to tell your story on the front page of a newspaper that will be slid under the doors of every hotel room in America? That takes courage.
When I glanced at the newspaper rack while picking up my morning latte, I was shocked to see Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, the top noncommissioned officer at U.S. Special Operations Command, and his wife, Lisa, above the fold of the morning's USA Today. Their story of how a decade of war almost destroyed their marriage - and how they fought back - quickly went viral as military families shared the article on Twitter and Facebook.
According to the Defense Department, the divorce rate for military marriages continues to climb. While the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan are good news for military families who need to reconnect, it also means that couples are finally having to face the reality that reintegration isn't easy.
Which is why the Farises' decision to go public with their story has resonated. While their story was difficult to read, I appreciated their candor.
Does it make a difference when a top leader steps forward and says, "Me, too"? I think it does. I would bet that most military couples found at least one thing in common with the couple. For me, this stood out: "Chris and Lisa relayed painful lessons: how shutting down human feelings, a skill sharpened during intense combat, becomes a hazard at home . "
I could completely relate. Except, it wasn't my husband who shut down his feelings. I played that role in my relationship. It was so much easier to let him walk out the door if I could pretend that it didn't hurt when we said goodbye.
I shut down so much that I'm embarrassed to admit that we didn't do big homecoming celebrations when he returned from a stint overseas. Of course, we were happy to have him home safely, but I figured, why bother with all the hoopla? He'd only be heading out again in a few months. I later found out that he felt a little left out every time he saw a giant "Welcome Home" banner hanging off another family's front porch.
It's taken us a year of no deployments to finally tear down the walls that grew as a result of all the time apart, and it wasn't always an easy process. I thank Command Sgt. Maj. Chris and Lisa Faris for sharing their story and for starting a conversation that will help get other military marriages back on track.
Brenna Berger can be reached at email@example.com.